Walter Tull (1888-1918)
On Tuesday 21st October 2014, a blue plaque was unveiled at Walter Tull’s former home: 77 Northumberland Park, Tottenham, London, N15 0TH. This was followed by a reception at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre, where a free matinee Gala of a play, written by JD Douglass, From Sea to Land and Sky was performed by 50 school children between the ages of 10 and 13.
Walter Tull was the first Black outfield footballer in England's premier division, and made history with his appointment as the first Black army captain in the British army. When Walter Tull stepped on to the hallowed pitch at White Hart Lane on 1st September 1909, he became the first professional outfield Black player to play in England’s premier football division. Within eight years of making his debut for Tottenham Hotspur he would become the first Black British army officer in “the war to end all wars.” Sadly, a year later he would make the ultimate sacrifice for his country.
Tull was born in Folkestone, Kent, the son of Barbadian carpenter Daniel Tull and Kent-born Alice Elizabeth Palmer. His paternal grandfather was a slave in Barbados. His maternal English grandmother was from Kent. He began his education at North Board School, now Mundella Primary School, Folkestone. In 1895, when Tull was seven, his mother died of cancer. A year later his father married Alice's cousin, Clara Palmer. Three months later, Daniel died from heart disease.
The stepmother was unable to cope with five children so the resident minister of Folkestone's Grace Hill Wesleyan Chapel, recommended that the two boys of school age, Walter, and Edward, should be sent to an orphanage. From the age of 9, Tull was brought up in the Methodist Children's Home and Orphanage (now known as Action for Children) in Bethnal Green, London. Edward was adopted by the Warnock family of Glasgow, becoming Edward Tull-Warnock; he qualified as a dentist, the first mixed-heritage person to practise this profession in the United Kingdom.
As part of the international centenary commemorating the First World War, the Nubian Jak Community Trust in partnership with the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Professional Footballer’s Association and Haringey Council organized a Walter Tull Memorial Tribute, which included an under-16s football tournament bearing his name, and a school WW1 theatre performance, and the unveiling of a blue heritage plaque earlier in the day at the site where Walter Tull lived while playing for Tottenham Hotspur. He made the ultimate sacrifice at the third Battle of the Somme in 1918. The Royal Mint commissioned his portrait on a limited edition of the £5 coin in 2014.
The blue plaque tribute was open to the public and was unveiled by former Spurs player Garth Crooks in the presence of past and present footballers, members of the public, and media.
I was out playing football on Hackney Marshes and a scout was there from Clapton Football club. He saw me playing and thought I should have a trial with them. Walter Tull August 1908 What a season we have had. We’ve won the London Senior Cup, London County Amateur Cup, and now the amateur Cup. Walter Tull April 1909 - weeks before being signed by Tottenham Hotspur,
Location: 77 Northumberland Park Tottenham, London, N17 0TH