Alnwick District in the Great War

Thomas Chrisp 1892 – 1917

By Jane Glass


One hundred years ago this summer Thomas Chrisp officially finished the Duke’s Grammar School in Alnwick.  Like many young people today, Thomas had a “gap” year before going to college to train as a teacher.  However, shortly after qualifying the First World War broke out and Thomas was never able to achieve his ambitions.  Instead he became one of a lost generation of young men.


Although remembered by his immediate family, his story has been lost in time.  He was a second cousin to both my father and my maternal grandfather but no stories or memories were shared through this branch of the family.  This has now been rectified during over 30 years of family history research where a surprising amount of information has been found about Thomas’s life.  This I now share with you.


Part 1: Childhood & Schooldays


Thomas was born on 7 October 1892 at Otterburn, Nothumberland.  He was the elder son and second child of Thomas Chrisp and Isabel Ann (Annie nee Charlton).  Thomas Chrisp Snr was born at Shipley, Near Eglingham and as a Police Constable had already served in various places in Northumberland when on 29 March 1887 he was transferred to Otterburn. Here he met and later married Annie on 18 December 1890 at Otterburn Church.  Annie’s mother, Margaret (nee Rough) was also born and brought up near Eglingham, moving to the Elsdon area after her marriage to William Charlton at Alnwick Register Office on 9 June 1866.


After a second son, William, was born at Elsdon, Thomas Snr was transferred to Seaton Sluice on 1 August 1896.  While living here Annie gave birth to a second daughter, Alice.  After short spells at Seaton Deleval and Norham, Thomas Snr, now Sergeant Chrisp, was transferred to Wooler on 8 August 1905.  He was further promoted to Inspector in 1907.

William, Annie, Alice, Margaret, Thomas, Thomas jnr about 1898

Chrisp family group courtesy of Trevor Grugan, grandson of Alice


When the family moved to Wooler young Thomas was almost 12 year old and he attended Wooler C of E School.  The following year, on 15 July 1906, Annie Chrisp was diagnosed with Scarlet Fever and Thomas Snr wrote to Superintendent Bolton at Alnwick explaining he would be unable to attend the Police Sports on the following Wednesday.   Superintendent Bolton felt Thomas should remain off duty and wrote to this effect to the Chief Constable at Morpeth.  It is not known whether anyone else in the family caught the fever, but it must have been a worrying time for the family.

On 11 Sept 1906 Thomas was admitted to the Duke’s School, Alnwick, having obtained a County Council Scholarship.  Thomas passed his Cambridge Junior Local Examination through the school in 1908.


Thomas was in the 1st X1 for both football and cricket but it is his achievements on the football pitch that more is known.  The Duke’s School Magazine for 1909 described the Characters of the XI, including Thomas:


“CHRISP (Left Half-Back) – A useful half-back until he lost his nerve – must regain it before he can hope to succeed as formerly.”


Sadly, tragedy hit Thomas and his family early in 1910.  On 20 January Police Superintendent Thomas Bolton at Alnwick received a telephone message from Wooler to say that Inspector Chrisp was very ill and was not likely to recover.  Thomas Snr was suffering from pleurisy, which he had had in the past.  Superintendent Bolton visited the family on 24 January and informed the Chief Constable at Morpeth that Thomas Snr was very low and did not seem to know anyone.  He felt it was a matter of time and did not expect him to live more than a day or two.  He visited him again on 28th January, recording that he was very ill.  Thomas died the following morning at 7.20 am – Heart Disease was certified as the cause of death.  Inspector Sanderson from Alnwick, who was also brother-in-law to Thomas Snr, travelled to Wooler by train that afternoon to arrange the funeral.


The funeral took place the following Thursday, 3 February.   The procession left the family home at Wooler Police Station at 10.50 am, headed by Superintendent Bolton and Inspector Sanderson, with the coffin carried by fellow police officers.  Annie Chrisp and her children, including Thomas Jnr, followed and behind them local magistrates and tradesmen.  The procession proceeded to Wooler railway station and they travelled by train to Alnwick. Here they were joined by other police officers, relatives and friends and the parade set off at 12.45 pm for the Cemetery. The Rev R R Mangin, vicar of Alnwick, read the burial service.


Not only had the Chrisp family lost a husband and father, but also they were about to lose their home, which went with the job.  On 5 February Superintendent Bolton wrote to the Chief Constable at Morpeth giving details of Annie and each of the four children, including Thomas, aged 17, attending the Duke’s School “and had his father lived, I know it was his intention to try and make him a school master, now I am doubtful if this can be done.”  The letter also stated that Inspector Sanderson was helping Annie to look for a house, as she was anxious to move to Alnwick as soon as one could be found.  A house became available in Denwick village, and permission was given for her to stay at Wooler until it became vacant on 1 March.  She moved in on 28 February 1910.


However, Thomas did continue at The Duke’s School. He had passed his Standard Examinations each year, gained his Senior Cambridge Examination in 1910and became a Prefect.  He continued to play football for the school and was awarded his School Colours in the Michaelmas Term of 1910.


The 1910-11 Football Season began with an away match against Morpeth Grammar School which the Duke’s School won 2 – 1 and Thomas was said to be playing a splendid game.


Two matches later found Thomas in goal when they travelled to Newcastle to play St Cuthbert’s at their new ground at Fenham. The Saints scored a few minutes from the start of the match, followed by a second “Chrisp fumbled a hot shot and the ball was kicked from his hands into the net”.  However, by half-time the Duke’s School had equalised and by full-time won the match 4 – 2.


In their match against Alnwick Wednesday the Duke’s School scored the first two goals, then “… the Wednesday attacked. They did not go long unrewarded, for Chrisp let the ball go past him, when he seemed to have effectually gathered it – a very disheartening goal.”  At the final whistle Alnwick Wednesday had won 3 – 2.


Thomas’ skills as a goalkeeper improved for their next two matches.  The Duke’s School won 2 – 1 against Aydon Rovers  - “Chrisp and Co were playing a sterling game” and 1 – 0 against Glanton.  “Chrisp saved well on several occasions”


The second half of the Season found Thomas playing mid-field.  In their home match against Morpeth Grammar School, which they lost 3 – 2, Thomas scored both goals.  “Chrisp soon afterwards opened the School account with a long shot.”  “In the second half the excitement was intense when Chrisp again scored.. “  A rather dull game at home against Glanton followed with the score being one each at half-time.  “Play was now even worse than in the first half, many opportunities being missed by both sides, Richardson and Chrisp being the chief offenders on our side.  Just before the final whistle went Chrisp managed to give us the lead.”


Their final match that season was at home against St Cuthberts, who scored first.  Although the Duke’s School attacked vigorously “… and Chrisp had hard lines”.  Two penalties had been missed including one by Thomas.  However during the second half  “Chrisp headed the ball into the net amid the cheers of the assembled spectators” and the final score was a draw 1 – 1.


Thomas also played for Hotspur House in the school House matches.  In the game against Percy House they won by 27 goals to nil, “Chrisp and Wilson had 6 or 7 each”.  Apparently, Percy were missing two of their best players.


In “Characters of the XI” Thomas was described as follows:


“CHRISP (Inside Left) – In the first half of the season kept a good goal – has been tried both as half and forward and has acquitted himself well in both places – his shooting is a little erratic.”


Thomas also gained a good review in the summary of the 1910-11 season.  “In goal we have had two custodians, Chrisp and Maltby.  In the second half of the season Chrisp came into more aggressive positions, and turned out quite a strong bustling half or forward.  Maltby in goal was certainly not of the standing of Chrisp ..”.  The team had tried about nine different forwards “Chrisp was a valuable acquisition in the latter half of the season”.


Thomas was also a member of the Literary and Debating Society.  He spoke in favour of arbitration when the topic was “In the opinion of this House Arbitration is a better means than War of settling International disputes”.  When a vote was taken the motion was carried by 21 votes to 18, which was rather ironic in the light of future events!


Before officially leaving the Duke’s School he began working as a Pupil Teacher at Wooler C of E School, where he had once been a pupil. Early in 1911 he was transferred from there to Alnwick C of E School still as a Pupil Teacher with an annual salary of £16.  On the Census in April he was at the home of his uncle, Inspector Sanderson, in Walkergate, Alnwick. His mother, brother and sisters were now living in Hexham at the Court House, where his mother was employed as caretaker. Thomas officially left the Duke’s School on 31st July 1911.

Sources Used

Otterburn Parish Registers

Thomas Chrisp Police Service Record (NRO 3822/661 T Chrisp)

Duke’s School Admissions Register

Duke’s School Magazines

Finch and Fairclough.  A Register of Admissions to the Duke’s School, Alnwick 1811-1911

Northumberland County Council Education Committee Minutes

Alnwick and County Gazette 5 February 1910

1911 Census (RG14PN30926 RG78PN1768 RD516 SD2ED17 SN50.  RG14PN31080 RG78PN1778 RD565 SD2 ED4 SN87)