Alnwick District in the Great War

Thomas Chrisp 1892 – 1917

By Jane Glass


Part 2: Pupil Teacher and College Student


Further research since the last issue has discovered that Thomas was part of a Northumberland County Council apprenticeship scheme for pupil teachers; the Duke’s School being one of the institutions running the scheme.  Pupil teachers received instruction for two and a half days per week, covering English, History, Geography, Arithmetic, Science, Drawing, and a modern Language (Music and Needlework may also be included).  The other two and a half days were spent in a school for practical teaching experience.


From September 1906 Thomas, aged 13, received a bursary which covered his tuition fees at the Duke’s school, books and a railway pass, for Preparatory Training as a Pupil Teacher.  His school was Wooler Church of England Primary School.  This bursary continued for three years. In August 1909, still attending the Duke’s School, he was appointed for 2 years as a Pupil Teacher at Wooler with a salary of £12 for his first year and £16 for his second year. As mentioned last issue he transferred to Alnwick C of E School early in 1911 and he left the Duke’s School in the summer of 1911.


Thomas was now 18 years old and began teaching at Guide Post Primary School, near Choppington, in September 1911 as an Uncertificated Assistant with an annual salary of £55.  Also starting the same time at Guide Post as a Certificated Assistant, earning  £70 a year, was 21 year old May Dickinson Hedley – Thomas’ future wife.


May began her teaching career as a Probationer at Choppington Primary School in 1904, at the age of 14, with an annual salary of £8.  Two years she was engaged for two years as a Pupil Teacher with a salary of £10 per annum for her first year and £14 for her second.  By November 1908 she was at Bothal C of E Primary School as an Uncertificated Assistant, now earning £50 a year.  She applied for and received from Northumberland County Council travel expenses to attend two Saturday classes at Rutherford College, Newcastle to prepare for the Certificate Examinations in December 1910.  She gained her Certificate and had a short spell teaching at Bothal before her job at Choppington.


 It is not known when the romance began between Thomas and May, but it is likely to be while they were teaching together at Guide Post as, although May continued to teach there, Thomas left there after one year to go to college.


In September 1912 Thomas started a two-year Teacher Training course at Bede College in Durham.  He must have been pleased to see amongst this group of strangers, two other former Duke’s School pupils, I D Wilson and P P Price, both of whom he had played football with for the school team.  The College was situated minutes from the centre of Durham and was home to about 100 male students.

Bede College

The daily timetable comprised


 7.00 – 7.45 am  Private Study

 9.00 – 1.00 pm Lectures

 4.30 – 5.30 pm Afternoon Lecture (except Wednesday and Saturday)

 6.45 – 9.30 pm Private Study



The curriculum was more general than just that of training Secondary teachers and students spent six weeks on placement in an Elementary School.  It is possible that Thomas spent his placement at St Margaret’s School in Durham as he was listed as a teacher from this school who fell in the First World War.


There was a Common Room for the students to relax, where newspapers and magazines were available to read. A library and indoor games room with a billiard table were also available.  A chapel adjoined the college with two short services held every day.


Although the students’ spent much of their time in study, there was still time for other activities.  Sport played an important part of life at Bede College: football, rugby, hockey, boating, tennis, cricket, running and swimming.  Swimming was compulsory from the beginning of the first year, as it was necessary for boating; a boating qualification was compulsory for the first term at least. All juniors were taught to row, then allocated to crews of four, who trained for the Junior Regatta at the end of the first term.  During the second term the best rowers then prepared for the City Regatta.  As we will see, Thomas took full advantage of the sports on offer, building on his existing skills and learning new ones.


Thomas continued to play football, often as goalkeeper.  He gained his colours during his first year at Bede. His former schoolmate I D Wilson was also on the college team. On 23rd October 1912 Thomas was in goal for Bede against Sunderland D.T.C.


“The first half was fast and exciting, both defences doing a tremendous amount of work in which Chrisp was most conspicuous.”


During the second half


“Chrisp made a gallant attempt to save and only the wet conditions of the ball prevented him from clearing – the ball glancing off his fist into the net”.


Bede lost this match 1 – 2 but Thomas’ skills were recognised


“… the saves of Chrisp were on many occasions really marvellous.  There is no doubt that he is as fine a custodian as Bede has had for many years, and being only a Junior he has great possibilities in the future”.


The following term when Bede won 3 – 2 against Murton Red Star it was noted that “Chrisp played an exceedingly good game”.  At the end of his first year in the “Soccer Personalia” in The Bede of June 1913 the following comment was made:


“T Chrisp, goalkeeper, secure and often very brilliant.  Consistent throughout season”.


Thomas continued to play football during his second year at Bede.  I D Wilson was Vice Captain that year.  He and Thomas were joined on the team by PP Price, a fellow student from the Duke’s School.  A summary in The Bede of December 1913 stated that eight matches had been won, three drawn and that Thomas had scored one goal.


During the spring term during another match against Sunderland D.T.C, which ended in a 2 – 2 draw


“… Wanless and Chrisp played well for Bede”.


Thomas also found time to play Rugby for the college when he was not needed for the football team.


As mentioned earlier, boating was a sport taken very seriously by Bede College.  Thomas gained his colours during his first year; being in a crew at the end of his first term and by the summer term was in the Junior Crew in the bow.  During his second year he was in the senior team and took part in the Regatta shortly before he finished at Bede.


During his first term at Bede Thomas was also selected as one of six members of the Junior tennis team, whom it was felt would turn out well for the next season if they put in plenty of practice during the winter.  The college had three asphalt courts suitable for winter play. At the beginning of his second year Thomas was elected Vice-Captain but unfortunately he had to resign this position, as boating demanded his entire services during the summer term.


Cross-country paper chases were frequent events at Bede College and Thomas took part in these, occasionally acting as hare for the pack.


Thomas was a member of the Debating Society.  In the autumn term of 1913 during a debate on the question of Rail Nationalisation, Thomas seconded the motion.


Thomas was also a talented artist.  Paintings by him still adorn the walls of relatives and one is displayed in Bearish Museum.  This drawing by him may have been done for an autograph album.

courtesy of Trevor Grugan

Nothing is known about Thomas’ academic progress while at Bede College.  His personal record at the college is confidential until 2014.  However, if he worked as hard at his studies as he did with his other activities, he is sure to have done well. .  He finished his course in the summer of 1914 but before he could begin work as a schoolteacher, world events intervened.


While at college Thomas had been a member of the territorial army unit at Bede, the 8th (Volunteer) Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, taking part in the regular drills and camps.  They were attending their annual training camp at Conway when Britain declared war on Germany on 4th August.  Thomas, along with his fellows, volunteered immediately for service abroad.  The 1/8th (Bede) Battalion of the DLI consisted mainly of past and present students from Bede College; some had turned down a commission to remain with their friends.  Thomas was given the rank of Sergeant.


Sources Used

Duke’s School Magazines

The Bede (Bede College magazine)