More Roll of Honour Responses

By Judith Phillips

A volunteer with the project, working on material in Durham county Record office, has identified some more completed Roll of Honour forms. In 1915 Owen Scott, Curator at the museum, circulated a letter to the townships in Teesdale Union, and asked for information about people serving in the forces or as nurses. He included a form to be filled in. The museum has completed forms from about half a dozen townships as well some empty forms returned as no-one from that township was serving. These extra forms will double the number of responses (though not the number of entries).

Interestingly, the forms were found in the records of Startforth Rural District Council which was the next level of local government from the township. So there may be more completed forms to be discovered in other local government records! Even after more than 100 years, relevant material can be found in somewhat unlikely places. So, the moral is never to give up and to keep on looking!

Obviously we’ll get the information from these forms added to the roll of Honour on the website as soon as possible. However, we do have a backlog of material to be inputted, so we’d love to hear from anyone who would be interested in doing this – it can done in the museum or at home.

A Far Cry from Teesdale

By Gail Bishop

On 14th December 1914, a young soldier with Teesdale connections boarded a military transport ship on a voyage from which he would never return. Nothing unusual about that, you might think. Except, Frederick Thomas Cameron was from New Zealand and was off to fight for a country he had never set eyes on.

Fred was the fourth son of William and Margaret Cameron of Holwick, who emigrated to New Zealand in the late 1870s during a depression in the lead mining industry. As the Bowes Museum’s WW1 Project has discovered, Fred and his brothers, Harry and Frank, were not the only young men with local links to serve in the Great War despite growing up overseas. Often, it was heartrending circumstances that brought them to England for the first time.

We can only guess how Fred might have felt as he embarked at Wellington with the Auckland Infantry Battalion, 2nd Reinforcements, bound for distant Suez in Egypt. Whatever his thoughts, misfortune soon followed. Fred was wounded in the leg during the initial Anzac landings at the Dardanelles and was sent to hospital in England. After he had recovered, he went to Egypt, then to France. By that time, he was a Second Corporal with the New Zealand Engineers. Tragically, he contracted pneumonia in France and never recovered. He died at the North Cambridge Hospital in England on 5th October 1916, a month short of his 23rd birthday.

Fred’s funeral was at Laithkirk on 9th October. The funeral report in the Teesdale Mercury describes how the coffin went by rail to Middleton-in-Teesdale, then to the Strathmore Arms at Holwick, the home of Fred’s uncle, Jeremiah Cameron. The chief mourners were Jeremiah, Fred’s brother Frank of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade, uncles, aunts and cousins – the Lowes, Collinsons, Lees and Bells – and other relatives and friends from townships in the valley. Holwick School records show that 6 pupils were absent that day to attend Fred’s funeral.  

Fred’s grave is in Laithkirk Churchyard. His headstone also remembers his brother, Private Harry James Cameron, who served with the Wellington Regiment, 2nd Battalion, and the Advance Party, Samoa. Harry died on 18th July 1918 aged 28 and is buried and commemorated at Serre Road Cemetery No 1. in France.

We’d be pleased to hear from anyone who has more information about Harry or knows anything about Frank. And, as always, we’d love to hear about anyone from Teesdale involved in the First World War.

The WW1 Book Group 8th August

By Judith Phillips

The WWI Book Group met last Monday (8th August), and once again the meeting produced a wide range of books.  And it was great to hear that some of us had found time to read books suggested at previous meetings. 

The Imperial War Museum has produced ‘The Battlefields of the First World War’ by Peter Barton – you might have seen his recent programmes on BBC about the Battle of the Somme.  Apart from the wealth of information in this book including detailed maps, its outstanding feature for most of us was the number and range of reproduced photographs – they are so touching and compelling. 

We’ve identified a few Teesdale men serving in the Royal Flying Corps, the forerunner of the Royal Air Force, so it was very good to be introduced to ‘Sagittarius Rising’ by Cecil Lewis.  The author served in the RFC during the war and was, in fact, the last surviving WWI flying ace.  The film ’Aces High’ used scenes from this history of the service.

The war’s aftermath was the subject of two other books.  ‘Singled Out’ by Virginia Nicholson looked at how single women, who were often stereotyped as a generation who lost potential husbands, coped and, in many cases, found a measure of freedom to make careers that would have been difficult, if not impossible, before the war.  Most of us could recall from our childhood spinster aunts and neighbours who probably belonged to this group.  Max Arthur’s ‘The Road Home’ deals with how war survivors coped with the effects of wounds on themselves and their friends and also with  coming to terms with their survival and the loss of friends.  It was a salutary reminder that about 80% of servicemen survived – a figure that is roughly what we had calculated from the information coming in for the project.

Another Max Arthur book brought some light relief.  ‘When this Bloody War is Over’ is a collection of songs that were sung in the trenches and at home.  Many of them are still familiar to us today, and show the resilience and ingenuity of the soldiers who frequently added their own (often rude) verses or used familiar tunes. 

Music and words also underpin ‘The Durham Hymns’ for community choir and brass band, premiered in Durham Cathedral last month, with lyrics mainly by Carol Anne Duffy, the Poet Laureate, and inspired by WWI material in Durham Record Office.  There is now a copy of the illustrated programme including all the lyrics in the Museum Reference Library.

We are all familiar with WI myths.  Gordon Corrigan challenges many of our popular cultural beliefs about Britain and the war in ‘Mud, Blood and Poppycock’ – I’ll certainly be putting that on my reading list (along with the other suggestions).

The meeting ended with ‘The Radetsky March’ by Joseph Roth.  This novel recounts the story of a family serving in the hide-bound and traditional Austrian Empire from the early 1800s to WWI.

The next meetings (at 2.30 in the Café Lounge in the Museum) will be on Tuesdays: 20th September, 18th October, 15th November and 13th December.  Feel free to drop in for any meeting – bring a book if you want but it’s not compulsory.

A Big Thank You to Rupert

By Judith Phillips

This month we have said goodbye to Rupert Philbrick who has been the Community Co-ordinator for the project since May 2014.  In just over two years Rupert has done so much.:

  • The ‘Lights Out’ lantern-lit walk with poetry readings in the Museum grounds to commemorate the declaration of war – a very moving experience
  • Arranged series of talks by speakers on different aspects of the war
  • Given talks and presentations to various Teesdale groups
  • Drop-in advice session about medals etc with museum conservation staff on hand
  • Overseen the development of the e-newsletter
  • Attended WWI-related events in the area
  • Liaised with local secondary schools for creative writing sessions
  • Encouraged local students and other members of the public to be involved with the project as volunteers
  • Written short articles about the project for the Teesdale Mercury
  • Acted as listener, photographer, sound recordist when people bring memorabilia and stories
  • Organised very successful sessions at Deerbolt Young Offenders Institution (so successful he’s been asked to go back and do more).

Rupert has so many contacts in Teesdale through his work with The Hub, Cream Tees and The Turrets as well as photographer, film-maker and musician that I only have to mention his name and people know who I mean!  He’s been a great help to me throughout our work together – we made a pretty good double act! – and I’m going to miss him immensely.  Rupert intends to keep in touch with the project as a volunteer, and I’m really looking forward to that.

So, a really big THANK YOU to Rupert, and all best wishes for the future.

The Bell-Irving Ladies

For a period of eighteen years, including those of the First World War, the Bell-Irving family lived at Rokeby Park, near Barnard Castle. While many of the women of Teesdale played an important part in keeping the ‘home front’ running during the War, the roles that Mrs Bell-Irving and her daughter Miss Bell-Irving fulfilled were extensive, and varied in content.

When War broke out, Mrs Bell-Irving was already President of the Soldiers and Sailors Families Association in the Greta Bridge area and continued in this role for the rest of the War.

She was District representative for the Red Cross in the Greta Bridge Division of the North Riding of Yorkshire. She also organised two Voluntary Aid Detachments, running working parties associated with each group.

Mrs Bell-Irving attended and spoke at various local Patriotic Meetings, and in June 1915 was called upon to make a speech at a meeting in the Morrit Memorial School in support of the ‘War Service for Women’ Scheme, alongside three other key-note speakers. In March 1916, she presided over a meeting to discuss the enlisting of the labour of women on the land to secure a good harvest for 1916. At the end of 1916, she gave tea parties at Rokeby Park for the Voluntary Workers Association, to thank those local women for their work during the year.

Rokeby Park was offered as a venue for many tea parties at which injured soldiers were entertained. Groups of soldiers and their nurses were given tours of the house, the art and the gardens, as well as teas and entertainment. At one party in September ‘one injured soldier played piano, and another injured one-legged soldier got up to dance’.

Fund raising bazaars and garden fetes were held at Rokeby in aid of The Red Cross Society, the French Wounded and other charities. In September 1919, a Peace Fete was celebrated at Rokeby, which raised £216 for church repairs and also for the National Institute for the Blind. In June 1920, a supper was organised by The Bell-Irvings to welcome home returning soldiers, and they presented the returning troops with forty china mugs and cups emblazoned with the arms of the allies.

Her daughter, Marda Bell-Irving was no less busy during the war period and was Commandant of the local Red Cross detachment. In 1916 she became District Organiser for the ‘Women’s Work on the Land’ Scheme around Rokeby.

Miss Bell-Irving appeared very keen on producing amateur dramatic presentations to fund raise for charity, involving other local people and Officers and men stationed at local military camps. Some concerts were performed at Rokeby School, and in December 1915, she took part in two productions of ‘Hal The Highwayman’ at the former Victoria Hall in Barnard Castle.

Both ladies worked hard to support the work of Teesdale people during the war, to acknowledge the importance of women in the war effort and to offer the splendour of Rokeby Park as entertainment to injured soldiers in the area.

A Teesdale Business and the First World War

By Judith Phillips

Errington - John William photo

The war affected so many aspects of life in Teesdale.  The Roll of Honour on our project website ( continues to grow with names, images and information about men and women from Teesdale who served during the war.  Life at home changed, too, as the war made demands on family life, farming and businesses. 

In the Reference Library in The Bowes Museum there is a fascinating account of William Smith & Sons of Barnard Castle by Norma L. Smith called ‘A Family Business’.  At the beginning of the war, the business employed fifty men and the immediate mobilisation of the Territorials the day after war was declared meant that eighteen men left the works. 

An early consequence of hostilities was a drop in foreign markets.  Smiths lost one of their best customers, Jacob and Becker of Leipzig.  The last order for their sweepers had been despatched in early 1914 and Smiths didn’t get their money until the debt was settled by the British government in 1920.  Fortunately for the company, the War Office began ordering regular consignments of sweepers to be sent to France.  These machines were to be horse-drawn, although the Royal Flying Corps ordered one to be drawn by ‘motor traction’ towards the end of the war.

When Belgian refugees arrived in Barnard Castle in late 1914 and 1915, the Smith family housed the Praet family from Antwerp in a family house next to the works in Queen Street.  The house was then (and later) referred to as ‘Belgian House’.  Smith family members helped feed, house and employ some of the refugees.

As part of the war effort, land near the Queen Steeet works was given over to allotments for local people to grow vegetables.  The land is still used for allotments today – we grow a wide variety of vegetables on ours!

Members of the Smith family were directly affected.  Bernard Smith, the 21-year old son of the business’s owners, was called up with the Territorials but did not serve overseas because of poor eyesight.  As a sergeant in the Durham Light Infantry, he was stationed at Bishop Auckland.  Bernard had studied at Ushaw College with a view to becoming a Roman Catholic priest but decided he did not have a vocation.  After a short time in Canada, he returned to England and began working in the family business in 1912.  His brother Billy was rejected for active service on medical grounds and worked at the business throughout the war. 

Their sister Molly had to be hastily evacuated in 1914 from Brussels where she was studying at the Conservatoire of Music.  During the war she was involved with helping refugee families while continuing her studies with the London College of Music.  Another sister, Mary Alice, organised Girl Guides to make swabs for military hospitals and arranged for sphagnum moss to be collected from Bowes Moor to use on war wounds.

One Smith son-in-law, Billy Peacock, had served in France and returned with a badly-wounded leg that affected his mobility for the rest of his life.  William Errington from Brignall, a Smith relation, joined up in 1917 and survived the war but never forgot its horrors.

I am grateful to Norma Smith for permission to use material from her book for the project.   If you have any information about how the war affected businesses in Teesdale or have any stories or artefacts about Teesdale men and women during the war, we’d love to hear from you.

Reverend Philip Crick


Military Chaplains were appointed during the First World War to provide spiritual support to the many troops serving in all aspects of conflict.

The Reverend Philip C T Crick was a military chaplain, and also the son of another Reverend Crick, the vicar in Whorlton from 1912 to at least 1916.

The archives at the Durham County Records Office hold parish magazines for the Whorlton Parish and an entry for March 1915 reported that Reverend Philip Crick had been appointed as Military Chaplain and was to go abroad.

A further magazine describes how Reverend Crick had been attached to the 26th Field Ambulance, with the 8th Division of the British Army.

Extracts from letters to his father were published in the Parish magazine and a letter dated 16th May 1915 described his work.

“I celebrated in the theatre of the Agricultural College at 7.30. There were nine communicants. After breakfast went on a round of services with the Brigade, half of whom are in the trenches, and half in the Brigade Reserve some way behind. At 9.30 I had an outdoor parade service for the 1st Regiment in a field close to their billets. It was a wonderful experience. I had my back to the line of trenches about 100 yards away, and on my left, quite close, a battery was firing occasional shots and over my head was an aeroplane.

“After parade service I celebrated in the attic of a barn, and we had about 12 communicants. I then went on down the road to the next Regiment, where the service was voluntary, but so many came we had to go out into the field again, and we had a service under the trees, with men sitting all around us, most of them on the top of ‘dug-outs’ and shelter trenches. After this, I climbed once more to the top of the shattered barn, climbing through the attic hole in the floor. Here I found a little table with flowers on it, and two common candles stuck in the lids of tins, and an officer asked me if he might light them. This little bit of care for the Altar was very touching. On this occasion we had eleven Officers and forty-eight men. Wherever one looked in the half dark room, one saw clusters of men kneeling on the bare boards, and the attic was practically full”.

How unusual it would have been for Reverend Crick to leave England and adapt to his role as chaplain, holding services in the open air so close to the front line trenches, or huddled together with the soldiers in the dark of an attic barn.

In later life, he would adjust again to holding services in places far flung from the English countryside, following his move to Australia. He was Bishop of Rockhampton in Queensland from 1921 – 1927, and then Bishop of Ballarat in Victoria. On his return to England in 1935 he took the post of Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Derby.

Thus, his life in the Church gave him a wide range of places to support those around him, from Australian Cathedrals to an attic in a barn during the First World War.