Author Topic: Charles Crisp (Lewes)  (Read 40 times)

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John Treleven

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Charles Crisp (Lewes)
« on: Sun 16 May 2021 16:10 »
Charles Doland Crisp

18th February 1864 - 5th February 1956

Charles Crisp was born in Hammersmith, the son of a self-employed piano tuner who believed in educating his daughters as well as his sons.

Charles went to school at St. Mark’s College Chelsea (as did the older Frederick Wall) and then to Culham College, Oxford for teacher training.
Crisp would have left a firm believer in "muscular Christianity" which saw sport as a way of keeping the youth out of the bars and the brothels. 

Crisp played in goal as an amateur for both Oxfordshire and London Hotspur. He was an all round sportsman - boxing, swimming, playing cricket, tennis and golf and running the 100 and 200 yards for Ranelagh Harriers. In later life he took up bowls.

On leaving College Crisp found work at the Upper Grade School at Ryde on the Isle of Wight and rose to be its headmaster and by 1891 was running his own school in Shere, Surrey. 

In 1899, he made a career change, moving to the United States with the New York Insurance Company. His family didn’t settle in America and they returned in 1906 with Charles becoming manager of the Norwich Union’s Life Insurance office at 182 Finsbury Pavement House, on the northern edge of the City of London. He remained with Norwich Union until his retirement, ending as a member of its London board of directors and being given the freedom of the City of London. The company were also appointed the executors of his will (£20,486-4-0)

It was as a genial but firm referee and an administrator that Charles Crisp made his name in football. On returning from the U.S.A. he was appointed Chairman of Middlesex F.A. the next year, a role he held until 1954. He represented the County at The F.A. where he was appointed to the disciplinary and refereeing committees and later the rules committee too.

He was also on the list of F.A. (bit not F.L.) referees for many years. In 1908 he helped found the Referees Union and until 1913 its London Region organiser. Charles Crisp, Frank Viveash and George Wagstaffe Simmons, all associates of Henry Norris the Arsenal chairman, were all on the match officials list for the 1908 London Olympic Games.

Crisp was the first man elected an Arsenal director after the club moved to Highbury. At the time he was living nearby in Whitehall Park in Holloway.
Charles probably knew Norris before they got involved in the buying of the sports newspaper "Football Chat".  Norris was soon elected a member of Norris’s favourite freemasons lodge (Kent Lodge number 15) in December 1910 when Norris was in his second year as its Worshipful Master. Charles 
was a member of several lodges but he doesn’t seem to have made the effort necessary to rise to a high rank in freemasonry.

In June 1911 in a rearrangement of Arsenal’s finances, a mortgage was taken out on the lives of George Leavey, Henry Norris and William Hall at the Norwich Union Assurance Company and as Crisp worked for the sister company at Norwich Union he might have had something to do with the choice.

In 1912 Charles Crisp helped to set up the Athenian League for amateur clubs in the London area and became its perpetual president.  It was through his interest in amateur football as well as professional that he met Arthur Bourke, teacher, President of the Islington Football League and writer on football for the Islington Daily Gazette, as "Norseman" and he was delighted when Crisp was asked to join the Arsenal board. Crisp attended his first A.G.M. in August 1913 and bought 25 shares, the minimum number for a director to own. He never bought any more, nor lent the club any money, although comfortably of he probably did not have large sums to spare.

Though well over the age for military service, Crisp got involved in the war effort.  In October 1917 Crisp was a Captain in the Royal Surreys, shortly after he was made a Major, and ended the war a Lieutenant-Colonel. In addition, as a civilian working in the City, he organised a system by which bugle calls would alert people that planes were coming over for an air raid.  In March 1920 he was made O.B.E., in recognition for his contrinution to the war effort. At that time he was Deputy Commandant of the cadets in the London Territorial Force (the predecessor of the Territorial Army).

In the early 1920s Norris was spending his winters in southern Europe, so more match day duties fell on the other directors.  When William Hall was taken ill in February 1922, just before the first visit to Highbury of the Duke of York, it was Crisp who stepped in to make the speech of welcome and present the royal visitor with a silver ink press decorated with an Arsenal gun. He then took the Duke on a tour of the ground and onto the pitch before kick off.  A return visit by H.R.H. a couple of months later saw the Duke presenting the prizes at the final of the London Insurance Offices F.A. Cup, no doubt an event organised by Crisp. In May 1923 Crisp was in charge of the Arsenal squad’s tour of Scandinavia.  He seems to have used the contacts he made on the tour to organise other events because in August of that year, he saw off an amateur group, the Middlesex Wanderers, on a similar tour.

In July 1923 Crisp and his wife attended the wedding of Norris's daughter, Joy, but the following year resigned from the board after a disagreement with Norris.  He did not approve of Norris's decision to reclaim some travel expenses by putting his (and William Hall's) chauffeur on the staff list as groundsmen.  Although this arrangement began in 1921 no one else knew of it for three years. Crisp didn’t sell his shares and attended the A.G.M. on 9th September 1927 at which Norris made his farewell speech, having been banned from football by the F.A.

After resigning from the Arsenal board Crisp changed his allegiance to Chelsea, a club nearer where he had grown up although not founded until after he had left the area. He invested in and was elected a director of Chelsea and was possibly involved in the appointment of Leslie Knighton as the club’s manager in 1933 as Knighton had managed Arsenal from 1919-1925.

Charles Crisp had an interest in world football that Norris didn’t share. Crisp’s involvement with the development of football in Belgium began in the early 1900s. He organised an annual tour of Belgium by a squad selected from the clubs of Middlesex F.A., which continued until the war broke out and resumed in 1920.  In July 1910 he was one of England’s representatives at the International Federation of F.A.'s meeting in Brussels, charged with the mission of trying to set up an international federation of referees. Crisp himself refereed Belgium v Netherlands in 1912 having been a linesman the previous year at the F.A. Cup final and replay of Bradford City v Newcastle United.

Crisp often invited visitors to Britain to matches at Highbury. In August 1922 Juan Gamper and his group from Barcelona F.C. went to see Arsenal v Liverpool and Crisp was probably behind the match in March 1923 when England beat Belgium 6-1. The Belgians were all amateurs but the English included some professionals. A few months later Crisp and two other Englishmen were made honorary members of the Belgian F.A. for their involvement in Belgian football over the past 20 years. 

In 1929 Crisp went on a tour to South America with Chelsea, visiting Argentina, Uruguay and Brasil. On his return Crisp advised the F.A. Secretary, Fred Wall about the organisational and administrative problems the tour had encountered and this might have confirmed the F.A. prejudices against football in foreign lands and contributed to the reasons why the F.A. didn’t send a squad to Uruguay in 1930 for the first World Cup.

Crisp was also much in demand as a speaker. Bourke described him as having “no equal” for his talks on the interpretation of the rules.  In October 1921 the Arsenal squad attended an event where Crisp spoke and Crisp had everyone in stitches on his version of the history of football. During his talk, he pulled out from his pocket a press cutting which he said he carried round with him “to keep his conceit within bounds”.  It was from his refereeing days and it described him as “a pale faced, lantern jawed, cadaverous individual”, so Crisp was able to take it when the jokes were on him.

During the first World War, the family moved to Lewes. Crisp continued to work for Norwich Union at least until 1931, commuting to work and football meetings by train. But he began a new with a vengeance in Sussex, being elected to Lewes Town Council (for 35 years) and the Sussex County Council, getting involved with many local sporting clubs, helping to found a Conservative Club in Lewes and writing a column in the local paper answering queries on football. 

He was mayor of Lewes for 11 years, 1924-26, 1938-44 and 1949, being deputy mayor 1945-48. During World War Two he was Air Raid Precaution sub-controller for the Lewes area and also took on the town clerk’s duties.  Still active even in his late 80s, he was the guest of honour at a dinner given by the Duke of Norfolk for his 90th birthday. He died in February 1953, just thirteen days short of his 92nd birthday at his home Franche in De Warrenne Road after a two month illness.

Charles Crisp had married Alice Kemp, the daughter of a Whitstable ship owner, in 1886.  They had had two children, Ruby and Reginald. 
In 1916 Ruby married Herbert Turquand in Canterbury. He was from Sussex and possibly it was to be near to her that the Crisps moved to Lewes. 
Reginald trained as an engineer at Devonport College and then joined the navy, serving first on H.M.S. Minotaur in the China Seas. He never married.  Charles' wife Alice died in 1935 and after that it was his daughter Ruby who took on the role of mayoress when her father was in office.

Referred to as the "Grand Old Man of Sussex" his funeral was conducted by the Bishop of Lewes. Wreaths from football organisations included those of - The F.A., British West Indies F.A., Middlesex F.A., London F.A., London Schools F.A., Athenian League, Middlesex Referees, Sussex Referees, Middlesex Wanderers, Arsenal, Chelsea, Lewes, Barnet, Hayes, Hendon, Southall, Tooting & Mitcham, Wealdstone and The Crisp Shield Schools Association.
« Last Edit: Sun 16 May 2021 20:05 by John Treleven »

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