World War 1 compass returns to Bedales

As we mark Remembrance Day at the end of this week, it is timely to mention a small artefact of World War 1 that has just made its way back to Bedales, some 96 years after it left us. It is a prismatic compass that the school presented to maths teacher Basil Gimson, when he went off to serve at the Front in 1916. Over half-term it came up for sale on eBay, and we were able to buy it back for the Archive.

Basil Gimson (1887-1953), the nephew of the Arts & Crafts architect and designer Ernest Gimson, spent most of his life at Bedales. He joined the school as a pupil in 1896 and then, after studies at MIT and Cambridge, returned in 1911 to teach. He taught here until his retirement, becoming Second Master (Deputy Head) in 1933, leaving us only for war service from 1916-1919. Basil and his wife Muriel are commemorated in the Memorial Library (designed by his uncle) with special chairs made at the Barnsley Workshop.

We have been in touch with his descendants, who had not seen the compass before, so we are not sure when it left his possession. The June 1916 issue of the Chronicle confirms that the gift was from the school, as the following extract shows …

“We wish to tender our heartiest good wishes, and those of the school, to Mr. Gimson, who went on Wednesday, May 31st, to join the Mechanical Transport.  We are very sorry to lose him, and we wish him the very best of luck. The day before his departure he was presented with a prismatic compass from the school and a torchlight, to hang on the belt, from the quartette, both of which things will, we hope, be found very useful.  On Tuesday evening Mr. Gimson thanked the school for their gift, saying how much he appreciated it and how he had been testing it during the day and had found it to be the best of its kind.” [Bedales Chronicle, June 1916]

By Jane Kirby, Librarian and Archivist


Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.

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