THE idea of a war memorial for Bishop Auckland was first raised in the autumn of 1916, just after the Battle of the Somme, and fund-raising began in earnest in 1920.

The 17ft granite monument, which cost £865 from a Newcastle sculptor, was unveiled on September 13, 1922, by Sir General Ivor Maxse, who had commanded forces in northern France. He said it was dedicated to the 357 men of Bishop Auckland and South Church who had died out of the 2,025 from the two parishes who had enlisted.

“Notwithstanding the wretched weather conditions, hundreds of people, including a large percentage of relatives of the fallen, witnessed the ceremony,” said The Northern Echo. “Owing to the inclemency of the weather, the bishop of Durham refrained from giving an address.”

With the rain falling in torrents, Cllr Mrs Greenwood, wife of the chairman of the urban district council, laid the first wreath in memory of her son, John, who had been killed in the conflict.

There was some criticism about the location of the memorial, which was placed away from the town centre in Station Approach on land belonging to the North Eastern Railway. This was thought appropriate because many men going off to the frontline left the town by train.

However, the Beeching Axe of the 1960s cut Bishop Auckland’s train services, and the station yard was turned into a supermarket. In 1973, therefore, the war memorial was dismantled and taken to the Market Place, where it also commemorates local men who died in the Second World War, the Korean War, the Falklands War and Afghanistan.