“A PEAL from six muffled bells of the church gave notice to the neighbourhood of Gainford on Saturday of the memorial service in the church at half-past three prior to the dedication of the monument which had been erected in the churchyard in memory of the 25 men who had fallen during the war,” said the Darlington & Stockton Times 100 years ago, in one of the longest introductory paragraphs on record.

The Gainford memorial was probably one of the first Great War tributes in this area to be completed, and the ceremony came only four months after the Cenotaph on Whitehall had been unveiled.

The Northern Echo: Gainford war memorial, probably on the day of its unveiling 100 years ago. Picture courtesy of Mike Stow

The London cenotaph set an austere trend that other places followed, but perhaps because Gainford’s was so early, it is a little different. Instead of being blank, it is covered in carvings.

It was probably designed by the daughter of the vicar, the Reverend HC Watson, who based it on a Saxon cross that was found in the village. It was carved by Percival Charge, whose family building firm is still based in Gainford, and it was unveiled on March 19, 1921 – 100 years ago next Friday.

“Front seats in the church had been reserved for about 60 ex-service men,” said the D&S.

The Northern Echo: Gainford War Memorial today. Picture courtesy of Gillian Hunt

Archdeacon Derry, rector of Sedgefield, delivered a “stirring sermon to a crowded congregation” and then everyone filed outside where Lord Gainford led the unveiling ceremony. “He hoped the memorial would be for Gainford an inspiring tradition to faith, fortitude and courage,” said the D&S.

He then handed over to the High Sheriff of Durham, Sir Arthur Francis Pease, of Middleton Lodge in Middleton Tyas who was the grandson of Joseph Pease whose statue stands in the middle of Darlington.

The Northern Echo:

“As the Union Jack which hid the cross fell from it, the High Sheriff, speaking some sympathetic and encouraging words, expressed a hope that the memorial might stand there for ever,” said the D&S.

Although not yet forever, the memorial has made it to a century. In normal times, such a landmark would be commemorated, but sadly we are not yet in normal times.

L With thanks to Gillian Hunt for researching the memorial. Any other memorials nearing their 100th anniversaries?