THE Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Hensley Henson, unveiled the war memorial in Middleton St George on April 8, 1922, and 100 years on, this weekend, the villagers are to commemorate the memorial’s centenary.

Mr Henson was the bishop from 1920 until 1939 so he must have unveiled more war memorials than any other bishop, and outside St Lawrence’s Church that day, he gave a stirring address.

With words that might have been uttered today, he said of the men who had gone to war: “The thought that went home with them was not danger to England, but the thought of a little country like Belgium being suddenly assaulted, trampled upon and oppressed by a might and shameless foe.”

The Northern Echo: Hensley Henson.

Bp Hensley Henson

He continued: “I know that at the present moment, we are in the dark shadow of a great reaction, and that there are many bitter months to pass before we come out of our economic troubles, all of which are the aftermath of that great tragedy of war.

“As sure, however, as the sun is in the heavens, we shall come through it with the prospects of a higher kind of life than would have been possible had the land been laid low before a brutal and tyrannous invader.

“Year in and year out, this memorial will be crying out this message.”

The Northern Echo: The 100-year-old war memorial at St Laurence's Church on the edge of Middleton One Row

The memorial (above) bears the names of 39 local men who died in the First World War, 15 who died in the second, and one – Warrant Officer Colin Wall – who was killed in Iraq in 2003.

The memorial cost £110 17s, and a week after the unveiling, the war memorial committee had met and decided to abandon their plans to build a £1,000 institute in memory of the fallen. In the depths of the recession that the bishop referred to, they were unable to raise the necessary funds.

Although today St Lawrence’s church is closed, the memorial still stands proudly, and tomorrow, a service of commemoration is being held in St George’s Academy at 9.45am followed at 10.50am by a ceremony at the cross. The ceremony will be led by the Bishop of Jarrow, and the Lord Lieutenant of Durham and the Mayor of Darlington have been invited. Everyone else, of course, is welcome.

The Northern Echo:

St Laurence 's Church, Middleton St..George, in 1970.