Creative plans to remember a man, who overcame personal adversity to devote a lifetime of service to his beloved North-East village, have borne fruit a year after he passed away at 96. PETER BARRON reports


A MAN of a special vintage, John Gent had earned the right to be remembered in his home village. It was just a question of the best way to do it.

John died last summer after a lifetime of service to Hurworth-on-Tees, where he had lived most of his life.

For more than 70 years, John was fundamental to the fortunes of Rockliffe Park Cricket Club, holding down just about every position going, and rightly ending up as President. He was just four short of a century when he passed away, and the clubhouse is called “The Abbott Gent Pavilion” in honour of John and former president, Percy Abbott.

Beyond his passion for grass roots cricket, John also had a stint as secretary of Hurworth Football Club, and was a stalwart of the village hall for nearly 40 years – serving as committee member, treasurer, chairman and president.

What made his immense contribution all the more remarkable is that he lost a leg after running out in front of a lorry when he was just five.

When he passed away, thoughts naturally turned to how John’s life could be commemorated at The Village Hall, though he’d have been the first to say “don’t make a fuss”.

A bench was considered, of course, but there are lots of benches. Instead, it was decided that the village hall – opened on December 27, 1864 – should have two beautiful stained-glass windows, bearing John’s name, on either side of the front door.

John, who lived a few doors down from the village hall, had left a legacy of £1,000 to the village hall, and that was doubled by the committee to pay for the windows.

They were beautifully designed by committee member Barbara Lawrence, who took her inspiration from another of John’s pastimes. “He had a tiny greenhouse, with a vine that produced red grapes for 80 years or more,” Barbara explains. “There were pounds and pounds of them every year, and everyone got some – it was part of his persona.”

Barbara used her artistic skills to come up with a design for the windows that features red grapes, and Darlington-based Westend Windows brought the project to fruition.

“We’re really pleased with the result,” adds Barbara. “The windows that were in before were a bit of a mess, so it feels like the perfect way to remember John because it enhances the village hall at the same time.”

Barbara’s husband, Jillson, was born and bred in the village and knew John as well as anyone. “He would probably have said ‘don’t bother’ because he never wanted a fuss, but I’ve no doubt he would be pleased deep down,” says Jillson. “It’s a lasting tribute to someone who was such a big part of the village.”

Lynne Drumm, chair of the Village Hall Committee, is also convinced that John would have approved. “It’s a fabulous way to remember his huge contribution to the village, and it’s a practical solution too because the windows needed replacing. I think he would have liked that.”

So, yes, there might easily have been a bench bearing John Gent’s name on the village green at Hurworth-on-Tees by now.

But, on reflection, stained-glass windows at the village hall, where he spent so much time, are a much more fitting tribute.

n It was appropriate that the unveiling of such an artistic tribute to John Gent should coincided with Hurworth Art Group staging an impressive exhibition. The group meets in the Village Hall on Tuesdays, between 7pm and 9pm. New members are welcome. Sessions cost £4 and more details can be obtained from Bridget Emmerson by emailing or calling 07531 462538.