Village unveils new war memorial to heroes who fought for its freedom

A village has unveiled a new war memorial to honour its war dead.

Two brass plaques commemorating the Hesleden men who lost their lives in combat were saved from the scrap heap when St John’s Church was de-consecrated.

Members of the community watch on during the ceremony.

Members of the community watch on during the ceremony.

But while visitors to its primary school could still admire them on a visit to its reception, campaigners felt it was important a fitting memorial to the 51 men who died in the First and Second World Wars was on show for all to see.

Now an £8,000 8ft high granite monument, decorated with a cross on top, has been inscribed with their names and has been installed in the cemetery.

An unveiling service was held yesterday morning, bringing together generations of residents, campaigners, community leaders and children from the village primary.

Youngsters related to those noted on the stonework played a central part in the dedication and blessing ceremony.

I feel pride on behalf of the Hesleden community that this has happened and now we can look to Remembrance Day and holding our own ceremony.

Stan Gray

Seven of the Durham Light Infantry’s standards were present for the event, which was led by Methodist minister Reverend Susan Richardson and Reverend Roger Davies, of St Andrew’s Church in Blackhall, with the day opened by Gaynor Crute, chairman of Hesleden Parish Council.

The project was backed by Durham County Councillors Rob Crute and Lynn Pounder, who helped fund the monument, with support from the parish council.

Stan Gray is treasurer of Blackhalls’ Local History Group, which represents the village and its neighbours.

He said: “There are 51 names on those two plaques and now this memorial from the First and Second World Wars.

School children from Hesleden with the crossed they placed at the foot of the memorial.

School children from Hesleden with the crossed they placed at the foot of the memorial.

“When we were talking about it, we said how many there were just from this small village.

“We thought the cemetery was the best place for its because when people come into the village, it will be one of the first things they see.

“It was absolutely wonderful to see it in place and it now means we will have somewhere to gather and remember those lost when it comes to November 11.

“We have been working on this project for more than a year now I feel very proud and happy that we have finally got our own memorial.

“I was born in the village and moved to Blackhall when I got married, but it’s so sad to think that they lost so many men out of 250 or 300 people who lived here then.

“I feel pride on behalf of the Hesleden community that this has happened and now we can look to Remembrance Day and holding our own ceremony.

“I was also very pleased to see 100 or so pupils from the primary school take part.

“There are three schools in our area, Hesleden, Blackhall and St Joseph’s, and it’s important for us to include them in the work we do.”