Lost First World War memorial to be given pride of place in Gateshead

A Gateshead First World War memorial which lay for decades in a works depot is to be re-erected after 50 years of neglect

Historian Anthea Lang at St Mary's Church Heritage Centre
Historian Anthea Lang at St Mary's Church Heritage Centre

A first World War memorial is to be re-erected in a prime position on Tyneside after 50 years of neglect.

The two-tonne marble tablet was discovered in 2006 in a corner of a Gateshead Council depot, sparking an investigation into where it had come from and how it came to be lying there.

Eventually, after a public appeal for information in The Journal, it was identified as a memorial stone from the former Park Terrace Presbyterian Church in Gateshead.

The church was demolished in 1964 to make way for the St Cuthbert’s Village development, which is itself now demolished. The puzzle as to how it found its way into a council depot remains.

One of the 27 soldiers commemorated on the stone, Private George Wood, is listed as a member of the Royal Engineers.

His story has been researched by local historian Anthea Lang and now, in recognition of their former comrade, the modern-day Royal Engineers – whose 72 Regiment received the Freedom of the Borough in 2011 – have agreed to help re-erect the memorial.

 

It will be the centrepiece of a memorial garden which the Royal Engineers will create in May in the grounds of St Mary’s Church Heritage Centre overlooking the Tyne, to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the war.

The work is being funded with the help of a grant of £9,600 from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s First World War Then and Now programme.

Linda Green, Gateshead Council Cabinet member for culture, said: “I doubt we will ever get to the bottom of the puzzle as to how this memorial stone came to be lying on its back in a council depot, but it’s a great achievement to be able to put it back on public view in time for this important anniversary.

“It is fitting that the Royal Engineers should be playing such a big part in helping to honour one of their own and we are deeply grateful for all their support.”

The re-erection of the memorial forms one part of a major Gateshead Council project backed by HLF funding to digitise its extensive First World War archive to make it available online. A school pack is also being created so pupils can learn about life in Gateshead during the war years.

Anthea Lang’s research has shown that George Wood lived in Alston Terrace in Bensham, Gateshead, and was working in 1911 as a marine fitter.

In August 1915, he enlisted in Newcastle in the Royal Engineers.

He was killed in action, aged 26, near Armentieres in France in September 1915.

People with an interest in their family’s or community’s part in the war can learn about the many sources of information available locally and regionally at an event at North Shields on Saturday from 10am to 4pm.

The Tynemouth World War One Commemoration Project has joined North Tyneside Council to stage a public information day at the Customer First Centre and library in Northumberland Square.

Living history group Time Bandits will have a range of war artefacts for people to examine, and there will be an opportunity to sample some of the ration foods of the time.

Tynemouth Project volunteers will show visitors its online biography of local men killed in the war due to be launched on the internet in June.

The North East War Memorials Project will help with inquiries about names on any of the more than 4,000 memorials. Two local community choirs will also be performing.

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