First World War memorial, 1923, with later additions.
Reasons for Designation
Birtley Cenotaph, memorial shelters, and garden wall including gate piers and railings, which stand in the garden at Constables Garth, are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: as an eloquent witness to the tragic impact of world events on this local community, and the sacrifice it has made in the conflicts of the C20;
* Architectural interest: an imposing memorial in the Classical style with associated and contemporary mourners’ shelters.
Suggestions for a suitable war memorial in Birtley, rejected on grounds of cost, had included cottages for ex-servicemen and their dependents. The Cenotaph was unveiled on 4 August 1923 by Lt-Col P Kirkup MC DSO and dedicated by Reverend GW King, in commemoration of 197 local servicemen who died during the First World War. Some 1,350 men had joined up. The land, known as Constables Garth, had been given by the Birtley Freeholders and Mr AR Fleet. The was design was by Messrs Davidson and Sons of Gosforth and built by Messrs Bolam, Simpson and Bolam. The bronze plaques were cast by Messrs Walker and Son of Newcastle. The architects were also responsible for the Hartford Commemorative Institute for the Cramlington Coal Company.
The last First World War name to be added was that of WL Thompson, executed in 1916 for desertion, after a 17 year-long campaign by his sister to clear his name. Following the Second World War the details of 89 men were added to the cenotaph, unveiled on 12 November 1950 by Lord Lawson of Beamish; the memorial was re-dedicated by the Archdeacon of Durham. One name was added to commemorate a soldier who died in Korea and a further plaque was added in 1991 for a soldier who died in the Gulf conflict.
Birtley cenotaph stands in a garden on the east side of Durham Road. The memorial comprises a tall stone pylon of Heworth stone ashlar, square on plan, with rebated panels making the form of a cross on each face. The pylon stands on a two-stage base, that is raised on a circular step. Two blocking course indicating the empty tomb surmount the heavy, dentilled, cornice. The arms of the cross on each face of the pylon are ornamented with wreaths and festoons carved in relief.
The principal dedicatory inscription, incised into the front face of the pylon, reads TO THE/ GLORY OF GOD/ AND IN MEMORY OF/ OFFICERS AND NON-COMMISSIONED/ OFFICERS AND MEN/ OF BIRTLEY PARISH/ WHO MADE THE SUPREME/ SACRIFICE IN THE/ GREAT WAR/ 1914 – 1918/ FOR GOD/ KING AND COUNTRY/ THE/ SACRED CAUSE OF/ JUSTICE AND THE/ FREEDOM/ OF THE WORLD. A bronze plaque below records 61 names. Similar plaques on either side of the pylon, and a smaller plaque to the rear, record the remaining First World War names. A bronze plaque on the front face of the upper stage of the base records the dates 1939 – 1945 with 33 names. The other Second World War names are recorded on plaques around the base, with the names of one soldier who died in Korea in 1951 added to the left-hand plaque. The small plaque added in 1991 is also on the left-hand side of the pylon.
The cenotaph is approached by a flight of four steps from the garden gate. The garden is enclosed by a low brick wall with stone coping and railings to the front including gate piers, and taller brick wall to the rear linking the two shelters that stand either side of the cenotaph.
Either side of the cenotaph are timber shelters of three bays on brick half-walls. They are glazed to three sides with solid rear walls. The glazing comprises three central panels with chamfered wooden glazing bars, of nine panes each flanked by slightly wider side panes, over which is a window head of tinted glass panes including ornamental bracing. Originally open to the elements, the shelters have been sympathetically enclosed with double doors. The double doors each have 12 panes over two wooden panels. The over-sailing hipped, tiled, roofs are supported by simply scrolled wooden brackets, with timber fascias carrying the guttering. The shelter to the south retains its terracotta roof finials. The shelters are equipped inside with timber benches around the walls.
This List entry has been amended to add sources for War Memorials Online and the War Memorials Register. These sources were not used in the compilation of this List entry but are added here as a guide for further reading, 7 February 2017.