College of the Venerable Bede War Memorial


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
St Hild & St Bede College, St Hild's Lane, Durham, DH1 1SZ


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Statutory Address:
St Hild & St Bede College, St Hild's Lane, Durham, DH1 1SZ

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County Durham (Unitary Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


First World War memorial, 1922.

Reasons for Designation

The College of the Venerable Bede War Memorial, erected 1922, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Historic interest:

* as an eloquent witness to the tragic impact of world events on the college, and the sacrifice it made during the First World War.

Architectural interest:

* a well-executed and elegant memorial, in the form of a cusped Latin cross that demonstrates good quality craftsmanship, seen especially in the elaborate and well-detailed stone carving; * based on the Roker Cross, erected in 1904 and dedicated to The Venerable Bede, it is an appropriately designed memorial to the fallen of the college, which bore his name.

Group value:

* it benefits from a spatial group value with the Grade II-listed Chapel of the Venerable Bede.


The aftermath of the First World War saw the biggest single wave of public commemoration ever, with tens of thousands of memorials erected across England.  This was the result of both the huge impact on communities of the loss of three-quarters of a million British lives, and also the official policy of not repatriating the dead, which meant that the memorials provided the main focus of the grief felt at this great loss.  One such memorial was raised at the College of the Venerable Bede, as a permanent testament to the sacrifice made by 86 former students, who lost their lives during the First World War.

The College of the Venerable Bede was a men's teaching college, with a tradition of encouraging students to become members of the Volunteer Rifle Corps. When war was declared in 1914, the majority of the students, all Territorials, were at camp and as a body were drafted into the 8th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, 50th Division, becoming what was known as the Bede College Contingent (D Company). The former students who had already left the college, also managed to stay together, by choosing to join the 18th (Pals') Battalion. On 25 April 1915 the Bede College Contingent, consisting of 102 Officers and men were in the front line at Gravenstafel, near Ypres, where they suffered 17 killed, 10 wounded, and 31 taken prisoner; just 44 of the original officers and men remained.

The first proposal to erect a memorial was made in 1919, at an estimated cost of £1,000. This proposal was for an elaborate semi-circular design; however, the design selected was based on the Roker Cross (1904) dedicated to the Venerable Bede, which was seen as an appropriate memorial for the fallen of the College of the Venerable Bede, with the cost of the memorial deferred by subscription. It was erected on 25 May 1922 and was unveiled three days later on 28 May (Bede Day) by Lieutenant Colonel J R Ritson, Officer Commanding 8th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry and it was dedicated by Dr Hensley Henson, Bishop of Durham. As built the memorial stood on a narrow rectangular podium; however, sometime between 1923 and 1930, the existing walled podium was constructed.


First World War memorial, 1922.

MATERIALS: ashlar stone

DESCRIPTION: the memorial is located within the grounds of the College of St Hild and St Bede, over-looked by college buildings and the listed Grade II Chapel of the Venerable Bede. It takes the form of a slender cusped Latin cross, mounted on a square plinth, which has a bevelled foot and stands on a single step base. The cross has a central boss displaying the Cross of St George and the arms are decorated by an elaborate Celtic knot design, which is carved in relief. The cross is mounted on a tall tapering shaft that has narrow recessed rectangular panels to each side and a plain base. The north and south recessed panels of the shaft have Celtic knot inspired designs that are carved in relief. The plinth has a recessed rectangular panel to each elevation; the inscription on the south panel reads: IN LOVING AND PROUD MEMORY OF THOSE SONS OF BEDE/ WHO IN THE GREAT WAR/ WHERE SO MANY OF THEIR BROTHERS SERVED AND SUFFERED/ GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR THEIR KING AND COUNTRY. A line of five small rectangular recesses divides the inscription and the remainder reads: LEST WE FORGET - LEST WE FORGET/ GRAVENSTAFEL/ BEDE COMPANY 8TH DURHAM LIGHT INFANTRY./ APRIL 25 1915. The three remaining panels are inscribed with the names of the 86 former students that were killed during the First World War, listed in date order of the year of their entry into the college. The memorial stands on a raised square-plan podium that is set back into a sloping ground surface; it has a stone-paved surface enclosed by coursed quarry-faced stone walls, with flat ashlar coping stones, and the rear wall supports a dry-stone revetted bank. The podium is entered by a flight of steps that are flanked by wing walls forming a shouldered entrance. Attached low stone walls enclose flower borders within the re-entrant angles of the south elevation of the podium.


Durham at War - Bede College War Memorial Cross, Durham, accessed 23 July 2019 from
Durham at War - Bede College, Durham, accessed 11 July 2019 from
Hild Bede Alumni, April 28, 2014 The Sounding of the Retreat 2014, accessed 23 July 2019 from
Imperial War Museum - The Pals Battalions of the First World War, accessed 4 October 2019 from
North East War Memorials Project - Cross 1914-18 Bede College grounds, accessed 23 July 2019 from
War Memorials Online - Bede, accessed 11 July 2019 from
Northern Echo, Friday 30 May 1919, Bede College War Memorial


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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