An unexpected WWI connection with the Museum

By Judith Phillips

Charles Hardy 1915

Charles Hardy 1915

Some time ago Rachel Wood kindly gave the museum a copy of the ‘Cockfield School Roll of Honour Soldiers’.  This was the result of some fantastic research Rachel had done on the names that appear on the Roll of Honour scroll found in Cockfield School.  As well as researching these men, Rachel had also started to look at men from Cockfield Church of England School and one name sprang out to me – Charles Edwin Hardy. 

I knew Hardy’s name because he wrote ‘John Bowes and The Bowes Museum’ – a substantial and well-researched history that I consult regularly in my work in the museum.  Of course, I should have realised that Hardy was likely to have been involved in the First World War – I knew that the book was published in 1970 after more than a decade of painstaking research – but somehow I had never made the connection.  It is very easy to forget that someone you know (or have come across) probably has several stories in their life, not just the one you are familiar with.

Rachel had identified Hardy as serving in the Inns of Courts Regiment and had then found some genealogical information as well.  Hardy was born in 1897 in Winston (a township included in the area covered by the museum’s project) and attended Barnard Castle School.  Aged 18 in 1915 he enlisted and served through the war.  We haven’t yet done further research into his service but, now that the museum has a subscription to the online resource Ancestry, we will certainly try to find out more.

After the war, in 1919 Hardy joined the staff of Cockfield Church of England Mixed School and a year later he moved to Barnard Castle School where he spent the rest of his teaching life, retiring in 1958.  Dorothy Jones at Barnard Castle School has kindly sent a copy of his obituary in 1986 from the school’s archive which shows Hardy was involved in many aspects of school and extra-curricular life. 

It is clear from his book that Hardy consulted the letters and bills kept by John and Joséphine Bowes that now form part of the museum’s archives and recognised their importance.  I like to think that he would have applauded the museum’s First World War project, and its use of archives.