THE forgotten past of to a well-known Northallerton building was recently revived through a special exhibition by the British Red Cross. County Hall, which celebrated its centenary on January 31, emerged as a forgotten link to the First World War and the unsung heroines who cared for soldiers.

It was one of 30 buildings in what was then the North Riding that was used as a Red Cross hospital to treat members of the military for minor injuries.

But unlike neighbouring Bedale Hall and Thirsk Town Hall, which were also used in this way, County Hall has nothing to show for its contribution to the war effort.

In fact, few people know that, as a hospital, its four committee rooms housed 65 beds staffed by 30 Voluntary Auxiliary Detachment (VAD) nurses.

Between October 15, 1914, and January 10, 1919, a total of 1,628 patients passed through its doors and just two patients died there.

During this time, Northallerton's old grammar school was also used by the military and the school's headmaster also applied to use two of County Hall's committee rooms as classrooms for a special group of pupils who were preparing for their exams. Permission was granted and from September 17, 1914, committee rooms one and two were vacated by the Red Cross and allocated to the displaced pupils.

Despite the building being used by both the Red Cross and the school, the county council continued to conduct its business there. Meetings were still held on the premises but workers adapted to the new function of their place of work.

These little-known facts were brought to light again after Red Cross volunteers in North Yorkshire agreed to re-create East Rounton Village Hall's wartime hospital ward to help it celebrate its centenary.

Eileen Brereton, who works for the Red Cross training people in first aid, conducted extensive research into the makeshift hospitals in North Yorkshire.

And during the course of her digging she discovered the forgotten but noble past of County Hall and felt it should be marked in some way.

So she organised an exhibition at Northallerton Town Hall of the memorabilia she had gathered, including photographs, postcards from soldiers and reports from the British Red Cross about the use and running of the hospital.

Those who took part wore period costume and among the display items were an original bed, a First World War stretcher on loan from Coun John Coulson, and a wheelchair also from the time.

Mrs Brereton said: "The nurses who ran the wards were VADs and the wards were set up through a coalition between the British Red Cross and St John of Jerusalem.

"The wards were recovery wards - serious injuries would have been taken care of in military hospitals. Many of the patients in the makeshift wards were there with slings, crutches and bandages.

"We went to County Hall to try to find out if there was anything to commemorate the fact that it had been a hospital and could not find anything. It would be a shame to lose that.

"County Hall is the only one that doesn't have anything on display and we thought the exhibition would be a nice opportunity to tell a few more people about what went on."

The Mayor of Northallerton, Coun David Blades, praised the Red Cross for helping to bring a piece of the town's history to life again.

"I didn't realise there were so many artefacts to look at," he said. "There are some very interesting documents here and it is all beneficial to the town. I thank the Red Cross for bringing this to us."

There are now plans to take the exhibition to North Yorkshire County Records Office, where a lot of the information about County Hall's past came from.

Keith Sweetmore, from the records office, said the exhibition could be staged there for a few weeks in November, close to Remembrance Sunday, which would allow even more people to discover such an important part of Northallerton's history.