Wakefield Civic Society was established in 1964 out of a concern for the built environment in and around our city. The Society is a registered charity operated by volunteers who care about Wakefield working hard behind the scenes to ensure the best of the city’s heritage is preserved while co-operating with architects, developers and planners to secure a high standard of design quality for new schemes.
On 29th February 1964, a letter from a group of local residents was published in The Wakefield Express calling for a Civic Society to be established for the city and calling on people to attend a meeting at Wakefield Town Hall to be held on 9th March. That meeting was chaired by the then Bishop of Wakefield, Dr John A Ramsbotham and 107 people attended. It was resolved that a Civic Society should be established and a number of volunteers came forward to form a steering committee. The Society’s first President was the late Mr Ray Perraudin. (Report in The Wakefield Express on 14th March 1964).
2014 is the 50th anniversary of the Society being established. As part of our special programme to celebrate this milestone in our own history, the Society is to hold a special event at St John’s Church on Saturday, 19th July, from 2 to 4 pm.
The Society has always taken a keen interest in all aspects of planning, development and heritage preservation. One of the Society’s very first challenges was to try to prevent the demolition of part of St John’s Square which had been proposed at the time.
Society President, Kevin Trickett said “Our records show that, in 1964, there was a proposal to demolish nos. 1 and 2 St John’s Square as they had fallen into a state of dilapidation. The intention was to replace the houses, which had been purchased by a private owner, with a block of 64 modern flats. Within a few weeks of the Society’s creation, this became one of the most important issues for the Society. Adding its voice to those of others who shared a concern for what would happen to the rest of the Square if partial demolition was to be allowed, the Society lobbied the council to try to prevent the demolition going ahead. Fortunately, as history records, demolition was prevented and the houses were saved, being acquired by the Wakefield Grammar School Foundation to become part of the Girls’ High School”.
However, the Society’s involvement in the Square does not stop there. In the 1970s, the Society masterminded a project to raise funds to pay for the reinstatement of the Georgian fronts of the properties around the Square, which was by then looking very run down. The Society’s project considerably improved the appearance of the Square and helped to save this Georgian masterpiece for the benefit future generations to enjoy and providing a template for future owners of the properties in the Square.
Mr Trickett said “2014 is the 50th anniversary of the Society and we are running a programme of events and special projects to mark this important stage in our history. It is very fitting, given our past involvement in the Square, that we are returning to the area for this special event on the 19th July and I am delighted that local historian, writer and archivist John Goodchild has agreed to attend to talk about the history of the Square and John Lee, a local lawyer and developer who was chiefly responsible for the building of the Square and the church in the 1790s.
The event is open to the public and is free to enter. As well as the talk by John Goodchild, there will be a display of the Society’s blue plaque and refreshments will be provided by St John’s Church (donations welcome). Weather permitting, there will also be an opportunity for a short walk around the Square to admire some of the architectural highlights of the Georgian buildings.