Leeds Civic Trust set to get its own plaque for 50th anniversary

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Leeds Civic Trust will next week mark its 50th anniversary.

To mark the occasion, Times Past looks back at some of the trust’s most noteworthy achievements.

Dr Kevin Grady, director of the trust, said the group had been “vital” to the development of the city during the last half century.

“Over its 50 years in the city, there can be no doubt that the members of Leeds Civic Trust have done a great deal of vitally important work. The Trust’s fortunes has ebbed and flowed, and indeed when I became its director, 28 years ago in May, it was at a very low ebb. Indeed, its Vice Chairman, Neville Rowell, told me when I took up my job, that amongst its 160 members, many wondered whether there was really anything left for the Trust to do.

“Happily, it turned out that there was a great deal for the Trust to do. The Trust has gone from strength to strength since then, in what at time has been a roller-coaster relationship with the City Council and property developers. The trust certainly doesn’t get everything right; and there are many things that we wish we could have achieved which we haven’t.

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“Nevertheless, from our headquarters in Wharf Street, coming up to our 50th birthday, I can confidently say that the Trust has never been more influential in the affairs of the city, more energetic or determined in its purpose, or better resourced and supported. With our small army of volunteers, who care passionately about the future success of the city, the excellent support we get from city business, and our very good relationship with Leeds City Council, we are well set to promote the improvement of Leeds for yet another 50 years.”

The trust’s origins go back to 1965 when Charles Crabtree donated £50,000 to help set it up - the story can be see illustrated in the newspaper clipping below. It constitution as a charity stated that its aims and objectives were: to stimulate public interest in and care for the beauty, history and character of the city and locality, to encourage high standards of design, architecture and town planning, to encourage the development and improvement of features of general public amenity and to to promote and organise co-operation in the achievement of these objectives.

The trust has championed the city’s blue plaque scheme, designed to celebrate and mark historic buildings, people and events and later this month, it will get a blue plaque of its very own. The plaque will be unveiled on Wednesday October 21 at their offices in Wharf Street, incidentally, by the granddaughter of founding benefactor Charles Crabtree. The 50th anniversary itself will be marked at their annual general meeting on October 24.

It’s worth noting by-the-by that within 12 months of its foundation, the Trust bought the derelict Bear Pit in Headingley with a view to demonstrating its commitment to conserving important historic buildings.

Over the years, the Trust has been a constant voice supporting the city’s long term interests, supporting some developments (like Leeds Waterfront) and opposing others (Bridgewater Place being one - interestingly, before it was built, the Trust warned it could create problems with high winds). It has seen the city transformed from what Alan Bennett called a ‘Victorian Florence’ into a metropolis.

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