Leeds Civic Trust (1965)
17 Wharf Street
Established over 50-years ago, the Trust has campaigned for – and succeeded in – preserving and improving heritage sites in Leeds: including Kirkgate Market, the Bank of England site on South Parade, and the first White Cloth Hall. They are responsible for erecting Blue Plaques in the city – to commemorate and celebrate people and buildings of historical importance.
The Civic Trust needs no introduction and the Leeds branch is no exception. Established over 50 years ago in 1965 as a response to the city’s attitude towards and destruction of the historic buildings, a £50,000 donation from Charles Crabtree (a printing press manufacturer with a factory on Water Lane, Holbeck) ensured the trust was ready to go. The Leeds Civic Trust have tirelessly worked, campaigned and actively led heritage projects, the Blue Plaque initiative and become an essential part of Leeds’ rich heritage preservation. Now boasting hundreds of members and volunteers, every year the trust goes from strength to strength with increasing influence over the city’s future developments.
The Leeds Civic Trust have fostered and maintained an excellent and influential relationship with both Leeds City Council and Leeds’ businesses making them a key player in significant structural development and transport decisions in the city. We can see from 1970s newspapers, a mere ten years after the Trust’s formation, the influence created by their engagement with Leeds residents and their willingness to publicise and vocalise the impact of preservation and heritage in the city.
With pro active campaigns from the 1960s up until the present day and clear statements including ‘What we build today is tomorrow’s heritage,’ and ‘conserving the best of the past,’ The Leeds Civic Trust have become instrumental in decisions across the city.
Heritage and Preservation
Since the 1980s the Leeds Civic Trust have been involved in what is sure to be the most high profile and well known conservation and regeneration project in Leeds. The first White Cloth Hall was on Kirkgate; opened in 1711 the impressive structure would have been a hive of activity as the boom the textile industry approached. Unfortunately over the years since the cloth hall ceased to trade the building deteriorated and has been mostly unoccupied since the 1960s. However a partnership between the trust, Leeds City Council, Heritage Lottery and Historic England has meant that the site is now being developed and restored, due to open in 2020.
You can see the Leeds Civic Trust’s fascinating virtual ‘fly-through’ developed with Gaming students from The University of Huddersfield here > https://leedscivictrust.org.uk/whatwedo/heritage/
The trust are continually compiling a conservation list of Leeds buildings and landmarks at risk or in need of restoration as part of their Heritage Watch Group with Leeds City Council. The work that goes into compiling the list is very important in ensuring action is take concerning at risk heritage sites, the list includes both listed and unlisted buildings and areas that are considered worth of conservation. You can click on the link < to see the current list. The work the trust are putting into their projects has ensured essential work has been done to conserve buildings and areas including the South Bank, Leeds Waterfront, Barran’s Warehouse in Park Square and the Bank of England on South Parade-Park Row.
The Leeds Civic Trust started their Blue Plaque Scheme in 1987 and now have over 170 plaques across the city. The trust have specific criteria before honouring a person or building with a plaque with significant objective evaluation going into each consideration. The Blue Plaques symbolise a great culmination of the work that goes into the conservation of heritage sites by the Leeds Civic Trust, along with the impact of significant persons in the city’s history that have made an impression on the people of Leeds today. Recent additions to the scheme include the Leeds Rainbow Plaques brightening up the city since 2018 in celebration of LGBT+ individuals, significant places and events.
The Leeds Civic Trust website: https://leedscivictrust.org.uk/
Leeds Civic Trust collection of photographs on Leodis: https://bit.ly/2lLriPm