York Civic Trust

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York Civic Trust

About: History of York Civic Trust


Fairfax House was opened as York's Georgian House museum in 1984. It is now in the portfolio of York Conservation Trust and leased back to the Civic Trust

The Trust's Jubilee (50 years), with a celebration at the Treasurer's House.

Peter Brown came to work for the Civic Trust in 1984, was awarded the MBE in 2011 and retired as Director in July 2015

Statue of Emperor Constantine besides York Minster, 1998

York's Mansion House, St Helen's Square, 1725. The Trust funded a 1999 re-decoration and is delighted to see a 2017 re-opening after restoration.
The Trust was founded at the Mansion House in 1946 by four men who saw the potential dangers, that could beset an historic city immediately after the war, when there was a prevailing 'spirit of renewal'. (See the York Press of 22 July 2016.)  These founder members had experience in various fields including the Church and commerce, but above all they had a passion for York. They intended that the Trust should have a wider remit than preservation alone, and hoped it would assist in schemes to improve the amenities in the city. 

The postwar period was a time when serious planning about the city's future was underway, as you can see from this article 'A Plan for the City of York (1948)here.  A fundamental aim of the Trust was to work with the City Council to help and offer ideas and assistance. 

Since it began, the Trust has made numerous gifts to the city ranging from restoring and gilding the gas lamps around York Minster, installing commemorative plaques in streets, purchasing pictures for the Art Gallery; repaving for St Helen's Square; curtains for the Theatre Royal; a new robe for the Lord Mayor - to a full restoration of the Mansion House (the home of the Lord Mayor of York).

At national level, the Trust's report advocating the creation of Conservation Areas became a concept which was incorporated within the Civic Amenities Act 1967, so it now forms an important tool in conservation law.

In the mid-1960s York was chosen as one of four historic towns to study the issues of conservation. This report was later to be known as the Esher Report, 1968. The Trust joined the City Council in contributing towards the fees involved. The influence of that report was to bring huge benefits to the city and fully justified having participated in Lord Esher's Study.

Restoring Fairfax House at 27 Castlegate and thus providing a home for Noel Terry's collection of Georgian furniture must be regarded as central to the Trust's achievements. This not only accommodated the magnificent collection but also restored a mid-eighteenth century house which displays all the elegance and craftsmanship of that rich period in our history.  Opened in 1984, it is one of York's important visitor attractions.

The City Council had bought the House in a semi-derelict state and after some years sold it to York Civic Trust.  See this page for two photographs of the House before the Trust restored it.

In 2008 the Trust agreed to sell Fairfax House to York Conservation Trust (a charity also founded by J B Morrell) and thus arrange an endowment fund for the sole use of the House. 
Stonegate was the first pedestrian street in York, an outcome much influenced by the York Civic Trust.  The closure of Deangate, stopping traffic running alongside the Minster, was a campaign undertaken by the Trust, which after many frustrating years of effort culminated in the road being closed in 1989.

Throughout its life the Trust has commented on planning applications submitted to the City Council and has aimed to be objective whilst being free to express concern at proposals which would be detrimental to the character of the city. The proposals that involved most effort and time have so far been for schemes adjoining Clifford's Tower, for instance concerning a scheme aimed at making this site a retail focus  which provoked a public inquiry in 2002. The Trust provided substantial evidence in opposing that scheme which in 2003 was refused by the Secretary of State.  Clifford's Tower and Coppergate remain on our agenda.

In 2016 The Trust celebrated its 7th birthday - and was selected by the Lord Mayor of York as one of his charities.  We are open to all: the only qualification is to want to keep York a special place!  Here is the page about how to join the Trust