On Friday 10th September at 1pm a new York Civic Trust blue plaque was unveiled to celebrate the extraordinary life and legacy of John Bowes Morrell (1873 – 1963). The event took place in the Fairfax House courtyard, and was the first in our Heritage Open Days 2021 programme.

One of the four founders of the Trust in 1946, it was fitting that Morrell received a plaque in our 75th anniversary year. The event was very well attended in person, and others joined virtually through a social media live stream.

James Morrell holding his great grandfather’s plaque

It was fantastic to have Morrell’s great grandson James Morrell attend, and have the honour of unveiling the plaque. He is now Chair of York Conservation Trust, which Morrell founded in 1945. Another thank you to Dr Katherine Webb, who presented a fascinating summary of Morrell’s character and achievements to mark the occasion.

James Morrell and Stephen Lusty, Chair of York Civic Trust

A civic leader and benefactor, historian, passionate conservationist, businessperson and newspaperman, Morrell had an incredibly varied and distinguished career. He has left a lasting legacy in the city, from campaigning and funding the establishment of a university in York (the Morrell Library bears his name today), to saving dozens of historic buildings, to his role in developing the Castle Museum.

“He was interested in heritage conservation, with a real passion that York should be preserved. There was a sense that it was important to serve the past, and how it served today. He was a driven man, a man of action, who had a vision for what York could and should be, as a provincial capital rather than a provincial city.”

Dr Duncan Marks, Civic Society Manager

JB Morell as Lord Mayor during his second term, 1949/50, with his sheriff, Arthur Sykes Rymer

The plaque will eventually move to Burton Stone Lane, Morrell’s former home. Until then, we encourage the public to come along and view the plaque, which will be displayed in the Fairfax House window.

You can read more about Morrell’s extraordinary life and accomplishments on our website. For an in-depth insight into his life and work, you can purchase Dr Katherine Webb’s biography City of our Dreams: J.B. Morrell and the shaping of modern York.