July 2021 marks the York Civic Trust’s 75th birthday. The milestone has been celebrated on social media throughout the month by looking back at ten significant contributions the Trust has made to York since it was founded at the Mansion House in 1946. 

“Reflecting on the work of the Trust over the decades has been a brilliant way to showcase our varied and wide-reaching contribution to York, from enhancing the environmental qualities of the city by planting trees and renovating public spaces, to protecting and restoring York’s historic architecture – all helping to ensure it retains its unique character and identity. It’s also been a great reminder of what can be achieved when people who are passionate about heritage come together to make York such a wonderful city.” Andrew Morrison, Chief Executive of York Civic Trust

While the blue plaque programme and restoration of Fairfax House Museum are more widely associated with the Trust, the top ten countdown has been able to convey the wide scope of our influence in the city. For example, it is perhaps less well-known that we are responsible for establishing inner-city ‘pocket parks’ and installing the Fossgate Banner, as well as playing a foundational role in establishing the University of York.  

Blacksmith Dave Barnes installs the newly restored coat of arms, October 2018.

The top 10 contributions: 

  1. The purchase and large-scale restoration of Fairfax House in the 1980s, and opening as a Georgian townhouse museum in 1984. Find out more: https://yorkcivictrust.wpengine.com/?s=fairfax+house  
  1. The iconic blue plaque programme. The Trust has been placing commemorative plaques to significant people and places on buildings around York since the late 1940s. Find out more: https://yorkcivictrust.wpengine.com/heritage/civic-trust-plaques/  
  1. In 1960 the York Civic Trust was integral to the foundation of the University of York. Find out more: https://yorkcivictrust.wpengine.com/?s=university  
  1. The restoration of the William Etty statue outside York Art Gallery in 2018 as part of the Trust’s City Enhancement Programme. Find out more: https://yorkcivictrust.wpengine.com/etty-statue-restored/  
  1. The commissioning of the iconic bronze statue of Roman Emperor Constantine in 1998 near the South Transept of York Minster. Find out more: https://yorkcivictrust.wpengine.com/?s=constantine+statue  
  1. The creation of the All Saints Pavement Churchyard ‘Pocket Park’ in 2016. Find out more: https://yorkcivictrust.wpengine.com/?s=pocket+park  
  1. The installation of the Fossgate Banner in April 2018. Find out more: https://yorkcivictrust.wpengine.com/fossgate-banner-installed/ 
  1. The restoration of the medieval St Crux parish hall in the 1980s, including the memorial tomb and stained-glass windows. See the Facebook post for more information. 
  1. The repainting of the coat of arms on the gates of the Memorial Gardens in 2018. Find out more: https://yorkcivictrust.wpengine.com/york-coat-of-arms-restored/ 
  1. The restoration of the Victorian Grade II Listed water trough and tiled roof, and repainting of the perimeter fencing, on Clifton Green in 2019. Find out more: https://yorkcivictrust.wpengine.com/?s=clifton+green  
The Fossgate Banner was installed in April 2018.

The four men responsible for founding the Trust were John Bowes Morrell, Oliver Sheldon, Eric Milner-White and Noel Terry. They saw the potential dangers that could beset a historic city immediately after the war, given the prevailing ‘spirit of renewal’ at the time. 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.  From that time onwards, the Trust have sought to “Promote Heritage —  Shape Tomorrow”.