AGM 2013

Hugh Crossley, 4th Baron Somerleyton, with Dr John A Hargreaves

54 years of celebrating, enhancing and safeguarding Halifax's built and natural environment.

Chairman’s Report: Dr John A. Hargreaves

2012-13 has been a momentous year for Halifax Civic Trust as we have commemorated half a century of celebrating, enhancing and safeguarding the outstanding natural and built environment of Halifax.  Halifax Civic Trust's own Golden Jubilee has also happily coincided with a year of national celebration of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the 2012 London Olympics and the triumphs of Halifax's paralympic athlete Hannah Cockroft, which resulted in the transformation of post boxes at Mount Tabor and Halifax Town Hall from Royal Mail red to Olympic gold. We were also delighted that the Mayor of Calderdale, Councillor John Hardy and Calderdale MBC readily backed our proposal to re-name the clock tower at Halifax Town Hall the Elizabeth Tower as another symbolic gesture to commemorate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. This was realised with the unveiling of a plaque by Dr Ingrid Roscoe, the Lord Lieutenant of West Yorkshire, before the service at Halifax Minster concluding the Diamond Jubilee events in West Yorkshire in February 2013, which had included a public lecture at Halifax Town Hall organised by Halifax Civic Trust at the beginning of the Diamond Jubilee year attended by Deputy Lord Lieutenant, Steve Duncan.

Halifax Town Hall shares a unique link with the Palace of Westminster in that the architect of both of these iconic buildings was Sir Charles Barry. Consequently when MPs agreed to re-name the clock tower at the Palace of Westminster the Elizabeth Tower in honour of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II it seemed entirely appropriate to follow suit in Halifax and name the clock tower of Halifax Town Hall the Elizabeth Tower especially since both towers were completed almost contemporaneously. Sir Charles Barry, in his vision for Halifax Town Hall, stated that: 'A Town Hall should be the most dominant and important of the municipal buildings' within the town or city comprising 'a lofty structure with a tower of commanding importance'. He gave Halifax such a building of which we are all immensely proud. He also hope that the new town hall would be 'the means of giving due expression to public feeling upon all national and municipal events of importance' acting as 'the exponent of the life and soul of the municipality'. He did not wish the Town Hall to exist in a historical time warp. He wanted it to be a dynamic symbol reflecting both the continuing life of the nation and the local community. Since Halifax, like the Palace of Westminster, already has a prominent feature named after Queen Victoria with its magnificent Victoria Hall, it was felt particularly appropriate to complement that feature with a re-designated Elizabeth Tower in honour of the monarch who has so far reigned for well over one third of the century and a half of its existence. The naming of the tower the Elizabeth Tower commemorates what has long been recognised as an exemplary record of continuing public service as head of state and head of the Commonwealth by a consummate constitutional monarch. Re-naming Halifax's equivalent of Big Ben the Elizabeth Tower, with its lofty spire depicting scenes from four continents by John Thomas who also worked with Barry on the Palace of Westminster, seemed even more appropriate given that the present monarch has travelled the globe more extensively than any of her predecessors, establishing a twenty-first century association with Halifax's finest nineteenth-century architectural treasure, thereby helping to realise Sir Charles Barry's vision.

We were delighted to welcome Chris Harris, Deputy Lord Lieutenant, and George Pickles, a former Secretary of Halifax Civic Trust as speakers at the Halifax Civic Trust's Golden Jubilee lunch at the Moorlands Restaurant at Ogden, together with representatives of other Calderdale civic societies from Brighouse, Elland, Hebden Bridge and Sowerby Bridge. It was appropriate for us to celebrate our own golden jubilee in North Halifax since the Halifax Civic Trust's first project after its foundation in 1962, was a suburban scheme for improving the appearance of the environs of Bell Hall near Savile Park and because the Halifax Civic Trust acts as custodian of the remarkable collection of ceramics linked with the Soil Hill pottery North of Halifax which is currently deposited at Bankfield Museum. A previous visit to Illingworth St Mary's Cricket Club, like the morning visit to Mount Zion Centre of Methodist Heritage before the jubilee lunch, enabled us to appreciate the work of voluntary groups in seeking to safeguard important facets of Halifax's rich sporting and religious history. The unveiling of a blue plaque at the junction of Russell and Market Street in collaboration with the Halifax Town Supporters Club earlier in the year commemorating the origins of the football club at a meeting on the site of the former Saddle Inn further illustrated the breadth of our commitment to raising awareness of our local heritage. We also intend to erect a commemorative blue plaque at the former residence of the Halifax sculptress Jocelyn Horner, a founder member of Halifax Civic Trust in collaboration with the Lawrence Funeral Home which currently occupies the premises and we have been negotiating to rescue her large bronze sculpture of the Old Testament shepherd boy David which was commissioned for the former Holy Trinity Senior School. We have further plans, in collaboration with the Society for the Study of Labour History, to place a plaque on the former home of the historians Edward and Dorothy Thompson in Siddal to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of The Making of the English Working Class which was written whilst Edward was resident in Halifax. We have also negotiated with the Methodist Church authorities for the incorporation of some of the most significant memorials from the Methodist graveyard at Greetland, the oldest Methodist graveyard in the world, into the re-development of the site.

Halifax Civic Trust played a prominent role in the campaign to save Calderdale Central Library and Archives from demolition, perhaps the largest mobilisation of public opinion in Calderdale's history and we deeply regret the decision taken by CMBC to proceed with demolition against such a strong demonstration of public support for its preservation on its conveniently accessible Northgate site. We were motivated to campaign so strenuously by listening to sections of the community, in particular, mothers with young children, members of the ethnic minority communities and older people, especially those with mobility problems whose experience of lifelong learning will be diminished by removing these facilities from a site close to Calderdale's public transport hub to a less convenient location. We will scrutinize carefully the plans for the proposed new building during the planning process and check whether the promised replication of valued existing facilities on the re-located site will be realised in a manner which complements the outstanding historic features of the site. We supported and welcome the successful bids for HLF funding for refurbishment of the Halifax Piece Hall and for exhibitions to commemorate the impact of the First World War on Calderdale. We also welcome the incorporation of some of our suggestions into the finished external appearance of the new Broad Street Plaza and the tenacity of CMBC in seeking enforcement of planning regulations in relation to the unsightly cladding of interesting older buildings in Bull Green, but remain concerned about other buildings at risk such as the Great Northern Shed and Martin's Mill. We have sought to publicise widely Halifax's unique heritage by networking with other civic societies including this year Ripon and Nottingham and through an article published in the winter edition of widely circulated magazine, The Historian. We have also sought to engage young people in discussions about the communities in which they live through a public-speaking event held at Halifax Town Hall in collaboration with the Halifax and Huddersfield Speakers' Club.

We are delighted by the appointment of one of our members, Virginia Lloyd to the office of High Sheriff of West Yorkshire; saddened by the deaths of Roma Andrew and Leslie Brayshaw, who have both supported us in different ways over many years. We welcome Eileen Connolly and David Witcher as new members of the Executive with Neil Mcdonald replacing Dee Weaver as webmaster, and are pleased that Dee will continue to serve on the Executive and Ken Northcott will continue as Vice-Chair. We are grateful to all other serving officers and in particular to David Hanson for his co-ordination of the annual award scheme and June Paxton-White for her administrative efficiency and dedication to her role as Secretary.

The year 2013 is a bumper year for Crossley 150th anniversaries. In August a bust of John Crossley will be displayed in the Victoria Hall following meetings between Halifax Civic Trust and CMBC officers commemorating his role in the opening of the new Halifax Town Hall. It also marks similar landmark anniversaries of the opening of the Joseph Crossley almshouses; Francis Crossley's award of a baronetcy and his taking up residence at Somerleyton Hall in Suffolk. It is a great pleasure therefore to welcome Francis's direct lineal descendant, Hugh Crossley, 4th Baron Somerleyton, as our guest speaker this evening, having collaborated with him in his personal project to strengthen links between Somerleyton and his family's Halifax roots. Hugh has worked with infectious enthusiasm to create a new exhibition at Somerleyton Hall for the new season of opening and is preparing a new illustrated guide to Somerleyton with much greater emphasis than its predecessors on the family's links with Halifax. We hope that his vision and energy will be rewarded by many people with Halifax connections taking the opportunity to visit Somerleyton to view the exhibition in its year of celebration. Thank you for travelling such a distance to speak at our AGM, and we hope that your project will strengthen the links between Halifax and Somerleyton and we look forward to hearing more about it this evening.