54 years of celebrating, enhancing and safeguarding Halifax's built and natural environment.
ANNUAL REPORT 2016
REVIEW OF THE YEAR June Paxton-White
At the start of our year we received the good news that our nomination for one of
the new Civic Voice National Design awards had been successful. These awards had
been set up to replace the former national Civic Trust awards which are now being
handled by a commercial organisation. Consequently, in order to distinguish the one
from the other, changes had to be made to the requirements, one of which was the
involvement of the local community. Fortunately our nomination, The Orangebox, a
youth centre in old warehouse buildings adjacent to the Piece Hall and closely connected
to Square Chapel, ticked all the boxes. We were pleased to learn that it was shortlisted
in the restoration category and we were invited to send 2 people to the award ceremony
at Central Hall, Westminster. Emily Pearson the new director of the MyPlace young
people's centre at the Orangebox attended, together with David Glover representing
Halifax Civic Trust and they were delighted to receive an award in the form of a
plaque. This plaque was later placed on the atrium wall of the Orangebox close to
the one from Halifax Civic Trust and was unveiled by the Mayor of Calderdale in the
presence of a number of HCT members who enjoyed a tour of the facilities. Four of
us also attended the official opening by Prince Edward in September.
Our concern continued for the historic artefacts from the former Royal Halifax Infirmary,
which has now been successfully developed into residential accommodation. Since the
hospital closure they had been stored in a damp cellar at the Calderdale Royal Hospital.
A committee had been set up with members from the NHS Trust and the current board
of the Royal and Halifax Civic Trust, all of whom were anxious to see them placed
in a more appropriate environment. A detailed inventory had been produced showing
a variety of items from silverware to old photographs. The Royal had offered to return
some items to their original sites where possible and to provide facilities for the
others to be exhibited in a small museum which would be available for public viewing.
We visited the site and having seen the proposed arrangements, the committee considered
this to be a satisfactory solution. Unfortunately the portraits of benefactors, early
surgeons and others had deteriorated to such an extent, without the frames that had
gone missing, that the conservator who had been asked to estimate the cost of their
restoration thought it could be anything up to £20,000 excluding framing. Enquiries
about sources of funding were made without success to date, so the paintings will
be stored in a dry condition for the time being. The two sites engaged in legal consultations
about the ownership of the items and at the end of the year we were pleased to hear
that a suitable conclusion had been reached and the items were shortly to be moved
from one site to the other. The artefacts will be owned by the NHS Trust but be out
on permanent loan to the Royal who will be able to exhibit them in their original
positions or lend them out temporarily to other parties such as local museums. We
look forward to being able to view them under favourable conditions as they provide
an interesting insight into the early history of the hospital which owed its existence
to public benefactors and subscriptions.
During the year our Chairman Dr John Hargreaves has been preparing a new edition
of his authoritative history of Halifax. The publication will coincide with the
reopening of the Piece Hall after extensive restoration, a picture of which will
feature on the cover. The text will be revised and extended to reflect more recent
developments in historical research and will contain new illustrations. To make this
possible we acknowledge the generous support received from the Community Foundation
for Calderdale and Calderdale Council Community Small Grants Scheme.
A less savoury ongoing matter was the existence of a waste site which local people
considered to be an eyesore that was visible from the railway and a nuisance to the
neighbourhood. They had drawn the matter to the attention of some of our members
who brought it to our committee. Following inspections by council officers and the
Environment Agency, the owner had been required to remove 8,700 tonnes of waste and
had been prosecuted for failing to comply. He had appeared in court, lost his licence
and was ordered to pay a fine of £70,000. This he failed to do and was imprisoned.
We were told that illegal activities were still taking place on the site. Various
councillors, council officers and the MP for Calderdale were consulted over a long
period of time. The CMBC enforcement officer considered the custodial sentence was
an excellent result but unfortunately it did not solve the problem of the unsightly
waste. The site continued to be operated by the son of the owner who had received
a suspended sentence and changed his name and the name of the firm. The latest information
to reach us was that he had appealed to the Secretary of State against the refusal
by the Environment Agency to renew the licence. HCT supported this refusal. Meanwhile
the owner had received a further 2 years in prison and the fine had been increased
to £78,000. Unfortunately it appears that this situation is likely to persist for
the foreseeable future.
Halifax Civic Trust has taken a keen interest in the reopening of the former industrial
museum located in a mill adjacent to the Piece Hall and previously operated by the
council for a number of years. This is a project in which several of our members
are involved as volunteers under the title CIMA (Calderdale Industrial Museum Association).
A group of us were pleased to be shown round to view the problems that had arisen
with regard to the ingress of damp and supported them in their efforts to keep the
valuable collection of industrial machinery at its current location. In April 2015
we heard of the difficulties that would be faced regarding the financing of the repairs.
However, it now appears that a solution has been found and there is light at the
end of the tunnel. We continue to hope that the museum will eventually reopen and
will be enjoyed by visitors to the rejuvenated Piece Hall complex.
Under the head of Buildings at Risk, HCT has been keeping a watchful eye on several
properties. The redundant St. Mary's church at Illingworth has been up for sale.
The reredos with a war memorial carved by Jackson was said to remain inside. According
to enquiries made, such memorials are not the responsibility of the church commissioners
but of the War Memorials Trust. We were informed that the potential bidder might
wish to keep some of the internal furnishings and the church commissioners would
have to approve the plans for the future use of the site before the sale went through.
No planning application has appeared to date so we await the outcome with interest
and hope a suitable use can be made of such a historic feature of the landscape.
Ovenden Hall continues to be a cause for concern. This historic building was previously
a care home owned by the council. It is now in private ownership and although the
owner has been permitted to make alterations to the outbuildings on the site which
were put on sale. It is not clear what is to happen to the main hall which continues
to deteriorate.. The heritage champion, Councillor J. Smith-Moorhouse offered to
consult Historic England (formerly English Heritage) for their advice and to take
it up with the council's enforcement staff. Our attention was recently drawn to
Exley Old Hall which may also be at risk.
Due to the floods at Christmas we are anxious that Copley Bridge which was Grade
II listed should be reinstated in an acceptable form. So far we have ascertained
that it was built by the lord of the manor in 1831 but nobody has been able to trace
a current owner although council officers have also tried. The council has no legal
responsibility to repair or rebuild it, but they are trying to find other sources
of funding and are considering its replacement by a modern flat metal walkway. Of
course they are obliged to give priority to other roads and Elland Bridge in particular
which are subject to much greater traffic. We hope a suitable solution can be found
as, although St. Stephen's church is redundant and owned by the Churches Conservation
Trust, certain people are still entitled to be buried in the graveyard, which is
currently inaccessible. We would encourage any members who have concerns about historic
buildings to let us know.
In connection with the floods it is worthy of note that one of the Civic Voice award
winners this year was Pickering Civic Society who received special recognition of
its scheme "Slowing the Flow". This involved storing water upstream using the old
medieval system to prevent it flooding the town. Guess which town was not flooded
last Christmas! Also on the plus side we were informed that the adviser from the
Environment Agency comes from Calderdale. We hope a similar scheme can be implemented
above the Calder Valley.
In March we enjoyed a talk by Keith Noble on "The Story of Calderdale Canals" and
in April Stephen Waring from HADRAG spoke to us on "The Future of Railways in the
North", both of which were well attended and very interesting. In May a large number
of us enjoyed a tour round the "Streets in the Sky", that is the residential area
above the borough market. In the early days the owners of the shops lived above their
premises. Few of us had realised that there were in fact streets above the shops
surrounding the market halls. Most of the houses have been empty for many years and
would require extensive modernisation and expense to make them habitable, but they
represent a valuable underused resource.
In July a group of us, duly kitted out in steelie boots, helmets and hi-viz jackets,
were shown round the Piece Hall site by David Garner, the civil engineer who is in
charge of the project. The restoration of this Grade I listed building dating from
1779 is radical, costing about £20 million with substantial assistance from the Heritage
Lottery Fund. We were fascinated by the work being undertaken. This included the
services of highly specialised master masons with experience on York Minster who
have to remove badly eroded stone such as sections of pillars and replace them by
freshly carved ones without disturbing the rest of the building by a single mm. It
was not possible to obtain sufficient quantities of stone from the original quarry
but it was sourced from a neighbouring one in order to make a perfect match. We also
saw the subterranean space at the upper end of the site which is to be used for new
facilities. The rest is built on rock so solid that very costly bits were broken
trying to drill through it. A surprise piece of news was that the site is to be "future-proofed"
in the sense that it will have ground source heat pumps and an installation in the
cellar that can be linked to a district heating system which does not yet exist.
This is a very welcome development. We were pleased to learn that the architects
of the new library had discovered some cream coloured bricks, officially designated
"buff coloured long format European style" that do not conflict with either the red
brick of Square Chapel or the local stone of the Piece Hall and that Heritage England
has permitted their use, not only on the library, but on the Cornerstone extension
between Square Chapel and the Piece Hall which was previously to have been clad in
Unfortunately no-one was available to attend the YHACS meeting in Skipton in July,
but some members went to the one in Pontefract in October, the theme of which was
"Design". We enjoyed a tour round the town which has some interesting historic features.
In September, as the pinnacle event of the Halifax Heritage Festival, we hosted
a lecture, attended by about 50 people, by local historian Jill Liddington, about
suffragettes, entitled "Vanishing for the Vote". In October a large group enjoyed
a tour of Lindley, conducted by a member of the Edgar Wood Heritage Group. We all
agreed that the work of that architect in the area was highly individual and illustrated
the prosperity of Huddersfield in that period.
In December we were delighted to make the acquaintance of the new Heritage Champion,
Councillor Jill Smith-Moorhouse, who has been to some of our meetings. She will be
pleased to collaborate with us on relevant matters and has pursued the subject of
heritage in council with considerable enthusiasm. We are pleased to support her efforts
to have a full-time conservation officer engaged. In the same month members and friends
enjoyed a Christmas lunch at Holdsworth House followed by an illustrated talk by
David Glover on rare photos of Halifax between 1900 and 1970.
The past year has been a busy one in which we have continued to give our attention
to the preservation of the rich local heritage and the future appearance of our built
and natural environment. All members are entitled to attend our monthly meetings.
We would particulary welcome people who have expertise in photography to join the
group recording the town centre buildings and anybody who has an interest in perusing
PLANNING APPLICATIONS June Paxton-White
The system for dealing with planning applications has changed slightly. Instead of
going down to the council offices at Northgate and sitting round a table to look
at the actual plans and other documents the sub-committee can now access all the
information on line on a much improved website. We go through the applications under
consideration, listed as "Validated" and also the ones listed as "Decided" and then
consult each other by phone as to any action that is required. A report is brought
to the main monthly committee meeting. Generally speaking we give most attention
to proposals for listed building consent and to applications in conservation areas.
The trend continues for making use of every inch of space in the form of extensions.
These are now becoming more complicated. To begin with garages were turned into living
space, which meant that car ports or hard standing outside had to be provided for
vehicles. Detached garages were joined up to the houses and then extensions were
built on the top. The fashion for conservatories, mostly to the rear is waning, as
people wish to extend their premises in all possible directions, now referred to
as "wrap-round". What used to be single-storey became 2-storey and may now be 3-storey,
following the increase in dormer windows as householders convert their lofts into
living space. It is gratifying to report that the planners, following objections
from HCT many years ago, no longer permit the box-like dormers on both sides which
turn the pitched roof into a flat one. There are still some terraces with these but
most are being changed into the more aesthetically pleasing dormers with pitched
roofs located below the ridge line. Perhaps the flat roof eventually lets in water.
Greater emphasis is being put on the need for proper drainage now that gardens have
been replaced by hard-standing, which should be permeable. An increasing number of
sites have to provide charging facilities for electrically powered vehicles. Some
innovative architects incorporate solar panels or ground or air-sourced heat pumps,
heat treatment systems and waste recovery plants and even a sedum roof. Water power
has been used where technically feasible. It is a pity that renewable energy is not
required of many larger developments as faster proliferation might bring down the
price. We have been pleased to see these "eco-dwellings" receive planning permission
and hope there will be more in future.
We have seen a large increase in fast food outlets and other eateries at the expense
of the more traditional shops. This has given some cause for concern. Whole streets
have lost the original shop-fronts with wooden fascias boards and pilasters. These
have been encased in or replaced by characterless brashly coloured large metal sign
boards and external security shutters. The planners have required the use of more
discreet "conservation" shutters which can be inside the glass window in conservation
areas and listed buildings. This policy has successful retained the Victorian and
Edwardian character of the town centre. However, it has been lost elsewhere. There
have been instances where the planners told the owners to reinstate the original
fascia, probably because planning permission was applied for in retrospect after
the job was completed, but they kept coming back with similar schemes and the best
the planners could achieve was modifications to what had been done.
Another trend is the increase in HMOs (houses in multiple occupancy). This means
that old warehouses, premises above shops or complete old houses have been converted,
not into two or three flats, but into a larger number of small bedsits with shared
bathroom and kitchen, for which it is claimed that there is great demand. This has
been the fate of a number of pubs which have had to close, although some still have
retail premises or restaurants on the ground floor. Such a solution can prolong the
life of a run-down building, which might otherwise have been demolished, and retain
the visual amenity of a landmark. There have been several cases where the sensitive
conversion of an old or listed building into flats or bedsits involved the removal
of incongruous modern features and a welcome return to the original style.
Old barns in need of repair and maintenance continue to be converted into dwellings.
The planners ensure that the work is done appropriately, with the assistance of archaeologists
as necessary. C16 beams and openings are retained and new windows or doors are in
matching style. This has resulted in some fine looking houses. Applications are
still made to build houses and bungalows in the large gardens of existing houses.
There is less scope for this now as almost every available space has been filled
up, but we have been pleased to see some proposals refused, in particular for rows
of 3-storey "town houses" which would be out of scale. However there are instances
where a pleasant house in a large garden is totally obscured by surrounding houses
built very close together.
Overall, the process has been speeded up as some applications are passed using delegated
powers and a greater number are told that permission is not required. We feel that,
in the absence of a full-time conservation officer, the planners are doing their
best to pass only what is appropriate. Problems arise when permission is applied
for in retrospect as legal enforcement is long and costly. The planners continue
to consult HCT over proposals that might be controversial. We make our opinions known
when necessary and objections we have raised have been upheld. There have been several
occasions when members of the public have drawn our attention to matters they felt
needed investigation. It is now much easier to access planning matters on line at
one's own convenience and we would welcome comments from members of HCT either on
specific applications or as a regular contribution to the work of the sub-committee.
C.I.M.A. Dee Weaver
This time last year we were riding high, hoping that Calderdale Industrial Museum
Association would be taking over the museum from the Calderdale Museums Service within
a few months. Our hopes were dashed, however, when it was learned that the repair
work needed to the building, especially the north wall, was much more extensive than
previously thought. For a time it looked as though retaining the museum in its present
location might not be viable but, after months of discussion and numerous surveys
of the building, the council's Cabinet agreed unanimously on March 7th this year
to authorise the expenditure of £320,000 to make the building safe and watertight,
and to push ahead with the implementation of our Licence Agreement which was signed
in June 2015. This was approved unanimously at the full council meeting on 27th April
2016, with a view to handing over the keys on 25th May. This will be five years
to the day since the first public meeting at Bankfield to assess the level of interest
in getting the museum reopened. Once CIMA has the keys we will be able to access
the funding so generously donated by Green Business Network, which will allow us
to repair the lift and extend the second staircase, thereby making all four floors
accessible to everyone. We are still at the mercy of the contractors building the
new library next door, but will organise open days as soon as we can, and we definitely
plan to be open for Halifax Heritage Festival weekend on Saturday and Sunday 10th
and 11th September.
CHAIRMAN'S REPORT Dr John A. Hargreaves
It is pleasing to report a successful outcome, in collaboration with Chris Harris,
a member of Halifax Civic Trust and Chairman of the Board of the former Royal Halifax
Infirmary site, and the local NHS Trust, to the seemingly intractable problem of
how best to ensure that a fascinating collection of portraits, artefacts and memorabilia
recording the history of the free hospital movement in Calderdale might be conserved
and become accessible again to members of the public for example during the annual
Halifax Heritage Festival. The free hospital movement was one of the most impressive
community-based fundraising achievements in Halifax's history, which has left a collection
of treasures relating to the history of healthcare in Halifax which record its development
from the opening of the first Halifax Dispensary in 1808 to the closure of the Royal
Halifax Infirmary in 2001. The treasures, which had suffered deterioration on account
of inappropriate storage since the hospital closed, are now to be moved into improved
storage and display facilities on the former hospital site. However, conservation
work will be required on some of the more fragile exhibits and Halifax Civic Trust
would be pleased to hear from anyone who might be able to offer assistance in order
to ensure that all these items are preserved to enable future generations to develop
an understanding of an important aspect of their heritage.
The Halifax Civic Trust lecture has continued to occupy a key role in the Halifax
Heritage Festival, which now complements the annual Heritage Open Days instituted
by the now defunct national Civic Trust and now managed by the National Trust with
assistance from Historic England. The lecture at Halifax Town Hall on 11 September,
attended by Councillor Lisa Lambert, Mayor of Calderdale was by the distinguished
suffrage historian Jill Liddington who spoke on Suffragettes in Calderdale. Halifax
Civic Trust also participated in the fourth Annual J.H. Whitley lecture, at Halifax
Town Hall on 4 November, organised by the University of Huddersfield, when I focused
upon the extent to which J.H.Whitley's Speakership in the House of Commons was shaped
by his Halifax roots. This year the Halifax Civic Trust lecture will be delivered
during the Halifax Heritage Festival by the cultural historian Professor David Russell
of the University of Central Lancashire, who will speak about the Halifax novelist
Phyllis Bentley. His lecture will take place at the Halifax Playhouse on 11th September
at 2 pm4 and will be combined with the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate Phyllis
Bentley's prolific writing and her support as a founder member of the Halifax Thespians.
Networking has continued throughout the year with several members attending various
meetings of the Yorkshire and Humberside Association of Civic Societies and Civic
Voice, which are open to any of our members who wish to attend. David Glover also
represented Halifax Civic Trust at a Civic Voice award ceremony at Methodist Central
Hall Westminster where Emily Pearson received an award on behalf of the Orange Box
project nominated by Halifax Civic Trust. We are grateful to David Hanson for his
organisation of a programme of more localised excursions to Lindley, focusing on
Arts and Crafts features in both domestic and ecclesiastical building; Edgerton featuring
suburban mansions in Huddersfield's Belgravia and Shaw Lodge Mills viewing an extensive
former industrial complex and offices designed by Charles Barry now being developed
into alternative uses including Artworks with strong community volunteer participation.
David also arranged for the trust's annual Christmas social to take place at Holmfield
house, which included a wide-ranging series of slides on Halifax buildings presented
by David Glover. Another memorable visit was a hard hat guided tour of the Piece
Hall to view the impressive progress being made in transforming this amazing Georgian
monument for a major role in Halifax's urban regeneration in the twenty-first century.
I was also invited to contribute to the Meet the Experts series of presentations
focusing at Halifax Town Hall on 'Halifax Piece Hall and its environs a historical
perspective'. It is appropriate therefore that we welcome Sam Mason as our Speaker
this evening to bring us up-to-date on the development of this momentous project.
Halifax Civic Trust also welcomes the handing over of the keys of the Calderdale
Industrial Museum, in which several members of our Executive and membership are actively
involved , which we hope to see re-developed to celebrate and conserve Halifax's
impressive collection of industrial technology exhibits within the context of the
social history of Halifax and the Calder Valley. We also look forward, with the support
of the Community Foundation for Calderdale, Calderdale MBC and Halifax Civic Trust
to the publication of an affordable, extensively revised, third edition of my history
of Halifax covering developments between 2003 and 2016, and hopefully featuring the
refurbished Piece Hall on the cover to be published following the re-opening of the
transformed site later this year.
Our monthly Executive Meetings, which are open to anyone who wishes to attend, have
been invigorated by the regular attendance of Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council's
Heritage Champion Councillor Jill Smith-Moorhouse and by regular attendance by some
newer younger members who I am delighted to see are among those seeking membership
of the Executive at this meeting, along with others. Among issues brought to this
meeting by members of the public have been an issue relating to encroachments upon
a public footpath leading from Savile Road to Love Lane, which achieved a successful
outcome, to which we were able to contribute by identifying people within our membership
able to recall usage of the footpath. We continue to respond to a wide range of conservation
issues some arising from the regular scrutiny of planning applications led by June
Paxton-White, enabling us to continue to fulfil effectively our aims to celebrate,
enhance and safeguard the outstanding natural and built environment of Halifax and
its environs not least in raising awareness of the continuing despoliation of the
Hebble Valley through the unsatisfactory management of a waste disposal operation.
Our award scheme ably administered by David Hanson has enabled us to award a plaque
and commendation to two impressive developments. We remain grateful to members of
the Halifax Civic Trust and members of the public for drawing to our attention a
range of concerns during the year and encourage others to raise any future concerns
in the year ahead.
Sadly we lost one of our longest serving and most intrepid supporters with the death
of Trudy Robinson, who demonstrated a capacity to remain active despite problems
of mobility. Halifax Civic Trust was strongly represented at her funeral service,
which included a tribute from Chris Harris. We remain grateful to all the officers
and executive committee members whose support has been invaluable in ensuring that
we continue our vigilance in celebrating, enhancing and conserving Halifax's remarkable
heritage, not least to June for co-ordinating the report and Gill for producing the
accounts and Richard Lister for independently examining the accounts.
TREASURER'S REPORT Gill Hurl
Year ending 31 March 2016
Bank balances at 31 March 2016 are £4,038 compared with £3,716 last year. Subscriptions
totalled £731 compared with £494 last year. The total funds of £23,238 include £19,000,
the value of the soil Hill pots donated by the now defunct Friends of Soil Hill Pottery
to Halifax Civic Trust. They are currently held at Bankfield Museum with HCT acting
as trustees. Also held in trust is the bronze statue of The Boy David by Jocelyn
Horner donated by the Tallis family in September 2014 in memory of their late father
and husband Peter Tallis. The statue is yet to be valued but is expected to be in
the low thousands. It is installed in St. Jude's church Halifax.