Halifax Civic Trust’s distinctive blue plaques commemorate the accomplishments of
historically significant individuals from Halifax at locations associated with their
achievements, and several new plaques have either been unveiled or will be unveiled
during the current year. Moreover, when new plaques are placed the Halifax Civic
Trust seeks to celebrate and understand more about the achievements of the individuals
commemorated. Hence, when a plaque was unveiled last September at the Waterhouse
Homes on Harrison Road, we celebrated with residents, staff and the Deputy Mayor
and Mayoress of Calderdale the life of Nathaniel Waterhouse, the Halifax merchant
and benefactor, who lived in Halifax as long ago as 1586 to 1645, whose charitable
foundation is still delivering care to older people nearly four centuries after his
generous benefaction. Indeed, we invited Helen Caffrey a leading authority on almshouses
to explain the significance of the Waterhouse homes in their wider historical context
and why Halifax is so well-endowed with charitable foundations of this kind.
Moreover, this year Gwyneth Crawley, a member of the Civic Trust Executive Committee,
liaised with the landlord of the Standard of Freedom and arranged a visit to the
inn to explore the possibility of commemorating the Chartists of Skircoat Green,
for whom the inn under its former name of the Waggoners’ Inn, was a hub of activity
for the Chartists who held mass meetings on Skircoat Moor in support of the Chartist
campaign for universal suffrage. Indeed, the well-known Halifax Chartist, Benjamin
Wilson, was born and died in Skircoat Green, and his memoir The Life and Struggles
of an Old Chartist reveals how he became a life-long campaigner for political rights
and social justice. His life story which is still widely read, is one of the most
detailed and evocative autobiographical accounts of a Chartist and Co-operator published
anywhere. Hence, Halifax Civic Trust hopes to unveil a plaque on the Standard of
Freedom in August commemorating Ben Wilson’s association with Chartism in Skircoat
Green. Moreover, since the centenary of women’s suffrage is also being commemorated
this year the Halifax Civic Trust has supplied plaques commemorating women involved
in this campaign, including Dinah Connelly, Laura Willson and Mary Alice Taylor,
who all lived in Park Ward, which are scheduled to be unveiled on the day of the
Halifax Trust annual general meeting at an event organised by Surraya Bibi.
The regular monthly Halifax Civic Trust Executive Committee Meetings, held here at
Halifax Town Hall have been well attended throughout the year and have covered a
wide range of issues relating to the Trust’s aims, namely the celebration, conservation
and enhancement of Halifax’s outstanding built and natural environment. These meetings,
which are open to anyone who wishes to attend, have been reinvigorated by the regular
attendance of Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council’s Heritage Champion, Councillor
Jill Smith-Moorhouse. 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.
Besides commemorating the lives of individuals through our blue plaques, the Halifax
Civic Trust flagship award scheme has enabled us to award three plaques this year
recognising the major refurbishments of the Halifax Piece Hall, which Halifax Civic
Trust has also nominated for a National Civic Voice Award and also the neighbouring
Square Chapel and the refurbished Princess Buildings in the vicinity of Halifax
Town Hall, which considerably enhances the setting of Charles Barry’s magnificent
Town Hall and Halifax’s urban environment, which Ruth Harman’s recently published
updated edition of Nicholas Pevsner’s classic survey of the town’s architecture has
described as one of the finest examples of a Victorian town centre anywhere in Britain.
Networking has continued throughout the year with several members attending the Halifax
Urban renaissance Town Team meeting at Bankfield focussing on upgrading the hugely
popular Eureka attraction and also improving access to Halifax Railway Station by
utilising the outstanding Victorian Station designed by Thomas Butterworth. Members
have also attended 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
We remain grateful to members of the Halifax Civic Trust and members of the public,
some of whom have attended our meetings to express their concerns about potential
parking pressures for visitors to Joseph Paxton’s magnificent People’s Park on Park
Road, where two of the main entrances are situated, if a proposed multi-occupant
residential development in a former office building with limited parking is allowed
to increase such pressures. This may also threaten the ambience of the road which
provides an eastern backdrop to vistas from the terrace of the outstanding Victorian
People’s Park. We are also grateful to others for drawing to our attention further
concerns during the year including the deteriorating condition of the Victorian drinking
fountain at Spring Edge and the need to ensure that the Halifax Civic Trust blue
plaque commemorating the Halifax scientist Oliver Smithies, removed from Copley School
prior to its demolition, is restored to the new building when it is completed.
We also visited the former A and B buildings at Dean Clough, recently re-furbished
by Covéa, which was awarded a Civic Trust award in 2017 and were conducted on a
tour of the building by Malcolm Knutton, the insurance firm’s estates manager. The
spacious, beautifully restored building preserving many original features, now accommodates
720 employees, 82 per cent of whom live in Halifax. A preceding walk led by David
Hanson toured other buildings on the extensive Dean Clough site, which remains a
huge asset to Halifax through the vision of Sir Ernest Hall, the Halifax Civic Trust’s
President. The Halifax Civic Trust is also grateful to David Hanson for arranging
our enjoyable annual Christmas social at La Cachette in Elland which besides an excellent
meal also included musical entertainment by the Brighouse Bard.
We remain grateful to all the officers and civic trust 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 our devoted Secretary,
June Paxton White, for co-ordinating the reports; Gill Hurl for producing the accounts
and Richard Lister for independently examining the accounts over a number of years.
Finally, we look forward this evening to hearing our guest speaker, Ruth Garrett,
the Canal and River Trust heritage adviser, about the importance of waterways in
which Calderdale is particularly well-endowed, in enhancing both the rural and urban
HALIFAX CIVIC TRUST
ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
Thursday 4 May 2017, 7.30 pm
Halifax Town Hall, room D
M I N U T E S
1. The Mayor of Calderdale, Cllr Howard Blagbrough opened the meeting and welcomed
members and visitors. Apologies: C and S Harris.
2. The minutes of the AGM held on 8 April 2016 were read by the secretary June
Paxton-White. It was proposed by D. Glover, seconded by S. Andrew that they be
accepted as a correct record. Carried unanimously.
3. Chairman’s report: Dr J.A. Hargreaves
4. In the absence of G. Hurl the treasurer’s report had been circulated. It was
proposed by D. Weaver, seconded by S. Russell that it be accepted. Carried unanimously.
5. Election of officers: the following offered themselves for re-election.
Chairman: Dr. John A. Hargreaves Vice-Chairman: David Glover
Secretary: June Paxton-White Treasurer: Gill Hurl
Membership Secretary: David Witcher Publicity officer: David Glover
It was proposed by A. Fantom, seconded by J. Gaukroger that they be
re-elected. Carried unanimously.
6. Election of executive committee: the following offered themselves for re- election:
Sara Andrew, Eileen Connolly, Stuart Crowther, Gwyneth Crawley, David Hanson, Susan
Hargreaves, Susan Russell, Dee Weaver.
It was proposed by D. Glover, seconded by D.Hanson that they be re- elected. Carried
unanimously. The following new nomination to the committee had been received: Alan
Goodrum. It was proposed by J. Paxton-White, seconded by S. Andrew that he be
appointed. Carried unanimously.
7. 2017 Halifax Civic Trust Awards : David Hanson representing the sub- committee
who had visited the site, introduced the sole award winner: the restoration and
conversion to offices of A and B mills at Dean Clough. The Mayor presented the
plaque to the representative of COVEA.
8. As there was no other business the Mayor closed the AGM.
A presentation on The Future of the Civic movement was given by Paul Bedwell, a
trustee of Civic Voice. He was thanked by the Mayor.
TREASURER’S REPORT Gill Hurl
for year ended 31st March 2018
Book balances at 31st March 2018 are £4,773 compared with £4,557 last year. Subscriptions
totalled £647 compared with £753 (incl. £100 life membership) last year.
The total funds of £23,872 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 the 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 husband and father 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.
REVIEW OF THE YEAR
At the close of another eventful year it is a pleasure to record some developments
that have reached a satisfactory conclusion. The long awaited restoration of the
Piece Hall is complete, apart from the extension between Square Chapel and the library
which is still vacant, and it has gained nationwide publicity for the town. We have
nominated it for a national Civic Voice award and felt the other awards it had received
were well deserved, despite the reservations held by some people on the subject of
the granite hard landscaping. It is worth pointing out that the stone setts were
laid relatively recently. The extension to Square Chapel has also been completed
with some spectacular glazing and the spaces created are well used. The scaffolding
next to the chapel has now been removed to reveal a modern library that features
glazing and cream coloured narrow bricks made by the traditional Georgian method.
Interesting use has been made of the C19 Square church spire and windows in the Gothic
revival style. HCT had asked for the restoration to use stained glass but it was
thought that transparent glass would be more in keeping with the glazed curtain walls.
However our request for the restoration of the church clock with a modern mechanism
was successful. Unfortunately it has not yet been possible to transfer the archives
into the basement due to the ingress of damp. Despite some fears that the industrial
museum might be demolished, it is still standing following some necessary repairs
to the fabric and the enthusiastic volunteers who run it report an increasing number
of visitors. Many commentators consider that the innovations in this part of town
definitely have the “wow factor”. We hope that these new assets will continue to
attract sufficient tourism to justify the immense cost.
During the year some of our members attended consultation meetings organised by the
Town Team on the proposals for the improvement of the rail station and surrounding
area including the Eureka site. Several alternatives have been put forward involving
the removal of the approach bridge, with a view to bringing the 1855 railway building
back into use and creating complementary new facilities for rail users. This will
bring an extra platform back into use. Concerns have been expressed at our meetings
regarding the future of the weigh station opposite the Halifax Minster, the listed
coal drops and the former Hughes Corporation building which might disappear. Various
ideas have been described by the management of Eureka involving the restoration and
reuse of other listed station buildings on their site which were becoming derelict.
The necessary alterations to access points and roads may result in the provision
of additional parking for both Eureka and rail users. HCT is keen to see improvements
in this area and will continue to participate in consultations. We would encourage
all interested members to attend public meetings on these developments and to make
their views known.
Despite feasibility problems Copley bridge has now been replaced by a metal equestrian
bridge resting on the original stone piers and the environs have been improved by
the raising of the river bank, stone walling and landscaping. Travellers along Wakefield
Road will have noticed the metal skeleton of the new Copley school under construction.
We shall be sorry to see the demolition of the handsome C19 building. We are told
that the blue plaque we unveiled there to the Nobel prize winner Oliver Smithies
will be transferred to the new site.
An item which has taken up a large space on our agenda throughout the year is “Buildings
at Risk”. This heading covers the increasing number of listed historic buildings
in the town centre and further afield. They include the former county court and magistrates
courts, the central post office, Harrison House, the Theatre Royal, Holy Trinity
church, Somerset House, Ovenden Hall, Old Exley Hall, the Deal Street warehouses,
Rawson’s mill, Martin’s mill. David Hanson sent an illustrated article to Society
Insight entitled “Empty Buildings put our Heritage in Danger”. One of our meetings
was attended by Cllr Smith-Moorhouse the Heritage Champion, Mark Thompson the lead
on the town centre board, Richard Seaman, chief planning officer and Kate Peach planning
officer in charge of conservation. They went through our list and detailed their
plans for each and the progress made. Rawson’s mill caused us great concern. It is
listed Grade II*, being the oldest and largest surviving example of a multi-storey,
steam powered, iron framed mill, dating from 1825. At our request Kate Peach had
visited Rawson’s mill in 2014 as it was in a parlous state then. A firm who had a
scheme to convert it into flats and offices bought it then went into liquidation.
Since then it has been seriously vandalised and current ownership is unknown. We
learned that the owner of Ovenden Hall had had to take out floors due to dry rot
and may take up a grant offered by Historic England. Members of our committee have
attended a meeting at Harrison House with the new owners who have a good record with
listed buildings and are keen to restore its historic features, including the lecture
theatre used by the former Literary and Philosophical Society and their galleried
library. During our visit there was heavy thunder storm during which many gallons
of water came through the roof and cascaded down the main staircase into the hall
below. The new owner assured us that roof repairs were at the top of his list. We
were so favourably impressed by the plans that we wrote a letter of support to Historic
England. It is hoped that uses will soon be found for the other buildings and that
plans in the pipeline will come to fruition. The council is keen to see more residential
accommodation in the town centre, but not more houses in multiple occupation. They
hope that investment through the transport fund will encourage further improvements.
Progress has been made on the replacement of the lost commemorative sign boards.
A new one, written by David Glover, will shortly appear in the garden of the bombed
house on Horton Street, this time attached to a wall rather than free-standing. The
one for the site of the gibbet is still in the pipeline. Several people studied the
proposed new constituency boundaries which would transfer Skircoat Ward to the Calder
Valley and bring the Royds area of Bradford into Halifax and concluded that they
were illogical both historically and geographically. We therefore supported Lord
Shutt’s alternative proposals. The local plan put forward by the council has also
been scrutinised closely. There will be a further consultation later this year and
members are urged to look at it in the meantime on the council’s website.
Waste tips still loom large in the area. Members attended meetings held by the Benbow
group and supported by both local MPs to protest against the proposed privately owned
incinerators in the Calder Valley. We decided we did not have sufficient professional
expertise to participate in the technical opposition to the scheme but we would support
their efforts as far as possible. We were later informed by Holly Lynch MP that she
had petitioned the Secretary of State to reject the appeal and set national regulations.
The latest news is that the scheme has been successfully opposed for the time being
and the Benbow group is seeking crowd funding to pay for their barrister. Plans for
the Swales Moor site have also given cause for concern.
Several events were held during the year. Following up our concern about buildings
at risk, a walk and talk to look at vacant buildings in the town centre was held
on Civic Day in June. In September a blue plaque was unveiled at the present almshouses
on Harrison Road for Nathaniel Waterhouse, a local benefactor who founded the original
almshouses in 1642. These were transferred to Harrison Road in the C19 and have since
been rebuilt. The well-attended event included tea and an interesting talk by Helen
Gaffney from the Almshouses Association. In October some of our members hosted a
visit to the town by 90 Wharfedale Wanderers who have offered a reciprocal event
in Ilkley next year. Members also enjoyed our Christmas lunch at La Cachette, Elland
where we were entertained in festive style by Roger Davies the bard of Brighouse.
Members enjoyed meetings organised by YHACS (Yorkshire and Humber Association of
Civic Societies) including a futures workshop in Wakefield, the AGM in Harrogate
and a meeting in Bradford with a visit to Sunbridge Wells. A study day on Yorkshire
vernacular buildings was hosted by Skipton CS. The futures workshop was followed
up by a survey and a meeting at the industrial museum to analyse the results with
the aim of producing a usable plan. This year Civic Voice held its annual convention
in Wakefield on the theme of the “Great Conservation Conversation” which expressed
nationwide concerns about the adverse effects of the loss of local authority conservation
officers on conservation areas and asked what civic societies could do to mitigate
this. We completed a CV survey on conservation areas and this subject was followed
up by a walk and talk in the town centre on Civic Day to look at vacant listed buildings.
Two committee members attended meetings regarding the neighbourhood plan for the
West Hill Park conservation area. It is hoped that with the assistance of planning
officers an illustrated booklet will soon be produced to show what is and is not
permissible and that they will succeed in interesting the residents in conserving
the history of their area.
We find that participation in meetings and events of Civic Voice at national level
and YHACS in the north is useful in that it provides an opportunity for networking
and exchanging ideas and also for consolidating the strength of civic societies as
a campaigning organisation. The All-Party Parliamentary Group, which is now well
established and supported by MPs, provides a useful means of communicating our views
to the legislators. At local level we have cordial relations with councillors and
council officers. In particular I would like to thank Cllr Jill Smith Moorhouse,
the Heritage Champion, for her attendance at our meetings and prompt attention to
our concerns. We would also urge members to attend their local ward forums.
PLANNING REPORT June Paxton-White
This year has been a busy one in which we have seen some interesting developments
come to fruition. There are still too many vacant historic buildings in the town
centre, including the central post office, the county court and magistrates court
but progress is being made.
Somerset House has been acquired and internal alterations will turn it into a restaurant
again, without touching the exterior or the Cortese plasterwork in the grand salon.
We welcomed this scheme which will bring a major listed building back into use. The
most recent application for the Theatre Royal will see the façade restored to its
original appearance and the later rear will be demolished to enable a 91 bed hotel
with underground parking to be built. As the original theatre had burned down, the
cinema that became a bingo hall and nightclub, was much newer than the façade so
this was considered to be a good solution. We were contacted by architects at work
on Harrison House who were interested in preserving historic features and we are
optimistic about the outcome as the developers have a good record in the restoration
of listed buildings.
Horton House, previously used by the council, is now included in the developments
round Westgate Arcade. A recent planning application showed that the house will lose
its ugly modern extension and be integrated into a uniform street scene incorporating
retail and offices with canopies and improvements to shopfronts in Shakespeare Street,
Union Street, Albion Street and Carrier Street and will improve the access to the
Piece Hall gateway. The specimen trees will remain as will grass in extended landscaping.
There were a number of unused mill buildings in the town centre. It is pleasing to
learn that Marshall’s mill at Dean Clough will be converted into flats, to include
bat roosts and swifts nests. The large vacant mill on Horton Street has been bought
by Leeds Beckett University for training and business starter units with ground floor
retail units. The derelict Martin’s mill on Pellon Lane is to be converted into 60
affordable flats. This handsome building dating from late C19 is not listed but is
a “non-designated heritage asset”. It will keep the masonry features on the façade
but lose the unsafe tower and turret details.
The area will lose a number of tower blocks at Mixenden, Beech Hill and Sowerby Bridge,
but as they did not harmonise well with their surroundings, they will probably not
be missed. They will be replaced by affordable housing, for sale or to let. The
plans show low profile units in a pleasing layout. There were more units in the towers
(324 becomes 141 at Beech Hill) but they had already been unoccupied for some time.
Two remaining tower blocks will have recent rainscreen cladding removed and replaced
by new insulation in the same amber colour. Together (formerly Pennine) Housing has
a good record for refurbishing old council housing and building new units with an
attractive homely appearance and also for involving the community, as in the regeneration
landscaping at Beech Hill, which will retain the wildlife corridor and for providing
employment opportunities. Another regeneration scheme at Mixenden, to replace vandalized,
boarded up, demolished buildings, aims to create a community hub with a surgery,
pharmacy, library, retail, parking and landscaping with designed-in security to mitigate
anti-social behaviour and crime. Some residents think it will exacerbate the problem,
we think it is worth a try. Another worthy community project appears in the Park
Ward neighbourhood plan. They hope to create Brackenbeds Park with crushed stone
paths, picnic benches, finger post, interpretation board and gates that permit wheelchairs
but not motor bikes to enter.
On a smaller scale, the trend of adding extensions and dormer windows to houses to
create more space continues. The planners have a clear idea of what they will permit
in conservation areas and outside them and are taking a firmer line. But some residents
still build first then apply for retrospective permission if needed later and will
appeal if turned down. It is then much more difficult for the planners to get rid
of unwanted features as enforcement is expensive and weak. We have objected to more
plans this year in the hope of strengthening the hands of the planners and in many
instances they were refused. There have been instances where tiny back-to-back terrace
houses had been converted into more roomy through-houses, probably before they were
listed. More recently landlords have applied to restore the back-to-backs, particularly
in conservation areas such as the oldest model village at Copley. These posed a tricky
problem for the planners who have permitted some, presumably on grounds of historical
accuracy. It is worth noting that Colonel Ackroyd had no back-to-backs in Ackroydon
because he no longer approved of them and they were banned by legislation in 1909.
However we are pleased that the planners have not passed any applications to restore
underdwellings in the cellars of old terraces and that they are continuing to resist
increasing numbers of less desirable developments in town centre streets designated
Serious restoration of historic buildings continues, as in the removal of inapp-ropriate
C20 window frames from mullioned windows, the replacement of missing mullions and
other stone features of vernacular architecture and the replacement of UPVC by wood.
An interesting development in Park Road is that some of the finest terrace houses
in Halifax that were previously doctors’ or dentists’ surgeries, offices, flats and
HMOs have now been turned back into single residences. The Old Vicarage at Boothtown
has been turned back from offices to a single residence. C18 houses in the town centre
conservation area, that had been converted into commercial premises, have been restored
to residential units and blocked doors and windows have been reinstated. This shows
that people are generally more aware of the history around them. An application to
convert offices at Carlton Street into 7 dwellings was refused because “the external
alterations are too radical for a Grade II Georgian building in a conservation area”.
We find that applications for inappropriate shopfronts with gaudy coloured metal
shutters have been refused in some conservation areas but not in others. Old shops
that are not in conservation areas, for instance at the top end of King Cross, have
totally lost their original pilasters and masonry features due to a proliferation
of eateries and takeaways that are closed during the day with the metal shutters
down. It is an aspect of modern life that the planners have to take into account.
They also have to weigh up the value of keeping premises in use to prevent an area
from descending into dereliction. King Cross went through a phase of closed shops
when supermarkets put them out of business, but now most of the units are back in
use, albeit only at night.
All is not doom and gloom. It is heartening to see that modern power sources such
as solar panels, biomass boilers, ground source heating are coming into use, including
on council-owned premises such as schools. Electric charging points are being required
on housing estates and are appearing on individual premises. Members may be pleased
to learn that the hospital wishes to demolish 8 vacant houses on Dry Clough Lane
that provided accomodation for staff, in order to create 73 staff parking spaces
and 2 electric charging points, with the possibility of building a multi-storey unit
later. This should free up much needed spaces for patients nearer the hospital.
The long-awaited Pennine retail centre on Horton Street has again failed to materialise.
However, a smaller application was permitted for 2 mini golf courses with a spaceship
and moon-crater theme, which looks rather like Disneyland but will be hidden inside
the existing vacant store building. An application for glamping pods (a cross between
a tent and a pig ark) and a cabin at Causeway Foot was refused on the grounds that
the cabin was as big as a house and the pods were “incongruous features in a special
landscape”. We still do not know what will happen to Northgate House and the library
once they are totally vacated. A Sixth Form College has been mooted.
As you can see it has been a busy year. Once again I would urge any members who are
interested in planning matters to contact the committee. It is now easy to access
the plans on line without actually visiting the planning department.
MEMBERSHIP SURVEY Alan Goodrum
A survey of the membership was carried out in October/November 2017 to help plan
the future direction of Halifax Civic Trust and inform the committee of priorities.
I have to say that we had a disappointing level of response (9), but this was counterbalanced
by the quality and detail being very high. The Trust held a workshop at the Industrial
Museum to discuss the findings on 29th November 2017. From that an Action Plan was
produced which is periodically reviewed by the committee.
We did gain some very useful information on your priorities for Halifax as a ‘place’,
particularly on how you would like to see the town improve over the next five years.
The station gateway, regeneration of the town centre around the cultural hub, making
progress on the Hopwood Lane Triangle and rebuilding the Council’s conservation team
were just some of the suggestions. We will be taking much of this forward through
our comments on the Local Plan. This is due to be published for formal comments
in the summer and we have a working group already established on this. The survey
also highlighted the importance of our ongoing work on plaques, awards and buildings
The biggest challenge though is the membership base itself. We are getting older,
and we need to attract new younger members and members with skills to create an active
profile on facebook and other social media which will appeal to a wider audience.
If any of you have time to devote to this, or ideas to contribute, we would be delighted
to talk further.