The Civic Society column with David Winpenny

The Claro Bank as rebuilt, with St Wilfrid's statue at its summit.
The Claro Bank as rebuilt, with St Wilfrid's statue at its summit.

This an important year for Ripon Civic Society – the year in which it celebrates its Golden Jubilee. In a meeting at the Hugh Ripley Hall on 27 June 1968 the Society was founded; Sir Richard Graham of Norton Conyers was appointed as President and Dr Richard Anning was elected as chairman.

This was an era for the foundation of such societies; in the 1960s there was a growing realisation that there were many threats to the fabric and the civic well-being of many town and cities around the country.

The Claro Bank, probably in the 1870s.

The Claro Bank, probably in the 1870s.

There were already some such societies in existence; as early as 1846 an ‘Improvement Society’ was founded in Sidmouth, and Guildford had a Society from 1896.

Nationally, there was a growing interest in the protection and improvement of local architecture and open spaces at the end of the 19th century. William Morris founded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in 1877, and the National Trust was founded in 1895.

By the start of the 20th century there was a realisation of the complex link between developing urban centres and their surrounding areas – and also of the importance of local distinctiveness and history in the formation of local pride.

One of the leading thinkers in this field was the Scottish polymath Patrick Geddes.

The NatWest building on the site since the 1960s; St Wilfrid was preserved. (Copyright - David Winpenny)

The NatWest building on the site since the 1960s; St Wilfrid was preserved. (Copyright - David Winpenny)

It was Geddes who pioneered the idea of town planning (first enshrined in legislation in 1909).

He described a city as ‘a drama in time’ and popularised the word ‘civics’ to describe the overarching need to see urban places as an interconnected amalgam of people, place, history and culture.

Between the two World Wars many of the larger urban areas had voluntary societies looking to protect their areas from unthinking development – and also to promote good, thoughtful, modern design and planning.

In 1938 a national civic organisation, the Council of Civic Societies, brought many of them together and became a source of information for local groups and a means of encouraging places without such societies to consider setting one up.

The Second World War delayed progress, though in 1943 it was reported that there were 33 affiliated societies.

After the war more were formed, and in 1957 the Civic Trust was started by MP Duncan Sandys as a successor to the Council.

The impetus for many new Civic Societies was a particular threat to the fabric or wellbeing of the community.

The 1960s proved to be a watershed for many; there was what appeared to be a headlong rush to sweep away old buildings and replace them with new ‘modern’ structures. This was true in Ripon, too; in September 1967 there were plans by Vaux Breweries to sell the Unicorn Hotel and redevelop the site; there was also a threat to the Cafe Victoria, and a general understanding that without action, more structures could be lost.

The Claro Bank on the Market Square had already been demolished in 1962, and the current NatWest building had taken its place.

A committee to help preserve Ripon was set up, and after some preliminary meetings in late 1967 and early 1968, Ripon Civic Society was formally launched. Its aims, as set out in its constitution, have always been ‘to promote high standards of planning and architecture... to educate the public... to secure the preservation, protection, development and improvement’ of Ripon.

Originally set up to serve just the city of Ripon, in 2010 the Society amended the constitution to include a wider area encompassing the surrounding villages.

There will be a number of events to mark Ripon Civic Society’s 50th anniversary throughout the year.

It is very appropriate that the county-wide focus for the Yorkshire Day celebrations on 1 August will be Ripon this year, and in the run-up the Society will host fellow Societies at a meeting of the Yorkshire and Humber Association of Civic Societies.

Do keep an eye on what’s planned. Why not consider joining Ripon Civic Society in this special year and help to care for Ripon over the next half century?

Find out more at www.riponcivicsociety.org.uk.

Answers to last week’s quiz:

Round One: anagrams of street names

1. A FREE SIGHT = Fishergate. 2. THE TORRENTS = North Street. 3. ALL A NEED = Lead Lane. 4. HORROR AT ADAGE = Harrogate Road. 5. EARL WAGS KETTLE = Water Skellgate. 6. IF VAN REUSE = Firs Avenue. 7. SEE TOTS CRUNCH = South Crescent. 8. OVERKILL RIPE DRAMA = Mallorie Park Drive. 9. MOWER STORES = Somerset Row. 10. A WORDY MESS = Wemyss Road.

Round Two: Mathematical round

1. 15 Ripon City Councillors DIVIDED 5 roundabouts on Ripon bypass = 3

2. 45 letters on Ripon Town Hall frieze DIVIDED 3 Grade 1 listed buildings in Ripon = 15

3. 8 spikes on obelisk rowel, TIMES 2 Marquesses of Ripon = 16

4. 2 February (date of Candlemas), PLUS 4 columns on the front of Ripon Town Hall = 6

5. 60 trees planted for Ripon Civic Society in 2012, PLUS 3 doorways on the west front of the Cathedral = 63

6. 4 times the horn is blown at the Obelisk, TIMES 2.5 miles of Ripon Canal = 10

Round Three: The FIVE US states that DO NOT contain the letters R, I, P, O or N are:

Alabama, Alaska, Massachusetts, Texas, Utah

Round Four: The date order of the events is:

1. King Alfred’s Charter for Ripon (886)

2. Ripon Grammar School re-founded (1555)

3. Minster spire falls (1660)

4. Obelisk is built (1702)

5. Diocese of Ripon established (1836)

6. Marquess presents Town Hall to the City (1897)

7. Official Opening of Spa Baths (1904)

8. Ripon Civic Society founded (1968)

9. Queen distributes Maundy Money in Ripon (1985)

10. Training College campus closed (2001)

Round 5: Places with a ‘Ripon Street’.

Christchurch (NZ) 2. Blackburn. 3. Gateshead. 4. Kolkata (India) 5. Chester-le-Street. 6. Preston. 7. Ballarat (Australia). 8. Grimsby. 9. Halifax. 10. Aylesbury.