The Borough Arms Hotel – 1st October 2018
Our Chairman, Joan Howe, welcomed the Worshipful the Mayor of Newcastle-under-Lyme and Consort, representatives of Leek Civic Society and Stone Civic Society, members and guests to our celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Newcastle-under-Lyme Civic Society. She then introduced our President, Jim Worgan, who gave a brief history of the Society.
A Brief History of the Society
Presented by Jim Worgan
President of Newcastle-under-Lyme Civic Society
Your Worshipful the Mayor and Consort, Madam Chairman, ladies and gentlemen I am honoured and delighted to welcome you to the 50th Anniversary Celebration 0f Newcastle-under-Lyme Civic Society.
Records show that the first committee meeting was held on Tuesday 26th March 1968 in Hayden’s Offices in the High Street with M.J. Browning of Browning’s Chemists as Chairman. The meeting dealt with such things as choosing a name for the society, subscriptions, election of officers and registering as a charity. Following intense publicity only five weeks after the formation of the society on the 30th April 1968 membership was 81 which by the middle of June 1968 had risen to 150.
Eric France, Bob Fyson (who is still a member), Katrina Hill and Ray Willis were instrumental in making the early moves to get the Society started. Bob Fyson was the first Secretary but soon passed the job over to Len Daniels who set the format for future meetings. Many other people were very active and Geoffrey Swan, Solicitor, was the first President.
The first problem tackled by the Society was the proposed demolition of the Castle Hotel to be replaced by a Tesco supermarket and strong representations by the Society resulted in the facade being retained. Other major items on the agenda were the Old Cottages in Wolstanton (saved) and the Old Bank House (Nat West Bank) in the High Street, saved although the facade was altered.
There are too many projects over the years to detail but probably the most important were the saving of the Lyme Valley, the Society’s major report on Betley village and the East/West Road campaign.
The Society also had a ceramic plaque designed in the 1970s which were erected on 23 buildings, most of which are in the town centre and the majority still exist today.
Currently we have some 60 members lead by a small committee who meet on the 1st Monday of each month at 7.30pm (excluding August) in St James’s Church Hall in Clayton.
Our main purpose is to conserve the beauty and history of the Borough and rural area by watching and commenting on plans for new developments. In addition the Society has been represented on the Borough Council’s Conservation Advisory Working Party for many years. In conjunction with the Borough Council we give awards to encourage high quality design and workmanship throughout the Borough. We are not against new ideas but are concerned that any developments are fit for purpose and are appropriate for their locations.
We are well aware that we want Newcastle-under-Lyme to be a place where you will be happy to live and work and for your children to grow up. By involving the young we hope to give them a sense of ownership and to develop responsible attitudes towards the environment, community and locality.
We have set up our own Local Commemorative Blue Plaque Scheme and to date 19 plaques have been erected on buildings throughout the Borough. The latest one was installed on a house in Newcastle Street, Silverdale to commemorate Sir Joseph Cook who rose from a pitboy at Silverdale Colliery to become Prime Minister of Australia. We operate to strict criteria which are too numerous to quote but new applications are always welcome.
The Society, in conjunction with both the Borough Council and local businesses, were instrumental in resiting the statue of Queen Victoria from relative obscurity in Station Walks to a prominent position in the Queen’s Gardens as a Millenium project. More recently the Society commissioned a “condition survey” of the statue to identify how she should be maintained. In 2014 the Society commissioned work to clean and refurbish the Grade II listed statue in conjunction with the Borough Council.
From time to time we arrange public talks and demonstrations on subjects which we think may be of interest to local residents. These take place on certain Monday evenings at St. James’s Church Hall in Clayton at 7.30pm. Admission is free and light refreshments are available at the conclusion of the meeting. (For details please visit our website or Facebook page)
The Society has been represented on the Philip Astley Steering Group formed in 2014 to promote the founder of the Modern Circus, born in Newcastle-under-Lyme in 1742, locally, nationally and internationally. Many major events have taken place throughout the world and it is hoped that Philip Astley might well become the ‘William Shakespeare’ of Newcastle-under-Lyme.
We are involved in many more projects too numerous to mention but in recent years we have published leaflets appertaining to:-
a) Town Centre Heritage Trail
b) Outer Town Heritage Trail
c) Newcastle-under-Lyme Civic Society and Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council “Out of Town Guides which include amongst others Apedale Community Country Park, Canal Walks at Kidsgrove and Betley Village.
The Society continues to flourish but we must not be complacent.
I would like to close by quoting verbatim the final paragraph of a report prepared to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Society in 1998:
“The need for an active Society is as important as ever. It is to be hoped that new blood can be recruited to carry on the work”
This is still as relevant today as it was in 1998.
Ray Johnson MBE of the Staffordshire Film Archive then presented two excellent archive films. The first showed Octocentenary celebrations in 1973 and the second showed Newcastle-under-Lyme in 1968/9.
These were very well received and prompted many reminiscences during a short question and answer session.
This was followed by –
The Toast to the Newcastle-under-Lyme Civic Society
Proposed by John Sutton
Your Worshipful the Mayor, Mr President, Madam Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen. You have already heard about our history from our President Jim, who has a far better (and much younger) memory that I have, so I would like to tell you a bit about WHO we are. Who are the members of Newcastle Civic Society?
I think that can be summed up in three words: we are PEOPLE WHO CARE. We care about our town and local countryside. Many of our members were born here and have lived here all their lives; others, like myself, came here later in life and have decided that it is a good place to stay. I arrived in 1957 planning to stay for two or three years. It seems I’m not very good at arithmetic.
As a society we want Newcastle to be a good place in which to live, to work, to bring up our children, and even eventually to retire. To this end we monitor what changes are planned. Change is a necessary part of progress, and we are not opposed to it, but it must be change for the better; a change which improves our area. We like to work with the Borough Council and discuss their plans for the future and we have a joint enterprise with them for inspiring good design and workmanship in developments and we have tried to encourage young people, the citizens of tomorrow, to take an interest in the future of their town.
We are like the crew of a big ship, ploughing its way through the troubled seas of change and development. We all have a part to play, some big, some small, but we all pull together to keep this ship steady on her course to make Newcastle a better place for the next generation.
That, is who we are, and what we do. I would like to ask you all please to raise your glasses and join me in a toast to NEWCASTLE-UNDER-LYME CIVIC SOCIETY.
The Worshipful, the Mayor of Newcastle-under-Lyme responded to the toast.
We then all enjoyed the excellent buffet.