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Civic duty still strong 50 years after saving Georgian square

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Wakefield Civic Society will return to its roots with a special heritage event next weekend, as part of its 50th anniversary celebrations.

Following its establishment in 1964, one of the society’s first challenges was to try to prevent the demolition of part of St John’s Square, which is home to the historic church.

A private owner proposed to demolish two houses on the Georgian square and with a keen interest in planning, development and heritage preservation, the voluntary society stepped in to save the buildings and their delicate architecture.

Society President, Kevin Trickett said: “Our records show that, in 1964, there was a proposal to demolish numbers 1 and 2 St John’s Square as they had fallen into a state of dilapidation.

“The intention was to replace the houses, which had been purchased by a private owner, with a block of 64 modern flats.

“Within a few weeks of the society’s creation, this became one of the most important issues for the society.

“Adding its voice to those of others who shared a concern for what would happen to the rest of the square if partial demolition was to be allowed, the society lobbied the council to try to prevent the demolition going ahead.

“Fortunately, as history records, demolition was prevented and the houses were saved, being acquired by the Wakefield Grammar School Foundation to become part of the Girls’ High School.”

The society’s involvement in the square did not end there. In the 1970s, it masterminded a project to raise funds to pay for the reinstatement of the Georgian fronts to the properties on the square.

Mr Trickett said: “We reinstated St John’s Square as one of the only Georgian squares in Wakefield and one of the most spectacular in the country.

“It is very fitting, given our past involvement in the square, that we are returning to the area for our 50th anniversary.

“We are delighted to be running a programme of events and special projects to mark this important stage in our history.”

The free event will take place on Saturday, July 19 from 2pm until 4pm in St John’s Church.

Local historian, John Goodchild will talk about the history of the square and its development by lawyer John Lee in the 1970s. There will be a display of the society’s blue plaque, a chance to walk around the square and refreshments at St John’s Church.

 

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