Civic societies can trace their origins to the rapid urbanisation of the 1800s from which improvement or preservation groups sought to improve the changing landscape or preserve and maintain ancient or medieval remains. (See ‘A brief history of the Civic Society Movement’ published by Civic Voice: http://www.civicvoice.org.uk/uploads/files/A_Brief_History_LowRes.pdf).
The civic movement has been integral to the development of planning. The London (civic) Society’s membership included a majority of the founding committee of the Town Planning Institute, while Patrick Abercrombie and Raymond Unwin were both members of civic associations, and used the meetings to outline their approaches to planning. Abercrombie called for a network of neighbouring voluntary associations across the country to counteract governmental centralisation and to ensure that planning authorities heard public opinion.
In the 1920s an early conference of civic societies was organised but it wasn’t until 1938 that the first national body, the Central Council of Civic Societies, was formed. In 1957 the Civic Trust (a UK body) was founded by Duncan Sandys with the aim of acting in its own right to lobby over the quality of new buildings and public spaces and the conservation of historic environments, but also to support local civic societies
Societies around Britain affiliated to this Trust. On the 10th December 1964, to reflect the increasing interest in the distinctiveness of the built environment – a consistent feature of the civic movement, The Civic Trust for Wales was formed under the aegis of its first President The Earl of Snowdon. The objectives of the Trust were set out in the constitution: “…the encouragement of high quality in architecture, building and town and country planning in Wales. And the preservation of buildings, of artistic distinction or historic interest A sense of civic pride amongst members of the public generally, the stimulation of public consciousness, and appreciation of the beauty, history and character of Wales.”
Reflecting the wider civic movement trend for close interconnections between societies, city council officers and influential people, the new Trust’s Board Members consisted of:
- The Right Honourable The Earl of Snowdon, (President)
- Thomas Mervyn Jones (also known as ‘Jones the Gas’)
- William Frederick Cartwright (High Sheriff of Glamorgan 1961)
- Elizabeth Shirley Vaughan Paget, The Marchioness of Anglesey
- Graham Reginald Beeston (Council for Wales and Monmouthshire)
- Sir Charles Michael Robert Vivian Duff, 3rd Baronet (High Sheriff of Caernarvonshire and Lord Lieutenant of Carnarvonshire and of Gwynedd)
- Sidney Colwyn Foulkes (architect)
- Alexander John Gordon (architect)
- The Reverend Doctor Albert Edward Jones (?)
- The Right Honourable Sir Frederick Elwyn Jones (Lord Chancellor)
- Lieutenant Colonel Henry Morton Llewellyn, 3rd Baronet
- Ronald Caville Mathias (trade union leader)
- Lieutenant Colonel Sir Grismond Picton Philipps (Lord Lieutenant of Carmarthenshire)
- Dewi-Prys Thomas (architect)
- Lewis John Wynford Vaughan-Thomas (journalist and one time President of CPRW).
Since 1996 the Trust has been fortunate to have HRH the Prince of Wales as its Patron.
1.2 The Board Members
The final Board of Trustees for The Civic Trust for Wales are:
- Maureen Kelly-Owen (President).
- Lyn Owen (Chair)
- Peter Cope
- Siarlys Evans
- Edward Jenkins
- Henry Hodges
- David Lewis
- Nick Roe
- Liz Walder
1.3 The work of The Civic Trust for Wales
Now, as fifty years ago, the values of civic pride and sense of place remain important in shaping and maintaining vibrant communities and liveable places. The Trust encourages community action, good design, sustainable development and respect for the built environment amongst people of all ages. Over the past fifty years the evolving Board and staff have sought to achieve these objectives despite, as with all similar small organisations, struggling to make ends meet. From 1988 to 2014, thanks to an annual grant from Cadw, the Trust was fortunate to be able to employ a permanent Director, Dr Matthew Griffiths. At different times Matthew was supported by Gill Hancock; Jo Coles, Lise Brekmoe, Derw Thomas and Anna Lermon. Upon Matthew’s retirement in June 2014 Jo Coles became the Trust’s Director until her retirement in March 2015.
The core purpose of the Civic Trust for Wales is to foster and support civic societies. There are currently 50 affiliated societies in Wales. Concerned with sense of place and local character, they engage with conservation and development issues through planning casework and the promotion of public understanding. Civic societies are unusual amongst voluntary environmental groups in that they combine concerns for good design, conservation and economic vitality, and therefore have the potential to contribute to the character and focus of regeneration initiatives. Many societies are engaged in the planning policy process at local and national level, involved in the planning application process, Conservation Area Advisory Committees; presenting annual awards for design; and the development of blue plaques providing information on local settlement development and history.
The Trust has provided support to societies at public inquiries, policy briefings, and technical advice on planning applications, particularly conservation area and listed building matters. Successes include working with the Fishguard Civic Society to stop the development of a by-pass through the historic Lower Town.
In 1975 the Trust was asked to organise European Architectural Heritage Year in Wales on behalf of the Council of Europe. In 1993 the Trust was asked by the Rt. Hon Wyn Roberts, the Secretary of State for Wales, to pilot European Heritage Days (Open Doors) in Wales. This initiative came from the Council of Europe, and involved free access to buildings which normally charged or which were not open to the public. Matthew Griffiths started the work on Open Doors, later taken up by Gill Hancock, and then Jo Coles was invited to undertake a review of the project. Following the review Jo Coles joined the Trust’s staff to take Open Doors forward. She was later assisted by Derw Thomas, and upon his departure by Anna Lermon. Every year the programme expanded until in 2013, the last Open Doors the Trust coordinated, at 412 sites took part across all Welsh local authorities. There were 1,327 events, almost double that of the previous year. The events varied from large and popular sites to the small, the unique and the unusual. It became the largest volunteer event in the heritage sector in Wales. The development of Open Doors into such a successful programme took a lot of time and funding out of the Civic Trust’s budget but was a much loved programme by the staff of the Trust, and by all the volunteers who took part every year. However, due to budget cuts the Trust relinquished organisation of the programme to Cadw, who prior to this had for a number of years provided the funding to the Trust to run the programme.
Early on the Trust became involved in a range of projects including working on improvement schemes for conservation areas in Laugharne and Caernarfon. The Trust has also worked in partnership to undertake conservation studies of Llandeilo, Newport, Knighton and lately Morriston, Swansea. Working with the late Sam Romaya of Cardiff School of Planning, the Trust researched ‘Conservation Area Management in Wales’ and provided training for professionals. Amongst many seminars and conferences held by the Trust was “The Assembly, Planning and Design”, held in 1999 in association with Sue Essex. This set out to explore the development of a distinctively Welsh planning and environmental policy. The Seminar advocated an all-Wales approach to strategic planning, an international approach to planning and design, promotion of civic awareness, regional guidance to support UDPs, integrated transport policy, a raised profile for urban design and a public champion for design in the built environment. Subsequently, together with the IWA, the Trust was asked to present ideas for a Welsh Design Commission. This led to the formation of the Design Commission for Wales.
In 209/10 Lise Brekmoe joined the Trust to work on a Heritage Lottery Funded project called ‘Our Valleys Heritage’. Working with Rhondda Civic Society, Lise gathered together the oral history of Rhondda which was published in a book. The project was also responsible for the restoration of the ‘Lady of the Lamp’. The statue was originally part of a 13ft statute with fountains, three drinking taps one cattle trough and two dog troughs, but after a car drove into it only the statute of the lady remained. It had been erected in 1909 outside the Pandy Inn as a mark of respect to Archibald Hood, who was the Scottish owner and founder of Cambrian Collieries in Llwynypia. It was paid for through donations from the workmen at Llwynypia Colliery and represented an Egyptian water carrier supporting a gas lamp.
The Trust’s respected publication About Wales has become an on-line publication giving greater access to its articles (look in the ‘About Wales’ page of the Civic Trust website for current and back copies). The website also provides specific support and updates for societies, as well as a section on the Trust’s characterisation work, Civic Trust responses to consultations, policy updates, issues of concern to societies, case studies of society best practice e.g. engagement in the LDP.
Since 2010/11 the Trust has, with the support of Judith Alfrey from Cadw, been working on characterisation. Initially the Trust ran a conference on characterisation in Newtown, then wrote a characterisation study of Barry Island for Cadw, and then in 2012 Matthew Griffiths submitted a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a one year project to work with three civic societies to produce a manual and toolkit for community groups and professionals with a clear and concise explanation of characterisation and a step by step guide to the process. The funding was granted and the Trust worked with Abergavenny Civic Society, Newtown and District Civic Society and Rhiwbina Civic Society to produce the manual and toolkit and to start characterisation studies of each town/suburb. The project was successful and work on characterisation is ongoing with these three societies, and also in Usk and Porthcawl. The Exploring your town’ manual and toolkit was also Commended by RTPI Cymru in the 2014 Wales Planning Award. Characterisation remains central to the work of the Trust. It encourages a shared approach and a proactive engagement and awareness by communities in the area that they live resulting in increased civic pride and sense of place. Objectives that are central to the ethos of The Civic Trust for Wales.
In 2014 the Trust was a founding member of the Wales Heritage Group, and has taken the role of Secretariat. The Chair revolves every meeting.
1.4 The Trust’s funding
Since 1998 The Trust has been grateful for the ongoing financial support from Cadw.
1.5 The Trust today
The Trust’s aims and objectives have now transferred over to Civic Trust Cymru. The Civic Trust for Wales will be closed down during 2015/16 once the transfer of assets is complete.