My Calder Valley: After a busy year, society looks to add skills and supporters in 2014

Todmorden Civic Society members Darren Midgley and Stephen Curry cleaning a milestone
Todmorden Civic Society members Darren Midgley and Stephen Curry cleaning a milestone

There’s no doubt 2013 was one of the busiest years for Todmorden Civic Society (TCS) since it was formed in 1969 as Todmorden Conservation Group.

Originally, after defending an area of greenbelt against development, it became a group working to protect the town’s heritage. Today it is a more proactive campaigning group with clear objectives for the future of the town.

Last year the society completed its fundraising for, and commissioning of, replacements for two statues, stolen from Todmorden’s Garden of Remembrance around twenty years ago. The statues, entitled “The Lamp of Memory” and “The Shield of Honour” were originally sculpted by Gilbert Bayes, a renowned sculptor from London, whose parents were originally from Todmorden. They were erected in 1921 to honour the fallen Todmorden soldiers of the First World War (1914-1918) and the replacements will be unveiled during a rededication ceremony later this year.

Also in 2013 the group felt that the town could benefit from some visual civic pride and they set about cleaning and repainting all the parish milestones and boundary markers.

Chair of TCS Darren Midgley said: “We are not a group who just sit around talking and writing letters, our pride in the town means we are prepared to roll up our sleeves and get stuck in. We have a long and proud history within the town and one which we intend to build upon.”

Another project members were involved in was the restoration and relocation of the historic weir sluice gate at Back Waterloo, which was displaced by work on the Todmorden Flood Alleviation scheme. Contractors VolkerStevin carried out the removal of the sluice lock, assisted by former Civic Society Chair Paul Clarke, and undertook restoration and relocation at their own expense.

Vice-chairman Trevor Cryer said: “Members of the Society provided the artwork and information for the interpretation board which explains the history of the weir and its significance in providing a major source of energy to drive machinery in local cotton mills. For the Civic Society it was a matter of pride that it was saved and can be appreciated by future generations and visitors to the town.”

The society also played a part in the dismantling and rebuilding of the overhanging shops on Water Street as part of the Environment Agency’s Flood Alleviation scheme. Former Chair, Paul Clarke carried out archival research and map regression to determine the significance of the buildings and evaluated their contribution within the streetscape.

Mr Clarke said: “It was accepted that demolition was necessary for the objectives of the flood alleviation scheme, however we felt the loss of the shop façades and their character by definition, overhanging the river would have a negative impact not only on the streetscape but the Todmorden Conservation Area which is on English Heritage’s ‘At Risk Register’.

“We are pleased to say the removal and reinstatement of the overhanging shops which meet the technical objectives of the flood alleviation scheme also addressed the Civic Society’s concerns relating to the loss of the street’s architectural and historic character. We have been privileged to work with VolkerStevin and the Environment Agency who have taken on board our concerns for Todmorden’s historic environment and worked with us to find solutions to preserve and enhance the fabric of the town’s built heritage, and where this has not been possible they have mitigated the impact.”

Members of the society have in the past been involved with assisting the council’s conservation team, drawing up a list of historically important local buildings in order that the town’s distinctiveness and local identity may be recognised and heritage assets managed.

Interesting and challenging times lie ahead for the TCS as a result of the Localism Act and relaxation of the planning rules. The group is consulted by Calderdale Council on Conservation Area appraisals and planning applications.

Chairman Darren Midgley said, “This is in no small part due to the fact that over the years a number of members have brought specialist skills to the society, such as knowledge and experience in architecture, conservation, surveying and other professions within the historic built environment.”