About the Trust

Lincoln Civic Trust

Sometime in the early thirties the Jews House and some other Norman buildings in Lincoln were being used as rented housing. They did not comply with Public Health Acts and were to be demolished under slum clearance regulations. Seeing the potential and value of these properties, they were purchased by the forerunner of the Society for Lincolnshire History & Archaeology and are now vested in Jews Court Trust.

Other historic buildings on Steep Hill, now regarded as important and irreplaceable, were rescued by Canon Harding, who also battled for the restoration of St Benedict’s church along with Ald Frank Hill, (later to be known as Sir Francis Hill following his wide ranging skills and achievements).

Clearly, old buildings were just old buildings and not something to be cherished or adding to the character of our city. Also in those recessionary times, there wasn’t a lot of spare money for history. Heritage and Environment were not to the fore as they are today.

Town & Country Planning had not become the industry it is today. Planning Acts did not come into force until 1947 and protection for historic buildings some years later, for example Conservation Areas by the Civic Amenities Act 1967.

It was in this atmosphere that Ald Frank Hill spoke to Lincoln Rotary Club in 1952. Following one of the Club’s aims to foster the environment, their Community Service Committee undertook the task to set up a Civic Trust in Lincoln. This was some two years before the national body came about.

Come the 11th November 1953, the Earl of Ancaster chaired the inaugural meeting and became the first President. Lord Mottison, of the London Society spoke on the need not to make Lincoln a museum piece but to preserve what is of value and mould the future so it does not destroy the character of the City.

The meeting, which was held at the recently restored ‘Cardinals Hat’, was chaired by Rotarian Dick Lucas and speakers included the Mayor, Coun Seeley, the Sub-dean Canon A Malcolm Cook and Ald Frank Hill.’

Other names still associated with the Trust include founders members of our President Richard Lucas and Tony Brogden who continue to play a part in the running of the Trust.

The Aims of the Trust:

  • To increase & develop public amenities
  • To preserve buildings & monuments of historic or artistic value & places of natural beauty
  • To encourage & co-ordinate activities relating to architecture, music, drama & other arts
  • To co-operate for these purposes with local authorities & with bodies with similar aims, both local & national
  • To encourage the work of the city’s artists & craftsmen
  • To encourage the sense of citizenship by stimulating interest in these matters

Contentious traffic schemes through the 1960 & 70’s such as Wigford Way, the Inner Relief Road and the Cathedral Relief Road, initiated by Lincoln County Borough before 1974, gave food for consultation and objection as well as the projected Civic Development off Sincil Street. The more vociferous ‘Lincoln Society’ sprung off in 1971, known as the ‘anti uglies’ & marched in the city with a coffin labelled Lincoln Town Planning. This society faded in 2002.

It was important for the Trust to do a scheme to show its existence. It was known that the burial ground of St Swithin’s church was a mess. In 1953 a scheme was prepared, seating & paving put in place as a public park, the future care being entrusted with the City of Lincoln Council.

Other similar projects followed: St Martin’s churchyard at Garmston Street at the top of High Street in 1992 and more recently, Beaumont Fee in 2005.

1955 saw the beginning of an ongoing programme of descriptive Cumberland slate plaques placed on buildings of historic note.

Concern was recognised for the future of historic buildings which were not being taken up by developers for restoration for renewed commercial uses. This led to the purchase by the Trust of Dernstall House, a medieval shop  next to the Cardinals Hat, in 1965. Restoration was completed in 1970, became the Trust’s office with part being let commercially, until 1980 when the whole complex was sold to release capital for further projects by the Trust.

In 1974 began the saga of Ellis Mill, the remaining corn mill situated on the hillside at Mill Lane/Burton Road. After planning appeals, fire damage and much consultation, the derelict structure was bought by the Trust.1977 was the year of the Queens silver jubilee and this restoration was taken up as a Jubilee Project.

Completed as a working corn mill in 1980 the project was awarded Lincoln Civic Award reflecting the enthusiasm of gleaning suitable parts and machinery from derelict mills around the country and job creation for young people led by Tom Baker.

And of course, Ellis Mill through the mills group now under the ownership of the County Council, continues to be worked by volunteer millers grinding local wheat and selling flour from the mill door at Mill Lane, headed by millers Brookes and Lidbetter.

The little known, but nevertheless internationally important building on Lower High Street in the Wigford area, is St Mary’s Guildhall. Dating from before 1157 it has a history of a royal house, a wine store, home of a socio-religious Guild, possible stabling, a local hospital, an early base of Lincoln School (1614-1623), commercial & trade uses, malting, Lincoln City FC (1884-1895) on Husseys ground at the rear, builders yards & workshops.

Disused in 1981 the lease was transferred to the Trust and a £1/4 million scheme of restoration began. The West and Southern ranges were subject to detailed archaeological survey and extensive, sympathetic conversion. The Norman house and north range, now secure, remain for future work held back only by the search for a commercial end-user necessary to release essential improvement and restoration grants.

 Completed in 1986 & giving 3 conference & meeting rooms, kitchens etc for the use of all comers, the lease was returned to City of Lincoln Council with a caretaking licence retained by the Trust, now our office base.

1981 saw the planting of the roadside trees which now screen the car parking at Westgate and the Castle Mound on which the Trust planted daffodills

1991 saw the repair of the conduit at St Peter at Gowts, that at St Mary Wigford had been done at an earlier year,

This year also saw the receipt of another Lincoln Civic Award by our President Dr Kathleen Major for a lifetime contribution to research into Lincoln’s history reflecting some eight years of research leading to the publication by the Trust of four fasicules of the Survey of Ancient Houses in Lincoln with her colleagues Joan Varley & Stanley Jones.                               

Coupled with a legacy left to the Trust by Edward (Ted) Mason (saying not to be spent on fusty old buildings) £16,000 was contributed to tree planting on Birchwood Community Park.

A pair of derelict 19th century stone built cottages, Willsons Cottages, on Newport were restored and sold on completion in 1992.

On noting the Post Office’s plans to take out the old post box and phone box on Bailgate and substitute with stainless steel structures, the Trust took up the administration with English Heritage to have the them listed and so remain a feature of St Peter in the Bail.

Our most recent project completed in July this year, 2012, was the replacement of the wrought iron railings at 8 Eastgate. These had been taken for the war effort to make munitions in 1941 as had so many throughout the country. This was completed with the help of some local donations and funding from the Trust’s reserves.

We are invited as consultees to comment on development proposals within the City’s Conservation Areas and on Listed Buildings which are submitted to the Council. We meet monthly to give considered views on new buildings, alterations, changes of use, and advertising signage covering from 120-150 plans each year. The City Planning Committee may or may not choose to accept our views, but it has to be accepted that in a default situation, the existence of similar approved schemes, or precedents, rank highly should contested decisions go before HM government inspectors and this constrains the scope of decisions which the Council may wish to make.

The Trust is also invited to represent public views on major projects and partnerships and vision groups  concerning development of the City, including transport centres, Lindongate, Historic Lincoln Partnership, the Castle and east-west link road highway plans.

Our programme for heritage promotion extends to 10 monthly meetings of the trust members and appropriate visits. We have learned of the 150th anniversary of Lincoln Equitable Co-Operative Society, the history of Lincoln’s allotments, Theatre Royal its problems and future, Medieval palaces, Lincoln Business Improvement Group and with visits to Bishops House, tours of Hartsholme Park, Caistor Town Walk from their town hub/library and Community Orchard at Cross O’Cliff Hill.

We continue friendly association with neighbouring amenity societies but have severed links with the now defunct national Civic Trust resurrected as Civic Voice in the light that the emphasis of Trusts had changed and become more local & promotion at national level is less important.

In the last 70 years heritage and environment have crept up the scale of respectability. Interest from the public and the media has blossomed as shown by the expansion of the National Trust, English Heritage, Wildlife Trusts, establishing Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Outstanding Natural Beauty etc.

Planning law has expanded to be all enveloping not only regulating and controlling development but protecting areas of historic, aesthetic & visual importance.

The enhancement of interest & value of restored buildings, both private housing & business, has drawn both the development and building trades into refurbishment of interesting buildings linked to the improved commercial opportunities which they offer.

This had led to a shortage of possible schemes of modest size which are within the capabilities of a Civic Trust. This may also indicate the success of all the partners promoting heritage our surroundings. But an eagle eye remains open to identify an interesting challenge which might interest us in future years.

This leaves the active part of the Trust remit in the field of public consultation & opinion, education on conservation and heritage projects and to give interesting topics & challenges with social impact & enjoyment for citizens of Lincoln with enquiring minds & an active interest in their City. Membership is always open

[KB/Sept 2012]