History of some of the projects tackled by Kendal Civic Society
The Society began in 1963, embarking on an ambitious programme of street improvement schemes, building conservation projects and traffic studies. After losing a major battle to save New Bank Yard (one of Kendal's best traditional yards) from demolition, the Society set up a Building Preservation Trust to engage directly in rescuing historically valuable buildings. It achieved great success in converting two groups of buildings in Collin Croft into eight dwellings, the scheme winning acclaim in the national architectural press.
The Society is strongly represented on the committee which advises the District Council (owners of the Castle Hill and the castle ruins) on their management. A National Lottery grant enabled major archaeological works, stabilisation of the ruins, ecological management of Castle Hill, and the preparation of interpretative material. The Society made a substantial contribution in terms of manpower and costs to this project, and remains actively involved today. As part of its millennium programme the Society planted a wood of 1100 trees on Castle Hill. In 2005 a set of steps were added to the North West Tower to give access to a superb viewing area.
in Kirkland, one of Kendal's very few cruck-built houses was rescued, creating two dwellings. Both Collin Croft and Pembroke House received Civic Trust Awards. The schemes had such an impact on local builders and the planning authorities that it is now quite difficult to find restorable derelict buildings in Kendal.
In the 1990s the fate of the Romney Road footbridge over the River Kent came into question when a traffic bridge was planned to replace it. Its journey to the scrapyard had all but begun when the Society's Building Preservation Trust put up a large sum of money towards having it re-used in a new position upstream. The local and county authorities responded and a new bridge, incorporating much of the old one, was opened in 1993. It now provides a popular and much used footway across the river in the north of the town.
The Shakespeare Theatre
Some years of patient planning and negotiation, and not a little expenditure, reached fruition when the near-derelict former Shakespeare Theatre was re-opened in 1995 as a church and community centre. Not only is it again a valuable and useful building but, with its Georgian front restored, it once more forms an elegant end-point to the view from Highgate down the Shakespeare Yard. The Society's role was to get the building into the hands of new owners who would carry out the conversion to an agreed plan.
Lancaster to Kendal Canal
Serpentine Woods Summerhouse
This charming Victorian summerhouse suffered from vandalism over many years and has been restored several times, initially by the Society and later by SLDC. In 1998 a permanent display was mounted in the summerhouse on the history and ecology of the woods.
The 1698 Datestone
The datestone over the entrance to Yard 93 Stricklandgate was for many years illegible, the detail eroded away by acid rain. Fortunately a drawing made about 1900 existed and, at the instigation of the Society, the owners of the building, the Newcastle Building Society, had a copy cut in harder stone to replace it.
Finger Post on Parkside Road
This is one of the few remaining old finger posts in Kendal and the Society has funded its restoration to its former glory.
This neglected corner of Kendal was transformed in 2011, into an attractive garden, in memory of Peter Crewdson and John Marsh, who were both long-serving and valued members of the Society. Our funding, together with grants from the County, District and Town Councils, and donations of materials, made it all possible, to be enjoyed by everyone.
Greenside Lime Kiln
Rescued from dereliction and inspired originally by the Society, the restoration of Greenside Lime Kiln became a prolonged and difficult project. With a Heritage Lottery Grant and funding from many other sources, it was successfully completed and officially opened in July 2009, by Mrs Sheila Satchell and her family. The whole project is dedicated to the late Dr. John Satchell, the Society's Chairman for many years.
The Society was asked to provide the material for a Heritage Centre to enable Stricklandgate House Trust to obtain a large Heritage Lottery Grant for the essential repair and restoration of the property. This was gladly given by members of the Society, and the whole building was officially opened in January 2011. The Heritage Centre, containing old photographs, maps, models and computer presentations and the historical 'Time Line' leading to it has been very well received and is open to the public at certain times.
This is given each year by members of the Society for a building whose design is considered worthy of special note. A previous winner was Kendal College in 2009. In 2010, there was no outright winner, but two projects were Highly Commended; the old Pie Factory off Stricklandgate, which was an example of how to save old buildings from decay to provide new town houses, and Stricklandgate House for a splendid restoration project both inside and out.
For many years, the catalogue of all the paintings, silver, charters and artefacts, many of them priceless and irreplaceable, had not been updated and there was no complete record of what treasures the Town Hall contained. In 2009, Mr Hughes photographed and catalogued every item, over 500 altogether, and the catalogue was given to the Town Council. As a result, all the paintings are now properly stored on purpose built racks which are easy to access and provide a safe and secure environment so that they can be kept for future generations to enjoy.
The Saracen, Lowther Street
This carved wooden figure, a trade sign for tobacco and snuff, was taken down and restored by the Society in 2009. For several winter months it was displayed in an empty shop for everyone to admire before it went back high on the wall above Lowther Street.
Five cast iron milestones on the Brigsteer Road and the Burton Road were rescued by the Society in 2010, with joint funding from Natland and Helsington Parish Councils and the Milestone Society, Three date from 1900, cast by H. H. Day's Castle Foundry, Kendal, and two from 1825 and 1826 came from the Winder's Foundry at Gatebeck.
In 2008, the large bronze plaques at Fisher Tarn on the old Sedbergh Road, dating from 1899, were attacked by thieves for their scrap value. One was stolen, the other damaged. The Society organised their replacement with modern cast aluminium replicas, funded by United Utilities, who were also very happy to pay for the restoration of the stone tablet with the Kendal coat of arms on the original valve house.
Seventeen large information signs were put in place in Kendal in 2009, and are much appreciated by visitors and residents alike. The historical information and photographs for sixteen of them were provided by Society members.
The Miles Thompson Finial
In 1870 Robert Thompson, the proprietor of a large pottery warehouse in Collin Croft, built No 21 Beast Banks. On the front gable he erected as a finial a figure of his architect brother, Miles Thompson, a partner in the Webster practice and Robert's early benefactor. When, in 1998, the figure blew down the Society replaced it with a terra-cotta copy.
Restored Washing Steps and Platforms, Waterside
In 2006 the Society led a project to restore the historic washing steps on Waterside, being one of Kendal's last visible links with the wool trade. To commemorate the event one of our historic plaques was installed and was officially unveiled by the Mayor of Kendal.
In 2009 the Society undertook a project with Kendal Town Council to come up with a plan to transform a piece of land on the Waterside using money left over in Somervell Bros. Benevolent Fund which had been given to them. The result was the 'Somervell Garden'.
The Society organises trips to places of interest every year which can either be a day trip or sometimes overnight to places such as, Bradford, Wavertree Garden City, Liverpool, Sudeley Castle, Richmond, Hawes, Settle, Bowes Museum and Barnard Castle.