The first General Meeting of the Civic Society was held on 13 September 1967 and this date may be regarded as the birth of the present Trust. The meeting adopted a constitution, elected an executive committee and considered a programme of work to be done. The Society got off to a good start with over £100 paid in subscriptions and a prospective membership of some 250.
The Civic Society arranged lectures in its first year and has continued to do so every winter since regardless of the number of members at the time. After first meeting in Derwent School, the meeting moved to through a number of venues before settling in the present one at the Friends Meeting House, Kirkgate, in 1972.
To reflect its status as a trust, the Civic Society became the Civic Trust.
Excursions and visits have been a feature of the trust’s life since the beginning and they still prove popular today.
Bygones exhibitions were popular in the early days – 597 adults and 117 children attended one in 1973. The last one was held in 1993 and since then the Kirkgate Museum Group has taken the programme over.
There has been a marked change in attitude towards tourism since the Trust began – it firmly rejected tourism as a major industry and stated that the future lay in attracting light industry to the town. However as early as 1968 they supported the setting up of a tourist information office and helped in the early days by manning it on a rota basis. The Town Council now successfully runs the office located in an ex Methodist Church.
One of the major aims of the Trust has always been the conservation and restoration of properties in the town, either for their individual historic value or for the contribution they make to a particular area. Early recommendations were made regarding the establishment of conservation areas and the trust supported proposals which culminated in the creation of five such areas in 1976. The Market Place has always been high on the agenda for conservation and action and presented arguments to a public enquiry in 1974 which ruled to save from demolition the south side. In 1969 it was learned that the Post Office had acquired Norham House, dated 1725, with a view to replace it with a telephone exchange. Eventually after a long campaign a Trust member bought the building in 1972 and it stands today restored, useful and occupied by a local firm. Percy House, dated 1598, and the windmill at the confluence of the rivers concerned the Trust for many years. Happily Percy House was saved and is now an art gallery. However the windmill is still derelict though plans have been considered for converting it to a residence but with no progress to date.
The last train ran through Cockermouth in 1966 and the track was lifted. In the 1970’s the Trust saw this track as a possible public footpath, virtually from one end of town to the other. After many hopes were raised and dashed over the years, all the obstacles were overcome and the footpath opened in 1994 and is a well used traffic free amenity.
An ancient holy well off Lorton Road about three miles south of the town called Stanger Spa was rescued by the trust in a dilapidated state and restored within the last few years.
Other subjects that have concerned the trust for many years and which are ongoing are the preservation of the trees which are a feature of the streets, traffic management, fouling by dogs, the appearance of shop fronts and flooding, plus many more too numerous to put in here.