History of the Trust

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.

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