The Society has unveiled a blue plaque to Wakefield born sculptor and designer Percy Metcalfe CVO RDI – but it appears that not many people in his home city have actually heard of him – until now!
Born at 10 Longfield Terrace, Alverthorpe, on 14th January 1895, Metcalfe went on to study at the Leeds School of Art and then, having won a scholarship, at the Royal College of Art in London, although his studies were interrupted by his service in the Army from 1915 to 1919.
After a period of further study in Paris, Metcalfe returned to London where he was offered both public and private commissions including the commission to design the Exhibition Medal for the 1924 British Empire Exhibition.
His designs were selected by the newly formed Irish Free State for their coinage minted in 1928. He also produced designs for the Royal Mint from 1924 to 1948 and his design was used for the George Cross Medal introduced in 1940. Perhaps not surprisingly, given the era he was working in, his designs have a strong Art Deco look.
As well as coins and medals (see here for example), Metcalfe also designed car radiator mascots, shop fronts and interiors, and pottery, producing designs for the for the Ashtead Pottery.
His monumental sculpture included two huge lions used on the war memorial in Durban, South Africa.
Metcalfe was awarded the CVO (Commander of the Royal Victorian Order) in 1937. The year after, he was appointed a Royal Designer for Industry (RDI).
Metcalfe lived in London. In 1920 he married Eveline Mabel Smith with whom he had two daughters. He died in London on 9 October 1970.
President of Wakefield Civic Society, Kevin Trickett said:
“Earlier this year, we were contacted by one of our members, Geoff Wood. A former committee member of many years standing, Geoff said that he would like to make a donation to the Society, which we were delighted and grateful to receive, but Geoff asked that part of the donation be used to pay for the cost of a blue plaque to commemorate the life and work of Percy Metcalfe. As so often happens when we receive a nomination, my first reaction was to look on-line to see who Percy was and what he had achieved – and what a find he turned out to be!
“I contacted the Hepworth Wakefield to see if they have any of Metcalfe’s designs in their collection – sadly they don’t. In fact, no one I’ve asked about Metcalfe in Wakefield seems to have heard of him! At least, I wasn’t alone in this respect”!
The plaque was unveiled at a ceremony at Balne Lane Community Centre, Balne Lane, Wakefield, on 8th December with the Mayor of Wakefield, Councillor Tracey Austin, and Geoff Wood being invited to perform the unveiling.
The plaque will be affixed to the house in Longfield Terrace where Metcalfe was born and spent his early years.
At an event hosted by the Mayor of Wakefield, Councillor Tracey Austin, at Wakefield Town Hall the Society unveiled its latest blue plaque in the Forgotten Women of Wakefield series.
The event, which took place on Friday, 19th November, was organised by Dream Time Creative (the lead organisation and inspiration behind the Forgotten Women of Wakefield project) and was attended my members of the Society, members of the public and members of the Clarkson family who came together to hear about the research that had been undertaken by Dream Time Creative into the history of Ann Clarkson (1800-1888).
Ann had been instrumental in establishing a local society for the prevention of cruelty to animals in 1836 (subsumed into the RSPCA in 1869). As well as her efforts to improve the care and treatment of animals, Ann was also moved to help alleviate the suffering of the poor and sick.
Her efforts were recognised by the people of Wakefield who raised funds to install a water fountain and trough close to her home at Westgate End. The fountain and trough was later moved to the entrance of Clarence Park on Denby Dale Road where it can still be seen.
Wakefield Civic Society has confirmed it is backing the bid for Wakefield to be named UK City of Culture 2025.
In a letter dated 9th July 2021 which will be included with the bid papers submitted by the Council, Civic Society President Kevin Trickett MBE set out the Society’s rationale for offering its backing. Addressed to Sir Phil Redmond, the Chair of the Expert Advisory Panel for the UK City of Culture Programme, the letter says:
I am writing to offer the Society’s wholehearted support for the bid to name Wakefield as City of Culture 2025.
To many, Wakefield is like a best kept secret – its talents hidden, even among some local residents. But for those of us who know, it is actually home to a diverse and burgeoning group of creative and cultural individuals, businesses and organisations and we think it’s time that secret was shared more widely. We want to tell the rest of the UK and, indeed, the world, about what Wakefield has to offer!
Wakefield, both as the city and the wider district of which it is part, has a fascinating history going back well over 1,000 years. That history provides a rich source of stories, ideas and inspiration for local artists. It also shapes the character of our citizens who are undeniably proud of this shared heritage.
Increasingly, local people from all walks of life have been able to explore their creativity and enjoy cultural activities via a myriad cultural organisations, events and programmes, and organisations and businesses are beginning to recognise the potential on our doorstep.
While we have long-established cultural venues such as the Theatre Royal Wakefield, the National Trust’s Nostell Priory, the Hepworth Wakefield gallery, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the National Coal Mining Museum for England, to name just a few, newer organisations are moving here too: the success of Production Park at South Kirkby and the opening next year of Tileyard North at the Wakefield Waterfront are but two examples.
Wakefield is also increasingly recognised as a place to learn about the performing arts. We have Theatre Royal’s Performance Academy, Wakefield College’s Performing Arts Centre and also CAPA College, the latter soon to move into new, purpose-built premises.
Meanwhile, we have a community of many individuals and independent arts organisations (as well as volunteer-led groups such as the Society), all contributing to the city’s growing creative and cultural economy. Working quietly away, often unassuming, but yet delivering incredible results.
There is, however, much more we could do.
Wakefield today feels like a city ‘on the cusp’, emerging from its cocoon as it transitions into a city that has both the confidence and vision to engage on the national and even international stage. We want to demonstrate to others that we are a great city with a great offer; a great place in which to live, to work, to relax and to do business. And, of course, we believe that Wakefield is a great place to visit! At the Society, we often show Wakefield off to visitors from outside the area and they are always impressed – once we manage to coax them to come and see for themselves.
Just submitting a bid to become UK City of Culture 2025 will bring local people together from across the district. We want to go even further though and show others from outside the area what we have; we want to shout our stories from the rooftops. We believe that winning the bid will be transformational!
We continue to work on our blue plaque programme, responding to nominations as we they come in.
As we receive quite a few nominations each year, our guiding rule is that for nominations to be taken forward, they should come with funding, or an offer to help raise the necessary funds that we would need. The cost of plaques continues to rise and, allowing for delivery, fixing in place and VAT, the cost of each plaque is now in the region of £550. If you wish to make a nomination for a new blue plaque, please complete our nomination form which can be downloaded from our Blue Plaques page here.
Last year, we received a request from The Rotary Club of Wakefield for a blue plaque to celebrate the 100th anniversary of their first meeting of the club which was held at the Strafford Arms on 3rd June 1921. (The Strafford Arms you see today is a new building but on the same site as the earlier building.)
As the request came with the offer of funding to cover the cost of the plaque, we were delighted to work with members of the Rotary Club in to produce the plaque which has now been unveiled and erected on the Strafford Arms. Our thanks to the Rotary Club and also to the manager of the Strafford Arms who gave permission for the plaque to go on the building.
We have also been working on our contribution to the Westgate Historic High Street Heritage Action Zone.
As part of that contribution, we have agreed to put up new plaques and restore some of the existing ones that were beginning to look rather tired. To date, we have unveiled one new plaque (to Ann Hurst) and refurbished two old ones (Union Bank and HSBC).
The plaque to Ann Hurst, Wakefield’s first female newspaper proprietor and a campaigner against slavery, was delivered by Dream Time Creative as part of their Forgotten Women of Wakefield Project. As part of our partnership with Dream Time Creative, we are seeking to bring about #blueplaqueparity in Wakefield, i.e., to increase the number of blue plaques we have put up to women so that they equal the number we have up to men.
This plaque was financed by the Westgate Historic High Street Heritage Action Zone project which is jointly funded by Wakefield Council and Historic England. The plaque will go on the side of the NatWest Bank branch at 56 Westgate, just inside Woolpack’s Yard. We are grateful to NatWest for giving their permission for the plaque to be affixed to their building.
Find out more about the Forgotten Women of Wakefield Project here.
You can also watch a video about the life of Ann Hurst, funded by Arts Council England and created by Dream Time Creative on our special Vimeo page about the Heritage Action Zone.
HSBC – Wakefield’s Wool Market
We first put the blue plaque to commemorate the location of Wakefield’s wool market on the front of what was then the Midland Bank, now HSBC, in 2000. Some twenty years later, the plaque was looking rather sorry for itself and much in need of a refresh. We approached HSBC who agreed to pay for the plaque to be refurbished and it is now back in situ on the front of the bank building. Our thanks to HSBC for their help and support.
Another plaque that has recently received a refresh, albeit before the Heritage Action Zone project started, is the one on what is today Union Bank, the recently restored and refurbished building that was erected for the Wakefield and Barnsley Union Bank at 57-59 Westgate. The building was acquired by Craft Union Pub Company, part of Enterprise Inns, and the company spent an estimated £1M on the project. Our plaque, which gave details of the building’s original purpose and architect had been damaged by a previous owner who had commissioned cleaning of the front of the building, a process which not only removed the dirt from the stonework but also all the enamel from the plaque, rendering it beyond economical repair.
We were delighted, therefore, when the Craft Union Pub Company agreed to pay for the plaque to be replaced with a new plaque and this is now in place on the front of the building.
Wakefield Civic Society publishes aspirational vision statement for future development of the city centre
Members of the Society’s Executive Committee and Planning Sub-Committee have been discussing the sort of changes that they would like to see taking place in the city centre over the coming years. Their aspiration is to find ways of making the city a more attractive and more enjoyable place for those who live, work or visit there, whilst ensuring the city’s distinctive historical identity is retained.
Our Vision for Wakefield sets out the Society’s current thinking. It takes as its starting point Wakefield Council’s Developing the Vision booklet published in 2005 in association with Yorkshire Forward and Koetter Kim Associates as part of Yorkshire Forward’s Urban Renaissance programme of the time. Society President Kevin Trickett was a member of Wakefield’s Town Team and ensured that the Society’s ideas fed into Developing the Vision when it was being compiled. The Society’s views have, of course, continued to evolve in the intervening years to take account of changing lifestyles, technological advances and economic pressures both nationally and locally and, aware that Wakefield Council is currently working on a new Master Plan for the city centre, the time felt right for the Society to produce its own vision statement.
In summary, the Society foresees a different type of city centre going forward, one more focused on cultural and leisure activities than on either retailing or commercial office employment. Although there will, of course, still be a need for both retail and office space in the city, Wakefield needs to develop a new identity and it makes sense to build on the city’s growing reputation as a place for cultural activities (in the widest sense of the term) and leisure while making determined efforts to improve the overall ‘liveability’ and connectedness of the centre.
The Society’s proposals fall under four main headings:
promoting cultural activities;
promoting tourism and visitors;
promoting liveability and connectedness; and
increasing the number of city centre and inner-city residents.
Kevin Trickett said “Wakefield Civic Society was established in 1964 and has helped to stimulate debate about how the city centre and surrounding areas should be developed ever since. This new paper brings into one document our current aspirations for the city centre. It is not meant to be prescriptive but is instead intended to prompt continued discussion and debate. The final decisions will, of course, be made by the Council but we want the general public to take part in that debate. The Council has commissioned Farrells to work on a new Master Plan for the city centre and we have been contributing our ideas into the work that Farrells have been engaged on. We look forward to the public consultation on the new Master Plan and perhaps seeing some of our own aspirations reflected there in due course”.
The paper was written by Executive Committee member Barry Goodchild MRTPI, Professor (Emeritus) of Housing and Urban Planning, based on the views of committee members, and is prefaced with an introduction by Society President Kevin Trickett MBE.
Along with many other civic societies across the country, Wakefield Civic Society has submitted a response to the Government’s White Paper consultation Planning for the Future.
The White Paper sets out to streamline and simplify the planning system in an attempt to help solve the housing shortage by offering greater certainty of outcome to developers. However, we think the premise that it is the planning system itself that causes that shortage is wrong; reasons for the housing shortage are much more complex and rooted in structural economic issues.
In summary, while there are some positive aspects contained within the proposals, many of the proposals lack detail and look as if they have not been thought through with any vigour. They leave too many questions unanswered and fundamentally shift the locus for discussion on planning matters away from the individual to the generic. In so doing, they introduce a democratic deficit by denying members of the public the right to comment on planning applications at the time they are lodged, assuming that the public will be content with being given a ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ to comment on zoning schemes and design code content.
Planning is a complex matter. Streamlining and simplifying the process must not be at the expense or producing poorer outcomes in either quality or aesthetics. Local people have local knowledge and they should be encouraged to participate in the planning process at all stages. It is unreasonable to suggest that it is local engagement that is to blame for problems with the current system. Buildings are designed to last a long time (or at least, they should be). What, ultimately, is wrong then with devoting a little more time to get the very best possible outcomes in place-making when the resulting product could be around for 40 to 50 years and possibly much longer? The planning process should be seen against the longer-term scale of how long the building/infrastructure/etc is design to last for.
We feel that, as drafted, we cannot support the proposals.
You can read the full response we have submitted here.
Delayed because of Covid, Wakefield Civic Society announces annual Restaurant of the Year Award and Design and Environmental Awards
Wakefield Civic Society has announced its annual awards – some six months later than usual because of Covid-19.
Usually announced at the Society’s Annual General Meeting in April, this year’s results were held over until the autumn in the hope that the usual awards presentation could have been made, albeit late.
As the current restrictions on public gatherings continue to prevent the Society holding its regular events, the results are to be announced on-line at 7.30pm on Wednesday, 23rd September.
Restaurant of the Year Award
The Society introduced a Dining Club for members in 2010. Each month, and usually on the first Thursday evening, Dining Club members try a different establishment in and around the city. At the end of the evening, members score their overall experience and, at the end of the year, the restaurant receiving the highest score is presented with the Society’s Restaurant of the Year Award.
The Dining Club is organised by Wakefield Civic Society committee member Sandra Elliott.
In 2019, the Society’s Dining Club met on 12 occasions. When the marks were counted, the restaurant with the highest mark was Corarima, a vegetarian and vegan restaurant serving Abyssinian food. The restaurant opened in 2018 and the Society’s visit (in January 2019) was the first visit the Dining Club had made to the establishment.
Run by husband and wife team Asamnew Asres and Rahel Bein together with their friend Bizunesh Kebede, Corarima offers customers a warm welcome.
Organiser Sandra Elliott said “So many of our members wanted to take part in the visit to Corarima that we had exclusive use of the restaurant for the evening. It’s always good to try somewhere new and we had heard good reports even though the restaurant had only recently opened at the time of our visit. From the moment we walked in the door, our members were made to feel at home. The food was really good quality, lovingly prepared with lots of fresh ingredients. No wonder our members rated their visit so highly”.
Wakefield Civic Society President, Kevin Trickett MBE, said “The Society’s Dining Club has been a runaway success for the Society and has been going now for over 10 years. One thing that is really noticeable across the city is just how many new restaurants have opened in recent times – and that the public seem to be very supportive. It is particularly nice that our Restaurant of the Year Award should go to one of these newer businesses and I wish to congratulate Asamnew, Rahel and Bizunesh on their award.
“Of course, I recognise that these are really difficult times for the restaurant trade – the Society’s Dining Club hasn’t been able to meet since March – but we have to try to be optimistic and hope that the trade can survive the current problems and come back strongly at some point in the not-too-distant future”.
Design Awards 2020
Wakefield Civic Society has announced its annual Design Awards.
Each year, the Society invites nominations from the public, from developers and from the Society’s own members for projects competed during the previous year. A panel of judges them meets to decide which projects should be commended and which ones should win awards.
In the 2020 awards round, judges considered projects completed in 2019. Although the number of nominations was on the low side, some very interesting projects were put forward.
The judges, made up of members of the Society with planning, design and arts backgrounds, agreed that the following projects deserved recognition:
Reel Cinema, The Ridings – Commendation
The judges like the way some empty shop units within the shopping centre had been successfully converted to a 5-screen cinema which offered customers comfortable seating in a modern environment. With the larger screening auditoriums seating just 58 people, the cinema also offered a very intimate setting.
Co-incidentally, the Society had hired one of the screens for a private viewing of the Downton Abbey film during 2019 and had really enjoyed the experience.
The judges decided to make a commendation for the project.
Work was undertaken by Swindon Interiors.
All Saint’s Yard, Almshouse Lane – Commendation
The judging panel welcomed this project to improve a delivery area at the back of the Ridings Shopping Centre off Almshouse Lane. A place perhaps little visited by members of the public before, the project brought a splash of colour via murals painted onto the backs of the buildings facing into the yard. Planters and tables can be moved out into the yard to create a community space for outdoor events.
The project was Commissioned by The Art House as part of an on-going partnership with The Ridings shopping centre and its parent company, New River Retail. The murals were painted by artists Ellie Way and Ben Craven.
The judges again decided that a commendation was appropriate.
Union Bank, 57-59 Westgate – Commendation
Now under new ownership and management by Craft Union Pubs, this former bank building erected in 1877-78, long since used as a night club, has been given a fresh look with a complete makeover and a new name, Union Bank. The judges liked the discreet signage on the exterior of the building which was very much in keeping with the status of the Upper Westgate Conservation Area, recently designated a Heritage Action Zone. in which the property stands. They were also pleased to see the memorial clock at the top of the building had been set working again – it is thought it had been stopped for over 20 years. The judges gave a commendation.
The Weston, Yorkshire Sculpture Park – Award
The new visitor centre at Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a £3.5 million project which opened to the public in March 2019. It includes a restaurant, shop, gallery and additional visitor facilities.
Built on a historic quarry site within the 18th-century Bretton Estate, The Weston sits snuggly into the landscape in a bold modern design. The building was designed by architects Feilden Fowles and constructed by Yorkshire-based company William Birch.
The judges were most impressed with the aesthetics and had no hesitation if offering an award.
The Boiler House, Clayton Hospital – Award
The old boiler house to the hospital, which sits apart from the hospital building on a plot of land behind Wentworth Terrace, the property fell into disuse once the hospital closed. It was acquired by developer Nigel Coxan who has converted it into a private home for his own use. The architect was Darren Bailey of Horbury firm Architecture 1b.
Again, the judges were impressed by how the design incorporated modern elements into an older property and how certain features, such as the boiler house chimney, had been retained, thereby creating an innovative solution to the conversion of a disused building.
The judges agreed an award should be given.
The Beaumont Building – Special Award
The former registry of deeds building on the corner of Margaret Street and Newstead Road fell empty when the West Yorkshire Archive Service moved to new purpose-built premises in Lower Kirkgate, leaving an empty building behind with some structural problems.
Wakefield College acquired the building and undertook a programme of restoration and conversion work to turn the 1930s property into a modern and accessible education facility. The building is now home to Gaskell’s Restaurant, the catering college for students that was formerly located further up Margaret Street.
The judges were impressed by the quality of the conversion work and the way in which the building had been made accessible, particularly to people with mobility needs by creating a new lower ground floor ramped entrance which involved landscaping works to lower the level of the land alongside the new building, now name the Beaumont Building after Wakefield suffragist Florence Beaumont.
The judges decided to make a Special Award to recognise the scope of the project and the quality of the work undertaken.
New for 2020, the Society has introduced two new categories of Environment Awards.
Inspired by the fact that Wakefield is now recognised as being home to the world’s first-ever nature reserve, created at Walton Hall in the early 19th century by Charles Waterton, and an increasingly urgent need to tackle climate change, the Society decided that two new categories of Environment Award should be introduced.
The first category would focus specifically on projects which demonstrate innovation, imagination and good practice in the efficient use of resources and that support the wider goals of sustainable development. Unfortunately, no nominations were received in this category.
The Society had more success in attracting nominations in the second category where we were looking for projects that demonstrate innovation, imagination and good practice in nature conservation, the promotion of environmental quality and support of the wider goals of sustainable development.
In total, three nominations were received and the judges were impressed by all three so decided to make three awards. These when to:
A Greener Trinity Walk
This project is notable for the involvement of a sizeable workforce in a wide variety of carbon reduction, waste management and pollution reduction measures, including a travel plan for both staff and visitors.
The project has already received recognition through the Green World award (http://www.greenworldawards.com/ ). In 2019, following endorsement at the UK level as part of the Green Apple award process, ‘Green World’ gave the Trinity Centre a ‘global gold award’ for its efforts in the field of green property management.
Here is a list of some of the project’s major achievements:
i) Achieved zero waste to landfill Increased onsite waste separation by more than 5% annually
ii) Reduced waste going to Material Recovery Facility by at least 10% annually
iii) Reduced annual expenditure on waste management by 2%
iv) Reduced electricity consumption by 10% almost yearly
v) Improved staff/tenant environmental awareness and actions
vi) Replaced cleaning chemicals with Aqueos Ozone
vii)Reduce cleaning chemical expenditure
viii) Site staff trained in pollution incident responses
vix) Raising environmental awareness in community through school trips.
Ridings Rooftop Mini Allotment Project (and Edible Gardening Club)
This is a joint project is a joint initiative between The Ridings Shopping Centre and Incredible Edible, an urban gardening group. Along with the Trinity Walk project already mentioned, this project helps to show a different side to city-centre retailing. They both show how existing retailing centres and complexes can actively engage in policies and practices with environmental benefits.
The Ridings Rooftop Mini Allotment scores highly as a deceptively simple and imaginative greening concept and also in its potential social impact.
The allotment was created in 2019 on a neglected part of the rooftop car park at the Ridings Shopping Centre. Influenced by current ideas about “greening the city” and making better, more environmentally friendly use of urban space, has built and let fourteen container-based “allotment” plots to members of the public who live locally and have found it difficult to access suitable growing space of their own. Roughly fifty people have benefited directly (by renting a plot or by joining in the weekly edible gardening club) but the project has influenced a far larger number of people. The project has inspired others to start/develop other community projects.
Community Tree Planting Project, Standbridge Community Centre, Kettlethorpe
The Standbridge Tree Planning Project is a local project with local benefits and is important and worthwhile for that reason.
Arising out of the Friendship Group which meets at the centre, the project set out to improve the old school grounds where the centre now sits, making it better for people and wildlife. The fields were surrounded by a stark metal fence; the appearance of this has been improved by adding a broad line of trees there and a shelter belt behind the centre.
Native trees have been used to provide blossom and berries which support pollinating insects and birds. They also capture carbon, bringing long term environmental benefit while reducing water run-off to neighbouring properties.
The project ran over three days and involved were Hendal Lane Junior School, Kettlethorpe High School, Street Scene, Engie, and local residents.
They all had a talk in school assembly about the benefits that the trees would bring a week before the planting.
One benefit now known to help children is the improvement in health and wellbeing by taking part in tree planting and helping to reduce some of the worry about the long-term effects of climate change.
Students and those who have special educational needs learnt about all the benefits the trees would bring to the locality.
Speaking about the Design and Environmental Awards, Kevin Trickett MBE, president of the Society said “Although the quantity of nominations was lower than usual, there was no drop in the quality of projects recognised by these awards and everyone involved with the ones recognised by these awards and commendations should be applauded. Individually and collectively, these initiatives help to make Wakefield a more attractive place in which to live and work. We hope that these successes will inspire others in the future”.
You can see the announcement of the awards in this film here.