The Beverley and District Civic Society was founded in 1961 in the face of many threats to the fabric of the town. In 1960 the County Council proposed a new road from York Road to Lairgate (demolishing swathes of historic buildings), and also the widening of Hengate, with the loss of Nellies. The local historian Ken MacMahon wrote to the press, accusing the planners of attempting ‘the deep gutting of the town’. Architects wrote of the destructive road schemes on Beverley as ‘old ladies rarely survive disembowelling’. Ideas floating around included the removal of North Bar, or alternatively putting a ring road round around it, using the Bar as a roundabout. Such schemes seem now to be off the table: but in the 1960s they were being carried out in many parts of the United Kingdom, and as a result, many civic societies were founded to try and halt schemes that the architect Ian Nairn attacked in his game-changing book ‘Outrage’.
A public meeting on 2 October 1961, called by the Beverley Rotary Club, voiced increasing concerns over the town’s heritage. Supported by the Georgian Society of East Yorkshire, and by many individuals such as George Odey, Managing Director of Hodgson’s Tannery, the Society came into being. In 1965 the formidable Margaret Powell joined George Odey to prevent the demolition of historic buildings in the town centre, with some but not complete success. John Betjeman helped raise the status of the town with his assessment that ‘Beverley is one of the most beautiful towns in England, a town to be walking in and not driving lorries through’. Since the 1970s although the town has lost some irreplaceable buildings (The Globe Inn, Hall Garth, the Yorkshire Bank come to mind) wholesale destruction has been halted, and the town’s reputation has grown. It now features in every list of top towns in which to live.
The Beverley and District Civic Society continues to watch over planning and development, wanting the beautiful and much loved town to prosper, but also to remain a special, unique place. In addition the Society tries by its projects to improve the existing environment and increase knowledge about the town and its area. Monthly meetings, open forums, visits, study days, are open to all members, and visitors are welcome. The Society is part of a group of Yorkshire and Humber civic societies, and is also affiliated to the national organization, Civic Voice.