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Past Events

Our last 15 Events.

Archive events can accessed at the bottom of the page

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16th April 2024

AGM 2024

It was standing room only at our AGM on 16th April, with a record attendance of over 70 members. Fortified by a glass of wine (or tea, coffee or water), the members dealt with the business of the meeting. Our outgoing Chair, Stuart Holland, summarised the many events and activities that had ensured a busy year for the committee, who were supported by members of the sub-groups (Planning and Development, History, Communications and Events).

The election of the new Committee took place with Andrew Brown, David Siddans, Henry Pankhurst, Chris Dicken (Treasurer) and Angela Fahy (Secretary) remaining in place. New committee members, Tony Thorndike, Nick Brennan, Michael Laycock, Paul Fennimore, Brian Dunsby and Mike Newby, were elected. Stuart Holland retired from the committee, as did Susan Amaku (after an admirable 25 years of committee membership), leaving the posts of Chair and Vice Chair vacant. Members approved the proposal that Andrew Brown would become an interim Chair, with Mike Newby as Vice Chair. Mike will step in to the Chair role after a period of handover to him, at which point a new Vice Chair will be appointed for the remainder of the year.

Henry Pankhurst thanked both Stuart and Susan profusely for their time in office and gifts were presented to recognise their work on the committee; flowers were also presented to Chris Holland in recognition of the support she had provided to Stuart.

The meeting then heard three short talks from members of the Society. Barry Adams bemoaned the approach of North Yorkshire Council to the town centre, which appears to be largely dictated by traffic engineers and consultants who have little idea of what makes Harrogate special, and then set out some of his vision for the future. David Rhodes talked of Harrogate’s historic significance as a spa, albeit one that only dated back to the eighteenth century, and suggested that this should be used as the basis for future developments. He also reminded us of a number of key anniversaries that will occur in the next few years and suggested that they were all worthy of celebration. Finally, Paul Hatherley argued that visions were of limited use unless they could be turned into reality and explained how the Society, together with Zero Carbon Harrogate, was exploring whether there was the appetite for a Neighbourhood Plan that would help to define the town’s future.

The evening closed when Andrew Brown thanked the three speakers and all those who had been involved in the organisation of what had been a very successful event.

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11th April 2024

Using the census and other local studies resources

Inspired by the popular talk about the census given to society members by Dr Paul Jennings on 20 February, this practical hands-on session, in the top-floor local studies area of Harrogate Library, attracted an eager group of ten members, the maximum that space would allow. All were keen to begin or progress their own family, house or other local history research.

Paul was on hand to offer guidance, including in the use of the computer terminals to gain free access online to Ancestry for the census and other records, and demonstrating how to use the census on microfilm. Angela Fahy, secretary of the society and regular volunteer at the library, described the variety of printed materials, some stored in the basement and awaiting cataloguing, that exist to aid our research. Ian Rogers, who volunteers at the library one morning a week, providing a drop-in advice service for the public seeking help with family history research, also kindly joined us. Old Harrogate street maps, books about the census, and a recently-donated album of old colourised photos of Harrogate were brought out for us to examine.

Some delved into online census records to aid their family history research, several wanted to learn about their house's history and focused on the old street directories and maps, while others explored the folders of old photos of the town. Members soon got caught up in their studies, as one discovery led to another, and so the event went on longer than planned. The society is grateful to the staff at Harrogate Library for welcoming us and reserving a room for this most interesting and educational event.

Kevin Hales

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12th March 2024

Allerton Waste Recovery Park 2024

A visit to Allerton Waste Recovery Plant was a revelation - we could not have imagined how advanced the technology is for dealing with our humble “black bin” household waste. Allerton only processes North Yorkshire waste (and not recycling) but, rather than going to landfill, the waste goes through a complex conveyor belt system so that it can be “recovered”. Organic waste is diverted to a digestor (which produces gas) and recyclable waste is extracted to be sold on (as not all households recycle correctly). The remainder is incinerated to produce electricity.

Our guide challenged us to say what should be put in our recycling bin - and even the most devoted recyclers got some of that wrong! Amongst the dos and don’t were:

Do not recycle black plastic containers/pots-much plastic is recycled into new bottles/containers, which is good, but the companies who reuse it do not like black as it affects the colour of the recycled product.

Do put the metal lids back on glass bottles before recycling - if loose they are difficult for the recycling machinery to identify.

Don’t recycle paper that has plastic/foil/sparkles on it but don’t worry about removing the plastic windows from envelopes - they separate easily from the paper on the recycling process. But don’t recycle shop till receipts - they have some plastic in them.

We were guided through the plant, watching the conveyor belts was both fascinating and depressing. The amount of soft plastic packaging was striking - despite the fact that many supermarkets now have collection points where it can be recycled.

The sorting system (which includes infrared lights to detect plastic, and magnets to detect metal) handles 1000 tons of waste each day and once it has extracted organic matter/plastic and metals the remainder is burnt in the on-site furnace, generating 30 mega watts per hour of electricity, 365 days a year. Banks of computer screens monitor the temperature of the furnace, and the emissions, which are strictly controlled.

Final lessons from the day were that if in doubt it is better to put something in general waste (as it will be incinerated) than put it in recycling (where the wrong thing causes all sorts of problems), and also that (while we didn’t see any) there are plenty of rats at the plant - they hitch a lift in the rubbish.

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20th February 2024

The Census: A Guide for Users

After teas and coffees and a chance to socialise and chat, over 60 members sat down to be taken by Dr Paul Jennings on a journey through the decades of the census. He brought to life a fascinating subject that many of us know little about, and punctuated the story with census data from his own family history.

We learnt that beginning in 1801, despite concerns even then about “invasion of privacy”, simple population counts were undertaken every ten years. Officials who supported the count, known as enumerators from 1841, had laboriously to transcribe by hand all details from individual schedules into large registers. We were told that the records from 1931 went up in smoke in 1942, and that since the 1921 census individuals’ details remain confidential for 100 years.

Paul illustrated his talk throughout with extracts of original census registers - with, for example, some names being assigned “FP” by 1841 if the individual had been born in Foreign Parts - and with contemporary cartoons. He gave as an example Valley Road in Harrogate where just one of the residents in 1901 had been born in the town.

There was time at the end for feedback and questions from the audience and then we were reminded that Paul will host a hands-on workshop at the Library on 11 April where members will be able to bring along their own census and similar research, investigate the local studies materials, ask questions and seek advice.

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23rd January 2024

Park Life

Sue Wood, North Yorkshire Council Horticultural Development Officer and RHS Britain in Bloom judge, took 40+ members and guests on a virtual tour of the many parks/gardens under her care. While most of us know and appreciate Valley Gardens we also had our eyes opened to the history of Ripon Spa gardens, established by the 1st Marquess of Ripon and the work being done there to ensure its continued success in competitions such as Yorkshire in Bloom (Platinum winner in 2022). Like many public spaces anti social behaviour is a challenge but rather than remove areas of planting that attract such behaviour NY found a creative solution- rather than removing trees completely their trunks were carved by "Chain Saw artist" Mick Burns into an Alice in Wonderland display.

The gardens at Conyham Hall and the gardens around Knaresborough House and Castle were also featured.

Of course we also heard about Valley Gardens, and the recent projects renewing the New Zealand and Japanese Gardens. Valley Gardens is one of the few public gardens still featuring the once traditional summer dahlia display bed.

A very illuminating evening, making all present appreciate the wonderful gardens we have in the local area.


It remains to be seen how the gardens that were under local management (Harrogate Borough Council) will fare under North Yorkshire Council control. Unfortunately cuts in budgets are feared reducing the already limited funds available for the excellent gardening team, and possibly seeing the replacement of dramatic, and often themed, seasonal flower beds with easier to maintain grass.



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9th December 2023

Christmas Party 2023

Anyone standing in the rain outside the hall might have believed they were hearing a professional choir performing inside! But no, the dulcet tones were those of Civic Society Members, in hearty voice as they sang along to songs and carols as part of the Society’s Christmas social event.

Over 70 Members came together in the hall of St Wilfrid’s church, on a thoroughly wet and grey Saturday afternoon, to make and renew friendships; to enjoy a glass of wine or juice, or a good old cup of tea; and to take the lead from Christine and Mandy from the Harrogate Dramatic Society in exercising their vocal chords.

Jane and Paul did brisk trade at their book-stall, Stuart spoke at the end of the Society’s achievements during 2023 and what’s on the agenda for 2024, and just a tiny few lonely mince pies remained untouched when the party came to a close.

One minor hiccup arose in the lead-up. The hall’s boilers had been a bit on the blink. Would members have to shiver inside, clad in their thermals, bobble hats and woolly gloves? Well no, of course not! The church had swiftly arranged back-up heaters but then, a couple of hours before the party, the boilers miraculously came back to life. In the end, the heat from the radiators was matched perfectly with the warmth and friendliness of the party atmosphere in the hall. Kevin Hales.

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22nd November 2023

Heritage Open Days - "Doorstep Discoveries"

The Society was privileged on 22 November to welcome to Harrogate Sarah Holloway, national programme manager of the Heritage Open Days (HODs) festival, who gave an evening talk to us in the magnificent surroundings of St Wilfrid’s church, the town’s only Grade I listed heritage building.

While Members are familiar with how Harrogate participates in this festival each September, it was fascinating to hear from Sarah about heritage at a wider, national level, and her talk highlighted some particularly intriguing and unexpected heritage finds across the country. We also learnt that HODs in England involves over 2,200 local organisers and an astonishing 44,000 volunteers, and were reminded that HODs next year is not far away - for your diaries, it’s 6 to 15 September 2024!

The talk and visit were also an opportunity for Members, and the Society as a whole, to show off to a national leader of heritage how Harrogate promotes its own rich history and culture. To that end, it was especially pleasing that so many of our local volunteer HODs event hosts and organisers were at the event, who could stand to take a bow and accept a most warm round of applause from the audience for all their efforts to make HODs such a success in the town. The evening also included a short talk about the heritage of St Wilfrid’s itself, and how the church regularly welcomes visitors to its own varied HODs events.

There was plenty of time before the talks for Members to share a drink of wine or juice, to meet our speaker, and to admire the splendour of the St Wilfrid’s setting. And next morning, before Sarah took the train back to London, a small group of Members accompanied her to visit some key heritage - and HODs - sites in the town, including Valley Gardens and a short tour of the Royal Pump Room Museum hosted by its curator. The walk ended in Wetherspoon’s for a coffee and chat, a fabulous example of a fine and prominent heritage building with a modern-day use, which we hope left our speaker suitably impressed! Kevin Hales

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24th October 2023

Harrogate Library

A keen audience of members and guests met at Harrogate Library to hear three speakers.
Firstly, Alison Wheat (Outreach Librarian) who outlined the many resources available in the Library’s Local Studies Collection, and others such as Ancestry, Find my Past and digitised archival Newspapers accessible online in the Library (but only available from home if a subscription is paid).
Paul Jennings spoke about use of the Census (also available online in the Library) and the challenges of interpreting entries. The early censuses had the individual house entries transposed, by officials, into the records we now see- with consequent variations in family and place names creeping in.
Kevin Hales spoke about the use of street directories, newspapers and Google in his research into previous occupiers of his house which included a Methodist minister about whom it was claimed: ‘in the course of his ministry he had never spent fourteen consecutive days at home, and during the last ten years he had slept in 530 different beds’.
We then moved to the Local Studies Room where library staff has set out original newspapers from 1912, street directories and maps so that we could have a hands-on experience of these resources. A number of members remarked that they had not known that the Library provide such a wealth of resources for research. On the strength of this we plan another visit to the Library in the Spring for coffee and a closer look at some of this material, guided by those of our members who know their way around the Local Studies room.

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20th August 2023

Allotment Show 2023

While visitors may have come primarily to inspect the prize legumes and lettuces, over fifty of them also stopped by to inspect the Harrogate Civic Society’s own displays, and to learn about its activities. This was a late August Sunday at Valley Gardens, sunny but blustery, where the society is a regular attendee at the annual show of the Harrogate and District Allotment Federation. Several committee and other members were on hand to greet passers-by and to promote the Society’s activities. Judging of the floral offerings seemed to take longer than expected, but while this progressed the locked doors of the Sun Pavilion meant that waiting horticulture enthusiasts had extra time in the colonnades to pick up the Society's heritage plaques guide, a membership leaflet, or the latest newsletter. They could even have gently dangled in front of them one of the new keyrings and-cards which advertise the Society, the plaques, and Heritage Open Days. Of particular interest to many was the programme for the town's extensive commemorations of the War Memorial Centenary. It was fascinating, and sometimes quite amusing, to discover what people wished to talk about. Many were keen to know the Society’s position on the Station Gateway proposals, and some were not shy in articulating their own views on this interesting topic. I fear our friends from Ripon Civic Society, on the adjacent table, must have wondered what all the noise was about! ‘What did we think of the Otley Road cycle path initiative?’ more than a few locals asked. It was pleasing to note that many Harrogate folk knew that the Society’s focus extends well into the present and future, as well as taking a deep interest in the town’s heritage and past. It was a busy and lively stand. Visitors we spoke with had come from as far away as Nottingham, and even New Zealand, though perhaps not solely to receive a keyring! Perhaps a dozen left names or emails, in order to receive more information. We didn’t win any prizes for our onions or dahlias, but I hope we did score top marks in engaging with potential new members and showing off what the Society is all about. Report by Kevin Hales.

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19th September 2023

Harlow Carr Gardens

Members heard about the many improvements taking place at the Harlow Carr Gardens, and future plans. This 58 acres of garden and woodland (the Northern Horticultural Society grounds until they merged with RHS in 2001) attracts approx. 460,000 visitors from all over the country and 30,000 children on school visits, every year. The gardens, and surrounding area have seen a great deal of change in recent years. Many members will remember that, not that long ago, the gardens were surrounded by fields, not houses. Now increased water run-off from new roads and parking areas of course heads down the slope to the gardens. While the developers take some steps to mitigate this, the gardens have themselves been adapted to manage. One of the most dramatic recent changes has been the creation of more streams and pools leading down to the main streamside gardens. The philosophy of working with nature and the surroundings is also seen in the management of invasive species (introduced before their dangers were appreciated) like Skunk Cabbage (which has got as far as the Nidd Valley) and Gunnera- both exotic giants that grow by the stream. Until they can be eradicated they remain there as a warning NOT to plant them in our gardens.

The reunification of the Harrogate Arms with the gardens, especially the Bath House area, has been long planned and now almost complete, restoring the views to how they would have looked to visitors at the height of the Spa years. The Bettys’ tea house will be moved to a location elsewhere in the garden. There are ambitious plans to plant 100s more trees in the woodland area, adding more flowering trees, and filling in where ash die-back has created gaps. The productive garden area will be expanded and, if you ever wondered what happens to all those vegetables and fruits, produce will be used in the new café in the Harrogate Arms. Given the fact that most of those attending the talk transpired to already be RHS members there was complete agreement that membership (special offer of £49.70 for single membership at the moment) was money very well spent. Talk to the Civic Society Paul Cook, Curator of RHS Harlow Carr. Report by Angela Fahy.

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15th, 19th, 21st September

Ogden of Harrogate

Ogden of Harrogate, since 1893 one of the town's most prestigious and creative family businesses, welcomed on 15, 19 and 21 September 2023 three groups of Harrogate Civic Society members to a reception, talk and exhibition at the splendid James Street showrooms.

These members-only events came one week after Ogden’s participated for the first time in the national Heritage Open Days festival. Spaces for those openings were snapped up by the public very rapidly, so Civic Society members were especially privileged to have private viewings arranged solely for them. Even so, each event was fully booked and with a waiting list.

After being greeted by Robert Ogden, a current director of the business and fifth-generation family member, we were offered a glass of sparkling wine, which nicely set the friendly and relaxed scene for the rest of the afternoon. In Robert’s talk to the group, he explained that the business has always been at the forefront of craftsmanship, fashion and design in jewellery, precious metals, and watch-making. We learnt that branches have existed in London’s Duke Street and elsewhere, and in 2015 Ogden opened in Minster Gates, York. Pictures were on display, showing distinguished clients including Sir Winston Churchill, the Roosevelts, King George VI, Princess Marina, countless aristocrats, members of high society, and those from the creative arts world.

A highlight of our visit was the extensive exhibition of artefacts relating to Ogden’s business and most fascinating family history. Bespoke vintage pieces were on display in original Georgian display cases in the Regency Room, and we could view - from behind security glass! - Ogden's in-house workshop.

Members were told about James Roberts' interests in archaeology and his work with Howard Carter to test and replicate ancient objects found in the 1922 discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb and with Sir Leonard Woolley at the excavations of the Royal Graves at Ur. In the room amongst us was Ogden’s sparkling replica of the Imperial State Crown, created by the firm in 1937, along with the winning entries in a competition for school pupils to design two crowns for the coronation of King Charles III.

Sadly there were no free gifts of priceless jewels or silver trinkets for members to take away with them, but the opportunity to see and learn about a business that has thrived for over 130 years and remains a landmark in Harrogate's commercial and artistic life is surely one that none of us will forget. Kevin Hales

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Friday 8th to Sunday 17th September 2023

Heritage Open Days (HODS) 2023

Kevin Hales, a member of our Events Group responsible for organising Harrogate’s Heritage Open Days events, writes:
Harrogate will once again be playing a prominent role in the national Heritage Open Days (HODs) festival, which runs this year from Friday 8 to Sunday 17 September. Preparations are in full swing, and the Harrogate Civic Society has been working with many different heritage sites, organisations and religious establishments in the town, along with local heritage enthusiasts, to build a varied and interesting series of events. Twenty are already registered. Highlights to date include: Ogden of Harrogate, welcoming visitors to an exhibition and talk at its James Street premises, and new heritage walks led by local experts in each of Pannal, Ripley Village, and Valley Gardens. We are proud to include in our HODs programme, for local residents and visitors from far and wide to attend, two important talks that form part of the town’s extensive War Memorial Centenary commemorations programme. There will once again be events at the Harrogate Club and at the Library, also in Bilton and New Park and at several of Harrogate’s most impressive churches along with guided walks around the Heritage Plaques harrogateplaques.org and through the Duchy estate. For those who wish to explore a cemetery, or admire local art, there will be something for them and anyone who’s keen on climbing towers will have two (so far) to choose from. Other events are in the pipeline and key details will be in a timetable guide on the Civic Society website. The fullest and most up-to-date details of all HODs events across England will, as usual, be on the national website heritageopendays.org.uk/.

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16th August 2023

Washburn Heritage Centre

On the afternoon of 16 August thirty Society members and friends gathered at the Washburn Heritage Centre, set above Swinsty reservoir and adjacent to Fewston church. We were met by Sally, our guide for the afternoon, who invited us to look around the churchyard before heading into the centre. After a cup of tea we were given a quick resumé of the background to the centre, which came about as the result of a plan to put a small extension onto the church. Sally then explained how the excavation to build the Heritage Centre had involved the discovery of some fascinating history. It had been anticipated some human remains would be found, but no-one expected to find 154 sets, now known as the Fewston Assemblage. Teams from Durham and York universities carried out extensive research and have been able to identify around 20 of the people buried there, as well as discover much information about the lives of people in the valley, many of them children, assumed to have been employed in the local mills and farms. Experts have even been able to create facial reconstructions of two local people – both on display in the foyer. The afternoon was fiinished off with more tea and an amazing selection of home made cakes and scones all made and served by the volunteers there. If you have not been to the Heritage Centre it really is worth a visit. The centre is run completely by volunteers and is open Saturdays and Sundays until the end of October, Sundays only from November to March. There is much more information on the website www.washburnvalley.org.

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12th July 2023

Long Lands Common and Knaresborough Forest Park - CANCELLED

Event Cancelled.

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11th June 2023

Grove Road Cemetery

On what was a very warm June day, a group of around twenty-five members and guests were given a guided walk around Grove Road Cemetery.
Paul Jennings writes: My guided walk was inspired by Malcolm Neesam's researches, supplemented with my own work on the burial registers from 1864 to 1920. The Cemetery was opened in 1864 in what was then a largely unbuilt area, after concern that the existing one at Christ Church was becoming overcrowded. The very first burial was of a seven-year-old girl. Sadly, infants and small children made up a large proportion of those interred over the years. After looking at the white marble memorial to the First World War dead of Bilton, recently restored and relocated from the Methodist Chapel opposite the Cemetery, we then visited a wide variety of graves. These included some of the town's most influential citizens, like Richard Ellis and George Dawson, both builders responsible for some of Harrogate's loveliest developments and others who made their mark, like the historian William Grainge or John Farrah of the toffee business. We also took in less well-known figures, some of whom reflected Harrogate's attraction to people from other lands, like the ex-slave Thomas Rutling of Tennessee, who made his home here after touring Europe with the famous Fisk University Jubilee Singers, German band leader Otto Schwarz who collapsed and died at the station and the Italian Crolla family who similarly entertained with their barrel organ. The dead of two world wars are also represented and we saw several Commonwealth War Graves and a monument to Donald Bell, who won the Victoria Cross and whilst buried in France is remembered in Harrogate. Also Alfred Bruce, a former pupil of Harrogate Grammar School who drowned along with five other soldiers on a training exercise preparing to cross canals in Belgium and France. He is buried here in a quiet shaded corner. To date there have been over 12,000 interments and there are over 5,000 graves. Burials still take place here, but infrequently. The former cemetery lodge is now a private house. There is so much to see and learn in old graveyards and cemeteries and an incredible variety of styles of monument and many of course who have no monument at all. As they were originally intended, not just as places to bury the dead, but for the living to walk in, to remember and to reflect, so we can do the same today.

Archive Events

Previous events - individual reports or use the button opposite to see them all.

See all the archive events reports

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18th April 2023

Devolution

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8th March 2023

Railway Exhibition

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11th December 2022

Christmas Social 2022

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3rd October 2022

Harrogate on Film

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21 August 2022

Allotment Show 2022

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31st May 2022

The New North Yorkshire Unitary Authority

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22nd February 2022

A Stray for all Seasons

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26th September 2021

A guided walking tour of Pannal

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28th July 2021

AGM (Yr 2020/21)

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23rd February 2021

AGM (Yr 2019/20) and Fountains Abbey Talk

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30th January 2020

Harrogate in 2024. HBC's 5 year plan.

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October 2019

Harrogate in 1914 - A talk by Keith Wilkinson

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June 2019

A visit to Halifax

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27th March 2023

Harrogate on Film reprise

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21st February 2023

Blind Jack of Knaresborough

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29th November 2022

The Harrogate Convention Centre, its purpose and future

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15th September 2022

Allerton Castle

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30th & 31st July 2022

Welcome to Harrogate Railways - a celebration

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26th April 2022

Wells and Swells - the Golden Age of Harrogate Spa

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18th January 2022

Andrew Carnegie and British Libraries

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8th September 2021

A visit to York Gate Garden

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25th May 2021

A pictorial history of New Park - Part Two - Social

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4th November 2020

The European Presence in Edwardian Harrogate

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25th January 2020

Yorkshire & Humberside Association of Civic Socities AGM

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September 2019

Heritage Plaques - A talk by Malclom Neesam

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April 2019

A visit to Manor House

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13th March 2023

AGM 2023

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17th January 2023

A zero carbon future - what does it mean for you?

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25th October 2022

Schooldays in Edwardian Harrogate

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9-18th September 2022

Heritage Open Days 2022

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10th July 2022

Behind the Scenes at the Great Yorkshire Show

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29th March 2022

AGM & The History of Harrogate Brass Bands

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12th December 2021

Christmas Social 2021

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15th August 2021

Allotment Show stall & A walk down Valley Drive

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20th April 2021

A pictorial history of New Park - Part One - Industrial

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27th February 2020

Allerton Waste Recovery Park 2020

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December 2019

Festive gathering and talk 2019

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July 2019

Heritage Plaques Website Launch Event

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March 2019

Domestic Servants in Edwardian Harrogate

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