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Early days at the society - a personal reflection

by

Anne Smith


How did I become involved in those far off days? I was already a member of the Harrogate Naturalists’ Society (wildlife) when the Chairman was the very able Margaret Sanderson. She had asked me to talk about trees at their meeting in 1971. I had arranged the very first Tree Preservation Order (TPO) in Harrogate- TPO No 1 Pannal 1969 - on a group of trees in Pannal where I live. I also campaigned for Tree Preservation Orders on a number of trees in Harrogate.

After the talk in the hall at the Royal Baths Mrs Enid Davey who was Secretary of the newly formed The Harrogate Society approached me and asked me to come to a meeting at the home of Mr Michael Laycock which I did and so met the committee and joined them. We were all of a similar mind to save Harrogate from excessive building and road schemes and also preservation of The Stray. Those days were fun. Apart from Mrs Enid Davey and her husband Walter Davey the well- known society photographer who had a studio in James Street, we the newly formed committee were all relatively young.

Very often at the end of the committee meetings the young ones would repair to the nearest pub. On one memorable occasion at the end of our Annual Meeting at the Royal Baths meeting room, Miss Shaddick stood up and wanted the audience to march on the home of the Town Clerk (notice Town Clerk and not Chief Executive) whose views on modern architecture were anathema to the Society. She had quite considerable support from the audience who were keen to march behind her. She was stopped, however, by the Chairman Mr Winston Hartley.

The Society was a force to be reckoned with and carried on under various Chairmen until the day in 1982 when I was asked to become Chairman. I had been minutes secretary for a number of years but now the great honour was bestowed upon me.

Then in 1983 I found out (how I found out is another story!) that Harrogate Borough Council were planning to demolish the Sun Pavilion and Colonnade and horror of horrors replace them with a car park. I called a meeting in the Crown Hotel where we now had our Annual Meetings and nearly 400 people turned up. I was asked by the audience to form a group to stop this happening. From the platform, I formed The Friends of the Valley Gardens. I took the role of Chairman. Geoffrey Smith, James Herriot and David Bellamy who were in the audience became President and Patrons. Stephen Barnes became our invaluable treasurer.

A Committee was formed there and then. It was an exciting time, but a great deal of hard work lay ahead. I realised that I could not do two jobs as I had four children with the youngest only three.

Reluctantly I left The Harrogate Society, but in capable hands*. The Friends of the Valley Gardens went on to save the Sun Pavilion and Colonnades from their dreadful fate and we were all present when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II opened the newly refurbished Sun Pavilion in 1998.

* John Nellist became Chairman in 1985