28th November 2023
Celebrating our history after ten years
Our history group has now been going for ten years, and we're very proud of all that we've achieved.
We started off in 2013, when Clements Hall arranged a series of local history events, and a small group decided to form the History Group. We’re marking our anniversary with a joint event at the Hall on Saturday 16 December, as Clements Hall itself celebrates its 90th anniversary in this year.
Our group has wide-ranging interests in the local history of our neighbourhood - the Scarcroft, Clementhorpe, South Bank and Bishophill areas of York. Since 2013 we've staged exhibitions about many aspects of our history at events in varied venues as well as the Hall, and in 2016 we started our annual programme of talks and walks, performances and occasional workshops.
We launched our two year Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) project in 2016, Exploring the Impact and Legacy of the First World War on our Neighbourhood. This examined the impact of the Great War on many aspects of life in our area, including our local women, churches, schools and youth organisations. We followed the experiences of soldiers, sailors and airmen and looked at what happened to our conscientious objectors. The Zeppelin raid in May 1916 was particularly significant and we worked with local schools on a number of events marking this. We commissioned three outstanding films from a local filmmaker, featuring aspects of the war locally, all now on YouTube.
HLF funding enabled us to invest in our website here at www.clementshallhistorygroup.org.uk, and this has proved to be a vital part of reaching our audiences, supported by social media, especially during the lockdown period in 2020. We won several national awards for our digital work in 2018 and 2019, and in 2021 we were commended on how well we continued to maintain our community links through lockdown. This included a number of self-guided walks using mobile phones. By the 2020 lockdown we were able to continue our talks using Zoom, but in 2022 we were delighted to be able to invite people back to the Hall for talks.
A strand of our activity has been extensive research into the history of our local shops, public houses and industries. This led to four popular publications: Bishy Road: a York shopping street in time. Shadows in the Bricks: the old shops of South Bank in York, Nunnery Lane and Clementhorpe: exploring old shops and pubs in York, Made in Clementhorpe: exploring York’s industrial history. In 2022 we won another national award for our Nunnery Lane book. We produced primary school resource material for our local schools on these topics.
We also worked with our local primary school by filming migration stories with local residents, to support their curriculum.
Our Poverty Project, Making ends meet on Nunnery Lane: revealing local poverty in the Victorian period, ran from 2018 to 2023. We used the Poor Law Records in York Explore as a basis for examining the lives of poor people in York, particularly in the parish of St Mary Bishophill Junior. Reports on our researches are now on our website.
In 2021 we merged with Bishophill History Group, and celebrated this with a particularly successful event at Jacob’s Well. We’re currently preparing our fifth publication, this time about the old shops, pubs and industries of Bishophill, with more to follow on Micklegate and Blossom St.
New projects have already started in 2023. We’re researching and writing a history of Rowntree Park in support of the Rowntree Park Lodge Project. We’ve also launched a family archives project, helping members to develop their own family history archives. Lastly, following a successful talk in September, we’re mapping the location of scoria bricks in the back lanes of York.
Our venue is important to us. Clements Hall was originally built by public subscription and opened in 1933 as the parish hall for St Clement's Church further up Nunthorpe Road. The Hall and its adjoining Georgian house are listed buildings, and over the years they had a wide range of uses, including dances, amateur theatre, rehearsals, dog training, and sales of work. There was a live-in caretaker and among other functions they housed the wardrobe of York Light Opera.
However, the Hall gradually fell out of use, and the reduced income was not enough to repair the building, which started a downward spiral of neglect and disuse. As the church no longer needed it, they put it up for sale, and the St Clements Hall Preservation Trust was set up by a number of local people to try to save it for the local community, although they could never afford the price being sought by the church.
After being closed for some years, and after the Hall had changed owners, it came into the possession of City of York Council in a land swap. Though it was vandalised and nearly derelict by then, in late 2008 they began to re-build it with a substantial grant from the Government, with the Trust as partners, and the refurbished building finally re-opened to the public with the Trust as lease-holders in 2010. The building is now at the heart of the community, open to all.
There’ll be a Christmas Social and 90th anniversary celebration on Saturday 16 December, from 2.30pm till 6 pm, all welcome with displays, refreshments and reminiscences. At around 4.30pm there’ll be a formal toast to the Hall’s 90 years.