Monday, 2 May 2016

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust: 70 years on

Certificate of Incorporation

On 2nd May 1946, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, then called Yorkshire Naturalists’ Trust, was legally incorporated. Founded in a post-war context, where the Government was keen to provide a ‘vision of a brighter Britain’1, the Trust’s first objective was “to protect places and objects of natural beauty or of ornithological, botanical, geological, zoological or scientific interest from injury, ill-treatment or destruction.”

The Trust was established to receive the gift of two plots of land at Askham Bog, a remnant of ancient Yorkshire fenland to the south of York. The bog was considered of particular interest due to the survival of many original species of flora and fauna. Indeed, it was later described as being "as uniquely interesting to the botanist and entomologist as is any archaeological treasure to the historian or antiquarian."2
The plots had been purchased two years earlier, in 1944,  by keen naturalists and confectioners Sir Francis Terry and Arnold Rowntree. These plots, along with the plot of land entrusted by Mr Lycett Green, made up the Trust's first reserve.3

Vegetation Map of Askham Bog, 1933. BIA/YWT/A182

At its formation the Trust had a Council of eleven members, including President Sir Francis Terry and Vice President A.S. Rowntree, and five aristocratic patrons - the Duke of Devonshire, the Marquess of Zetland, the Earl of Feversham, the Earl of Halifax and Lord Middleton. 

Individuals could become Ordinary members of the Trust upon application and a subsequent annual payment of 10 shillings, or a Life Member for £10.

In 1946, the aims of the Trust were already clear - a letter to the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves, written by Sir Francis Terry in that year, stated that 'the acquisition of this Sanctuary is regarded as a first step only, as it is hoped that other suitable areas in Yorkshire will come into the hands of the Trust'.4 In the seventy years since that letter was written, the Trust has certainly fulfilled this early vision and now cares for over 100 reserves across Yorkshire, as well as campaigning for wildlife on a regional and national level. 

The archive itself, even at this early stage of the project, has been fascinating to work through. With documents ranging from minutes of the first meetings to detailed site reports, from correspondence with local members to relationships with national organisations, it presents a unique and vital record of the important work of the Trust both in 1946 and in 2016.

Lydia Dean

Project Archivist

Box count: 32.5 boxes surveyed...

1. Sands, Tim. Wildlife In Trust (2012) p.19
2. Report on Askham Bog (BIA/YWT/A177/5)
3. Correspondence on Askham Bog 1966-1973. (BIA/YWT/A177/5)
4. Letter from Francis Terry, August 1946 (BIA/YWT/A108/2)

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