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THE WRITING ON THE WALLS

Published by the Society in the Ripon Gazette, 26th November 2008
For more than 20 years Ripon Civic Society has been helping residents of Ripon and visitors to find out more about the city with its green plaques. The Society’s Co-Chairman David Winpenny explains.

What role did Ripon’s Market Square play in The Rising of the North? Why ‘Temple Garden’? Where was the gateway to the Archbishop’s Palace? Who designed the Town Hall? Where (other than at the bottom, thank you!) was the Treaty of Ripon signed?

If you know the answer to these questions, you may have been looking carefully at the green plaques put up by Ripon Civic Society since the early 1980s. Affixed to buildings and walls around the city, they detail people and events from the long and distinguished history of Ripon from its earliest times.

These plaques play an important role in helping local people and visitors to understand the city. Even the most casual strollers around the streets of Ripon will know that this is a distinctive place, with its own character and quirks, though they may not understand – or perhaps care – what makes it different. The plaques make it simple for inquisitive visitors to learn something about how the city has been shaped and the role its buildings and personalities have played in both local and national history.

That is why the Civic Society provides and maintains the green plaques. There are currently more than twenty of them, mostly, as would be expected, in the historic core of the city, but with some further out – there is one on the Chapel of St Mary Magdalen in Magdalen’s Road and another on the cottage in Borrage Lane where World War 1 poet Wilfred Owen once lived and wrote.

The Society has a rolling programme of refurbishing the plaques – five have just returned from the manufacturers, looking as fresh as new, and are being put back in place. There are also plans for more plaques – suggestions have included marking some of the pubs in the city that have either changed their function or their traditional name, and others for the bridges in the city. Whenever a new plaque is planned its subject is fully researched and its working carefully crafted and agreed before it is ordered from the manufacturer.

Ripon’s plaques are themselves now part of the fabric of the city. They provide interesting reading, even if you think you know about Ripon. Why not explore them for yourself, and learn the answers to the questions we started with?

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