IN THE BEGINNING
by John Niklaus – Master 1999
In his ‘A Brief History of the York Guild of Building’ written by Lawrie Watson (Master 1972 and Hon Archivist) for the 40th Year Book on the Guild he comments that it was 1952 when it was suggested that joint meetings between architects and builders should take place to discuss mutual problems. This suggestion was made by Mr Colin Rowntree at the Annual Dinner of the York Building Trades Employers Association. His suggestion obviously sparked an idea in others at the dinner and this was taken up and developed by the York Building Productivity Group culminating in the York Guild of Building. In 1954 a notice was released to the technical press and below is an extract from that release as printed in ‘The Builder’ on September 3rd 1954.
‘A Guild of Building is being formed in the City of York. The Guild is intended to bring together all those concerned in the building industry in York. There have been guilds dating back into the centuries which dealt with particular crafts, such as the mason’s and carpenter’s guilds, but the revival of one of these old guilds was not considered an appropriate method of bringing together the many craftsmen who, working as a team, bring into being new buildings under modern conditions.
The full title of the new Guild is the York Guild of Building and it has as its objects the advancement of design, management, science, and craft in building and the encouragement of a better understanding of the problems and achievements of those engaged in building.
These objects will be furthered by a suitable annual programme of lectures, visits, debates and social functions, competitions, the issue of publications and any other activities which may from time to time be considered to be desirable.
The decision to form the Guild was taken at a meeting held on February 4th last, which was attended by York members of the Royal Institute of British Architects, the York Building trades Employers’ Association, the National Federation of Building Trades Operatives, and the York members of the quantity surveying profession.
A committee was formed consisting of Messrs. E. Firth and C. Rowntree, representing the architects; P. M. Shepherd and A. E. Sorrell, representing the employers; G. Westerman and J. Wilson, representing the operatives; and D. B. Holman and L. Whiteman, representing the quantity surveyors. Mr G. Dickinson, the Head of the Building Department at the Technical College was also made a member of the committee, and at the first meeting of the committee, Mr David Leckenby was invited to become honorary secretary. The other officers who have been appointed are: President, Mr P. M. Shepherd; vice-president, Mr C. Rowntree; honorary treasurer, Mr D. B. Holman.
Many meetings have been held and the groundwork which has been completed includes a full constitution and a programme for the coming winter.
The inaugural meeting, which will be limited to Guild members and official guests, will be held at St. William’s College on October 27th at 7.30 p.m. Many well-known local persons will be present, including members of other Guilds in the City. The principal speaker will be Mr D. E. Woodbine Parish.
Membership is open to all of 17 years and over who are directly connected with the design, management, science or craft of building and are resident, or normally employed in York and district. All who are members at the date of the inaugural meeting will be regarded as founder members.
The subscriptions are: 7s. 6d. for members aged 21 and over, 5s. for those aged 18 to 20 inclusive, and no fee for those aged 17. Members may become Life Members for the sum of £7. 7s., which will relieve them of any liability for future subscriptions.’
It is interesting to note that the objects of the Guild are furthered currently exactly as proposed at its inception. The work done and ideas promoted by the founding group have stood the test of time. Just as with all construction, research and preparation pay dividends. A good foundation is an essential for any development and the Guild was no exception.
The Guild had 324 founder members and 290 of these attended the inaugural meeting. The York Guild of Building was inaugurated by Mr C. C. Burdge, Regional Director of the Ministry of Works. Mr Burdge brought a message from the Minister of Works Mr Nigel Birch. This was, of course, a period of post war construction and reconstruction and the Ministry recognised that the objects of the Guild were exactly what they were trying to engender in the industry as a whole. Teamwork and communication between the various trades and professions, as well as knowledge transfer between experience and youth, were essential for efficiency and progress.
In his Presidential Address Peter Shepherd stated ‘We would like to have more craftsmen members’, so nothing changes.
It is very clear that the York Guild of Building got off to a very good start with a good number of dedicated, committed and experienced people working hard with good support and that their achievement remains for all to see. It now remains for the current officers and members to take up the baton for the next 50 years.