Manningtree: Heritage society confined to history after shortage of new members came forward

THE Manningtree Society, which for almost half a century has fought for and preserved many historic buildings in the town, is being wound up.

Dick Patterson, who served on the committee for 37 years and was chairman for many of them, says it cannot now attract enough members.

The society came into being as a result of the 1963 Town and Country Planning Act which stated that applications for any developments that would affect the character of an area “must take into account the views of the public”.

As a result more than 700 concerned groups sprang up nationwide, 46 in Essex, including the Manningtree and District Amenities Society which was formed that same year.

Mr Patterson said: “In the early days there were many ‘causes’ fought for and against with varying success.

“The society was instrumental in obtaining conservation area status for several local areas and we saved some of the oldest buildings that had been scheduled for demolition.

“Among these is the fine old corn exchange in the High Street, which is now used as a library.”

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But he says their campaign started too late to prevent the loss of many ancient cottages, houses and “the architecturally interesting Restoration church of St Michael, all of which would today be carefully listed.”

They have continued monitoring local planning applications as well as arranging speakers, exhibitions, guided tours and number of social events each year.

Floral Manningtree, which the society administered from the start and the town’s Museum and History Group, originally another offshoot, are now flourishing independently.

“The character of the society has changed over the years and people have so many other distractions and interests that it is difficult to attract younger members – and committee members in particular,” says Mr Patterson.

“But the society will continue its programme until the end of the year with general meetings scheduled for Wednesday, November 21, and Wednesday, December 19.”