Photo - Oakwood Traders and Residents plus guests at a fundraising dinner at The Mansion, Roundhay Park. Photo © Tony Quinn
Thanks to the dogged determination of local traders and residents, hundreds of thousands of annual visitors to the area will be able to enjoy the newly renovated public space and Clock Tower at Oakwood, on the edge of Roundhay Park in Leeds.
The clock has stood as a landmark at Oakwood for over a century, but years of neglect resulted in almost terminal deterioration by the start of the new Millennium.
Since then the Clock Tower been struck by a motor vehicle (August 2005), been part of the "£400,000 renovation investment plans" by Leeds City Council (July 2007, planned development never commenced), promised restoration as a condition of the planning approval for the Tesco Supermarket expansion over the Homebase site on Roundhay Road (Approved October 2009 but postponed indefinitely..), A failed public appeal (2009) the story goes on and on...
Frustrated by the lack of any progress, and seeing the declining condition of the local area a group of local residents, traders and business owners came together late in 2012 to form the 'Oakwood Traders and Residents Association' (OTRA) with the aim to enhance, promote and conserve the environment of Oakwood. The restoration of the clock tower and surrounding area was chosen as one of the initial aims of the Association.
A figure of over £100,000 was required to fund the restoration of the Clock Tower, and a much larger figure if renovations of the surrounding area of hard landscaping, planting and public space was to be undertaken.
Leeds City Council were unable to meet these costs, so it seemed the Clock might be lost forever, or even be dismantled and taken away as 'unsafe' to be restored and returned some time in the far off future....
Undaunted, OTRA set about raising the required funds by public collection, events, raffles, dinners, musical evenings, and more. Funding was also sought from the Heritage Lottery Fund, local businesses and any other sources the Association felt might contribute. By the end of 2014 it looked like the target figure could be reached, and work could go ahead to not only restore and revate the clock tower, but also the surrounding hard landscaping, flower beds and paved areas. The public were also offered the chance to have an engraved block set into the paving around the clock, as a memory of their contribution to the cause - raising an additional £40,000 towards the total costs.
Plans were agreed and approved (after all the Clock IS a "Grade II listed building at risk"!!), contracts were awarded and a timetable of works put in place to ensure the completion by the 2nd May 2015 "Oakwood Day" when the Clock Tower and Oakwood renovations could be officially opened by the Lord Mayor of Leeds.
In just over two years since OTRA began their fundraising campaign restoration finally started, and then just over 100 days from when the Clock was dismantled to be taken away for restoration locals and visitors from far and wide could be present at the celebrations at the unveiling of the restored clock tower as the focal point of the restoration of the area.
OTRA are to be congratulated on all their hard work and perseverance in ensuring that this treasured local landmark could finally be restored to its former glory, and the surrounding public space could once again be enjoyed by visitors to this attractive corner of the Roundhay Conservation Area.
Article: March - revised April 2015.