The History of YAYAS.
The Society was founded 'to promote the study of ecclesiastical architecture, antiquities, and design, the restoration of mutilated remains, and of churches which may have been desecrated, within the county of York: and the improvement, as far as may be within its province, of the character of ecclesiastical edifices to be erected in the future'. The first meeting of the Society, to be called the Yorkshire Architectural Society, was held in York on 7 October 1842. Its membership consisted of patrons, The Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Ripon; Presidents, the Lords Lieutenants of the three Ridings: Vice-Presidents, local nobility, knights and Members of Parliament; and ordinary members, clergymen and lay members of the Church of England.
An early pioneer in its chosen field (The Oxford Architectural Society and the Cambridge Camden Society had been formed only two years earlier), the society met twice a year for the reading of papers and the dispatch of ordinary business. This included the consideration of grants from its funds for the restoration of churches. An early indication of its reputation was a request from the Vicar of Wakefield for the Society to undertake the complete restoration of the Chantry Chapel of the Blessed Virgin on the bridge there. The undertaking of this project was, in fact, to be a unique event in the annals of the Society.
Excursions to places of interest became a regular part of the Society's activities in 1845, when a visit was made to Adel church. A Seal was designed for the Society by John West Hugall, a YAYAS secretary, in 1850. A year later, the Society entered the publishing field as a member of the union of architectural societies which produced The Associated Societies' Reports and Papers, a venture which continued until 1935. The pattern of lectures, excursions and grants continued until the last two decades of the 19th Century when the Society went into an almost terminal decline. Having started its life full of hope, enthusiasm, and useful activity it greeted the 20th century in a state of decadence: 27 members, a bank balance of £1 16s and little or no influence in its defined territory!
With the birth of the new century however, the seeds of a revival were sown. New members were recruited, including Dr W.A. Evelyn who exerted an influence that was to make the Society a significant force in the affairs of the City of York. To recognise the change of emphasis in its interests the words 'and York Archaeological' were added to its title to give it the usually used acronym of YAYAS.
Until he died in 1935 Dr Evelyn led many campaigns, with varying degrees of success, in an attempt to prevent the City's historic heritage being eroded. After the Second World War, the Society continued to exert its influence and was particularly well represented on the Corporation's Shambles Area Committee which planned the creation of Newgate Market. Now, as a member of the Conservation Areas Advisory Panel, it continues to make informed comment on planning matters in the City.
Thus on a more secure footing the Society has completed the 20th century without any further causes for disquiet: in 1992 the Society celebrated its 150th anniversary with a series of special events for its members.
YAYAS still continues to provide lectures and excursions and has become a considerable publisher of books and journals pertaining to its field of interest. As the success of any Society depends on a healthy membership, YAYAS invites all those with an interest in the architectural and archaeological heritage of York and Yorkshire to join and ensure that the Society continues its good work well into the 21st century.