Mixbury History Group applies to register as a charity
This article is about how a review of the organisation of the Mixbury history and archaeology project led us to register as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO). The first part of this article appeared in the February Shelswell News, with a slightly different text, under Mixbury's regular "All our Yesterday's" feature.
The Commission does not take its responsibilities lightly. Including notes at the beginning, the application form was 33 pages long; the Constitution, which had to be attached to it, was a further 31 pages.
The second part of the article has been added to share, with anyone interested, the proposed charity's "Purposes", sometimes called its Objects (a Charity Commission expression). A third part has been added to identify three traditions in the village which we hope to re-enact.
A review, and the decision to apply for charitable purposes
You may wonder what this piece had to do with All Our Yesterdays. After all, it is about an event which is taking place now, in 2021. We've included it for several reasons, but the most powerful one is that today's activities are tomorrow's yesterdays. On a scale of significant events, Mixbury History Group taking charitable status is doesn't score compared with the events in America's Capitol building in January, but few people would deny now, or at the time the Capitol was invaded, that history was being made as the event unfolded. On a different scale, the creation of a history charity in our little parish is an enormous step compared with the first display we mounted in All Saints church in 2017.
How we research and record our heritage, and what we do with the results, is important. The Institute of Advanced Legal Studies at the university of London is currently carrying out research into "undeposited records in Oxfordshire". Its first stage report found that "community archives are carrying out a vital role in preserving the history of their local area". So, a piece about the administration of our researches into Mixbury's past may be judged to have some value, and the establishment of a charity to do this is part of our parish history itself. We have made great progress over the last four years in researching and documenting the parish's history and archaeology. Adrienne Brunton, who is sadly missed, had given us a running start in many aspects of our work: her guided walks around the village highlighted the importance of trying to understand the landscape and sharing information - and questions - with the community; and her cataloguing of the pottery sherds retrieved from the site of Beaumont Castle, and investigation of those from the Castle Field fieldwalk in 2017, showed the importance of "looking after" the parish's heritage.
We have mounted successful displays on several occasions, drafted two books (the 2018 catalogue is in Oxford History Centre Archives), and have recently created this website. Individuals have networked through Archi UK. the Roman Road Association , ITHAS and, latterly, the Oxfordshire Local History Association and the British Association for Local History. But we have reached the point where resources are needed to take forward some of our key aspirations.
£££££ Funding Options
The main projects are:
Geophysics at key sites in the parish
Fusion, the organisation charged locally with preparatory work for HS2, have let us down by not fulfilling their agreement to survey those sites as a goodwill gesture to Mixbury.
Publication of the 2018 catalogue, and "The History of the Church in Mixbury before 1900"
A further book, about the Church post-1900, is in draft but not yet ready to be published.
A history display/archive in All Saints church
Even the "simplest" display and storage cases are going to cost something, and we need to find a way of resourcing the project which ideally is not in competition with the PCC's arrangements for "improvements" at the church.
Whilst to date we have met all expenses - over £1,000 , on our achievements mentioned in the second paragraph above (mostly printing costs), from our own resources, it is beyond our personal means to find the funds needed to progress the three projects set out above. We have therefore looked at other sources.
A direct appeal to the parish
Although the survey in October 2020 showed a high level of support for a history facility in the church, it seems improbable that an appeal would raise sufficient funds to progress the three projects. One point to consider here is the issue of appeal overload. The community has traditionally given money to support the Church in Mixbury and supported other good causes through initiatives such as soup kitchens and concerts in the church, but people only have so much disposable resource, and a 'Funds for Mixbury's History' campaign would be in competition with other needs. Perhaps this source could be kept in reserve if we find a small shortfall in fundraising.
An application to the Community Fund managed by the Mixbury Association
Again, this could pitch the history project in competition with other needy causes identified in the parish. The Association's resources are, at this stage, also quite small. Perhaps another reserve source.
HS2 Community Fund
£10 million available on a national basis although at the end of November 2020 nearly £6 million had been allocated. Although the parish has already had £50,000 from this source to contribute to the repair of the church, it is understood that other applications from the parish will be considered if they are from different organisations which meet the eligibility criteria. The types of organisation able to apply include registered charities and fully constituted associations set up for a charitable purpose. As we do not have a 'track-record' on a 'constituted' basis the chances of making a successful application on this basis are diminished. As a registered charity we will stand a much better chance.
eg; Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). In spite of recent reductions in funding available to many charities, including HLF, these remain the most likely source of funding for our projects, not least because several of them exist to support heritage work. I have been advised that the PCC is not bidding to the Heritage Lottery Fund to support the improvements it is planning to the church, which leaves the field clear for one or more bids for funds to support the three projects above. The various 'outcome measures' which the HLF require when it makes grants - for example being able to show increased community involvement - may be onerous to achieve, but with the goodwill of the parish behind the projects we stand a good chance of being successful.
As a last resort we could try crowdfunding. We are not familiar with this source of funding and need to research it further, but a preliminary look suggests it may be a possibility.
Access to the two most likely sources of funding, the HS2 Community Fund and Charities, require the History Group to become a registered charity and Mixbury History Group has been exploring this over the last couple of months. The Charity Commission has all sorts of advice about different types of charity, the responsibilities of Trustees of the charity, and the registration process. The model we have settled on is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO).
The Foundation model for a CIO is run by a small group of trustees. It must be registered with, and make an annual report to, the Charity Commission. This model seems to be exactly what is needed to take Mixbury's history and archaeological project forward. The Charity Commission document: 'Constitution of a Charitable Incorporated Organisation whose only voting members are its charity trustees' sets out what we needed to do before we applied for recognition as a Charity. We have constructed the Constitution so that the trustees will receive no renumeration. We are now waiting to hear from the Charity Commission about our application.
We have kept the number of Charity Trustees small (up to 7) for focus and ease of management, but we have always said that Mixbury's history and heritage belongs to everyone. So, from the outset, the Trust will explore the idea of creating 'Associate Membership' for parishioners who want it. This will allow us to interact more frequently with those people who re particularly interested in Mixbury's history and archaeology. We will brief Associates regularly and use them as a 'sounding board' as we go forward. Of course, from time to time we may still want to address the whole parish but not at the same level or with the same frequency as the Associates. Anyone can approach is about our work but Associates will be encouraged to contribute ideas and questions. Together the Trustees and Associates should make a good team with wider perspectives than if the work is left to the 'historians' alone.
When the Trust is established as a charity we will send out further information to all parishioners to set out the 'joining' process for Associates. One benefit which some people may see from this arrangement is that we should be bothering less those folk who detested history at school and who have continued to do so ever since! Parishioners will be entirely self-selecting about whether to be included in the Associate programme. The Trust will also explore at an early date the idea of Associate Membership for younger people - to date nearly all of what the History Group has done has been aimed at adult audiences. Protecting heritage both in Mixbury and in other places will be more effective if we can encourage younger people to be involved now.
What the charity will do
The Charity's objects will be ambitious. Mixbury has a great story to tell and we are keen to see it used for education purpose, to help institutions make decisions about the parish and to give people a sense of place and pride in where they live.
The Charity Commission required us to set out our objects so they spelled out the strategic purposes of the charity; how we go about achieving them and who will benefit from them. These are:
The promotion of the parish's history, archaeology and heritage in order to advance the education of children and adults in Mixbury and elsewhere.
The advancement of citizenship and community development.
The advancement and protection of the parish's heritage.
Better informed decision making about changes in Mixbury.
By making relevant information available through our website (mixburyhistory.co.uk); publications (books and in journals); presentations and mobile displays; and by creating a permanent history display/archive in the parish church.
By promulgating our work to organisations who use information about the parish's heritage to make decisions affecting the parish eg: Cherwell District Council - planning applications (see WHO below for other examples).
By working with schools within a radius of 12 miles of Mixbury to provide materials about the parish which help the delivery of the national curriculum (Key stages 1-3 specifically require work on local histories); and which help history teaching at all ages in schools which do not have to follow the national curriculum for history (notably Academies).
By working with Universities to provide information and learning opportunities abut Mixbury (eg: fieldwork), for students taking relevant degrees.
By undertaking research ie: desktop, fieldwork, visits to record offices etc.
By dealing with queries about Mixbury from parishioners and visitors.
By encouraging young people generally to show an interest in where they live.
The information immediately above about the organisation's purposes, and how it carries out those purposes, form the core of the business plan, together with the information below about who will benefit from its activities. The CIO will be a new organisation and once incorporated it will need to consider priorities and timescales in order to produce a firm business plan.
Mixbury parishioners, past, present and future
Organisations making or informing decisions affecting Mixbury e.g. Oxfordshire County Council - the maintenance of the Historic Environment Record as background to planning decisions; Cherwell District Council - matters concerning the Conservation Area, and planning applications; Oxford Diocesan Advisory Committee - changes to the listed church, and churchyard; Historic England - changes to the listed church and other matters affecting the parish's heritage.
School pupils and university students
Umbrella organisations of which Mixbury History Group has membershop (at present, Oxfordshire Local History Organisation and the British Association for Local History); and where individuals have membership (e.g. the Roman Road Association); and of whom the parish is part, in particular the Shelswell group of churches (churches in 10 local parishes make up the benefice).
Anyone interested in history
In addition to the above we have aspirations to engage the parish in three Mixbury 'traditions'. The first is 'Rushbearing': a custom dating from the Middle Ages, when most buildings had mud floors. Fresh rushes were brought to the church to strew on the floor, which wouldn't have had a stone surface before the C19th, The rushes were used as a disposable carpet - and helped to overcome the odour of bodies buried below the church! The church floor was constructed so the door could open over the top of the layer of rushes - which is why you step down to go into the church (and many old buildings, generally). We do not know whether Mixbury had a rushbearing festival, but we do know that they were popular elsewhere.
The second tradition is the Mayday celebrations. We know that Mixbury had these, up until the late 1940s. The format was the creation of a bower of flowers into which the village dolls were placed. They were then paraded around the parish by the children.
The third tradition is lace-making which is not as old nor as long-lived as the Mayday celebrations or the practice of rushbearing. Lace-making was important in the village between 1850 and 1880, when greater wealth amongst the middle classes nationally supported what became a cottage industry. In the census of 1871 52 % of women over the age of 13 years described their employment as lace-making; the money they earned was a valuable supplement to the wages of the parish's agricutural workers. The photograph shows Mrs Bolton, on the left, making pillow lace. Although lace-making by hand was 'killed off' in the late C19th by the advent of mechanisation, and the Education Act, requiring children to attend school), it continued as a hobby into the C20th before disappearing altogether.
There is no timescale for resurrecting these traditions, but we shall be talking to the organisers of the village fete about what might be done in 2022, which is the 100th anniversary of the fete.