Both new and long-standing members may have found themselves puzzled by the relationship between the North Craven Heritage Trust and its sister organisation, the Building Preservation Trust. It is hoped that the following article, approved by the North Craven Heritage Trust Committee and the Building Preservation Trust, will help to dispel some of the confusion which has grown up over the respective aims and roles of these two organisations, particularly as far as the Museum of North Craven Life is concerned.
The North Craven Heritage Trust (NCHT), formerly the Settle and District Civic Society, was founded as a charitable trust in 1968 to stimulate interest in, and to help safeguard, the distinctive beauty, history and character of the North Craven area. It encourages high standards of architecture and town planning, promotes the preservation and sympathetic development of the area's special historic features and helps to protect its natural environment.
The Building Preservation Trust (BPT) was formed as an offshoot of the Settle and District Civic Society in 1976, in the wake of European Architecture Year. It has the rather more specific aim of encouraging public interest in the preservation and sympathetic restoration of our building heritage. It sets an example of good practice by buying old and derelict property, improving it and restoring its original character, and selling it in order to finance its next purchase and restoration project. Its initial capital stemmed from a loan from the Civic Trust, a national body which funds many Building Preservation Trusts in a similar way, and from donations made by its founder members. In common with over 100 similar Building Preservation Trusts in Britain, the Settle-based Building Preservation Trust is a limited company with charitable status. Like many of its counterparts, too, it works in tandem with its local Civic Society, in this case the NCHT, its nine Trustees also all being NCHT members. Over the years the NCHT has supported the BPT, publicising and raising funds for its Museum -related projects. Nevertheless the two Trusts are separate organisations, although one originally grew out of the other.
The activities of the BPT and the NCHT have been most closely linked in the founding and development of the Museum of North Craven Life. As many members know, the present Museum was first established in 1976 in the Barn in Twisleton's Yard, where it was run by the Museum Committee of the then Settle and District Civic Society. It found a permanent home soon after in a 19th Century warehouse in Victoria Street, acquired by the newly-formed BPT and leased to the NCHT for a peppercorn rent. This building was restored and converted with sponsorship from the Job Creation Programme, other grants, and with the proceeds from the Museum Appeal launched jointly by both Trusts in 1977. The Museum continued to be run and financed by the Museum Committee of the NCHT, whilst the BPT concerned itself with the building and its restoration. These premises proved too small for the Museum's expanding collection, and a larger and more central location was sought In 1983 the BPT sold the Victoria Street site, and set the proceeds against the purchase price of 6/8 Chapel Street, the aim being to convert the building into a Heritage Centre housing the Museum, a shop, a Museum storeroom, a local history archive, a community meeting room and offices for both Trusts. All those concerned with the Museum at that time agreed to its transfer to the Chapel Street site, where, of course, it still is today. The informal co-operation between the two Trusts continued, the NCHT concerning itself with Museum and curatorial matters and the BPT taking responsibility for the building and its restoration.
The ambitious project of renovating and adapting the Chapel Street site could not have been achieved without the help, between 1985 and 1988, of the Manpower Services Commission (MSC) scheme. Applications for MSC funding had to be made through an Agent, and the nearest one to Settle proved to be the Pendle Heritage Centre Agency, where Mr Miller (Secretary and Treasurer of the BPT) was Director, and able to give the project his personal attention. As members will know, the MSC schemes were designed to provide work for unemployed persons for a year at a time, with the Agency employing them being reimbursed by the Government. MSC employees were recruited firstly for the restoration of the building, and were supervised from the PHC. Later other MSC employees were engaged to catalogue the collection, prepare and mount new exhibitions, and assist generally in the Museum's development directed by Mr Miller but guided locally by members of the Museum Committee and other helpers. The MSC scheme also met the Museum's overheads (heating, lighting, telephone etc.).
Nevertheless the BPT faced a shortfall on the purchase price of the building and on the cost of the materials used in its restoration. Applications were therefore made for further grants from a variety of organisations, which included English Heritage, the Countryside Commission, the Yorkshire and Humberside Museums Council, Craven District Council, North Yorkshire County Council, the Pilgrim Trust, the Carnegie UK Trust and the Normanby Trust. Gifts in kind, too, were received from local firms. In 1984 a further Museum Appeal was launched, once again under the joint banners of the NCHT and the BPT, and in 1986 a successful Auction to raise funds for the Chapel Street restoration project also took place. The MSC funding transformed the Museum project into a major venture, both in physical and financial terms. In 1985 the BP Trustees, upon whom most of the financial management of the Heritage Centre had by then devolved, felt bound to place its earlier, informal, administrative structure onto a more official footing. In 1985 and 1986 a series of meetings were held between the BPT, the NCHT and its Museum Committee to define the roles to be played by each organisation in the running of the Centre and the Museum within it. Eventually in June 1986 it was agreed that the BPT, as landlord, should, through its Centre Management Committee, administer the Centre and its finances, apportioning running costs to each user, handling all its trading activities, appointing and supervising its staff, and preparing a budget for running the Centre jointly with the NCHT. The NCHT, on the other hand, was responsible for appointing a Museum Committee, whose Chairman would sit on the BPT Centre Management Committee and which would organise volunteers to staff the Museum, mount exhibitions within a budget allocated to it by the BPT, and publicise activities. The NCHT also agreed to make an annual donation towards the cost of running the Museum to the BPT, and to help raise additional funds for the Heritage Centre.
The abolition of the MSC schemes by the Government in 1988 highlighted the need for a Curator to maintain the Museum's newly-found impetus. The BPT explored alternative sources of funding, and decided to take advantage of an opportunity to share a full-time Curator, Mrs Angela Edgar, with the Pendle Heritage Centre. Mrs Edgar's three-year contract, which expires in 1992, is funded by four bodies, Craven District Council, Pendle Borough Council, the Yorkshire and Humberside Museums Council and the North West Area Museums Council, and her work has contributed greatly to the Museum's continuing development.
The appointment of a Curator by a panel which included a representative of the Museum Committee led, in 1990, to a further redefinition of the roles of various interested groups in the Centre. The Curator took over the day to day running of the Museum, supported by the Museum Committee. The latter lost its role of preparing, jointly with the BPT, a yearly budget for the Centre, but its Chairman continued to be a member of the BPT Centre Management Committee which, as well as managing the Centre, its staff and its finances now took charge of the Museum's collections policy. The NCHT retained its responsibility as fund-raiser for the Heritage Centre, notably through an Endowment Appeal launched jointly with the BPT at the time of the 21st Anniversary celebrations in 1990. At this point the working relationship between the BPT Management Committee and the Museum Committee seems to have foundered. At the NCHT AGM in October 1990, the Chairman of the Museum Committee reported that the Committee, unhappy about what it felt had become a marginal role, had resigned.
For a while after this, the Heritage Centre, and the Museum within it, was run by a Centre Management Committee composed only of BP Trustees because the vehicle for NCHT representation (namely the Museum Committee) no longer existed. In April 1991, however, the NCHT reviewed the Trust's links with the BPT and the Museum. After long discussion it decided against one option of withdrawing completely from any further involvement with the Museum, including stopping the £1,000 contribution which it has made in the past towards the running of the Centre. It did so because it felt that it would be a great pity if the long-standing involvement of the NCHT in the Museum were to be lost forever. Though it readily acknowledges that the Museum would not exist in its present form without the efforts of the BPT, NCHT members (some of whom are now also BP Trustees) had helped to found the Museum, and ran it themselves for many years. Over the years too, the NCHT has given the Museum, and lately the Centre, considerable amounts of money, including receipts from publications published in its name, and many members will remember the various fund-raising schemes and events in which it has co-operated with the BPT to try to secure the Museum's future. Though these sums do not match the government and charitable grants, and the personal donations, ably negotiated by the BPT, they are, nonetheless, quite substantial. It would have been sad if all this time, money and effort had been forgotten.
Instead the Committee favoured a more constructive approach to maintaining its association with the Museum of North Craven Life whilst recognising that much of the responsibility for its management, at the moment, no longer lies in its hands. It has appointed Mr Arthur Lupton to be the NCHT's independent representative on the BPT Centre Management Committee. Mr Lupton now represents the NCHT in discussions about the running and the future of the Museum and the Centre, and was warmly welcomed at his first meeting. The BPT has also assured the NCHT that any donation which it makes to the Museum and the Centre will go, as before, only to these projects and not to its other property restoration schemes, which are treated separately in its accounts. Both the NCHT and the BPT very much hope that this kind of improved communication will help resolve the confusion which has previously existed about this complicated issue.
Meanwhile volunteers still assist in manning the Centre, and meet at the beginning and end of each season to discuss Museum activities and developments. At the moment the NCHT continues to contribute towards the upkeep of the Museum; in 1991 it gave the BPT £1,000, as shown in the accounts approved at the NCHT AGM on 11 October 1991. This, of course, is only a small percentage of the Centre's running costs, and, as Mr Miller reported at the AGM, it has, since 1989, been running at a considerable deficit. It should be noted here that the Museum is currently being provided with rent-free accommodation by the BPT. Funding for the post of Curator shared between the Pendle and North Craven Heritage Centres ceases in 1992, and Mrs Edgar has recently resigned to take up an appointment at the Oldham Local Studies Centre. Craven District Council and the Yorkshire and Humberside Museums Council have, however, agreed to fund the post of a part-time Curator at the North Craven Heritage Centre for a further year from April 1992 whilst the Yorkshire and Humberside Museums Council reviews Museum policy generally in the Craven area. Thus the Museum's future still remains insecure.
In the meantime the BPT's ownership of the North Craven Heritage Centre is not the only example of its policy of buying and renovating old and neglected buildings. It has been engaged in converting Undercliffe, a three storey Victorian house on the main southern approach to Settle, which it acquired in 1959 with a loan from the Architectural Heritage Fund. The project has improved the external appearance of the building, which has been converted into two flats; these have recently been let to local people. Part of the income from these lets will go towards the conversion, into one or possibly two flats, of the adjacent barn, which has been generously given to the BPT on condition that the converted accommodation is also occupied by local people. Because of the dual involvement of the NCHT and the BPT in the North Craven Heritage Centre, it is sometimes thought that the NCHT has a hand in these projects. This is not the case, and the project remains the responsibility of the BPT only.
I am very grateful to the many people I have consulted from both Trusts who have helped me to write this historical account of the relationship between the two organisations. It has been no easy task to do this fairly and accurately. Now both Trusts hope that we can all look forward positively, so that each organisation can pursue its respective aims, and so that we can work together to secure the Museum's future.