A Brief Background to the Mansel-Pleydell & Cecil Trust
After John Clavell Mansel-Pleydell’s death in 1902 a fund to commission the portrait which now hangs in the Dorset County Museum was over-subscribed by £83.00, which was boosted two years later by a gift of £300.00 from his successor as President, Lord Eustace Cecil. The two funds were combined to promote a scheme for the furtherance of the study of natural history, archaeology and physical sciences in Dorset.
The original concept was to provide a silver medal and a small cash prize (which had to be spent on books) for the winner of each of two competitions - an academic essay involving original research in an aspect of Dorset’s archaeology or natural history specified by the Trustees in the case of Mansel-Pleydell, and a paper on chemistry or the application of electricity to medicine and healing, domestic and farm use, or motor power generally in the case of Cecil was eligible.
Over the years, however, this has been adapted so that the more specific requirements of the Cecil competition have been absorbed into the wider application of the Mansel-Pleydell one. Entrants can choose their own subjects within those wider terms and the medals have been replaced by larger cash prizes. In addition a “Number 2 Essay Competition has been introduced." This is for a shorter and less academic piece of work with a Dorset connection, which would make a valuable addition to the Museum’s archives. The Cecil competition is now for any project involving the application of science which promotes interest in, and awareness of, any aspect of Dorset’s local, cultural, archaeological or natural history. Prospective entrants for any of the three competitions are advised to submit suggested topics and a synopsis to the Trustees to check eligibility in advance, and entries when received are scrutinised by an independent panel of readers before recommendations for prizes are made to the Trustees, of whom there are currently six, for a decision.
Income is now also used for grants towards aspects of the work of the Dorset Museum. More recently Trustees have decided to use surplus funds to give grants and support towards activities requested by schools to enable young people to explore Dorset’s rich natural and human environment.