Find our blog on our new website

You can now find our SPAB Maintenance Co-operatives blog and lots of news and information on all our events, together with technical advice on looking after places of worship on our new website   We will no longer be updating this blog or Maintenance Co-operatives project information on this website  - thanks for your interest and look forward to seeing you on our new site

The SPAB Maintenance Co-operatives Project team


Happy New Year

Happy New Year from the Maintenance Co-ops Project Team!

As those who came to our conference in York at the end of November last year will have heard, 2014 was a busy year for the MCP Team. It was largely spent getting know our areas, holding launch events and training sessions, and working with local volunteers to set up our first Co-op groups.

For those who couldn’t make it to York to hear about what we’ve been doing, the presentations are all now available to watch on YouTube (click here to view them). In addition to updates from the MCP team, they include our guest speakers too. This means lots of really useful tips and advice ranging from the costs and benefits of opening your building to visitors, to caring for your churchyard, and applying for faculty.

2015 promises to be just as busy, with newly formed co-ops across the country getting ready to undertake baseline surveys and put maintenance plans into action. The Melbury Team in the South West, for example, are gearing up for a gutter clear day at St Osmond Church, Evershot; and in Lincolnshire, volunteers will be learning all about how to deal with damp at St Andrews Church, Sausthorpe. Check out our events page for full details of all upcoming events.


To round-off the year (or perhaps launch the silly season) we are delighted to have a guest post from one of our (anonymous) volunteers, about his recent experience with the Melbury Team Maintenance Project in Dorset. All views are his own.

Intelligence operatives monitoring SPAB activities recently identified further incursions into the South West with temporary training camps established in Cattistock and Rampisham.  It came as little surprise that a co-ordinated assault on Wraxall Chapel and Chilfrome Church soon followed.   Reliable sources have identified that MTMP, a little known group closely linked to SPAB, was responsible for these well co-ordinated and highly effective actions. Unnamed sources state that the operations were so fast and clinically executed that few local people were even aware of what occurred in the heart of their communities.

The same sources confidently state that the recent action against relatively low profile targets was a pre-cursor to more ambitious co-ordinated actions involving as many as 16 Melbury places of Christian worship.  A shadowy MTMP spokesman, known only as GP, made it clear that MTMP is confident it has sufficient grass root support to fulfil strategic activity for many years.

Research reveals a surprising amount about SPAB.  Funded by both governmental and individual means it operates largely from premises in the dubious area of Spital Square, London ensuring manoeuvrability by establishing mobile outstations in selected locations throughout the country.  It appears that a battle hardened SPAB operative, believed to be Colm O’Kelly, is operating in the Somerset and Dorset area and masterminding its growth in the South West.  Of interest to the Intelligence community, the recent 8 man hit group of mainly local men included Tony Winlow who is thought to have recently slipped away from  London and is now holed up just over the Devon border.  His role remains the subject of intense speculation.

An Intelligence spokesman stated that even the most close-knit of groups are known to drop their guard and MTMP proved no exception.  Having successfully extracted themselves from Chilfrome, loose talk overheard at a Cattistock R&R facility revealed the staggering extent of their ambition.

The Chimes believes it is in the community’s wider interest that MTMP’s plans are placed on the public record and has no hesitation in unilaterally doing so.  Now read on …….

SPAB is the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.  MTMP is the Melbury Team Maintenance Project, a joint venture supporting all 16 of our churches and chapels.  Led by Lawrie Goff (Maiden Newton) and Sean Lavan (Cattistock) the Project comprises a group of volunteers whose function is to help ensure the fabric and longevity of our wonderful buildings by identifying and undertaking those basic maintenance functions that, if left undone, have such a debilitating impact.  From Baseline Surveys, to gutter and gully cleaning (as happened at Wraxall and Chilfrome), to more complex tasks, the Group will work for us all.   It is a collective:  we jointly blitz the work.  It is fun (yes, really):   because we meet, work and banter with people outside our own Parish.  And it’s satisfying:  because we know we’ve done something really worthwhile, and, most importantly, because we invariably retire to a suitable hostelry on completion.

Before the gutters were cleared....

Before the gutters were cleared….

The Melbury Team clearing gutters, November 2014

The Melbury Team clearing gutters, November 2014

The team gets to work

The team gets to work

Colm O'Kelly checks those gutters

Colm O’Kelly checks those gutters

If you’re interested in getting involved in a Maintenance Co-op in Dorset or Somerset, contact Colm O’Kelly, our Regional Project Officer for the area, on  


This is both urgent and important. Please read now and consider whether you need to take action – for example, telling others about this opportunity, or applying for money for your listed place of worship.

In his  (3 December) Autumn Statement, the Chancellor announced a new, one-off grant scheme for roofs and gutters of listed places of worship.

£15 million pounds is available, for grants of between £10k and £100k. But the timescales for applications are exceptionally short as the closing date for applications is 12pm (Noon) on Friday 30th January 2015. Athough, if you are awarded a grant, you will then have reasonable time to complete the work.

Fortunately you don’t need to be too far down the road to apply. For example, you don’t need to have gained all the necessary permissions from the planning or denominational authorities. Obviously ou will need to be able to show that the work needs doing, for example by using a reasonably-recent architect’s inspection.

But anyone wishing to benefit from this will need to move fast, as applications have to be in by the end of January. The application form gives me the impression of having been intelligently designed with this situation in mind.

There is now a dedicated website up and running. It’s at . Usefully it includes an enquiry facility.

A few other useful points:

  • This grant is not funded by money from the Lottery.
  • Trusts which care for redundant places of worship are eligible under certain circumstances. See page 4 of the guidance pdf.
  • Please note that the paper application form on the website is not to be used – it is for reference, to allow you to plan an application – applications will be done online, the facility being available from 22 December on the website.
  • The Church of England has prepared some useful background material on their ChurchCare website, and this will probably be helpful to all denominations and faith groups.

By Becky Payne


Training on Management Major Building Projects in Places of Worship taking place on 26th February 2015 in London.

‘Contraints and obstacles to overcome and the road littered with discarded drawings, seemingly insoluble problems, frustrations beyond measure and how many meetings?  Olive Sutcliffe, Churchwarden. (taken from a record and memento celebrating the opening of St Agatha’s, Brightwell-cum-Sotwell’s church room in 2012)
This is the 4th such training day organised by the Historic Religious Buildings Alliance in partnership and with financial support from PurcellUK. The day deals with the management of all stages of a building project in a place of worship, from start up through to making sure benefits are achieved over the long term. Presentations  include  ’developing your vision’, ‘engaging with the wider community’, ‘fund-raising’, ‘working with your architect and managing works once on site’ . There will also be a session from the Heritage Lottery Fund as well as lunch-time surgeries where individuals cases can be discussed. Anyone involved in such an undertaking, of whatever size, will find it invaluable.
A flyer and a booking form can be downloaded from the Historic Religious Buildings Alliance website here . You can also book directly online from the PurcellUk website here
A fifth training day is being organised to take place in Sheffield in the last week in June 2015. Date to be confirmed.
by Becky Payne

From Gutter to Spire – a conference on the co-operative approach to looking after faith buildings

by Becky Payne

Last Friday, 21st November, 85 people gathered in the wonderful 14th century Merchant Taylors Hall in central York to mark the start of National Maintenance Week 2014.

Conference 2









The day began with a talk by Sara Crofts, Deputy Director and Head of Casework at SPAB reminding us why places of worship are so special, valued by their congregations as well as those in the wider community, as well as being appreciated for their architecture and skilled craftsmanship. She also reminded us that it was incidents of unfortunate ‘restoration’ being carried out on old buildings, many of them churches in the 19th century that led to the foundation of SPAB by William Morris et al in 1877.  I had certainly forgotten that the west front of St Albans Abbey is largely the work of Lord Grimthorpe who imposed (and paid for) his own incongruous fantasy designs on the building and in the process destroyed the earlier medieval work.

We then heard two presentations from Stella Jackson and Kate Andrew, Maintenance Co-operatives Project Regional Project Officers for Lincolnshire and Hereford and Worcestershire respectively. They gave us insight into how the Maintenance Co-operatives projects are developing and it all sounded very positive. I liked the fact that although there is now guidance and support documentation available on the MCP website!handbook/c1jzn  on how to set up a co-operative, both Stella and Kate stressed that there is no fixed way to do it. Both felt that it was important that groups felt that there was flexibility and that they were given the freedom to come up with their own ideas and develop ways of working that suited their particular context.

Maintenance is obviously the key facet of the MCP, but maintenance is not being looked at in isolation from all the other aspects of looking after a place of worship.  Stella and Kate showed that they are using their training events and individual contact with churches to also offer advice on fundraising, engaging with the local community, developing their buildings etc. And so it made perfect sense that the other three presentations covered other subjects too – after all a perfectly maintained building is not worth much unless people be they worshippers, visitors, community groups are also benefitting from being able to use it.

Sarah Crossland, National Support Officer, National Churches Trust offered very practical advice for places of worships who are considering opening their doors as well as helpful reminders to those who might have been welcoming visitors for years. A key point she made was that it is vital to be clear among yourselves about what you mean by welcome and how you want your visitors to respect the space.  Discussions need to include the congregation, but also any volunteers who are going to be welcoming.  Tea cups or bags left on the altar can cause distress and people need to know that they can tell visitors to remove them.

Andrea Gilpin, National Project Manager, Caring for God’s Acre reminded us of the rich potential of churchyards and burial grounds. They are very often the oldest enclosure in a community harbouring unimproved and undisturbed grassland thus provided habitats for a huge range of flora, fauna, birds and lichen. And who knew that English and Welsh churchyards house the best collection of yew trees (some over 500 years old) across the whole of Europe.  As well as providing quiet green spaces for wildlife and humans alike, they can be developed for a range of activities including social history educational projects for local schools and places for art. As Andrea said, maintaining a churchyard and researching its history can be a great way of involving the non-church-going members of the community.

The final presentation from Andrew Mottram, Heritage Buildings and Community Development Officer, Diocese of Worcester was a robust look at the Faculty System, why it’s necessary and how it works.  As he said, if you understand the reason behind the need to get permission then it you will find it easier, whereas if you don’t then it will only seem a bureaucratic burden. He stressed how important it is to talk to your DAC (or equivalent in other denominations) and keep on talking. He also held out hope for the Faculty Simplification rules due to come into effect in January 2015 which are intended to decrease the bureaucracy as well the length of time it takes to get permission.

I found it an inspiring day which renewed my enthusiasm for these buildings. If I was to sum up the key messages of the day, then at their most simplest, I would say that most things are not rocket science and that the best starting point is to identify and then talk to those who know.

Lincolnshire Grants Workshop, 23rd Sept 2014

The grants workshop that we held in Lincolnshire on 23rd of September was very well-attended, and included a fascinating programme of presentations and workshops. Everyone said they enjoyed the day, both speakers and delegates, and the workshop sessions were great for getting us all thinking, and arguing (politely) about what should be funded and what shouldn’t.

1. Katie Lloyd, HLF, Grants Workshop, 23.09.14 SJ cropped

The day started with an overview of HLF funding from Katie Lloyd of HLF East Midlands , who ran through each of the HLF’s grant programmes, including Grants for Places of Worship, which can provide funds for urgent repairs identified in Quinquennial Inspections.

Marie Chapman and Adam Dixon of Lincolnshire CVS then ran a workshop on preparing a grant application, in which we had to ‘get our ducks in order’, with delegates discussing what needs to be done first when thinking about making an application.

4. Lincs CVS, putting our ducks in order, Grants Workshop, 23.09.14 SJ

Following this we had some short presentations about the grants and advice offered by a number of national organisations:

  • Sarah Crossland spoke about the National Churches Trust and the advice that she can offer to places of worship
  • Valerie Lovett introduced the connexial grants offered by the Methodist Church
  • Dr. David Knight gave an overview of the Church of England’s grants and advice which are provided via the ChurchCare team

12. Dr. David Knight, Churchcare, CofE, Grants Workshop, 23.09.14 SJ

After lunch David was back to run a workshop on writing grant applications, and asked delegates to think about what significance means, how urgent their project is, and why it is justified, and gave advice on how to make these stand out in applications.

15. Dr. David Knight, Churchcare, CofE, is it urgent, Grants Workshop, 23.09.14 SJ

Following David’s workshop, we were very lucky to have a presentation by Peter Arundel of the All Churches Trust, who was supposed to be on holiday this week! He gave a fascinating talk about the work of the Trust and the grants that they can award.

Diana Coulter of Artemis Heritage then ran a fantastic workshop which allowed delegates to put into practice everything that they’d learnt earlier in the day. Everyone was given a copy of a grant application, and after discussing the applications, were asked to move tables to form ‘heritage Trusts’ who would then decide which applications should be awarded a grant, or not, and why.

21. Diana Coulter, Artemis Heritage, All move! Forming charitable trusts, Grants Workshop, 23.09.14 SJ23. Diana Coulter, Artemis Heritage, Trusts deciding which projects to fund, Grants Workshop, 23.09.14 SJ

We ended the day with a short talk from Peter Milnes of Lincolnshire Churches Trust on the work of the Trust and how to join; and an overview of the advice and guidance offered to Anglican churches by the Diocesan Church Buildings Team, including Matthew Godfrey, Support Officer, and Ben Stoker, Development Officer.

Key points from the day included:

  • Make sure that your application is relevant to the outcomes of the body you’re applying to
  • Focus your application on those outcomes
  • If the organisation will only fund certain activities, think about how you can tailor aspects of your project to meet these
  • Make sure the project is feasible and justifiable
  • Talk to the funders and ask their advice

A big thank you to everyone who came, hope to see you all again at future events!

Autumn events (and a toolkit) are on the way

Our programme of free autumn events to provide training for anyone helping to look after places of worship is beginning to come together.  We’ve got our launch in the North East on 17 September 2014 at St Andrew’s Hartburn. This will be run by our project officer Alaina Schmisseur with sessions on how to do a maintenance audit for your building and developing a maintenance plan from James Innerdale, our Technical Officer.

There are still a few places left for our Grants and Funding Workshop in Lincolnshire on 23 September 2014.  This will provide you with everything you need to be able to
prepare a successful grant/funding application for your place of  worship, whether it’s for repairs, or for a major re-ordering project.  And our events in Dorset and Somerset will kick off with a Faith in Maintenance training course in Wells on 29 September, followed by more events to come in October and November.

Our major event in the autumn will be our first annual Maintenance Co-operatives conference timed to coincide with National Maintenance Week. This will be on 21 November 2014 at the Merchant Taylors’ Hall in York  and will include maintenance surgeries, expert speakers and walking tours round York.  Booking will open from the end of September and we’ll post more details once we’ve finalised the programme.

You can find details of all our events on our website where you can also find the beginnings of a project toolkit to help anyone who’s looking after or helping to maintain a place of worship.  You can already download a template to help you assess the condition of your building, and a glossary to help you with technical or architectural terms if you are not familiar with them.  We’ll be adding more resources as we develop them.





Lanercost William Morris Dossal

St Mary’s church, part of historic C12th Lanercost Priory just north west of Carlisle has recently completed a major project to repair and conserve their beautiful dossal which was designed by William Morris in the late 1800s and embroidered by Mrs Bulkeley, wife of the then vicar of Lanercost, working over five years with Mrs Chapman and Mrs Dodgson, widows of the two previous vicars. The dossal, a 24 foot textile hangs behind the altar and was being eaten by white spot spider beetle and possibly mice. A big fundraising effort followed by months of careful conservation and cleaning (which included the textile travelling to Belgium for flatbed suction cleaning) saw the dossal repaired and returned in all it’s glory to it’s original location in April 2013.

Lanercost dossal 19.6 (79)
A careful regime of monthly cleaning around the dossal has been instigated to make sure there are no crumbs of food or provisions which attract the white spot spider beetle and other wildlife which could pose a threat to the delicate embroidered textile.The area is also monitored for damp which could cause mould and accelerated decay.

Lanercost Priory and church hosts a popular festival for 2 weeks at the end of June each year. As this involves construction of staging in the area beside the dossal it is taken down during the festival and stored safely out of harms way in a specially constucted ‘dossal box’.

Lanercost dossal team 19.6
The ‘Dossal team’, headed up by local volunteer Christine Boyce, is now looking for some more volunteers to help with the monthly and annual care of the dossal.

To find out what was involved I joined the team on 19 June for the annual putting away of the dossal before the festival. The process included careful removal and hoovering of the dossal and its adjacent carpets, checking for any signs of animal or damp damage before rolling it up and fitting carefully into its dossal box which is monitored for moisture to ensure optimum storage conditions.

Lanercost dossal 19.6 (130)

Lanercost dossal 19.6 (89)Lanercost dossal 19.6 (134)

Lanercost dossal 19.6 (121)

It was a lovely practical and sociable day and a rather a thrill to handle an actual piece of William Morris textile – albeit very carefully and with gloves on. Sadly I wasn’t able to join the team to rehang it after the festival and this is one of the things that Christine is looking for more help with – a day’s time in mid June and again in early July to help with the putting away and taking out of this wonderful historic fabric.

It is through the ongoing care of the volunteers that this historic art work can still be displayed in situ in its original home rather than ‘boxed in’ under more museum display style conditions. If you are interested in finding out what’s involved in helping with the annual putting away and taking out of the dossal, or in other ways you coud help please contact Christine Boyce at

Lanercost dossal 19.6 (127)

Lanercost dossal 19.6 (58)Lanercost dossal 19.6 (80)

Project Evaluator wanted, deadline 30 June 2014

We are looking to appoint an external Project Evaluator to work with our team to deliver the Maintenance Co-operatives Project Evaluation Strategy.  The timescale is from July 2014 to December 2016 (estimated 3-5 weeks’ work over three years) and the deadline for proposals is 30 June 2014.  Proposals (maximum 4 sides of A4) should detail how you would go about delivering the project’s Evaluation Strategy, and include an outline of your or your company’s background, similar projects that you have worked on, details of who would be carrying out the work and two references. You can find the Evaluation Tender and the Evaluation Strategy on our website home page  or email Sheila Christie, the Project Administrator, on