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