Launch events for Maintenance Co-ops are underway … and newsletter coming soon

Our team have been busy over the last couple of months setting up (free) launch events in all the areas we cover.  Kate Andrew, our Project Officer in Herefordshire & Worcestershire, ran a successful launch in Peterchurch in Herefordshire on 14 May, and will be putting on a similar event (morning session plus simple networking lunch, all free) for interested volunteers in Worcestershire at Areley Kings, near Stourport in Worcestershire on Saturday 31 May.

Meanwhile Stella Jackson, our Project Officer for Lincolnshire has set up two launch events for local volunteers.  The first is in Whaplode Village Hall on Saturday 31 May for anyone in South Lincolnshire, and a second one for North Lincolnshire on Saturday 28 June at the Arts Centre at Caistor Town Hall.  Both events are free from 10am to 4pm and will include lunch.  James Innerdale, our Technical Officer, will be running a session on doing a maintenance audit in your place of worship and what you need to record.

There will be follow-up events in both Herefordshire & Worcestershire and in Lincolnshire coming up shortly, as well as events coming soon in all the other project areas of Dorset & Somerset, Cumbria and the North East.  You can find out the details via our website (click on ‘come to an event’) shortly.  We’re also in the process of setting up our first annual conference, which this year will be on Friday 21 November 2014 in York, to coincide with National Maintenance Week.  More details soon.

Finally, we will be sending out our first project newsletter (by email) very soon – if you would like to sign up to receive this by email every quarter, you can sign up through our website


ITV Border News report on Cumbria Maintenance Co-operatives Project

Following the Diocese of Carlisle press release in support of the Maintenance Co-operatives Project, ITV Border news contacted us to see if they could do a short piece about the project for their 6pm Lookaround news magazine slot on Thursday 3 April.

The news editor was keen to interview not only someone from Carlisle Diocese but also me with a volunteer involved with caring for a local church.

There followed lots of ringing around to see if any of the churches who’d expressed an interest in being involved with the project were willing and able to come and do some filming with Paul Crone the cameraman/presenter from Border News the following morning. Mike Higginbottom from St Michael’s at Kirkby Thore near Appleby bravely stepped up to the mark on the basis that all publicity is good publicity so the shoot was arranged.

St Michael’s is a grade 2* church on the Heritage at Risk register due mainly to the chancel walls wanting to part company with the roof – with visible cracks appearing in an arch put in by the Victorians. They are in the process of trying to raise significant funds to undertake the repair works.

The filming itself took about an hour and a half, with the presenter and cameraman doing the whole thing single handed – involving much running backwards and forwards to adjust the camera when filming his own introduction. He then sped off to Keswick to interview the Venerable Richard Pratt, Archdeacon for West Cumbria, for his thoughts about the project.

It’s always interesting which bits of the interviews make the cut and hopefully the finished piece, which can be seen for a limited time on the ITV website gives a good indication of what the project is about. It’s fantastic publicity for us to launch the project and raise awareness about it in Cumbria and we’re delighted that Border felt it was important enough of a story to focus on it for the regional news.

Huge thanks to Dave Roberts Diocese of Carlisle Communications Officer, Mike Higginbottom St Michael’s Treasurer, St Michael’s Churchwarden Margaret and the Venerable Richard Pratt, not to mention Paul Crone from Border TV too of course.

Link to the ITV Border News – Lottery funding to help maintain historic churches 4 April 2014

Sue Manson
SPAB Maintenance Cooperative Project Regional Project Officer Cumbria

Kirkby Thore filming Paul 2.4.14 Kirkby Thore Mike filming Higginbottom Kirkby Thore ITV filming team cropped Kirkby Thore setting up the shot Kirkby Thore filming 2.4.1

Launch events on the way in Herefordshire and Worcestershire

We will be running two launch events for the Maintenance Co-ops project in Herefordshire (14 May 2014) and Worcestershire (31 May 2014). Both events are for anyone caring for a place of worship in the local area and interested in volunteering to help undertake basic maintenance at a place of worship.

The Herefordshire launch will take place on Wednesday 14 May 2014 from 10am to 1pm (followed by a soup and networking lunch) at St Peter’s Church, Church Road, Peterchurch, Herefordshire HR2 0RS.  The event is free to attend but you must register – you can register and find full programme details here

The Worcestershire launch is on Saturday 31 May 2014, from 10am to 1pm (followed by a soup and networking lunch) at Church House, adjacent to St Bartholomew’s Church, Areley Kings, nr Stourport, Worcestershire DY13 0TB.  This event is also free to attend but you must register – you can register and find full programme details here.

Diocese of Carlisle supports the Maintenance Co-operatives Project

We are delighted that the Diocese of Carlisle has issued the following press release in support of our project.  We look forward to working with them in Cumbria. The press release reads:

The Diocese of Carlisle is supporting a three year project, launched to help maintain Cumbria’s historic churches.


Courtesy of Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings

The ‘Maintenance Cooperatives Project’ will be run by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund.  The aim is to create a network of volunteers across the county to allow people to develop skills in the repair and upkeep of their places of worship.

We hope this project will be a real help to all the volunteers who look after Cumbria’s historic places of worship by providing training, support and skill sharing opportunities. The project is open to faith buildings of all denominations and indeed all ages. Regular maintenance is vital for all properties, regardless of age, scale or purpose and this project aims to encourage and support people already involved, and hopefully to get more people involved with looking after churches and places of worship at the heart of many communities. Research shows that every one pound spent carrying out preventative maintenance could save twenty pounds in avoidable repairs within five years.”

Cumbria is one of five regions in the UK to receive funding for the Maintenance Cooperatives. The plan is to set up five of the groups across the county over the next three years. The cooperatives will be part of a national network which will allow the sharing of ideas, resources and good practice as well as providing peer-to-peer support.
It will include a free tailored training programme for heritage-related skills designed to meet local needs and interests.  The scheme has been welcomed by The Ven Richard Pratt, Archdeacon of West Cumberland, who also has responsibility for buildings strategy for the Church of England in Cumbria. The maintenance and upkeep of our churches presents a very real strain on finances but it is imperative we do all we can to ensure our historic places of worship remain fit for purpose and open to all. By acting today to maintain places of worship properly, it means subsequent repair costs in the future can be drastically reduced. “

The project follows on from a Faith in Maintenance training programme which SPAB ran for 5 years and included three training sessions in Cumbria. To start the project off there will be three free taster maintenance training days this year, open to everyone.  If you are interested in hosting one of these training days at your place of worship you are asked to contact Sue Manson directly on 07776 197143 or via email at Their website can be accessed at

Visit to Buddhist Vihara and Dhammatalaka Peace Pagoda, Birmingham

Kate Andrew, our Regional Project Officer in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, writes:

I was fortunate, in my role as a school governor, to be able to join the Key Stage 2 pupils from Great Witley VA Primary School as one of the adult helpers on their visit to the Buddhist Vihara in Birmingham.  The pupils were visiting as part of their programme to study world religions; I was keen to visit as I had never been to a Buddhist site before, I wanted to find out what a Buddhist place of worship consists of and whether there were any potential synergies with the Maintenance Co-ops project.  The site in Birmingham that the school visited contains the Dhammatalaka Peace Pagoda, Peace gardens, accommodation for the monks and a fairly newly built teaching facility.

The site is operated on the principles of the Theravada Buddhist tradition, from Burma, which shares its beliefs and traditions with Buddhist practice in Thailand and other parts of southern Asia.  Due to links with devotees of other Buddhist traditions, statues and symbolism from the traditions of China and Tibet were also housed at the site.  Our visit was led by Robert Black, one of the Trustees of the facility.  Robert explained the history and beliefs of Buddhism generally and Theravada Buddhism in particular, the symbolism, the devotional activities that take place in the shrine room and the life and daily routine of monks.  We finished our visit with a short meditation session and achieved a sense of composure, silence and concentration from all 80 or so children and the adult helpers.

The golden pagoda is a miniature replica of Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon, Burma.  In Burma, pagodas are built directly on the ground, but due to space constraints, the Birmingham pagoda is built on top of a brick octagonal shrine room, which provides a devotional space.  The focal point of the shrine room is a large marble statue of Buddha originally from Burma, replete with a halo of colour and pattern-changing LED lights – apparently very popular with Burmese Buddhists.

The founder and original spiritual director of this community was Sayadaw Dr.Rewata Dhamma who came to the UK in 1975.   The site, close to Edgbaston Reservoir, was acquired in 1990, architects plans were drawn up and work on the mouldings and decorations started in 1994, by two visiting Burmese artists.   The not-quite-completed site started to be used for events in the autumn of 1996 so has now been in use for eighteen years.  The Burmese communities in Leeds and London are significant benefactors and gather for major festivals at the site, but on a day to day basis, Western converts to Buddhism are the main users.

It was interesting to see that the site shares many common issues with places of worship of any denomination – both old and new.  Firstly, in order to accommodate the congregation of users, it is a large space, so is difficult and costly to heat – the local solution adopted seemed to be small oil filled electric radiators to provide some background warmth.  The floor is made of teak parquet blocks, protected with large rugs.  The congregation (and our school pupils) sat on the rugs, floor cushions also provide some insulation. The large windows provide daylight and an opportunity for solar gain, but on a sunny day in early March, the room was chilly and I was pleased to have been provided with a chair to sit on.  A  central chandelier inside the dome of the pagoda and devotional candles also provide light sources.

The main entrance to the pagoda is guarded by two white and gold painted Burmese Chinthes, or lions, presumably cast in concrete.  The main door is approached through a tiled, white painted porch supported by concrete pillars; there were also two side entrances with smaller porches.  Visitors are required to remove their shoes in the porch, as a sign of respect, but also to reduce the traffic of dirt into the room.

Two Chinthes (lions) guarding the entrance

Two Chinthes (lions) guarding the entrance

Although uniquely Burmese in design, the pagoda roof has a very large surface area that drains to a gutter behind a parapet.  Rainwater removal via domestic sized rainwater goods is occasionally an issue, judging from green algal stains behind at least one downpipe and the joins between porch and main building provided some architectural challenges.  The pagoda is painted with gold coloured paint; other areas were painted white – maintenance of painted finishes must be a concern on a building of this size.  The carved Burmese teak doors are protected by the porches, but on exposed elevations, show signs of weathering.  A large can of teak oil was spotted, so preventative maintenance clearly is in hand.

Downpipe at the Buddhist Vihara, Birmingham

Downpipe at the Buddhist Vihara, Birmingham

The pagoda is surrounded by a garden area, which presents a maintenance challenge too – to keep gravelled areas and paths weed-free, prune and maintain flowering trees and shrubs, keep the grass mown and the statues and prayer wheels in good order.  These are challenges shared by all places of worship surrounded by grounds.

The site has unfortunately been subject to several burglaries and is as a result no longer taking part in Heritage Open Days, but it is open to pre-booked educational parties two days a week and visitors by appointment.   In Burma, pagodas are covered in gold leaf, supplied as offerings by visitors, but at least this is one risk not present at the site.   The web site in common with many places of worship, includes an appeal for funds to maintain the facility.

It was a privilege to be able to visit the pagoda and to gain a basic understanding of the Theravada Buddhist tradition.  There are Buddhist communities in the regions covered by the Co-ops, but not that many of them have a large places of worship built to traditional designs, such as the Birmingham Vihara.

Hands on fun at All Souls Bolton

Up north on Tuesday to attend the excellent Roofing Technical Day at All Souls Bolton, cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust and currently part of a Heritage Lottery Funded project.

Jenny Martin of Carefoot plc gave a quick and competent welcome and overview of the project and the day ahead.

This was followed by Alan Gardner’s interesting and informative talk on issues surrounding the use and supply of traditional roofing materials illustrated with examples from past projects. Along the way we learnt that a presumption against the use of membranes was a good starting point and that by using reclaimed materials instead of new and locally sourced we may be unwittingly adding to the problems of theft, limited supply and diminishing skills.

Next Adrian Walker of Lambert and Walker made a plea for better and safer working conditions for roofers. He pointed out that poorly considered access can often lead to poor quality work and that the inclusion of a scaffolding design within the tender documents can help to stop the quality and safety of access being compromised by the competitive tender process.

A tour of the roof gave us all a chance to see works in progress and to ask questions of the craftsmen on the job. On the way back we also had a chance to view the interior although access was limited by ongoing construction.

A generous lunch was then enjoyed by all. This was followed by practical sessions in lead working and slate and stone tile roofing with ample opportunities to get your hands on the tools and materials and really mess things up!

The day ended with a question and answer session which quickly focused on what can be done to stop the competitive tender process driving down quality. I’m not sure that Adrian’s question ‘How do you find out who’s good?’ was answered but the discussion was certainly food for thought.

For what its worth my view is that we need to educate the decision makers – they need to be invited and encouraged to attend days like these – so much more of the same please CCT/HLF!

Free and highly informative – what’s not to like? Check out future Technical Training Days at Alls Souls at  - but be quick tickets are going fast!

Finally a BIG thank you to:

All the craftsmen on site who made it such and interesting and informative day.

The Heritage Lottery Fund (

The Churches Conservation Trust (

Alan Gardner Associates. (

Carefoot  plc (

Lambert Walker (

Colm O’Kelly – Regional Project Officer Dorset and Somerset

SPAB Maintenance Cooperatives Project


SPAB Old House Eco Course – Maintenance is Key

Helped out at the Old House Eco Course in Hammersmith on Saturday. Well worth considering going to the next one in Coventry on the 14 June (contact: – and not just if you own an old house as many of the ideas for making old buildings more sustainable and energy efficient are equally applicable to places of worship.

The day was excellently organised by Lucy Jacob (SPAB Course Organiser) with Jonathan Garlick (SPAB Technical Officer) acting as a very knowledgeable MC.

In the morning Marianne Suhr and Roger Hunt, the authors of the accompanying book (‘Old House Eco Handbook’ available from – took it in turns to cover how walls, windows, doors, roofs, ceilings and floors could be adapted to make old buildings more energy efficient in ways that were not detrimental to their historic fabric and aesthetic appeal.

Marianne and Jonathan together with Pip Soodeen (SPAB Fellowship and Scholarship Organiser) provided a specialist advice clinic over the lunch period aimed at attendees with specific issues.

Roger started the afternoon session with a review of the relative merits of energy supply alternatives. After this Chris Newman (Parity Projects), Marianne, and Jonathan (gamely standing in for Paul Mallion of Conker Conservation) used case studies to show how the ideas covered in the morning session had been applied to real world projects. This was followed by an extended and enthusiastic question and answer session. Roger then outlined the likely future relationship between old houses, energy efficiency and sustainability and finally Jonathan brought it all to a conclusion.

Along the way we learnt that the positioning of radiators under windows was the result of a male inability to understand curtains (controversial!) and that maintenance is key – wet walls are cold walls and draughts due to holes in the fabric can undermine any insulation installed – so timely repairs and regular cleaning can make a real difference to a buildings energy efficiency.

Colm O’Kelly

SPAB Maintenance Cooperative Project Regional Project Officer Dorset and Somerset

A virtual cup of tea with the project team

One of the exciting and challenging aspects of this project is that all team members are based in different locations round England, so meeting up as a team requires planning and a lot of travel time.  However yesterday we held our first virtual team meeting, using Google Hangout to get 9 people together for 45 minutes  – we could all see and hear each other on-screen, have a cup of tea while we chatted, and no-one had to move a step from their offices.  We’re all part-time, with different working days and patterns throughout the week, so it can be difficult to get the whole team together at any one time.  However yesterday, despite initial technical hiccups, we managed a meeting to ask questions, exchange views and move us forward in setting up Maintenance Co-ops in 5 regions.  Here’s to our next virtual cup of tea next month.

Team Maintenance Cooperatives ready to go

October was a hive of activity for the fledgling Maintenance Cooperative project.  With the green light from the heritage Lottery Fund Sara, Matthew and latterly me as the new Project Manager, embarked on a nation wide recruitment drive which has seen the core SPAB team grow by nearly a third.  With all the staff appointed and due to start before Christmas this is the perfect time to introduce the new team:

Kate Streeter, Project Manager
Kate comes to the project from Burgh House and Hampstead Museum where she has been Manager for nearly six years. She trained in Archaeology and Anthropology and later in Heritage Management. She has worked with a number of publically open historic buildings and is well versed in maintaining them with limited resources and the invaluable help and support of volunteers. Kate co-founded London Shh (Small Historic Houses), a collective of historic houses working together to address the common challenges that they face, and is now very much looking forward to working with the Maintenance Cooperatives team to launch this new project.

Sheila Christie, Administrator
Sheila has been working at ICOMOS-UK (International Council on Monuments and Sites UK) as Office Manager, helping the organisation fulfil its role as adviser to UNESCO on UK world heritage sites.  She has over 10 years’ experience as an administrator on a variety of projects outside the heritage sector, before which she worked in the voluntary sector and in publishing. She has spent many of her holidays for the past 20 years clearing ivy, leaves and moss from a traditional French stone house, barn and bread oven.  She will be based at the SPAB offices in London, and is looking forward to getting started on a new project and providing the admin support for the team as they start to set up the maintenance co-operatives.

James Innerdale, Technical Officer
James is an Architect specialising in the repair and conservation of historic buildings in Cumbria, and the Yorkshire Dales. He was awarded the SPAB Scholarship in 1996 and subsequently worked as the Society’s Northern Officer for a number of years which at the time included both casework and manning the technical advice line. Having returned to architectural practice James has continued to be involved with the SPAB, being a corresponding member of the technical panel and member of the voluntary casework panel. For those regular readers of the SPAB Magazine James is also the resident cartoonist. James is particularly excited by the opportunity to provide help, advice and training through the Maintenance Co-operative Project.

Stella Jackson, Lincolnshire Project Officer
Stella joins the team from English Heritage, where she has worked in the Designation Department since 2005, although she was recently seconded to the Government Advice Team as Places of Worship Adviser, which whetted her appetite for the work that the Maintenance Cooperatives team will be involved with. Stella is also undertaking a part-time PhD at the University of York, looking at the values attached to local heritage sites. She is particularly looking forward to working with and developing the skills of local volunteers.

Alaina Schmisseur, North East Project Officer
Alaina has been working in archaeology and conservation across the United Kingdom and Europe for the last decade.  She trained as a professional conservator and holds an MA in Medieval Archaeology.  Alaina is excited to be working on the project as she believes that the greatest chance for the future advancement and continuation of heritage protection is dependent on establishing strong support from local communities. She is most looking forward to supporting and encouraging local groups in their efforts to protect the future of their heritage buildings.

Kate Andrew, Herford and Worcestershire Project Offcier
Kate has spent most of her career in museums, maintaining curatorial responsibility for geology collections in addition to working in senior management roles. She is fascinated by the history of natural science in the late eighteenth to mid nineteenth century and the explosion of interest in collecting.  Kate was County Curator of Natural History based at Ludlow Museum from 1995 to 2002 and Principal Heritage Officer for Herefordshire from 2002 to 2012.

Colm O’Kelly, South West Project Officer
Colm trained as a Landscape Architect and is currently studying for an MSc in the Conservation of Historic Buildings.  He has spent the last thirteen years as a Project Manager for Heritage Lottery funded projects, all involving the conservation and adaptive reuse of listed buildings. He is particularly looking forward to working with the rest of the team and partner organisations to support those involved with historic places of worship to “Stave off decay by daily care”.

Susan Manson, Cumbrian Project Officer
Sue Manson has worked for environmental and conservation organisations, latterly the Friends of the Lake District, on a variety of projects with community and voluntary groups helping to deliver environmental and built heritage projects. Sue was attracted to the co-operatives project by the prospect of helping share knowledge between community groups in a SPAB related way and is looking forward to building on the work of the Faith in Maintenance project. Likes walking, beekeeping, bell ringing and old buildings.

We are all enthusiastic to get started on the project, which will really get going in the New Year.  Watch this space for news and updates on our activities.

East Midlands Heritage Forum

Sara Crofts attended a “Historic places of worship: working together in changing times” seminar held at Edward King House in Lincoln on Friday 18 October 2013 as a guest of the East Midlands Heritage Forum.  She gave a short presentation about the launch of the new Maintenance Co-operatives project and outlined the ways in which the SPAB will be working with the Diocese of Lincoln’s Church Buildings Team to provide advice and support to churchwardens and others in the county over the next three years.

Download a copy of Sara’s presentation: SPAB Maintenance Co-ops 191013