UK – Project to Support Volunteers caring for Historic Places of Worship

SPAB Project to Support Volunteers caring for Historic Places of Worship Secures Heritage Lottery Fund Support of almost £1million

“A really good idea that I would hope to see grow into a major resource and knowledge base for supporting effective and targeted asset management.  Maintenance really needs to be promoted and professionalised.  It should not be seen as the ‘Cinderella’ of the built environment sector and hence must step out of the shadows.  This initiative can only help.  Well done SPAB!”  Trevor Francis, Chartered Building Surveyor and Historic Building Consultant.

A ground-breaking initiative to connect, encourage and support the army of volunteers across the country who are largely responsible for the up-keep of some of our most beautiful and significant local landmarks has received a grant of £907,400 from The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The SPAB’s (Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) Maintenance Co-operatives Project will now create and support a network of local groups to connect people who care for historic places of worship.

The aim is to help volunteers at the sharp end of maintenance to help each other.  Places of worship are integral to the landscape, representing centuries of belief, craftsmanship and design. Yet many of our most precious faith-related buildings are in desperate need of repair and rely on the help of local supporters. The Maintenance Co-operative Project aims to connect, inform and empower the people who look after these buildings.  Along with protecting significant historic structures, the project will also encourage more people to become actively involved in their local community’s heritage while broadening and strengthening their own skills base.

The HLF Board has awarded a grant of £907,400 towards a total project cost of £1,202,050 enabling the Maintenance Co-operatives Project to start in the spring of 2013 and run for three years.

The local maintenance co-operatives set up as part of the project will form a national network allowing people to share ideas, resources and good practice as well as benefiting from peer-to-peer support. Groups will also benefit from a tailored training programme designed to meet local needs and interests.  Training will be freely available to volunteers interested in learning heritage-related skills and will include topics such as:

·         building maintenance

·         project planning

·         understanding traditional building materials

·         working with professionals

·         welcoming visitors

The project is intended to build capacity at community level and will target five key areas of the country – Lincolnshire, Cumbria, Northumberland/County Durham, Worcestershire/Herefordshire and Dorset/Somerset. In each of these areas the aim is to set up a minimum of 5 local maintenance co-operative groups. The initiative will also provide web-based and printed educational resources for a range of audiences.  These resources will help to promote the timely and effectively maintenance and repair of building fabric following SPAB founder, William Morris’s advice that we should aim to “stave off decay by daily care”.

The scheme is a successor to the SPAB’s highly successful HLF-backed Faith in Maintenance project which ran for 5 years between 2007 and 2012 and delivered 150 training courses to around 5,000 volunteers with a responsibility for the care of historic places of worship. At a national level the new scheme will build on the success of the SPAB’s annual National Maintenance Week campaign, using the dedicated week as the focus for an annual conference and networking event allowing people from across the country to meet and share best practice.

SPAB Deputy Director, Sara Crofts, who led SPAB’s widely-praised FiM project, says: “This is wonderful news and a really important moment for the SPAB, and for the volunteers who look after historic places of worship. The project will celebrate the enormous amount of work they carry out and will publicly acknowledge their valuable contribution to the upkeep of our ecclesiastical heritage. We have always recognised the deep reservoir of good will and enthusiasm that exists within communities and we hope that our Maintenance Co-operatives project will nurture, enhance and develop this resource. It will encourage people to get together, get involved and get stuck in, knowing that there will be a source of support, information, advice and assistance at the ready.”

“Ultimately, the project will ensure that more historic places of worship are better maintained, helping to reduce the number of important buildings that may require major conservation works in the future by reducing the factors that contribute to decay.”

The Maintenance Co-operatives Project will be delivered with the support and assistance of a number of national partners including:  English Heritage, the Arthur Rank Centre, the Churches Conservation Trust, the National Churches Trust and the War Memorials Trust.  At a local level the project will be supported by the Places of Worship Support Officers in the participating Church of England dioceses and by a number of other local organisations including the Churches Trust for Cumbria, Inspired North East, the Avon & Somerset Probation Trust and the Heritage Trust for Lincolnshire.

via SPAB: Press Release.