Stave off Decay by Daily Care

William Morris, the founder of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) understood how vital caring for historic buildings is to their future when he uttered these words back in 1877. Today we understand that every £1 ‘saved’ by not carrying out preventative maintenance at places of worship is likely to cost at least £20 in repairs within five years (Source: GutterClear). This is where our Maintenance Co-operatives step in. Each co-operative is made up of a group of local volunteers who carry out a programme of planned preventative maintenance, essentially stopping decay before it starts. The co-operatives form a network across England, which allows volunteers to work together sharing ideas, resources and good practice.

Melbury Team Gutter Clear November 2014

Each co-operative received a free tailored training programme designed to meet local needs and interests. The programmes covered everything from carrying out building condition surveys and writing a maintenance plan to hands-on activities such as dealing with damp.

The scheme also provided a wealth of educational resources in print and here online. These will guide you through how to tell when maintenance needs to be carried out and how best to go about it when it does.

To explain a bit more, here are some of the questions we are most commonly asked about the project:

What is a Maintenance Co-operative?

MCP Diagram

A Maintenance Co-operative is a group of volunteers who are trained to spot maintenance problems and carry out basic preventative maintenance tasks. These activities will prevent small issues from becoming big problems. The co-operatives can work together across a number of local places of worship, and anyone can get involved, whether you already worship or work at one of the buildings taking part or simply have an interest in local heritage and are keen to help. The places of worship don’t have to be old or listed to benefit from a Maintenance Co-operative and they can be of any faith.

Why should I join?

Joining a Maintenance Co-operative is a great way to get together and meet other people who face the same challenges with their building as you. It’s also an excellent way to pool resources and save money.  For example co-operatives can jointly hire equipment that is needed at several buildings at once. Having extra volunteers reduces the pressure on congregations and church wardens. And that’s not to mention the expert training you’ll receive. Find out more here.

What is preventative maintenance?

Preventative maintenance is a set of simple but effective tasks which are carried out throughout the year to help prevent the big expensive problems from creeping up. These tasks are not invasive, nor are they repair work that should be carried out by a specialist contractor.  They might include walking round the building with a pair of binoculars and one of our survey sheets to spot problems such as slipped tiles, blocked drains and damp patches, or you could find yourself tackling overgrown plants or learning how to protect water pipes from frost. If your building has a Quinquennial Survey, these annual activities can be tailored to complement it.

What were the goals of the Project?

In short, to protect places of worship from falling into disrepair. We aimed to do this by:

  • Creating a series of locally-based networks – local Maintenance Co-operatives - to share good maintenance practice and help the people responsible for places of worship to take good care of their buildings.
  • Providing free extra training for churchwardens, fabric officers, property stewards and other volunteers responsible for the care of places of worship to the point where they can confidently look after day-to-day maintenance issues themselves.
  • Supporting the recruitment of new volunteers to help look after historic places of worship.
  • Sharing good maintenance practice with the wider community –both locally and nationally.

How did the Maintenance Co-operative Project come about?

The scheme was the successor to the SPAB’s HLF-backed Faith in Maintenance project which ran for 5 years between 2007 and 2012. It was a huge success and delivered 150 training courses to around 5,000 volunteers who learned all about caring for their local historic places of worship.

Read more about how the project started on our blog

Every year we have held a national conference and networking event where people from across the country can meet and share best practice. Have a look at our blog for a review of the 2014 conference From Gutter to Spire, held at the Merchant Taylors Hall in York, and another blog post on our second conference Working Co-operatively: Maintenance and More, held at the Priory Rooms in Birmingham in 2015. Our final conference took place at Friends House in London on 3 October 2016.

How was the project funded?

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) awarded a grant of £907,400 towards the total project cost of £1,202,050, which enabled the three year project to start in the winter of 2013. The project is also supported by a number of national and local partners, find out more on our Project Partners page.