The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings has long championed the future of old buildings – from churches and castles to cottages and cathedrals. In 2020, SPAB reached out to us to support their 5-year project to repair St Andrews (former) chapel. The building lives in Maidstone in Kent and is a Grade II* listed ‘building at risk’.
Covered in an overgrown garden with a leaking roof and vandalism damage, St Andrews had stood empty for around 50 years. SPAB bought the building in 2018 with the aim of repairing and conserving the chapel to then sell as a family home.
St Andrews has a colourful and fascinating history: it has housed a relic of St Andrew, was owned by Tudor poet Thomas Wyatt, and acted as a local post office in the 20th century. The building would have also been part of the pilgrimage to nearby Boxley Abbey in the medieval period.
Since the repairs and work began in late 2018 and 2019 in earnest, SPAB has successfully repaired the roof, done extensive archaeological work and cleared the enormously overgrown garden.
Impressively, SPAB has really engaged the local community despite the 2020-21 Covid-19 restrictions. Working closely with Historic England, Kent Archaeological Society, local building companies and volunteers, SPAB have used local materials and local folks to help continue their work. For instance: local metal detectorists scanned the site and local roofers helped SPAB repair the roof.
Much of this work has been brilliantly documented in online videos – originally a response to the Covid-19 pandemic – but now a great resource and storytelling device. We love this video explaining their 2020 year in review.
SPAB’s use of volunteers also deserves a shout out. As you can see in our lead image, SPAB’s working parties play a key role in how they repair and conserve all of their buildings. And they even built their own lime kiln on site!
All of this hard work paid off and SPAB were thrilled to be awarded the Museums + Heritage Award for Best Restoration or Conservation Project of the Year in 2021. Congratulations to the team. There is much more to be done before the Old House project is complete – and we can’t wait to see it.
Below are also a couple snapshots of the team visiting the building in late 2021:
Photo credit: Daniel Bridge & SPAB