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AHF backs the Old House Project in delivering conservation education

29 March 2021

Over five years, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) will repair St Andrews former chapel in Maidstone, Kent, as part of a live conservation education programme, 'the Old House Project'. This project will not only return a historically significant building to use, but it will enable further knowledge and interest in the protection of architecturally significant buildings. This innovative programme will equip individuals participating in apprenticeships and work experience opportunities with the hands-on, technical skills necessary to support the ongoing conservation of the UK's historic buildings. The project will also form the basis of several university modules and school-age student courses. 

The AHF has provided SPAB with a Heritage Impact Fund (HIF) loan of £500,000 towards restoring St Andrews chapel and the wider Old House Project. St Andrews was specifically chosen as the Old House Project's home as it is a Grade II* building 'at risk' that has retained all its original features but stood empty for around 50 years. SPAB is highly respected within the heritage sector, approaching conservation holistically through education and casework campaigning, alongside research into topics such as energy efficiency in older buildings. More recently, the Society has directed resource towards the acquisition and repair of buildings. 

Since 1930, SPAB has trained over two-hundred scholars and fellows in the art of conservation and restoration, some of whom have gone on to Westminster Abbey, Blenheim Palace, and the Palace of Westminster. In 2020, they ran conservation courses for over 5,000 people, supporting those interested in conservation, individuals taking on personal repair projects and looking for community project properties, among other areas. To find out more, visit their site here.

In addition to their focus on conservation and training, one of this project's chief aims is to highlight the importance of reducing travel miles by utilising local materials and contractors. For example, the Trust has created the lime mortar necessary to restore the Old House by using waste grey chalk from a local quarry in a kiln built with leftover materials. This project reflects a broader theme within the AHF of funding organisations and projects focused on reducing environmental impact and raising awareness around sustainability. For more on our AHF's Environmental Policy and approach, see here

Matthew Slocombe, Director of SPAB said: 

The SPAB is delighted that its Old House Project (OHP) has the support of the Architectural Heritage Fund. The project's aim is not only to repair an important historic building 'at risk', but to involve the local community and a national audience through training and participation. This fits perfectly with the aims of the Heritage Impact Fund administered by the AHF. The project is still in its early stages but has already done much to engage volunteers and enthusiasts through website resources, talks, videos, visits and onsite participations.

Matthew Mckeague, CEO of the AHF, says: 

Repair and maintenance are at the heart of the SPAB ethos, the skills and principles behind which are gaining increasing importance in the fight against climate change. However, to fully realise the benefits of maintenance and repair, we need suitably trained volunteers, and professionals and that training is something that runs through the heart of the Old House project. AHF is very pleased to be supporting the project with a Heritage Impact Fund loan.  

Editor’s notes

1)    The Architectural Heritage Fund is a registered charity, working since 1976 to promote the conservation and sustainable re-use of historic buildings for the benefit of communities across the UK, particularly in economically disadvantaged areas. We are the only specialist heritage social investor in the UK. We provide advice, development grants and loans.

2)    Photos provided by SPAB, credited to Ralph Hodgson.

3)    For media enquiries please contact Oliver Brodrick-Ward, on 020 79250199 /

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