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The Old House Project

Maidstone, Kent, England

Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB)

Linking green innovation and tradition 

Grade II*, Heritage at Risk

Grade II*-listed St Andrews is a former chapel dating back from the 15th-century that originally formed part of the outer precinct of Boxley Abbey. It was later used for housing and as the village post office. At the time of its purchase by SPAB in 2018, the building had been vacant since the 1960s and was on the Historic England ‘At Risk’ Register due to vandalism and a lack of repair.  

Founded by William Morris in 1877the SPAB promotes the value and protection of old buildings and leads the way in modern-day conservation practice by championing repair and reuse, rather than loss or demolition. This is beneficial not only to the historic landscapebut also to the heritage sector's impact on the environmentAs part of their wider work, the SPAB delivers a programme of conservation training, courses, advice and research, which includes the delivery of the Old House Project

As part of The Old House Project the SPAB are implementing the use of traditional and recycled materials to reduce building miles, which is how far building materials travel before they are used on a project, helping to lessen the environmental impact of capital works. 

The SPAB, concerned about their building miles, are championing the use of local materials. They are in the process of producing a series of YouTube videos showcasing skills, training, and good practice conservation techniques, including the reuse of waste grey chalk from a local quarry to produce the lime mortar, using a kiln built on site from recycled materials. 

Watch the YouTube video to find out more about how this was done:

Old House Project: Grey Chalk Burning in our Lime-Stabilised Soil Kiln | SPAB - YouTube 

In 2020, the Architectural Heritage Fund awarded £500,000 to SPAB through the Heritage Impact Fund, enabling them to deliver a five-year repair programme to St Andrews as a live conservation course. Working in partnership with schools, colleges and universities, the project will enable students and volunteers to participate in active training sessions using traditional conservation techniques. At the end of the project, the building will have been fully repaired. No longer classed as ‘At Risk’, St Andrews will begin establishing a sustainable long-term future as housing.

In recognition of its innovative conservation training programme, the Old House Project was joint winner of the 2021 Museums and Heritage Award for Conservation Project of the Year. As the project progresses, it will continue to demonstrate the benefits of SPAB principles and live conservation training with the hope of being the first of many similar building repair projects across the UK.   


Matthew Slocombe, Director at the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings said:

“The project brings together some well-tested SPAB ideas and some fresh experiments. Practical hands-on activities have always been the lifeblood of the SPAB, but the Old House Project has allowed us to develop links with higher education institutions, the archaeological community and with local people, all whilst exploring what it means to really champion local materials.”


Andy Richardson, Head of Investment at the Architectural Heritage Fund said: 

“We’re so pleased to be able to support the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings with loan investment through the Heritage Impact Fund. The Old House Project is an excellent example of the benefits that can be delivered through social investment: bringing buildings back into use, providing training and educational opportunities, and supporting traditional skills and testing innovations in conservation practice. We hope it inspires future building repair projects in a similar way and enhances understanding of the positive environmental impact of building repair and reuse.”

Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings 

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