New Director Sought for Britain’s Oldest Heritage Body


The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) is seeking a new Secretary to succeed Philip Venning when he retires next year. Although Philip’s title, and that of his predecessors in this key role, was Secretary, the new appointee will take the title ‘Director’ to better communicate the scope and nature of the position.

Philip will be retiring after 28 years. A former journalist (he was assistant editor of the TES); he came to the Society shortly after it moved to its present Georgian offices in Spitalfields. For nearly three decades he has guided the Society’s successful expansion of its educational and training remit – notably with regard to the establishment of the William Morris Craft Fellowship and the Society’s courses for homeowners. He has also played a vital ‘ambassadorial’ role in forging valuable, supportive links across the heritage sector.* Under Philip’s guidance, SPAB has become a more outward looking organisation. He has encouraged this approach – for example through SPAB’s involvement with the original, hugely successful BBC series Restoration on which he was an advisor.

Founded in1877 by William Morris, who was the first Secretary, SPAB has a long and respected history, but Philip feels strongly that his role has had little to do with the past and has been very much concerned with the future. He explains: “Far from being backward looking, my time at SPAB has been about what we are handing on to future generations. I want them to enjoy the beauty and quality of the greatest and most humble buildings without those places being restored and ‘overdone’ to the point where you can no longer recognise or connect with them.”

His successor must be someone who will not only continue to look to the future, forge new alliances and develop positive new projects, but also someone who absolutely understands, respects and embraces the tested SPAB philosophy of conservative repair. For SPAB, skill lies in mending old and interesting buildings with the minimum loss of fabric and so, of loss and authenticity. Old buildings cannot be preserved by making them new.

The new director will be pivotal to the Society’s future success and, crucially, will be responsible for the development and implementation of the recommendations of its recent strategic review.

Applications for the post will be sought from Monday, September 5, when advertisements giving further details will appear in key publications. The closing date will be Monday October 10th, with final interviews scheduled for w/c October 31.

SPAB Chairman David Heath says: “Philip has been an outstanding Secretary. We need someone who can continue and build upon his success. We seek to appoint a Director who not only shares our passionate determination to protect old buildings, but who brings the skills, understanding and initiative required to succeed in this role.”


Notes to editors

For more information about the post  see or contact Philip Nelson 0207 691 1920 /


For further information about SPAB contact Kate Griffin, SPAB press officer: 0207 456 0905. Email:  

NB Kate Griffin will be on leave from Sept 12 -  Sept 20. For queries contact  SPAB general office: 0207 377 1644

*Philip Venning was awarded an OBE in 2003. He sits on the Westminster Abbey Fabric Commission, was a member of the HLF Expert Panel for six years, is a former Vice President of the National Churches Trust, was on the National Trust Council for nine years and was one of the founders of Heritage Link, now Heritage Alliance.

SPAB is Britain’s oldest building conservation body. It was set up by William Morris to oppose the destructive restorations of the Victorian era and promote the alternative of “conservative repair”. By law it must be notified of applications to demolish listed buildings in England and Wales and comments on hundreds each year. Today its broad remit is to advise, educate and campaign.  The Society also trains architects and craftsmen; produces a range of helpful publications and campaigns on issues like VAT.  Follow us on Twitter @SPAB1877