Britain’s oldest heritage body, SPAB (The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) has appointed a new director. Matthew Slocombe will succeed Philip Venning when he retires next year. Although Philip’s title, and that of his predecessors in this key role, was Secretary, Matthew will take the title ‘Director’ to better communicate the scope and nature of the position.

An architectural historian, Matthew, 44, has worked for SPAB since 1991 when he took up the post of Head Caseworker, moving on from a similar role at The Georgian Group. Since 1995 he has been SPAB’s Deputy Secretary (and Company Secretary since 2005) and is widely known throughout the heritage sector through the many committees and panels on which he is a member and advisor – notably as Secretary of the Joint Committee of the National Amenity Societies and as a member of the new National Heritage Protection Plan Advisory Board.

Matthew says:  “I am delighted that SPAB’s trustees have given me this opportunity.  My aim as Director will be to demonstrate the continuing relevance of SPAB ideas, with their emphasis on practicality.  The Society’s common sense approach to old buildings, coupled with its enthusiasm for creative new design and its cutting-edge research into energy efficiency, puts SPAB at the forefront of 21st century building conservation. We take a long-term and truly sustainable view of the historic environment which makes us, as William Morris aptly put it, “trustees for those who come after us”.

Looking to the future, Matthew says: “SPAB is a provider of respected conservation training, technical information and statutory advice for listed buildings.  These roles remain vital, but we are in a period of great change, with heritage services in the public sector under enormous pressure.  Sad though this is, if the great gains made in building conservation over the last half century are not to be reversed it is vital that organisations like SPAB rise to the challenge. I feel passionately that SPAB has much to offer homeowners, local authorities and to the communities whose role in the management of the historic environment is due to expand under the government’s Localism agenda.  I intend to make it a priority to ensure that all are aware of the help and advice we can provide.”

Philip Venning will retire in summer 2012 after 28 years as SPAB Secretary. Matthew will officially take up his new ‘Director’ post on Philip’s retirement. In the meantime he will continue as Deputy Secretary and will continue to play a pivotal steering role in the formulation and implementation of SPAB’s organisation-wide Strategy, which seeks to strengthen, develop and focus the work of the Society.

SPAB Chairman David Heath says: “Philip has been an outstanding Secretary and we knew that he would be difficult to replace. This was a contested appointment and we looked for someone who could build upon Philip’s success; someone who not only shared our passionate determination to protect old buildings, but who brought appropriate skills, thorough understanding and a fresh perspective to the role. We are very pleased to appoint Matthew.”


Notes to editors

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

Image of Matthew Slocombe available

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

New Director for Britain’s Oldest Heritage Body