John Betjeman Award

John Betjeman Award 2016

“Places of worship are… the history of English art displayed in living form…” - Sir John Betjeman


(Photos: oak staircase at Bishop's Cleeve, 2016 John Betjeman Award winner )

2016 John Betjeman Award winner

A project to repair a medieval staircase at Church of St Michael and All Angels in Bishop’s Cleeve, Gloucestershire, thought to be the oldest surviving example in oak, was chosen as the recipient of the 2016 Betjeman Award. During the years of the Wars of the Roses an unknown joiner was quietly constructing a remarkable staircase in a Cotswold church. The treads were made from solid pieces of oak hewn from trees which were probably growing in 1300 or earlier. A balustrade was made with a handrail formed from a continuous piece of wood – possibly the whole length of the trunk from an ancient oak tree. Below the balustrade and set between upright supporting muntins were panels – most likely painted or carved. Finally, the underside of the staircase was covered in elegantly carved linen fold panels.

Remarkably, although the panels are now sadly lost, this beautiful example of medieval craftsmanship can still be seen today. Around 550 years after it was first constructed, the rare oak staircase in the Church of St Michael and All Angels in Bishop’s Cleeve, Gloucestershire has been lovingly, skilfully and painstakingly repaired for use by the church community. Read more about this year's winner in The SPAB Magazine, autumn 2016 edition (out mid-September).

Comended: All Saints, Wigan for the conservation and display of 15th century Lubeck altar pieces.

Award Shortlist
All Saints, Laxfield, Suffolk - conservation work to the west tower
St Nicholas Chapel, King’s Lynn, Norfolk - joinery repairs to north canopies and door, south door, consistory court and pews


2017 Award

The Award is given to celebrate excellence in the conservation and repair of places of worship of any faith in England and Wales.  It recognises and rewards the highest standards of conservation craftsmanship and the winning project is publicised as an  example to others of good practice. The Award takes the form of a scroll featuring a specially commissioned print by John Piper of the interior of Inglesham Church, a building much loved by Sir John Betjeman. The Award will be presented at the SPAB’s 2016 Members’ Meeting. 


The Award is made for the repair or conservation of the fabric, fittings or furnishings of historic churches, chapels or other faith buildings in England or Wales, which remain in use for worship. However, cathedrals of any denomination are not eligible.
It is not essential that the building is listed as being of architectural or historic interest. The age or architectural significance of the building is less important than the quality of the repair.


The Award is made to the place of worship and not to any individual responsible for the work.  It celebrates the project, the building, and the community that cares for it. The Award is given for specific repair to, or conservation of, a single element of the building, rather than a general programme of works.  Repair work of any scale is eligible, but it must be to the fabric of the building (e.g. roof, tower, wall, floor, window) or to a significant item of fixed internal fitting or furnishing (e.g. screen, monument, tomb, pews, pulpit). Work to enlarge or extend a place of worship, to rearrange its internal space, or to alter or adapt its fittings or furnishings is not eligible. The work must have received appropriate approval (Faculty or equivalent permission / listed building consent) and have been completed within the previous 18 months.

To enter

To enter please download the John Betjeman Award application form and return it to the SPAB, 37 Spital Square, London, E1 6DY or email to by 21 February 2017.

Before putting a building forward for the award please read the Award information flier and The Purpose of the SPAB: an explanation of the conservation approach. This document is also available in Welsh.