Working Party

Working Party 2017: Lumsdale Mills Site, nr Matlock, Derbyshire

Each year the SPAB decamps from its London HQ to put its advice and expertise into practice at a building in need. The annual summer working party has become an increasingly popular event attracting volunteers ranging from heritage and architectural professionals, to those with an informed amateur interest in buildings and history.  For one week they are united in their efforts to help a specific building.

Following a highly competitive application process the beautiful valley of Lumsdale, with it ancient milling history, has successfully secured the opportunity to host the 2017, 2018 and 2019 SPAB working party which will take place in July of each year. This year the Working Party will take place 2- 8 July, 2017, with a public open day on Wednesday 5 July.

The Lumsdale valley is much admired by visitors and locals for the historic ruinious mill buildings and the setting beside the fast flowing Bentley Brook. The SPAB will carry out detailed conservation work to stabilise and protect the ruined mills which will help to ensure that there is no further deterioration of the fabric. This action will not only make the valley safer for visitors but will also help preserve the buildings for future generations. Volunteering at the Lumsdale Mills Working Party is a fantastic opportunity to be part of a historically important and atmospheric industrial site's future.

Volunteering at the Working Party

Volunteering at the Working Party is a unique opportunity to learn from some of the country's leading craftspeople in a relaxed setting. Experts will be on hand at all times to guide volunteers through the work. Volunteers will need to attend at least three consecutive days. Basic personal protection equipment will be provided but volunteers should bring their own overalls and stout site boots. You may be expected to camp on a designated camp site but limited bed and breakfast accommodation may be available. There is a £5 booking fee only, plus any charges for extra visits. Please fill in and return the volunteer application form by Friday 16 June. If you have any questions about volunteering please email

Working Party Open Day

The project opens to the community on Wednesday 5 July (10-4.30pm, with last tour leaving at 3.30pm) when the public are warmly invited to come along to see our hands-on conservation work up close. To make it even easier for people to tour this hugely evocative site on the open day, SPAB will be running a free shuttle coach to and from Sir Richard Arkwright’s Cromford Mills, where parking will be available and where stone mason Richard Hickton will be demonstrating the craft of stone dressing.

After travelling from Cromford Mills into the valley, visitors will be dropped off close to the mill ponds and then led down through the stunning and mysterious landscape of ruined, ivy-clad buildings where SPAB’s experts will be guiding volunteers as they work. It promises to be a fascinating opportunity to see a live conservation project in action in an extraordinary and challenging setting.

How to visit the SPAB Working Party
From 10am on 5 July the free shuttle coach will run between the sales kiosk at Cromford Mills, Cromford, Matlock to a drop off point in the valley. At the end of their tour, visitors will be taken by bus back to Cromford. It is envisaged that guided visits will last around one hour. The last bus to the Working Party from the Visitor Centre will depart at 3.30pm. Visitors are advised to wear practical footwear.

Faith in Maintenance Training Day

St Mary’s Church, Cromford, Derbyshire, DE4 3RQ
Friday 7 July 2017

(held as part of the SPAB Working Party)

This Faith in Maintenance course is for volunteers who look after historic places of worship. We provide training to help you understand how your building works and how to solve problems caused by leaky gutters and blocked drains.This free one-day course will help you:

Recognise potential problems
Tackle common maintenance tasks
Understand inspections and reports
Know when to call in expert help

For the full course programme and booking form please download the Faith in Maintenance Training Day flier.

Past Working Parties

Greatham Old Church, Hampshire
At Greatham, Hampshire in July 2016, a team of 50 conservation experts and building enthusiasts enjoyed wonderful weather and a great social experience whilst working on a ruined medieval chapel known as Greatham Old Church and the Victorian replacement called St John the Baptist Church opposite the medieval site. SPAB staff, skilled craftspeople and enthusiastic volunteers returned to Greatham Old Church, the site of the Working Party from 1993-2001, to consolidate stonework, carry out repointing and limewash the chancel over the course of the week. Over 150 year 5 pupils from two local schools spent a day on site taking part in a unique hands-on history lesson, learning from some of the best craftspeople in the country. The children tried their hands at wooden peg making, willow weaving, traditional brick building and stone carving. Members of the public were able to experience the SPAB’s conservation approach in action and up close as over 100 people from the surrounding community came for a guided tour of the working party site and had a go at the craft demonstrations throughout the open day.


Sullington Manor, West Sussex
The SPAB’s 2015 Working Party at Sullington Manor, a Saxon farmstead nestled in the South Downs, West Sussex, was the most ambitious project to date - over 150 volunteers and experts carried out repairs to seven buildings across five days. Volunteers tried their hands at traditional timber frame repairs, tile repairs, lime pointing, lime washing, brick repairs, stitching of stonework, flint repairs, mortar mixing and the removal of unsympathetic cement pointing. Our Scholars and Fellows had completed a specification of the buildings earlier in their programme and had the opportunity to lead projects, alongside established experts, around the site. Buildings ranged from the Saxon to the Victorian and the principle sites of work were the tithe barn, small barn, two cart sheds, cow shed, granary and the local church.