John Betjeman Award

John Betjeman Award

Established in 1990 and named in honour of writer, conservation campaigner and SPAB Committee member (1952-1977) Sir John Betjeman, this award celebrates excellence in the repair of places of worship of all denominations and faiths. Shortlisted and winning entries are featured here and in the SPAB Magazine.

The award is given for projects of repair or conservation at historic faith buildings (such as churches, chapels, meeting houses, synagogues, mosques, temples) which remain in use for worship. However, cathedrals of any denomination are not eligible.  Projects can be of any scale, but must be for a specific part of the building’s fabric (e.g. tower, wall, roof, floor) or a significant element of its fittings or furnishings (e.g. monument, screen, tomb, seating), rather than a general programme of works. Projects must have been carried out within the previous 18 months.

Importantly, the award is always made to the building rather than to an individual, so this is a chance for a whole community to celebrate the quality of work completed in its building. The award takes the form of a certificate featuring an image of Inglesham Church in Wiltshire, a favourite church of Betjeman’s and the subject of an early SPAB campaign by the Society’s founder, William Morris. This striking image was created for the SPAB by artist and friend of Betjeman, John Piper.

Celebrating 30 years of the John Betjeman Award
In 2020 the SPAB celebrated 30 years of the John Betjeman Award. The first award was presented in 1990 to St Anne, Limehouse, London for work to repair the tower. Since then the judges have considered over 350 entries and visited almost 100 shortlisted projects, resulting in 25 winners and six commendations. An article in the Spring 2020 issue of SPAB Magazine reflected on three decades of the award.

In 2020, to mark the 30th anniversary of the award, we extended the competition to include faith buildings in Scotland and Ireland (both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland) alongside England and Wales. Unfortunately, insufficient entries were received from Scotland. However, the Ireland judges were delighted to have a range of strong submissions to consider in this first year.

2020 award – England & Wales
Although later in the year than usual, due to the disruption caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, and with safety measures in place, the judges managed to visit the four shortlisted projects in the autumn.  These were:  
•    Tenterden Methodist Church, Kent – repair of the war memorial pipe organ
•    St Margaret of Antioch, East Wellow, Hampshire – repair of the south door
•    St Andrew, Trent, Dorset – conservation of spire stonework
•    St Alfege, Greenwich, London – repair of external masonry
Following careful deliberation, the judges were unanimous in declaring Tenterden pipe organ the winner.   The repairs at Trent were highly commended. The award was presented at our 2020 online AGM, watch the acceptance speech and award introduction.

2020 award - Ireland
Due to ongoing restrictions in Ireland, the judges were unable to visit their shortlisted projects and instead made their assessments remotely. The shortlisted projects were:
•    Holy Trinity, Errislannan, Co Galway – repair of vandal and storm damage
•    St Doulagh, Balgriffin, Co Dublin – external stonework conservation
•    St Bartholomew, Ballsbridge, Dublin – conservation of belfry stonework

The judges were pleased to award St Doulagh's Church, Balgriffin the first John Betjeman Award in Ireland. Find out more.

Future awards

Due to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the SPAB's 2020 awards, we are reviewing the timetable for the next round of awards. Information about entry periods and deadlines, and other updates, will be posted here in due course.