About the project

“The co-operative project is a fantastic, innovative programme. The leader’s knowledge is superb and encouraging” 
- Cumbrian co-op volunteer

The SPAB Maintenance Co-operatives Project, established in 2013, provided free-of-charge, practical support to the dedicated staff and volunteers who take care of some of Britain’s most treasured and distinctive built heritage. Working in five regions across England and delivering a further five 'Co-op Minis', the Maintenance Co-operatives Project built on the success of Faith in Maintenance and assisted places of worship not only with training but also gave practical support to gather volunteers, carry out baseline building surveys and turn all that knowledge and enthusiasm into maintenance plans and practical working parties. The project came to an end in 2017, but through the legacy of information, knowledge and experience the work goes on.

Find out more

We produced an end-of-project handbook, looking back on the past three years, packed with case studies, volunteer testimony and tips on how to create your own co-operative kit box. We have also commissioned a short Maintenance Co-operatives Project film and a full impact evaluation report.


What is a Maintenance Co-operative?
A Maintenance Co-operative is a group of volunteers who are trained to spot maintenance problems and carry out basic preventative maintenance tasks. These activities help stop small issues from becoming big problems. The co-operatives can work together across a number of local places of worship and anyone can get involved, whether you already worship or work at one of the buildings taking part or simply have an interest in local heritage and are keen to help. The places of worship don’t have to be old or listed to benefit from a Maintenance Co-operative and they can be of any faith. Forming or joining a co-op is great fun and a good way to meet other people who face the same challenges as you. It is also a useful way to pool resources, for example jointly hiring equipment.

What is preventative maintenance?
Preventative maintenance is a set of simple but effective tasks which are carried out throughout the year to help stave off the development of big expensive problems. These tasks are not invasive, nor are they repair work that should be carried out by a specialist contractor. They might include walking round the building with a pair of binoculars - one of our survey sheets to spot problems such as slipped tiles, blocked drains and damp patches - or you could find yourself tackling overgrown plants or learning how to protect water pipes from frost. If your building has a Quinquennial Survey, these annual activities can be tailored to complement it.

What are the goals of the project?
In short, to protect places of worship from falling into disrepair. We aim to do this by:

  • Creating a series of locally-based networks – maintenance co-operatives - to share good maintenance practice and help the people responsible for places of worship to take good care of their buildings.
  • Providing training for churchwardens, fabric officers, property stewards and other volunteers responsible for the care of places of worship to the point where they can confidently look after day-to-day maintenance issues themselves.
  • Supporting the recruitment of new volunteers to help look after historic places of worship.
  • Sharing good maintenance practice with the wider community – both locally and nationally.

How did the Maintenance Co-operative Project come about?
The scheme is the successor to the SPAB’s Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) -backed Faith in Maintenance project which ran for five years between 2007 and 2012. It was a huge success and delivered 150 training courses to around 5,000 volunteers who learned all about caring for their local historic places of worship.

How is the project funded?
The HLF awarded a grant of £907,400 towards the total cost of £1,202,050, which enabled the three year project to start in the winter of 2013. The project was also supported by a number of national and local partners. Find out more on our Project Partners page.

Where next?
Funding came to an end in March 2017, we are no longer able to provide free training, but you can access all the resources we have developed via the SPAB website, which will give you the start you need to create your own maintenance co-operative. You will also be able to book a Faith in Maintenance day through the SPAB education team (fees will apply) and call the SPAB technical advice line for advice about your building.