The SPAB’s Old House Project site is a Grade II* ‘building at risk’ near Maidstone, Kent. St Andrews (former) chapel is a ‘sleeping beauty’ that has stood empty for around 50 years. When the SPAB bought the building in November 2018, it was hidden behind an overgrown garden; vandal damage had left the site vulnerable; and parts of the roof were leaking. In 2018 and early 2019 emergency work to the roof and windows was carried out and a security system installed. But there are significant repairs still to be done.
St Andrews has a colourful and fascinating history: it has housed a relic of St Andrew, was owned by Tudor poet Thomas Wyatt, and acted as a local post office in the 20th century. Over the course of the project the SPAB will work with Historic England, Kent Archaeological Society and the local council to uncover more of the building’s story and to bring St Andrew’s back to life.
We are increasingly concerned about the decline of craft skills in the UK. A fifth of our housing stock is pre-1919 but much of the maintenance and repair work on these buildings is undertaken by people without specialist skills. In purchasing St Andrews we have embarked on a five-year project to repair this characterful medieval building whilst showcasing the very best conservation methods and materials.
We will share our learnings and progress through our education programme, video demonstrations and the project book (see project resources below). When it comes to historic buildings we advocate repair over demolition. The Old House Project will show what can be done to bring an 'at risk' building back into use.