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.
After standing empty for over 50 years, the building now has a bright future. November 2018, credit Ralph Hodgson.
The building was hidden by its overgrown garden. November 2018, credit SPAB.
Through careful repair, the building will be revived after 50 years of neglect. January 2019, credit Ralph Hodgson
This historic building has a distinct mystery and atmosphere. November 2018, credit Ralph Hodgson
Parts were in danger of collapse. This was the post office sorting room in the 19th century and makes up part of the c.1530 extension. November 2018, credit Ralph Hodgson
This chapter introduces the SPAB’s Old House Project at St Andrews and asks the question: “is a ‘project house’ right for you?” The thought of ‘doing up’ a wreck is appealing to many people but there are many things to consider before embarking on a significant repair project. The chapter briefly looks at budgeting (future chapters will go into greater detail) and where you might look for a project house of your own, such as heritage-at-risk registers.
The second chapter from the SPAB's project book looks at 'Getting started: security, surveys and assessments', and stresses the importance of doing your homework. The SPAB Approach to building conservation emphasises fully understanding your building before beginning the work. Surveying and securing the building; looking at water services; archaeology and environmental factors were important early measures. This chapter shares the SPAB's early processes and advises who to consult before getting started.