How We Work

The Society is a charity. We have a small staff and most of our work is carried out by members voluntarily and enthusiastically. Many are experts in their field and their voice strengthens our reputation.


We play a formal part in the planning system and, under the Town and Country Planning Act, must be notified of all applications to demolish or partly demolish listed buildings in England and Wales. In this area of our work we tend to concentrate on earlier buildings and should also be consulted on major works to cathedrals and churches. Every year we take up a number of cases and, where necessary, we fight them at public enquiry or in church courts. Where we hear of listed buildings at risk we try to secure repair.


Our technical staff answer hundreds of enquiries on every aspect of repairing old buildings. While promoting the use of traditional materials and skills we keep up with current technical issues, regulations and materials which may have both positive and negative implications when applied to old buildings. 


Many of the most famous buildings in Britain are cared for by some of the several thousand people who have received SPAB training. A unique annual scholarship training programme has been run since 1930 for young architects, building surveyors and structural engineers, while the William Morris Craft Fellowship provides advanced training for historic building craftsmen. Shorter courses are run for both professionals and owners.
Architectural students are encouraged in design and conservation projects by the Philip Webb Award.


Our acknowledged expertise has helped shape attitudes to historic buildings both in Britain and abroad. We work with our partners in the conservation world here and within the EU in monitoring legislation and campaigning to protect our built heritage.


Our highly regarded technical publications give practical guidance on the repair and care of old buildings, while the SPAB Magazine, our magazine for members, contains a mixture of general and technical articles. Many other publications are stocked by the SPAB bookshop.


We run events for members including lectures and visits to historic towns and buildings not generally open to the public. In the same way, our Regional Groups provide a unique insight into the buildings, materials and traditions of their area.


A separate section within the Society is devoted to saving historic mills and has its own membership, application form and young people’s section.


SPAB in Scotland carries on the Society’s work north of the border and arranges special events.