Summer Working Party 2021: Boxley Abbey and the SPAB Old House Project

Summer Working Party 2021: Boxley Abbey and the SPAB Old House Project

08/07/2021 - 14/07/2021
Boxley Abbey
United Kingdom

£150 contribution towards food and materials

Event details

When will the working party take place?

This year the site will open to volunteers at midday on Thursday 8 July and we will be closing the site at 5pm on Wednesday 14 July after clearing up. Actual days where work will be carried out are Friday to Tuesday. 


What is the working party?

Each year the SPAB decamps from its London HQ to put its advice and expertise into practice at its annual summer working party. Carrying out work to a specific building is where the SPAB community demonstrates its approach to the conservation and care of old buildings, allowing us to combine well-proven principles with practical repair techniques. An increasingly popular event, it offers the chance for volunteers, ranging from informed amateurs interested in buildings and history to heritage and architectural professionals, to work alongside the country’s best craftspeople.

Our short film from last year's working party at Boxley Abbey should give you some idea of what the event is all about.


Where will the working party take place?

We are back at medieval Boxley Abbey for the third year. This former monastic site near Maidstone in Kent is a remarkable survival and one of the most complete of the group of Cistercian abbeys which were established as daughter houses by larger monasteries. Above-ground remains include fragments of the church and cloister, the high stone wall and gateway surrounding a 23-acre inner precinct, and the intact 200ft-long ‘hospitium’. The whole inner precinct, aside from the Abbey House and its garden walls, is a scheduled ancient monument. 


The working party will also partly be held at St Andrew's (former) Chapel, a fascinating building just within the abbey's outer precinct which was purchased by the SPAB at the end of 2018. Although the role and history of this structure are still being explored by the Society, it seems to date from the 15th century and to have been built as a reliquary chapel. We hope to uncover some of this building's secrets as part of the working party and to get volunteers involved with our larger Old House Project, which is based at St Andrew's.


Scope of work

At Boxley Abbey we will be carrying out work across the site. We will continue stone and brickwork repairs of the garden wall. In the hospitium, we will be limewashing, repointing and carrying out floorboard scarfing repairs. The precinct wall and outbuildings will be surveyed and we will undertake a full geo-physical and ground penetrating radar archaeological survey.


At our own site, St Andrews, we will be working across the site looking for important archaeology and hidden details, finishing off repairs to the Kent peg tile roof, burning locally-sourced Oxted Grey Chalk, Kentish Ragstone and Septaria from the Isle of Sheppey to help supply the working party with materials. 


Who can take part?

As always, the working party will provide a unique opportunity for building professionals, craftspeople, general builders, students, homeowners, and enthusiasts alike to learn traditional conservation building skills through hands-on experience. 

The SPAB is committed to eliminating discrimination and encouraging diversity in the sector. We particularly welcome applications by people from backgrounds underrepresented in building conservation. Under 18-year-olds can attend, if they are accompanied by a responsible adult at all times - please contact to register your interest if you are under 18.


Place allocation, costs, and free places for students

Applications are now closed and we will get back to everyone who has applied by Friday 25 June.

To cover materials, catering (breakfasts and lunches), and camping facility costs, we're asking volunteers to contribute £150 for the event. We'll send you further details on how to pay when we confirm your place. 

Bursary places

This year, the SPAB is delighted to offer a number of bursary places at the working party. These include free attendance and a subsistence and travel allowance of £150.

Anyone can apply for a bursary, but priority will be given to students and people who are on a low income or unemployed.

The SPAB is committed to eliminating discrimination and encouraging diversity in the sector. We particularly welcome applications by people from backgrounds underrepresented in building conservation.

Bursary places at the Working Party are made possible through a generous donation from Men of the Stones Charitable Trust. Two additional places are available this year thanks to kind donations from two SPAB members. Our thanks go to both for their support.

Applications for bursary places are now closed. We will get back to everyone who has applied by 25 June 2021.


Most people camp on-site to make the most of the social aspects of the working party. Camping is free but please bring your own tent, sleeping bag, and any other equipment. There are various budget hotels nearby if you prefer to arrange your own accommodation - please note that they aren't within easy walking distance of the site though so best for those with their own transport. 


Covid 19

We are committed to keeping the Working Party running as safely as possible, which includes putting some measures in place in response to the Covid 19 pandemic. These measures will include:

  • Asking all participants to wear a mask while on site, apart from those who are exempt for reasons of health or disability. If this applies to you, you do not have to disclose the reason, but please let us know that you are exempt
  • Putting social distancing in place while on site
  • Requiring participants to take a rapid lateral flow test and provide a negative result immediately before they arrive on-site on Thursday and again on Sunday morning. You will need to order your own lateral flow tests in advance, which you can obtain free via this link: If you are unable to take a lateral flow test, please let us know. You do not need to disclose the reason.

By applying for a place at the Working Party, you agree to abide by these Covid 19 measures. Please help us keep everyone safe by acting in a sensible way.

Measures may change depending on government guidelines. If the situation changes, we may need to cancel the event or restrict numbers at short notice.

We'll keep all participants informed and, if we do need to cancel your place, you will receive a refund for any contribution you have made to the SPAB towards the cost of the event.

Please read our Booking Terms & Conditions for more information about cancellations and refunds.


If you would like to get in touch with the organisers please email


Accessibility: please let us know via the application form if there are any adaptations we can make that would make the Working Party more accessible for you. We would be happy to have an informal chat about the event and possible access issues before you apply.


Image Credit (menu tile): Daniel Bridge

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