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Exploring the Ministry of Maintenance

Free workshop helps to make “maintenance and repairs seem straightforward and manageable”.

A well looked after church is welcoming to all congregations, tourists and passers-by.  Maintenance, however, is not the most glamorous element of being a churchwarden and costs, resources, health and safety and the need to interpret a lengthy quinquennial inspection report can make it challenging at times.

Yet every £1 not spent on maintenance now, could cost £5 in 20 years’ time – Gutter Clear.

On Saturday 12th October, 40 church volunteers from parishes across Ely and St Alban’s Dioceses, attended a SPAB Faith in Maintenance workshop delivered by Architect and Historic Buildings Consultant James Innerdale. The workshop was free to attend thanks to National Lottery Players and took place at St James’ Church, Little Paxton.

After a very warm welcome from Cannon Annette Reed, Geoffrey Hunter, DAC Secretary, introduced the workshop with a “thoroughly interesting” look at buildings in the area – the common materials and problems.  James then focused on maintenance, looking at why buildings decay, why maintenance is important and what key things we should be looking for.  He also highlighted the importance of annual surveys and record keeping, namely maintenance plans and log books, stressing the importance of succession planning – “don’t just keep it all in your head” make sure all the information is available for the next churchwarden.

The rain paused for the afternoon observation exercise, during which the group tried to identify vulnerable areas of the fabric of St James’ Church and any maintenance issues. The Church was almost too good to be a case study having recentlyundergone repointing and prior to that a major reordering and repair project, but the group did manage to find some ‘items’ including a couple of blocked drains, which were quickly rectified.

Feedback was overwhelmingly positive with people enjoying the day and the warm welcome at the host venue:

“all subjects and outside fact find was brilliant and very informative”

“I learnt a lot from observing problems outside the building”

“The day has stimulated interest in historic buildings”

The key piece of advice from the day is that all churches need a good ‘hat and boots’ and the ability to breathe.

Check your rainwater goods and make sure that water is being taken away from the building, check your roof and keep the interior well ventilated. Little tips like checking drainpipes and gutters during or after heavy rain and ventilating your building after church services can make all the difference in spotting problems early.

Many delegates hadn’t considered the amount of water vapour that can build up in a church when in use - heating, talking, singing and the boiling of kettles and urns – if the church is quickly closed afterwards with the heating turned off and all doors and windows closed, this water will condense on the interior surfaces as the building cools down.

Maintenance (and the people who carry it out) is often the unsung hero of church care.  SPAB, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, have previously run a campaign called National Maintenance Week to highlight its importance. The campaign is due to be relaunched in 2020, but in the meantime, National Gutters Day will continue this year on the 29th November; it will be promoted on social media @SPAB1877.

More resources are available on SPAB’s website here:



There is also another chance to book on a FREE Faith in Maintenance workshop on Saturday March 21st at Wisbech St Peter and St Paul’s Church. The workshop is open to anyone looking after an historic place of worship as long as the buildings falls within the boundaries of the Diocese of Ely.  It is open to all faiths and organisations and free to attend thanks to support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Places are limited so please book by contacting Holly Isted, Historic Church Buildings Support Officer.


Page last updated: Thursday 24th October 2019 9:21 AM
First published on: 23rd October 2019
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