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Date

8 October 2005

Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, joins Marianne Suhr of TV’s ‘Restoration’ and Timothy Jones of English Heritage to launch an innovative maintenance project for London’s historic churches in partnership with The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings’ (SPAB) National Maintenance Week, 2005.

EVENT: Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, joins Marianne Suhr of TV's ‘Restoration' and Timothy Jones of English Heritage to launch an innovative maintenance project for London's historic churches in partnership with The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings' (SPAB) National Maintenance Week, 2005.

LOCATION: The Church of St Giles In The Fields, St Giles High Street, London WC2.

Hard hats and a head for heights will be the order of the day when Bishop of London, Richard Chartres joins TV heritage expert Marianne Suhr and Timothy Jones, Historic Buildings and Areas Advisor at English Heritage, in a cherry picker lift at the London Church of St Giles in the Fields to clear the gutters and check out the roof in preparation for The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings' National Maintenance Week 2005. (November 18 -26).

The event also launches an innovative new Diocese of London project, supported by English Heritage, that aims to clear all church gutters and downpipes at least twice a year - one of the most basic and effective ways to keep a building in good shape.

Each year in November SPAB is the force behind National Maintenance Week, an information campaign to encourage anyone who cares for a building to be aware of the simple steps that can be taken to prepare a property for the worst that the winter can bring. It's a message that's relevant to buildings of all types and all ages, from country cottages and urban terraces to castles and cathedrals.

Water damage is a particular concern - especially as the winter rains approach. Checking roof tiles and the annual cleaning of debris like leaves and twigs from gutters and drains can be much cheaper and less inconvenient than having to cope with a serious outbreak of dry rot in timber roof trusses following years of neglect.

Churches face particular maintenance challenges and the 479 churches of the Diocese of London are no exception. On Tuesday November 8, the Bishop of London and SPAB's roving education officer Marianne Suhr, will launch an EH-supported pilot maintenance project covering 46 London churches in Westminster, representing 10% of the diocese.

The Bishop of London explains: "Significant and historic churches are among the nation's unsung national treasures but it costs a great deal of money to keep these beautiful buildings in use. One fundamental physical need of churches, beyond those of the worshipping community, is the need to protect them from water damage by keeping gutters and downpipes clear- and this is an unending task.

"Our pilot aims to ensure that the churches of Westminster have their gutters and downpipes cleared at least twice a year practically, professionally and cost effectively. We are confident that this scheme can be extended across the diocese and beyond."

In the Diocese of London in 2003 around £16 million was spent on major repairs to churches, with an estimated £32.5 million of further repairs still required. The majority of this sum (90%) was to listed churches. Many of these repairs can be prevented by regular maintenance.

Timothy Jones of English Heritage said: "The Westminster pilot maintenance project is one of three such projects. We are financially supporting one in Suffolk and hope to help with another in Gloucester next year. We see this innovatory new partnership with the Diocese of London as the ideal way of heading off the most common cause of trouble in historic churches at the earliest stage."

Marianne Suhr, a trained building surveyor, says: "SPAB is currently developing a co-ordinated maintenance education scheme for historic places of worship to help the volunteers who already take on this essential work at important buildings throughout the country.

"The Westminster pilot project addresses the importance of planned regular maintenance to the upkeep of churches - something that is vital to any building regardless of age or purpose. Just taking a little time to clear debris like leaves and twigs from gutters and drains can avert costly and invasive water damage. The simple message of National Maintenance Week is spend a little time to, potentially, save a lot of money!"

ENDS

For more information contact: Kate Griffin: SPAB press office, 0207 456 0905 / mob: 07963 900939 Peter Aiers: Diocese of London: 0207 932 1100 Anya Matthews: English Heritage: 0207 973 3000

Notes to Editors:

The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) was founded by William Morris 125 years ago to care for and preserve the UK's architectural heritage. Since its foundation, SPAB has been committed to maintenance matters, in line with William Morris' exhortation to: "Stave off decay by daily care." Today it is a dynamic organisation, and registered charity (no. 231307), taking building conservation into the future. To find out more visit www.spab.org.uk

National Maintenance Week (18 -25 November 2005) is SPAB's annual campaign to encourage anyone who cares for a property to take a few simple, safe steps to prepare their building for winter.

National Gutters Day (Friday 25 November 2005) is a light-hearted reminder to homeowners that just a few minutes spent clearing weeds and debris, or just a few pounds spent to mend a leaky gutter can save many hundreds, and possibly thousands of pounds! Visit the dedicated website: www.maintainyourbuilding.org.uk

The Diocese of London covers 277 square miles with 479 churches. 68,000 adults are listed as church members in the electoral roles. The diocese has 148 church schools with 46,582 pupils. Currently 140 people are training for the priesthood in the diocese.

The Diocese of London is directly involved with 150 social responsibility projects incorporating work with:

  • Children and young people
  • Refugees
  • Asylum seekers
  • The homeless
  • People with mental and physical disabilities
  • Families
  • The elderly
  • Mother and toddler groups
  • Youth clubs
  • Guides and Scouts

www.london.anglican.org

English Heritage is the government's lead body for the historic environment in England and is responsible for protecting and providing advice on this country's unique legacy of historic buildings, landscapes and archaeological sites for the benefit of this and future generations. It also manages over 400 sites and welcomes more than 11 million visitors to these each year.

For full details please visit www.english-heritage.org.uk or contact English Heritage customer services on 0870 333 1181.

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