30a Sincil Street, RIP

Estate Agent's Flyer for the former SPCK, Lincoln.Don’t quite know why, since as far as I remember I’ve never been there, but somehow today it struck me as unbearably sad to see the stripped-out windows of the former Sincil Street SPCK Lincoln shop in this estate agent’s flyer (zoomed in shot of the shop front further down).

I guess what struck me was the hardened finality of it as the culmination of the Brewers’ betrayal  — I can think of no other word for it — of SPCK’s trust in handing the shops over to them, of the utter failure of SSG to live up to even their own expectations.

It prompted me to look back at the October 2006 Press Release, still available on the SSG website as I write, but also available as a pdf here (200kb)

Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust and SPCK share a strong commitment to communicate the richness of the Christian Faith. Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust intend to employ a vigorous marketing strategy for the SPCK Bookshops. “People in our stressful, modern age, care deeply about spirituality and long for a deeper faith. SPCK Bookshops will offer a primary solution to these questions of faith” said Mark Brewer, Chairman of Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust, in a press release accompanying the transaction.  “SPCK will continue into its fourth century with its shops as places where all people, Christian or otherwise, are welcome and given the chance to widen their spiritual horizons.”

“We are delighted to have found partners with a similarly strong vision and a determination to invest in the mission of presenting the Christian message imaginatively and effectively in an attractive environment”, commented SPCK’s new Chairman, Bishop Michael Perham in the same press release.

Under the new arrangements, SPCK Bookshops will continue to serve the broad and diverse SPCK customer base, and expanding the products that it offers those customers. Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust will also place a major emphasis in online marketing at http://www.spckonline.com, utilising the internet and harnessing the market power and presence of the venerable SPCK and its 308 year-long history in the U.K.

In this way we believe the Bookshops will be both maintained and strengthened, remaining broad and looking ambitiously to a growing future.

We believe that this is good news for the whole Christian community. 

If the Brewers had followed through on that initial commitment to remain broad in their outlook — “to communicate the richness of the Christian Faith”, developing the shops “as places where all people, Christian or otherwise, are welcome and given the chance to widen their spiritual horizons” — then it would, indeed, have been “good news for the whole Christian community”, then perhaps we might not have come to this present pass.

SPCK, 30a Sincil Street, LincolnAs things have emerged, however, it seems that we can only wonder, watch and weep for what has been lost.

Or is that really all we can do? Even as I write 30a Sincil Street, RIP, I am reminded that the letters RIP have more than one meaning: Resurrection in Progress! If you visit Lincoln, be sure to go a little further along Sincil Street to the Central Market where you’ll find that miracle in progress as Lincoln is Saved by a Unicorn! 

SPCK/SSG may be over and done in Lincoln, but Christian bookselling is alive and kicking: long may it continue.

Full details of Unicorn Tree Books below.

Unicorn Tree Books 
35-40 Central Market 
Sincil Street 
Lincoln LN5 7ET  


Phone: 01522 525557 
Fax: 01522 830896 


Hodgson Elkington Flyer originally downloaded from
Thanks to UTB for posting the link that led me to this on Dave Walker’s shop round up page.



4 responses to “30a Sincil Street, RIP

  1. Phil,

    Thanks for this – both the mention of my current venture and commenting on the passing of what was my shop as manager of Lincoln SPCK, I found that shop when we had to relocate from our old home right at the very top of Steep Hill. I walk past that sad frontage everyday to get to my new bookshop just down the road in Sincil Street in the Central Market (by the way reading the agents details highlighted something I had suspected but now have definitive proof of! my ‘stall’ in the market is larger than my shop was! 444sq ft for the SPCK and 548sq ft for Unicorn Tree! so ok its not just christian books in Unicorn Tree, but we had an awful lot of space in SPCK given over to, as some CBbloggers would say, cheesy cards and a plethora of christian tac and gifts! so probably in terms of books I am getting towards being even!).

    As many know I did not leave entirely of my own choice and started tribunal proceedings against SSG that were settled out of court less than 2 weeks before the tribunal date. It hurt to leave, my team was there, my job was there and my online baby was there! that’s what strikes me as so ironic and ultimately depressing by your piece.

    When all of us managers showed up to the meeting where we were told about what was going to happen with SPCK handing us over to SSG and we met Mark Brewer for the first time – a lot of people turned around to me and said I & the team had it made as rather like in the press release he made much of online – you see here’s the bitter irony – I was the bookshops e-commerce manager – as well as shop manager at Lincoln I was manager of SPCKONLINE.com, SPCKONLINE.com was based at, in and out of Lincoln!

    I grew – with the help of the wonderful Martin Brasier of Melchior Telematics, and some other great people such as Tom Au, Eunice Porter and other folks including the support provided by the team incl. Debbie, Sue & Ruth – SPCKonline from its infancy, heck I moved from Brighton and managing the SPCK there to Lincoln for online!
    So at that first meeting when Brewer spoke about online so ardently everyone thought lincoln had it made. Initially I thought so too (until I got home and looked up ssg’s american site!)- there was at that first meeting mention of trips to Houston to meet & work with a great guy called Andreas Konstantinou, (he later came to the UK and we had a great few days working together and brainstorming some great idea’s however within a week of him leaving the UK he was no longer working with the Brewers and all plans that way were scrapped! go figure! less than a month later and I, to all intents and purposes, was being scrapped too!).

    You know the Lincoln team tried to do everything right, we had a good team spirit, a vibrant shop and a pretty good (but not yet perfect) online site running from the back of the shop.
    Online was self-supporting – had been for nearly 2 years, it bore no burdens and paid for itself and its staff and it served a purpose and a need that was not always met by other online sites (oh and we didn’t offer the books at discounted prices either! and yet we did quite well!).
    Certainly online itself was not an issue – and yet first me suddenly finding my job was given to someone else, then after me the remaining member of staff that worked online – its fulfillment supervisor – turned in to find St. Andrews were doing her job, was she consulted you ask? take a wild guess! (however the Assistant Manager did better than this, she suddenly found herself one day with a job!, was she consulted – YES – and she had said NO in both word and writing to the job of manager as they offered her no more wage than she was on just extra work!).
    Why did they need to hand fulfilment over to St Andrews? I have no idea – but I do know that after I left the frontpage on SPCKonline took nearly 3 months to change and then never changed again until the new site was designed by Booksolve. I guess they didn’t initially get that specialised jobs require specialised skill sets and staff.

    So having said all this I think that you are right Phil when you say, ‘the culmination of the Brewers’ betrayal — I can think of no other word for it — of SPCK’s trust in handing the shops over to them, of the utter failure of SSG to live up to even their own expectations’.
    I really would like to think they just did not have a clue because the alternative is just that they really were intent on betraying us all from the beginning. Certainly they betrayed me and my team.
    You know they awarded the Lincoln team the first ‘Third Space’ Award (the third space being a place other than your home -1st space- and your work -2nd space- where you feel warmed, welcomed, at home and comfortable!) of £100 to spend on a meal, they did this just a few weeks before they fired them all by email – really makes you wonder.
    +Most of the staff now have jobs – 2 have full time ones, very different to what they were doing but they seem to like it a lot, One has a part time job at the Cathedral, but please if any one out there knows of a job in Lincoln for a dedicated and hardworking member of staff who has really good office based skills, phone skills and retail skills then please let us know – as we are still looking for a job for one of the team.+

    Still as you say Resurrection in Progress! All of this change and turmoil forced me to re-evaluate myself and I took the chance to go out and get my own bookshop, doing this meant that when SSG did what they did in February 2008 I was able to go ahead and dedicate a comprehensive section of my shop back to my real love – christian books – and to continue to serve my communities needs.
    All of this was in lent and just in time for easter, my first orders were for paschal product – for me that said a lot, and says a lot, God has bigger plans than we know and he puts us where we need to be – it just isn’t always comfortable in the getting there.

    So again, Phil, thank you for remembering my shop, both of them, and I echo and extend your invite to people to come in an visit me/us when they are in Lincoln – if you call at the right time you may even get to share the chocolate! but you can always share in the chat and the knowledge that you are welcome.

  2. justflyingkites

    The English language is lacking. There should be a stronger word than “betrayal” when it comes to SSG. There will probably more betrayals by them as they continue to sack staff (new or old). Questions should be raised about the owners of the buildings which house SSG shops in Durham and Chichester. What moral grounds do they have for propping up SSG.

  3. Phelim McIntyre

    justflyingkites – I don’t know about the Durham issue but at Chichester SSG don’t pay any rent under a covenant of over 50 years ago with SPCK. So Chichester diocese is probably just pleased to have a “redundent church” used and not be responsible for this. Even so Chichester diocese has not done a quinquenial inspection in living memory, which they legally should have done, and neither SPCK or SSG have kept the fabric to the required standard as they should of done. Put simply I doubt Chichester Diocese cares about what is going on – when there was the threat of all the shops closing we heard nothing from the Diocese or Cathedral. In fact the buy out that could have happened would have been done by the local Pioneer church, who would have allowed us to carry on doing what we had done as SPCK. If only this had happened.

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