SPCK or SSG? Bookshop Photocall

Updated 20th Sept 2008

Earlier this month Matt Wills posted photos of the Winchester and Salisbury branches, still decked out in their SPCK colours and signage almost two years on from the handover. More to the point, it’s now almost a year since SPCK withdrew the licence to trade under the SPCK name:

SPCK Trustees' Report and Accounts, Year Ended 30 April 2008

Annual Report 2008

SSG (the former SPCK Bookshops)  

In November 2007, SPCK withdrew the licence granted to Saint Stephen the Great Charitable Trust to use our name in relation to the Bookshops in view of their failure to abide by the terms of our agreement. It has proved a very difficult and distressing year for the shops and staff, and the process has involved us in a considerable amount of activity. There are a number of significant legal issues between SPCK and SSGCT that have not been resolved at the year end.

SPCK Trustees’ Report and Accounts, Year Ended 30 April 2008 (pdf, 944kb)

Not wishing to be outdone, it seems, Mark Brewer put his own spin on the story: it wasn’t so much a case of SPCK withdrawing the licence but of SSG feeling uncomfortable with SPCK’s theology:

Book chain drops SPCK name

Bookseller, 07.11.07: Book chain drops SPCK name

Mark Brewer said that “with more and more SPCK [published] books carrying a decidedly ‘liberal’ agenda rather than traditional Christian values, [SSG] feel the time has come to distance themselves from SPCK”.

The Bookseller, 7th Nov 2007

Being a man of his word, of course, Mark immediately sent out a team of shopfitters and signwriters to dismantle all remaining vestiges of SSG’s association with SPCK. In fact, so worried was he by the possibility of SSG’s good name being tainted by association with SPCK that he immediately discontinued SSG’s use of the spckonline.com domain and rebranded the entire enterprise Third Space Books

That’s the fantasy version, by the way: the reality, as many readers will be only too painfully aware, proved a little different. Mark’s grasp of “traditional Christian values” (complicated things like honesty, integrity and paying your workers and suppliers, for instance) were evidently a bit much for an “exceptionally well trained” lawyer from Brewer & Pritchard to get to grips with…

Here, A-Z by location, to help illustrate that reality, we present Matt’s photos together with a few others from around the country, all pictures taken this year. If you click through the pictures to the original posts you’ll find most of the photographers asking much the same question: why are (or were, as the case may be) the shops still trading under the SPCK name so long after the licence was withdrawn and so long after Mark Brewer himself declared that he wanted to disassociate SSG from SPCK?


Birmingham, September 2008, courtesy of Pauline Edwards.

Birmingham, September 2008, courtesy of Pauline Edwards.

Pauline has posted more photos in facebook, but you’ll need to be logged in to facebook to see them…


Cambridge, 17th Feb 2008, photo by Jeremy (blog.parsonses.co.uk), retrieved from Dave Walker's blog as reposted at opendebatenotlibelthreats.blogspot.com

Cambridge, 17th Feb 2008, photo by Jeremy (blog.parsonses.co.uk), retrieved from DW

For some more recent Cambridge photos, SPCK signage cleared but SPCK/SSG carrier bags evidently in use (albeit as rubbish bags!) see Shame and Disgrace: St Stephen the Great, Cambridge


Canterbury, 11th Feb 2008, photo by Dave Walker (retrieved from his blog, reposted at opendebatenotlibelthreats.blogspot.com)

Canterbury, 11th Feb 2008, photo by Dave Walker (retrieved from his blog and reposted at opendebatenotlibelthreats.blogspot.com)



Chester, 20th June 2008

Chester, 20th June 2008, photo by Peter Owen (with apologies to Peter for the delay in adding this)



Exeter, June 2008, courtesy of Neil Denham

Exeter, June 2008, courtesy of Neil Denham (with apologies to Neil for the delay in adding this!)

the Exeter shop stripped bare, 19/09/2008, courtesy once again of Neil Denham

And so it ends: the Exeter shop stripped bare, 19/09/2008, courtesy once again of Neil Denham

For more photos showing the now empty shelves — and an excerpt from an email describing what happened — see Neil’s report, SPCK Bookshop Exeter – R.I.P.


Lincoln, June 2008

Lincoln, June 2008, photographer unknown

Picture from Hodgson Elkington’s flyer advertising the premises to let.


Salisbury, 2nd Sept 2008

Salisbury, 2nd Sept 2008, photo by Matt Wills, A very ordinary title for a blog...



Winchester, 31st August 2008

Winchester, 31st August 2008, photo by Matt Wills, A very ordinary title for a blog...



SPCK Worcester, 26th July 2008

Worcester, 26th July 2008, photo by Doug Chaplin, MetaCatholic



Photo by Richard and Gill, Flickr

York, 22nd May 2008, photo by Richard and Gill, Flickr

York, 9th July 2008, photo by Peter Owen (with apologies to Peter for the delay in adding this)

York, 9th July 2008, photo by Peter Owen (with apologies to Peter for the delay in adding this)

Thanks to those concerned for permission to reuse the photos here. Any others out there? Please either send them in or point me towards where they’re posted to help complete the picture. Pictures taken this year, please.

– Phil Groom. Posted 08/09/2008; updated 20/09/2008.


29 responses to “SPCK or SSG? Bookshop Photocall

  1. Chester.



  2. I have been told that Chichester no longer puts up the SPCK sign, but will try and get a photo as proof.

  3. cambridge still looking like the photo on here a while back – the rubbish is still there as well.

  4. How many of these shops are listed buildings? This may have a role to play in the lack of removal of the SPCK name, but while I know that planning permission on a listed building (such as Winchester, the old Canterbury Shop, Salisbury and others) why do I doubt that planning permission to repaint the shops fronts has even been applied for. Also I have heard the people in Salisbury seem to believe that they are still an SPCK shop.

  5. Feel free to use my Flickr photos on this site, I will wander up to the shop later in the week and see what the state of play is.

    P.S. Rome was lovely by the way.

  6. I’ll keep an eye on the salisbury and winchester situations to see if anything is changing there.

  7. Walked past the Newcastle shop today and the hanging pilgrim sign has been removed and the letters SPCK have been painted out on the sign above the shop window. The Durham shop has had new signage for several weeks, in the in house Durham Cathedral style and format.

  8. There is a picture of the Canterbury shop with SPCK above the door here (retrieved from Dave Walker’s blog), and one of the Cambridge shop with SPCK sign outside here. Both pictures are dated to February 2008. So you can fill out the first half of the alphabet to balance your S-Z section. And here is an SPCK sign outside the London store, no exact date given.

  9. Went into the salisbury shop today and noticed that books are still being priced with some SPCK price stickers.

  10. not sure if all of the books are using spck stickers, but the ones i looked at were.

  11. Interesting observation on the Durham shop, Carole: you’d think the Dean & Chapter would want to distance themselves from the Brewers’ operations rather than embrace them under the house livery…

  12. Chichester has actually had its shop sign repainted so is no longer using the SPCK name. The manager, I believe, did this without checking it with the Brewers. He just got on and got the sign repainted.

    I am hearing rumours though that there were problems with last months wages. Anyone else heard anything?

  13. The picture of the Chester shop that Matt has linked to is mine. I’ve also just uploaded a photo of the York shop taken more recently than the one above.


    Phil, I have marked both these photos “All rights reserved” but you have my permission to put copies of either or both on this site.


  14. The old sign outside the Durham Shop was a rather large one including a photo of the inside of the shop, but unfortunately had the SPCK logo on it which had to be covered by a paper sign reading “Durham Cathedral Shop”. This looked a little untidy so I suspect that was one of the reasons why a new sign was put up saying simply “Shop” with the opening hours, giving plenty of scope re ownership.

  15. I used to work in the salisbury branch. I was in there the other day, and was saddened at how much things had changed…

  16. new photos of the salisbury branch up on my blog!


  17. Thanks Matt – OK if I copy these over here, please? (note the etiquette 😉 )

  18. have also posted about a very interesting appeal for volunteers on my blog. it makes interesting reading…


  19. I just made a comment on Matt’s post suggesting that the words “the U.K’s most successful Church and Bookshop Charity”, as a description of SSG, amount to false advertising. Wesley Owen is surely more “successful” by any objective standards. So a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority could add to the pressure on the Brewers.

  20. Peter I hope you have complained.

  21. Asingleblog, I think it has to be for Matt to complain as he is the one who has seen the notice.

  22. i’m just wondering whether it would be worth complaining. will ASA really be interested in one notice in a shop window?

  23. I don’t know, Matt. I think they would at least send a warning letter. They would certainly be interested if this kind of notice started appearing widely or on the Internet. But I note that there is no contact information provided, so perhaps it is just a local initiative.

  24. Matt – have you brought the notice, with the true facts, to the notice of your local papers? If this is, as Pete suggests, a local initiative, then a nice report in the city’s newspaper may be a good enough course of action. If posters appear in other shops then things can go higher.

  25. Pingback: Response to Durham Cathedral expulsion of Shop Lessee from Durham Cathedral Shop

  26. Pingback: Response to Durham Cathedral expulsion of Shop Lessee from Durham Cathedral Shop « SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info

  27. Pingback: Unravelling the Knots « SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info

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