For the Avoidance of Doubt: Important Message from the Dean of Durham

From the Very Revd Michael Sadgrove, Dean of Durham:

For the avoidance of doubt:

I need to state once again that the Cathedral Chaper does not manage the shop in its Great Kichen.  This is run as a franchise subject to strict business law, as it was in the days of SPCK.  Not all petitioners appear to be clear that a franchise is a formal, legal arrangement to which the parties to it are bound.  

I ask petitioner no. 273 (Daid Baxter) to note that this “business within the Cathedral” is NOT managed, is NOT controlled and is NOT run by the Cathedral itself.  His comment that “letters sent to the Cathedral authorities go unanswered” is incorrect and I ask him to withdraw it.  Whatever he means by this,  I can assure him and everyone else that all correspondence addressed to the Cathdral is responded to efficiently and professionally (and, I need not add, all its debts are paid when due).  

Michael Sadgrove

November 29, 2008, 3:43pm

Phil Groom, Petition Administrator, writes: (updated November 30, 2008, 2:48pm)

Thanks for this, Michael: much appreciated and very encouraging to see you dissociating yourselves from the shop so clearly. Unfortunately it isn’t possible to remove comments from the petition, but I will contact contacted David to alert him to your request and invite him to comment either here or on the Durham page as he sees fit he has kindly responded with a comment below.

With respect to Cathedral correspondence, I can confirm that in my own experience your own and the Chapter’s communications have been as you say.

Part of the problem, unfortunately, is that the business in the Great Kitchen is trading under the Cathedral’s banner as ‘Durham Cathedral Shop’, the name printed on its till receipts, and is an official outlet for Durham Cathedral branded products. As long as this continues then we have a recipe for confusion: as others have noted, visitors to the Cathedral see the shop as an integral part of their overall visitor experience; and if correspondence addressed to the shop or its owners goes unanswered then this inevitably reflects badly upon the Cathedral itself.

No doubt notice to quit has already been served to the shop’s owners in accordance with the terms of the lease, but perhaps in the meantime withdrawing all official Durham Cathedral merchandise from the shop and posting clear disclaimer notices in appropriate places around the Cathedral and on the Cathedral website would help to make the point?

Thanks again, with best wishes for a positive outcome to the situation,


14 responses to “For the Avoidance of Doubt: Important Message from the Dean of Durham

  1. “As it was in the days of the SPCK”. I take it that the Dean & Chapter did not sign a new lease agreement with SSG.

  2. I am by no means an expert on franchise law. But I know that normal business franchises include very strict terms and conditions especially in areas like adhering to corporate standards. If for example a franchise for an international restaurant chain failed to meet international standards in all kinds of areas including decor and food quality, and all the more so if it started to promote an alternative brand, it would be closed down immediately, and there would be terms in the franchise agreement to permit this. If Durham Cathedral has made a franchise agreement without including terms of this kind, allowing it to terminate the franchise if the franchise holders act against its interests, the competence of its legal advisers needs to be questioned. At least we can be grateful that the shop has not been taken over by Muslim fundamentalists who presumably also could not be ejected.

  3. Well said Peter Kirk. I’m baffled by the term “franchise”. I don’t believe that the Durham Dean and Chapter would have been silly enough to grant SSG a franchise?

  4. I think in some respects Muslim fundamentalists would be an improvement: at least we’d know what they stand for.

    With the Brewers and their so-called ‘Orthodoxy’ we’re up against something that likes to dress itself up in Christian terminology, that presents itself as ‘Christian’ but betrays the name by its behaviour and consequently brings all of us into disrepute.

    As Natalie Jones put it:

    “The Brewers [are] destroying an important part of the Cathedral as surely as a suicide bomber might – they are just taking a longer way about doing it, like some kind of infectious mold destroying an old, beautiful piece of stone. Fundamentalism is fundamentalism, not matter what denomination of belief it belongs to.”

  5. >I am by no means an expert on franchise law. But I know that normal business franchises include very strict terms and conditions especially in areas like adhering to corporate standards.

    I’m not either and I agree with the implication that it is unlikely to be a “franchise”, since that unusally involves all sorts of support services and large annual payments from the franchisee.

    I’ll probably only comment in real detail on the legal aspects when (if !) I get to see the actual agreement put in place between the cathedral and SSG when they took over management of the shop, and subsequently when it changed to Durham Cathedral Shop Management Ltd.

    Although, even a basic business lease would usually include unencumbered break clauses after an initial period of several years (perhaps 3, 5 or 10 – to allow the parties to recoup their initial investment), legal responsibilities, some specification of the goods to be sold in the shop in its context (here: tourism, parishes, perhaps theological college etc), division of responsibilities, financial nitty-gritty and so on.

  6. Valiant for Truth

    There is an interesting notice on the Durham Cathedral website under “Proposed Amendments to the Constitution & Statutes”

    Insert new Article 14:

    To incorporate companies, limited by shares or by guarantee, and where relevant subscribe for, take, purchase, or otherwise acquire, hold, sell, deal with and dispose of shares in any such company, to manage and develop functions relating to the activities undertaken by any such company or parts of its operation and/or assets as it may consider expedient, provided always that any such company shall have objects compatible with the objects of the Cathedral and shall be represented on its board of directors by the Chapter in a majority.

  7. “any such company shall have objects compatible with the objects of the Cathedral”. Seems that the Dean and Chapter have ample reason to instruct the Brewers to relinquish the lease.

  8. I sent copies of my last letter to SSG (dated 14th July) to both the Chapter Office at Durham and the Diocesan Office at Bishop Auckland on the same day, with the following covering letter to the Chapter Office.

    “Please find enclosed a copy of correspondence with the Durham Cathedral shop. Although I realise that SSG is a separate organisation, it does operate under the ‘same roof’ and I feel that it is important that you are aware that the Shop continues to refuse to pay for goods which have been supplied. I believe that I am far from being the only business affected this way.”

    I did not receive an acknowledgment or reply. However, unlike the letter to the Shop, the letter to the Chapter Office was not sent recorded delivery and I cannot check that it was actually delivered, so I will accept Michael Sadgrove’s assurances of efficiency and withdraw the remark.

    I hope he is pursuing SSG’s remarks with an equivalent vigour.

  9. I remember Mark Brewer’s rant about this.

  10. As far as I remember Mr Baxter was threatened with libel.

  11. >I believe that I am far from being the only business affected this way.”

    I don’t have numbers for the shop at Durham specifically, but for the whole chain there are hundreds amounting to $1->$1.5 in total as disclosed in the South Texas Bankruptcy Court.

    You can get that list from here:

    and the result of the Bankruptcy (i.e., Brewer-Skewered) from here:

    and some commentary here:


  12. I also ran across this, from one of Unity’s posts on the Bankruptcy:

    “I have to say that I’m also a trifle puzzled by a couple of entries that appear right at the end of the schedule of SSG’s creditors, one that shows that it apparently owes two of the new companies, set up by Brewer in March 2008 to run the former SPCK shops that he’s decided to hang on to, a little over $201,000 – over $165,000 to the Durham Cathedral Shop Management Co and a little over $35,000 to the Chichester Cathedral Shop Management Co.

    How did that happen in the three months between the incorporation of these two new companies and SSG filing for bankruptcy? It seems that there’s yet another question that Brewer needs to answer and as we’re back in Q&A mode for the moment, I wonder if he could also explain why the St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust failed to file its accounts and annual return with the Charity Commission in 2006 and why St Stephen the Great Limited’s accounts and annual return for its first year of operation have yet to be filed with Companies House and are currently listed as overdue.”



  13. Pingback: Durham Cathedral Shop Adverts and Anagrams: Third Space Books = Crooks Ship A Debt « SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info

  14. Pingback: No Signs of Change in Durham Cathedral « SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info

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