No Signs of Change in Durham Cathedral

Durham Cathedral: View from the riverPhil Groom writes:

Durham. I visited last Tuesday, April 21st: a beautiful spring day, a walk down by the river, lunch in the Cathedral Café. Magnificent. If you’ve never been to Durham, you really should take some time out to pay a visit. Click the thumbnails for bigger pictures.

Durham Cathedral: Shop EntranceI wandered on to the bookshop: the bookshop about which the Dean of Durham, the Most Very Revd Michael Sadgrove, has himself personally emphasised

this “business within the Cathedral” is NOT managed, is NOT controlled and is NOT run by the Cathedral itself.

So who is running it? The sign at the entrance seems perfectly clear: “The Cathedral Shop”. There was scaffolding up when I arrived: were they about to change the sign to something less misleading? Unfortunately not: it was something higher up.

Cathedral Shop gifts and booksI walked in to be met by another couple of signs: “Cathedral Shop gifts and books” and “Durham Cathedral: This SPCK book and gift shop was opened on Monday 22 December 1997 by — ” I forget who: some historic personage; and perhaps that’s the point: the sign is part of the shop’s history, and Durham Cathedral is big on history.

Durham Cathedral: This SPCK book and gift shop...But it looked for all the world to me like a sign declaring the shop’s ownership. I wondered if, as had once been planned, Jarrolds had taken over the shop, would it have been left in situ, boldly proclaiming for the avoidance of doubt that this is an SPCK bookshop? Somehow, I doubt it.

Durham Cathedral Shop: gift item with SPCK price labelI wandered further in. You’ll notice a lot of wandering — and wondering — in this post. A friendly young lady greeted me with a smile at the till. I smiled back and nodded. I met several members of staff: they were unfailingly friendly and polite, which, given their plight — working for a minimum wage, employed via an agency a third party organisation by two obnoxious rogues (yes, Messrs Brewer: that’s you I’m referring to) who treat their staff with complete contempt and their customers like cattle to be milked in some sort of cowboy’s power games — was quite astonishing.

Durham Cathedral Shop: SPCK label by the tillI knew that stock was likely to be fairly thin on the ground in the shop, having seen asingleblog’s photos. I’m not sure that I was really prepared for how thin the stock was. The staff had done an admirable job of spreading it out, most books face out on the shelves and most shelves facing customers entering the shop almost convincingly full. But like the signs at the main entrance and the SPCK labels on the goods and by the till, this was a facade: once inside the Great Kitchen and looking back towards the entrance, the huge gaps were glaringly obvious.

Durham Cathedral Shop: Local Interest Section

Durham Cathedral Shop: Local Interest Section

Lease Excerpt

Excerpt from the SPCK-Durham Cathedral Lease (see below)

The situation beggars belief. The terms of the original lease with SPCK, excerpted below, were very specific: a wide range of stock to be maintained in all areas. These terms have been comprehensively breached. Yet the Dean and Chapter allow the Brewers to continue trading; worse yet, they allow them to continue trading under the guise of an SPCK bookshop, bringing both SPCK and the Cathedral into disrepute.

Visitors have absolutely no way of knowing that the shop is no longer operated by SPCK: on the contrary, they are misled by out of date signage and SPCK labels still in use around the shop.

Given that in November last year the Dean was adamant in his denial of any responsibility for the shop, why does he allow this? 

I need to state once again that the Cathedral Chaper [sic] does not manage the shop in its Great Kichen [sic]. 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.

Strict business law that one side, it seems, is allowed to ignore with impunity; a formal, legal arrangement to which only one party appears to consider itself bound and which the other treats with utter contempt.

Durham Cathedral: Chapter OfficeI finished my visit by calling in at the Chapter Office in the hope of introducing myself to the Dean and asking him a few questions. Unfortunately he wasn’t there. I left my card with the receptionist and wandered away, saddened, bemused and more than a little angry. There is a grim darkness — a Texan darkness — at the heart of Durham Cathedral, and the sooner it is excised, the better.

An Excerpt from the SPCK-Durham Cathedral Lease

SPCK hereby promise to stock…

(a) A wide range of books of interest to visitors to Durham and the Cathedral

(b) A wide range of cards, stationery, souvenirs and gift items likely to be purchased by visitors to Durham and the Cathedral. … so that both parties are satisfied that standards appropriate to the shop are maintained…

(c) A wide and diverse range of religious books, including children’s books.

(d) Adequate stockholding for parochial needs in the diocese.

(e) A wide range of theological texts appropriate to the needs of students and more specifically those theological texts required by the syllabus of Durham University and the Theological Colleges.


28 responses to “No Signs of Change in Durham Cathedral

  1. i manage the christian bookshop at darlington, which is the next town along the A1 from Durham, and have been reading your comments with interest for a number of months now. we get a lot of customers in from outside darlington and are finding an increased number from the durham area, i thaught you might be interested to know that when i get into conversatian with them they are not aware that the spck chain is not running durham any more. they are only aware that the stock levels are not very good and have come farther afield to darlington for a better choice of books and supplies. in my opinion the vast majority of the general public are not aware of the situation with the brewer brothers and spck, i am therefore to assume that the staff at durham are trying to carry on as normal and not informing there customers of the truth!!

    be blessed

  2. You seem to have promoted the Dean! He`s VERY Reverend – not MOST Reverend.

  3. Valiant for Truth

    Sadly, you are probably right, Phil, that people assume the Shop is either run by the Cathedral (the majority) or by SPCK. The staff have always had loyalty to the Cathedral and a certain fear of the Brewers (understandable), so probably feel unsure about speaking out to customers. After all, their jobs could be on the line. Also, in fairness, the Shop has customers from all over the world, and you don’t badger a foreign tourist with details of shop ownership. Such customers are partly responsible for keeping the shop going, as many previously loyal to SPCK customers have moved away. Others feel loyalty to the Cathedral and the staff, so keep on shopping. Possibly a bad move if you want to remove the Brewers? Someone will correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think any of the Durham staff are Agency staff – they might be safer if they were. All but one of the present staff were employed by SPCK, then SSG, then Durham Cathedral Shop Management Company. New Contracts of Employment have never been issued so, technically, none of the staff have Contracts, which is illegal. They are, also, no longer in a pension scheme, which is illegal. So another illegality to add to breach of the Trades Description Act, as outlined above. I also recall many stories of the SPCK days when SPCK senior management had to have six monthly meetings with the Cathedral Resources Committee, at which all kinds of issues relating to the lease were hammered out, and if SPCK were deemed not to be “performing”, there was much gnashing of the teeth. So one rule for one, one rule for another. Those who have signed the petition are still awaiting answers.

  4. None of the staff at Durham are Agency staff,compleatly controlled by Brewers . And staff have always given hundred percent loyalty to SPCK and Cathedral.

  5. I think that it is Annie who once told us about the Moorepay setup. They do the paperwork for the Brewers. The Durham and Chichester staff are on that payroll. The staff in the other leasehold properties are employed by an employment agency from its base in Newcastle. Moorepay does not actually pay staff. They advise the Brewers or their bookkeeper how much needs to be put into individual bank accounts and how much needs to go to HMRC and how much to the Pensions Board. It is up to the Brewers to do the rest.

    Sue the staff do not pretend to customers. Valiant for Truth is right. Regular customers know the score. There is no point telling every single person in a tourist group, who owns the shop. To infer that the Durham staff are trying to pretend that everything is normal is absurd. Anybody looking at those empty shelves and pretending that everything is normal belongs on another planet. To imply that they lie to customers is beyond the pale. You never know – the people who end up at your shop or the one in Bishop Auckland might have been sent there!!

  6. Oops, someone might have lost out.

  7. OK, probably me getting the wrong end of the stick: I thought Moorepay were an employment agency. Changed to “a third party organisation”.

    The info about Moorepay (or should that be Lesspay?) being responsible for paying Durham shop staff is in the bankruptcy filing docs: p.4 of the initial Statement of Financial Affairs (pdf, 1.2 MB) — snippet here (gif, 19kb).

  8. I was referring to Sue.

  9. Unity’s posting of the legal documents point out more than just fraudalent dealings on the part of the Brewers. Mark Brewer just made up figures just like he used the names of those posted on Companies House. I hope those individuals have convinced him to change those names.

    If you wish to pursue Unity’s documents you might also find that Durham Cathedral are on the list of creditors. Might I suggest that the Dean and his chapter are perfectly aware of this. If not, they need to pull up their socks. The ones they wear under the other fancy apparrell.

    In the meantime, STL continues to do their thing.

  10. STL? Ha ha ha ha — aaaaaargh!!! Keep using that sort of language here, Anon, and you’ll be getting an ASBO!

  11. Add supporting the Brewers to the STL list of sin.

  12. Valiant for Truth

    Moorepay are just a payroll agency used by employers all over the UK. They’re recommended to businesses by banks such as the NatWest. They take information from employers as to staff, their wages, deductions etc., ensure the payslips are printed, transfer funds from the employer to BACS who transfer to individual bank accounts, and inform the employer of payments due to HMRC, DWP etc.

  13. There should be a small note of the story in the Durham Papers on Saturday, with (I am told) further coverage next week.

    We have made a statement to the local paper, and will release a shorter version to the nationals on Sat with a full one next week.

    Anyone from the press or media wanting information can find contact details here:


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

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

  16. David Scott-King

    asingleblog, You’re right We had a visitor here at the shop in Bishop Auckland who was so appalled by the shop in Durham she came to us and found just what she needed. She did say there was nothing to indicate that SPCK where no longer owned it. She also said she would not go back as the selection of stock and staff moral seemed very low. This is very saddening as I remember when the shop was opened and it was fantastic at that time

  17. David a lot of shops in the North-East have done well through the chaos at Durham. The Bridge in Sunderland and the shop at St Mary’s Cathedral are others. They just do not advertise the fact. At no time when I’ve been in the shop have I heard staff lie about who runs it. I note that your colleague Sue Carpenter infers that they do. She might want to correct that or state exactly what she means. Be assured that the Durham Cathedral Shop will be fully resurrected. The Dean and Chapter have the machinery at their disposal to ensure just that. Do visit the shop when it is re-opened on 1 May 2010. I do hope that you are praying for the agency staff in the other shops (like Chester) operated by the Brewers. Focus on the Brewers.

  18. Asingleblog, as christians we must all support each other , and that is what the staff in Durham Cathedral will have tried to do ,in referring customers to other Chriatian Bookshops . We must all look forward to May 1st 2010 .

  19. Well said Justice. Very well said. Real Christians support each other not compete with each other.

  20. Given that staff morale is low at Durham (a result of 2 yrs of Brewer misrule), do you not think, David, that your comments are extremely hurtful to the staff who have had to survive this time working for the Brewers – without knowing if the next pay-cheque will arrive or what has happened to their pensions?
    Because they care about their customers, and because, unlike their employers, they have attempted to remain honest and truthful in the face of adversity (such as being instructed to lie by the Brewers) they have sent former good customers on to other Christian shops when they have known that they are currently unable to supply books or church supplies.
    Your comments are a blow to them and their loyalty to former customers, for whom they are no longer able to provide the requisite goods. Thus, they may feel that you are kicking them when they are down as a means of self publicity, which is regrettable.

  21. David Scott-King

    I didn’t mean to offend, just saying what members of the public have said to me. The lady who came in did not say that staff said it was run by SPCK just that there was nothing to say anything otherwise.

    I do mean to go and visit Durham soon and see whats what.

    Again apologies for any offence caused. I did’nt mean it to sound that way.

  22. David, you don’t put up a sign saying “THIS IS NOT A SPCK SHOP!! You kinda put up a sign like Phil Brewer did in Winchester. You state who runs the bookshop. Even Phil Brewer got that message. You’ll find a similar sign in the Durham shop. Do visit it and identify yourself. Phil Groom will tell you that the staff do not bite. They haven’t bitten me.

  23. J Mark Brewer’s best friend. To quote a friend, “I’m the Pope!

  24. Pingback: Durham Cathedral Shop: Resurrection in Progress | SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info

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