Chichester: The Door is Shut. Only Durham remains.

Matt Wardman writes:

These are two photos cross-posted from the ASingleBlog site. The former-SPCK Bookshop in Chichester has been closed on the instructions of the Charity Commission.

This is sad, and yet it means that – exactly as per the takeover of the SPCK-SSG charity by the Charity Commission Interim Manager – those trying to resolve this are now dealing with people of integrity, so we can at least say that Chichester is now on the way out of the swamp.

So the Brewer cash-generating, personal-expenditure subsidising, money-grubbing, supplier-swindling, staff-bullying, legality-avoiding (e.g., lack of required liability insurance), asset-stripping, and Durham Cathedral brand-poisoning, activities can now only be carried on in the Durham Cathedral Bookshop.

Every day that the Brewer-boys retain control of that shop provides a further opportunity for abuse.

Will someone in authority please finish the job?

Here are the Chichester Photos:



57 responses to “Chichester: The Door is Shut. Only Durham remains.

  1. 52 years of bookselling brought to an end because of the illegal and immoral activities of the Brewer brothers. May the phoenix rise from the ashes soon.

  2. Valiant for Truth

    I suppose as the tax payers funding the work of the Charity Commission we would not want them to make hasty and ill-conceived decisions, but it is frustrating for allsorts of people that all this is taking so long. The longer shops remain closed, the more likely people are to forget them and establish new ways of obtaining their Christian books and resources, or evn worse, give up reading! Patience is a virtue, so they say, so we just have to wait and hope that the CC and other outside, interested parties proceed with care but with as much speed as possible.

  3. CC will be required to deliver maximum value.

    So logic suggests that reopening will be a priority if it can generate income.

    The time consuming bit will be getting smuggled and juggled cash back from the “Brewer Bank”.

  4. Valiant for Truth

    Well, up until recently some people were cautious about doing things in case this affected the Tribunal outcome, others were just plain scared of the Brewers or didn’t want to spend money on legal fights. Now, with the Charity Commission we hopefully have people with teeth who will take no hostages, and will have the power of the law behind them, including finding that missing money.

  5. I worked in the Bradford shop from September 2007 until like all the other workers I was told by phone to shut my shop at the end of trading that day (incidentally I had been closed that week because I was attending my mother in laws funeral funeral in fact my shop was open onthe Frdiay because I was not there on the Thursday). I seem to be the invisible one in all of this blog or is it that there is so little in Bradford anymore that people never visit anyway. I am still waiting the call from Phil to thank me for my sterling efforts in keeping the shops going for the last year but I guess I will be waiting a long time.
    When the Bradford shop closed there was four floors of stock that I could not distribute to other shops because we could not afford a courier.
    In case anyone is worried then yes my shop was closed and the locks changed but it did not even merit a nice letter telling people about the charity commissioners as in the other shops.
    They did however remove my notices about the staff being dismissed without notice etc. They did leave my sign thanking people for their support for the shop over the years. (SPCK had been in Bradford since 1943ish.
    I did have some conversation with the charity commissioners during the final weeks and the impression that I got was that they were only interested in the charity and that the book selling side of the business was not their concern.

  6. Bradfordian, you have never been invisible. Don’t you ever believe that.

  7. Bradfordian – thanks for commenting. I’m sorry if you’ve felt ‘invisible’. I guess there are some places where we’re only just starting the hear the stories now, as people didn’t want to say much when they were still under Phil Brewers thumb.

  8. Valiant for Truth

    But what happens (heaven forbid!) if Durham is treated as a special case by the Charity Commission and the Interim Managers and stays in Brewer hands until April 2010? It’s not a freehold property so less interesting. Will the staff have to put up with the bullying for many more months? Will the Cathedral shop disintegrate into a heap of rubbish, and the Cathedral’s reputation suffer as a consequence? No, the Brewers have to be dealt with for once and for all and removed from ant operations in this country NOW!

    • Will the Cathedral shop disintegrate into a heap of rubbish? It already has. That is the saddest Christian Bookshop I have seen by far.

    • I like VfT`s typo.
      Reminds me of the bit from King Lear:
      I`ll send thee to school of an ant
      to teach thee there`s no working i` the winter.
      The empty shops prove what the `ant` operations have done.

  9. Chichester is not a freehold property. Neither is Durham. How they they can be treated differently…time will tell.

  10. Probably not to do with type of lease but fancy footwork by then Texas Twostep shysters.

  11. Hi All, I am a Christian who operates a business advisory service to the SME market, I would love to be given the opportunity to sort this out and get the business back trading. Before other ‘religions’ take the market.
    Best wishes and many blseeings

    • SME? Society of Manufacturing Engineers? Sorry…

      Seriously, Adrian, if you are interested in helping sort this sorry mess out, I suggest you contact the Charity Commission’s Interim Manager and make him an offer for the business…

      • Serious Q?

        Small and Medium Sized Enterprises.

        Up to 2.5million and 10millon turnover respectively, I think.

        • Sorry, me being a tad facetious: bugs me slightly when people use acronyms/abbreviations and assume that everyone else will know what they’re talking about (sorry Adrian!)… but I guess I’ve probably done it often enough myself (like this: Mt 7:3).

  12. Adrian

    Keep watching. There are already half a dozen new businesses in market gaps vacated by ex-SPCK bookshops, and we’re keen to do our bit to encourage more

    It all depends on how the cookie finally turns out to have crumbled.


  13. And here’s some background on the bloke who’s SSG’s interim manager….

  14. I understand that Mr Gotham is a really busy man. He does need to answer his e-mails though.

  15. May be we need to send up a bat signal 😉

  16. Behave yourself 🙂

  17. Valiant for Truth

    Seriously, though, why does everything have to take SO long! If you read books with Victorian law cases mentioned, things happened within days or just a couple of weeks, but now in this high speed world when we can send messages across the world in seconds, legal matters drag on for years. OK for the lawyers, but what about those suffering in the purgatory of uncertainty?

  18. Yes, like in “The Woodlanders” there was post twice a day in the back of beyond. Now , in the world of the Batmobile, we`re lucky if it actually arrives at all.

  19. VfT, I love reading “golden age” crime fiction (Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers etc) and they had three or four posts a day. Early, late morning and afternoon. We now have one delivery and I often don’t get post until after mid day!!! Hope it’s not urgent as I often have to respond the next day.

  20. Valiant for Truth

    We’re all waiting for things to happen, and “everything comes to those who wait”, but all the way along, too may people have forgotten the suffering that accompanies waiting. In Durham, I suspect, the Interim Managers are presently doing nothing obvious and the Cathedral are planning the shop move for next year, but who is caring for the staff who are working in a shop with no stock, unhappy customers, Phil Brewer still as their boss, and the staff also with no idea of how to survive the next six months. Staff are the greatest asset of a business, but in this case the least cherished.

  21. Thinking along the lines of “Man bites dog” as news; in this no news time can we not find an ex-bookseller anywhere biting a Woolly Mammoth.
    How about a “Not the SSG News” Competition, Phil?

  22. As I have passed the salisbury shop today, I noticed that the two other bookshops, have now placed adverts for their shops, on the window and door,


    Close the bookshop door, Mark. There`s thoughts inside.
    Thoughts about theology,
    Thoughts about Church History,
    Thoughrt from minds that speak to me.
    Close the bookshop door, Mark. There`s thoughts inside.

    Close the bookshop door,Phil. There`s words inside.
    Now mangled, tatty, printed piles.
    Empty shelves; unpeopled aisles.
    No customers with cheerful smiles.
    Close the bookshop door, Phil. There`s words inside.

    Close the bookshop door, Bros. Leave staff outside.
    Staff who had no chance to chide.
    Staff who saw your Babel slide.
    Staff whose pensions took a ride.
    Close the bookshop door, Bros. Leave staff outside.

    They`ve closed the bookshop door, folk. Now, stay outside!
    With staff, who now jobseek all day;
    While customers who aren`t au fait
    complain that shops have gone away.
    They`ve closed the bookshop door, folk. Now stay outside!

    AS SOON AS….

    We`ve faught the pseudo-Orthodox
    and scrapped their business `style`;
    their dishwash-dull dictatorship.
    So now we`re in denial.
    The sooner this shop closes (X3)
    We all can make new starts.

    In autumn`s chill I`m feeling ill.
    (perhaps it`s Brewer `flu`?)
    There`s a recession all around.
    We`re in this jobless queue.
    As soon as this shop closes (X3)
    the revolution starts.

    The CC and the USDAW fight
    to confiscate their brass.
    Let`s build new Christian bookshop chains
    and kick the Brewers` a***.
    When SSG`s all folded (X3)
    that`s when tomorrow starts!

  24. What can I say Mousey , you have seen, and you have heard. We are all waiting ,please let it be soon.

  25. Mousey is brilliant.

  26. no jacqui, luckily there are two more christian bookshops in salisbury, they are the two now advertising on the old spck shop,

  27. I get it noseyneighbour.

  28. Valiant for Truth

    While on the south coast, has anyone discovered what is happening at the former SPCK shop in Canterbury?

  29. Sorry I went off-line for a while.

  30. The Brewers knew nothing about selling books (Phil Brewer sold Pizza and did weird things on the internet). Shouldn’t we be laughing at them?

  31. All has gone too quiet. Anyone, anywhere got some SPCK news so that Phil can post a new entry?

  32. Sorry Pax. Three e-mails to Gotham and no luck.

  33. Valiant for Truth

    Apparently the Durham Shop is still open and no apparent activity from the Charity Commission or the Interim Managers which all seems a bit strange as their duty is to administer the assets of the SSGCT. Is the Durham shop not an asset? As a UK taxpayer, funding the CC, I do want to see a job properly done.

  34. hello all .I used to work in a christian book shop.I loved working there -we didn’t sell many books -we didn’t have many to sell!but we that worked there felt strongly that God wanted us there.When i began working there it was a life saver as i had just been made redundant.It was a little job and i didn’t think more of it than to thank God for filling my financial gap.
    As i worked there i was shocked by what a need it fulfilled in our high street.People came in needing more than just a book and we did our best to listen and reflect God’s love.I worked with two devoted men – one of whome i witnessed giving away his only coat to someone who needed it more ,the other was young and bright and welcoming.we had many regular visitors who stopped for coffee and needed someone to listen sometimes feed them and sometimes sell them a relevant book.
    We worked under extremely difficult conditions – we had no stock, no money but the most important thing of all was that we where still open trying to remind the high street that God is there.
    This shop for better or worse was previously spck and then was taken over by the Brewers .
    I lost my job just before the summer when the doors where finaly shut by the charities commission.
    I find it hard that when you visited our shop you where not supportive ,open or transparent in your dealings with us the staff.Had you have been you might have recognised that money corrupts us in many ways either in the getting it or the focus of vengence when it has been dishonourably taken.We at our shop in Worcester where shaken and upset by your personal and energetic crusade which was apparently against us personally- i believe you have every right to voice your probably correct opinion.However i wonder why you are so vehemently crusading in this cause when there are so many people in need.The shop is shut and has been for several months now.It is left in exactly the same way as it was the day we left.So now there is a shop with the ability to provide for people in a small way, a shop that at ground level reflected what God can do in a life,a shop that is full (nearly full!) with fabulous books by intelligent people for a community that needs God in their midst and this shop is locked up and finished.
    I cannot crow or joke about the mess that has been left by the brewers as you do because God is more important and the needs of the very vulnrable are more important than any feeling of selfsatisfaction that one might have that one has won a battle.
    As my spelling ,grammer etc is generally appauling and i am writting this at the same time as aswering questions from my nine year old i will apologise as i recognise that some of your bloggers are sensitive about this!

  35. mattwardman2000

    Hi Becky

    Thanks for your comment – good questions, which are very welcome.

    I think that it is important to celebrate successes – recovery of unpaid wages, and the exposure of attempted fraud, perjury and bullying can properly be celebrated. I’d distinguish between satisfaction and self-satisfaction.

    In my judgement all these come under “fighting for justice”, and (theologically) come under Christ’s “furthering the Kingdom” heading (Luke 4:16+).

    We debated around these questions at varous points, and concluded that ridicule was an important tool in undermining any credibility of the Brewers, but also in helping people to be less frightened when we started.

    The uncomfortable fact has been that the Messrs Brewer have been fiddling other people’s money out of the operation on a scale of Millions – and until they were out the mess was only going to continue getting bigger.

    For example, they have walked away from well over $1 million of debts to suppliers – many of them charitable organisations who have been unable to support the oppressed because the money has been stolen. Against that, there can be no pulling of punches or compromise whatsoever, and there is still a long process which may be undertaken to recover stolen assets.

    Can I point you to one conversation from back in January:

    Certainly, I think that we’d all accept that we’ve made mistakes, and had our failures as well as successes.

    One of the things we would like to see happen now is for new businesses to start where bookshops have vanished – again that required expulsion of the Brewers first. So far, perhaps a third of the locations where shops have been lost have new businesses.

    Others can probably answer better your specific questions about Worcester.


    Matt Wardman

  36. Dear Becky,

    I’m trully sorry that you have lost your job. You see the problem was Becky that Phil Brewer did not pay the agency that paid your wages. It was as simple as that. He ripped off the agency.

    I feel for you. I really do. I hate it when Phil Brewer gains people’s trust and then rips them off which is what happened to you. Those few books you got to sell Becky, how did you guys get them?

    For what it’s worth I think that the shop should be re-opened in memory of Steve Jeynes. The need is obvious from all that you say. A centre for caring. That was Steve’s vision.

  37. Damned Brewers&&&*@@@@@Damned Brewers.****

  38. Becky don’t worry about spelling mistakes.We all make them.

  39. Becky,
    You are right your community needs a christian bookshop – actaully i’d go so far as to say all communities actually need christian bookshops.
    That’s why I am doing my bit here in Lincoln.

    You know there is a potential and you know there is a gap in the market so go for it Becky!! and indeed I encourage all people out there who are missing their bookshops in towns where they were and now aren’t – and who especially have some small experience, Phil G ;0, or a call to the field to just go for it.

    Pick up the mantle, take the risk yourself and step out in faith with an added smidge of common sense! or talk to churches or people locally and make a small move to filling the space, to serving the need.

    Think outside the box, it doesn’t have to be a ‘shop’ proper – look to your markets, indoor ones especially, look to local churches with halls, what about a book van if there isn’t a market or cheap shop and do the town/villages using church car parks?? talk to landlords and see if there are cheap or negotiable rents.
    Talk to larger bookshops or smaller bookshops in nearish area’s and see if you can’t form a supportive collective for sharing skills, experience and buying power!

    Don’t just do Christian Books, see what else there might be missing in the area that can support the mission too – crafts, a wool shop, stationers, general books, secondhand books, toys, whats missing that would work alongside the christian books and supplies to make the whole thing more stable and viable??

    Come on, make a stand, take the chance, you know you are being called, you know you want to really.

    It is hard work – but as Becky has pointed out and as I will testify to the rewards are there and worth it – not financial riches, not even always thanks in words, but still the rewards are there. The knowledge of service and the still small voice, the quiet conversation and the outreach to someone who otherwise might have been in a bind. Thats the reward, of course the otherside of that is the long hours, strange folk (and thats just the other booksellers!:0) and the seemingly endless paperwork when running such a venture. but it is worth it, it is doable and there are some being called even now who just need to know that there are successes and possibilities and folks out here willing to help and share advice and knowledge with them once they make the step out into the waters!

    So Becky and others – come on in the waters fine!

  40. Wish I could have said it like that Becky. There is a lot of support for you.

  41. Becky, I understand that you are hurting but why did you have not books or no money? It wasn’t the fault of this blog. It was the fault of the people who caused us to start this blog. They did not pay the agency, as Phil G mentioned, and they didn’t pay the suppliers which is why you couldn’t get the stock. Chichester actually had suppliers turn up and take their stock back as it wasn’t paid for.

    I loved working for the shop in Chichester, but I left because of how I was treated – this led to a nervous breakdown. I am still owed money for holiday pay (nearly £700) and also for stock that I had bought that the shop which was around the £200 mark. I am not going to see that money again.

    You did the best job you could in the bad situation, and the aim of this blog is not to attack people like you who are the victims but the perpertrators. The problem is that sometimes the innocent bystanders are hit.

    Also, you came in to a situation that you knew very little of the history of. There are those who knew the history and chose comfort over speaking about the situation. Some who have not contributed to the blog have kept us informed and deserve medals. Some decided that the best thing was play the Brewers’ game even though they knew what they were like – it is them who have to answer questions.

    I second the comments above about siezing the opportunity. You are so right about Christian bookselling being more than just the stock but about being Christ in the community. So many who were with SPCK when I joined saw their work as misssion and we need to fill tha gap. How can you help fill that in Worcester? If you need any help or advice there are loads of people hear who can give it or know people who can.

  42. Valiant for Truth

    Two years ago, Carole Burrows was sacked as Manager of the Durham Cathedral shop. The press release Mark Brewer issued (see ) stated that Phil Brewer was to be the Interim Manager until a new Manager was appointed. No new appointment was made, therefore, Phil Brewer is the Manager of the Durham Cathedral Shop. To the best of my knowledge, he has been nowhere near the shop in months, which is how a good manager would operate. So why hasn’t he visited the shop?

  43. I do hope that the very caring Phil Brewer has re-assured his staff that Brewer Enterprises will continue at Durham Cathedral.

  44. Valiant for Truth

    In SPCK days all staff in the Society were supposed to be part of the SPCK family, and actually most felt that way. Just transferring it across to SSG, would anyone feel that they wanted to be part of the very dysfunctional Brewer family?!

    • Isn`t this blog a family get-together of the orphans of SPCK and the unloved brats cast out by the dysfunctional Brewers – plus the odd remnant that `social services` haven`t managed to prize from their grasp yet.

  45. Definately not. Wouldn’t want to be a part of that Orthodox Church in Poole either. It’s in the Diocese of The Society of St. Stephen the Great.

  46. Valiant for Truth

    Yes, speaking of that Church in Poole, you have to feel sorry for the decent congregation there, priest and people, who were also bullied by Mark Brewer and forced to move on. How is the Orthodox Church in the UK now feeling as it is marred by association? Grossly unfair.

  47. Valiant for Truth

    In this new year I repeat Matt’s comment re Durham “WILL SOMEONE IN AUTHORITY PLEASE FINISH THE JOB?”. That’s early removal in Durham to ensure the staff are paid, and so that at Easter there can be a true resuurection of the once wonderful Durham Cathedral shop.

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