Final Former-SPCK Bookshop Expels Philip Brewer: Durham Cathedral

Matt Wardman writes:

Today we have a victory: the last bookshop in the country to remain in control of J Mark and Philip Brewer, the Shyster-Charlatans who have taken hundreds of thousands of pounds from the chain, while abusing and exploiting staff, has been closed. It was in Durham Cathedral, and will soon be re-opened under proper control.

20100121-durham-cathedral-sanctuary-knocker-flickr-artiii-2557245050 de57bb76db

Durham Cathedral Sanctuary Knocker

Photo credit: Artiii on Flickr

This our most important milestone for some months, and we are pleased that Durham Cathedral have acted. As Dave Walker at the Church Time blog has put it:

The end of St Stephen the Great in the UK

The Durham Cathedral shop was the last remaining former SPCK bookshop run by the St Stephen the Great charity (SSG). SSG were given the bookshops by SPCK in 2006.

This is the full text of the notice at the Durham Cathedral website:

The Cathedral Shop temporary closure

The Shop which was managed by St Stephen the Great is now closed.

A new shop under the management of The Cathedral Chapter will open in due course.

Please check the Cathedral Website for the latest news.

(Posted on Friday 22nd January 2010)

No more comment yet, but we are all allowing oursleves to dance a small jig at this point.

However we are still watching, because there are the interests of the members of staff at stake here, and then there will be the small question of what sort of shop will be reopened.

20100121-durham-cathedral-sanctuary-knocker-flickr-artiii-2557245050 de57bb76db

38 responses to “Final Former-SPCK Bookshop Expels Philip Brewer: Durham Cathedral

  1. Valiant for Truth

    Slight correction – Hereford and Truro former SPCK shops are on “Franchise” so are still paying rent to the Brewers. It also appears that the Durham Cathedral shop will not immediately be re-opening so who knows what will happen to the staff in the interim?

  2. Um. Under ENC Shop Management, then?

  3. Shouldn’t be ENC Shop Management. The notice says the Dean and Chapter will be running their own shop

  4. Sorry – meant who was getting the money from the Truro etc lease.


  5. I think the once – ?and future? – staff are supposed to go away and eat cake. But as they haven`t been paid for this month, dunno whst they`ll buy it with. So not much Hallelujah for them, Mr Groom, sir.

    • Sorry Ezra – my hallelujah refers entirely to Brewer’s departure. Perhaps I should have said good riddance instead.

      There’s £85 left in the Save the SPCK Booksellers Fund which I’m happy to send to the Durham staff. I know it’s not much, but better than nothing — just let me know which email address to send it to…

      (and while we’re at it, the fund is still open if anyone else would like to make a contribution)

  6. The staff will need will need the help of USDAW. There will be short term pain but they can reclaim lost wages. Unfortunately it will be the taxpayer who pays.

  7. Valiant for Truth

    On the point of who gets the money from the Truro and Hereford rents, the leases were signed long before ENC existed, so were with SSG and I think the money went monthly to Mark Brewer.

  8. Valiant for Truth

    On Durham, my understanding is that Phil Brewer started the ball rolling earlier this week by saying he had financial difficulties and needed to speak to the Dean & Chapter. This conversation took place on Thursday and yesterday’s closure is the outcome. Obviously there is a tangled web to be unravelled. As well as the concerns about the staff pay for January and their future employment, there are also concerns about the future location of the shop. Last year when the Cathedral gave the Brewers notice to quit, it was stated that the shop would move into the Treasures as this visitor attraction would temporarily close in December 2009. However, this has not been the case, and last week the Dean stated in a feature in the “Northern Echo” about the possibility of the Lindisfarne Gospels visitin Durham Cathedral in 2013, that the shop would be moved out of the Great Kitchen to an as yet unknown destination. The day after this newspaper report, all the book stock was moved out of the Great Kitchen into the other shop areas, so it is now empty. A lot of questions and concerns, therefore, not only about the staff and their employment, but also about the future of Christian bookselling in Durham.

  9. Truro is closed as far as I know. The Brewers milked the franchises. Nobody will know what happened to those rents that were paid. Hereford? It’s not just a bookshop – there’s somebody’s home above it. Where has that rent gone?

  10. >Rents: reckon if it was me, I’d just stop paying. How are the Brewers Grim going to enforce it?


    A “don’t cease and desist” letter.

  11. I thought that they were two of the ten shops taken over by Gotham.

  12. The Durham Dean and Chapter are a disgusting lot. They allowed this situation to fester and now the booksellers have to rely on handouts. Disgusting! Truly, truly disgusting. DISGUSTING.

  13. Phelim McIntyre

    I would like to hear that the Brewers went away with their tails between their legs but I doubt I’d be so lucky.

  14. You’ll not be a lucky man Phelim. The Brewers probably got away without paying anything to anybody.

  15. I just wanted to say how very sorry I am to the Durham staff. You are all in my thoughts and prayers.
    I think that the Brewers treated you badly ( used to that!) but what really shocks and saddens me is how you appear to have been treated by the ” Cathedral” over the past few years.

    I can understand the financial problems of maintaining and running such a magnificant building and the pressures that entails. However, what I cannot understand is what I perceive to be the lack of pastoral care for those who have served it whether that be 2 months or 20 years.

    It’s shaming.

  16. On another note, I find the timing by Brewer ( why do we keep calling him Phil as if he is a friend!) convienent….. From what has been reported here he washed his hands of Durham at about the time of the staffs pay day?
    Where did the sales for that month go?

  17. Brewers timing is magnificent. It’s how a crooked businessman works.

  18. Discussion emerging on the Durham Cathedral facebook page:

    Durham Cathedral The cathedral shop run by the company St Stephen the Great has now closed. A new shop run by the Cathedral itself will open in due course. The Cathedral thanks the shop staff for their loyalty and commitment over many years and looks forward to working with them in the future.

  19. Question: Since the Cathedral freely acknowledges that the shop was run by SSG, why did the Interim Manager insist that it was outside his remit?? Seems a tad bizarre (mind you, a lot of this sorry business seems a tad bizarre…)

  20. Valiant for Truth

    Agreed about the Interim Manager. It occured to me that in “Normal” circumstances a business owner says can’t afford to continue, call in the Administrator. Brewer obviously didn’t do this and it would appear neither has the Cathedral. Strange, because not only could the staff get their pay and redundancy, but the Cathedral would be a creditor and get the thousands owed to them by the Brewers – even pay for fitting out a new bookshop?

  21. The Durham situation is bizarre.

  22. Valiant for Truth

    Chatting to a friend in Yorkshire who’s a priest and a County Durham lad and proud of it, his pride dwindled somewhat when I updated him on this latest development. His reaction was that Durham Cathedral has always been involved in teaching and literature over the centuries, so the Lindisfarne Gospels returning for a few weeks is a poor substitute for a good Christian bookshop 52 weeks in the year to continue that learning. Durham as a city became a notable place because of Christianity – the arrival of Cuthbert’s body, then the shrine, so Durham should continue to promote CHRISTIAN heritage, not just lovely ancient buildings, to be true to itself. He then quipped, but with a serious edge “How can it be a Capital of Culture without a proper Christian bookshop?”

  23. VFT, your priest friend is very wise .I say this tounge in cheek , maybe old relics are more important .

  24. And, of course, we wouldn`t have had the Lindisfarne Gospels or the Co Durham produced Codex Amiatinus (tho` we don`t actually have the latter – as it`s in the Laurentian in Florence) if it hadn`t been for Benedict Biscop and Ceolfrith picking up Cassiodorus the Younger`s Squillace product – the Codex Grandior – in a Roman bookshop/booksale or its mid 7th Century equivalent.
    The Northern Saints themselves needed bookshops and libraries to help in their achievements.

  25. Pingback: No More Brewers in England’s Christian Bookshops « A Blogspotting Anglican Episcopalian

  26. Today’s report in the Church Times – Staff ‘in shock’ at closure of Durham Cathedral bookshop (subscribers only) – says

    The Cathedral Chapter has undertaken to re-employ the staff, but they are unlikely to get paid this month

    then goes on to cite Philip Davies, the Chapter Clerk:

    Mr Davies said that the Chapter is anxious to resolve the problem of the shop. “We have discussed what kind of stock to have, and it is intended that it be a good theological bookshop,” he said.

  27. Valiant for Truth

    On this very blog on 12th August 2009, it was reported that Phil Brewer had filed for personal bankruptcy, so it’s actually quite surprising that as he also lost control of the income from the Chichester shop, he managed to hang on in Durham as long as he did, bearing in mind the shop had little stock so could not generate a large income.

  28. Valiant for Truth

    Durham Cathedral staff and many others are still waiting to hear (last notification September 2009) about C of E pensions as the Pensions Board were pusuing the Brewers via the Interim Managers and other legal channels. Also, do we know whether the staff who won payment at the Tribunal last year recieved the second installment of their award?

  29. New shop scheduled to open 1st March, according to Cathedral news page: The Cathedral Shop – A New Beginning

  30. Valiant for Truth

    But from what I hear, sadly, no-one has actually formally told the staff this fact – they learnt about it from reading the Cathedral website.

  31. Pingback: 2010: SPCK/SSG Blog Overview | SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info

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