Former SPCK Bookshops Four Years On: watching, waiting, wondering: it isn’t over yet

The Watcher writes:

The photograph below, sent in by a concerned individual, of the former SPCK Bookshop in Worcester, looking empty and neglected, is symptomatic of the present state of play regarding the former SPCK Bookshops four years after they were handed over to the St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust aka Messrs Mark and Phil Brewer on 31st October 2006.

Former SPCK Bookshop, Worcester, 26 Oct 2010

Former SPCK Bookshop, Worcester, 26 Oct 2010

As well as handing over more than 200 staff, and we’ve seen the tale of pain and destruction which has taken place regarding that event, SPCK also handed over valuable freehold shop premises.

Five shops – Bradford, Canterbury, Exeter, Truro and York – were handed over immediately. Exeter was sold in 2008 and York is in the process of being converted into a restaurant. No doubt we shall have news of other sales in due course.

However, six shops – Chester, Hereford, Newcastle, Salisbury, Winchester and Worcester – were destined to be handed over fully to SSGCT in 2013 if they were still being used as Christian bookshops. Obviously none of them are, as the photograph demonstrates, so a logical thinker would say that ownership was still with SPCK who could do as they liked with the buildings as the Brewers had reneged on their part of the deal. [1] If only life were that easy when the Brewers are around! They fight for their rights (and they’re always right) regardless, and now the Charity Commission and their Interim Managers are also involved.

As so many legalities are involved, no one outside of the situation can be exactly sure what is happening, but it would appear that although the Interim Managers had stated they could only be involved in SSGCT affairs because that was a charity, not in any of the later organisations set up by the Brewers because they were companies, they are still working with SPCK but it could take until 2013 for any resolution.

In the meantime shops stand empty in prime high street locations and suppliers who were not paid by the Brewers from mid 2007 through to the end of 2009, are still owed money at a time when trading conditions are difficult. It is sad that they would have to take the time, trouble and expense to chase up what they are owed because of the “technicality” of the Brewers trying to separate Charity and Company. The former SPCK shops existed because of the support of thousands of ordinary Christians. Some shops had their opening funded by local Christians raising the money to enable SPCK to purchase retail premises. All shops continued to stay open over many years because customers shopped there. So, what is the answer? Can anyone ignore what is happening and think the story is over?

[1] Excerpts from SPCK’s 2007 Annual Report


From p.6:

On 31 October 2006, all our bookshops and their staff were transferred to St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust. The Society will retain six freeholds for a period of seven years, when (subject to agreed conditions) they will also be transferred.

From p.20:

On 30 October 2006, SPCK entered into an agreement with St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust (SSGCT), a registered charity no: 1109008, for the creation of a new Christian Resources Group including the SPCK Bookshops open at that date. Under the terms of the agreement and in furtherance of its charitable purposes, SPCK transferred its Bookshops activities to SSGCT on 31 October 2006 including the transfer of certain freehold and leasehold properties, fixtures fittings and stock. SPCK also agreed to grant leases to SSGCT, at peppercorn rents, on certain other freehold properties for a period of seven years, after which time they will be transferred to SSGCT if the SPCK Bookshops Group remains in operation on an agreed basis.

24 responses to “Former SPCK Bookshops Four Years On: watching, waiting, wondering: it isn’t over yet

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Former SPCK Bookshops Four Years On: watching, waiting, wondering: it isn’t over yet | SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info --

  2. I’m still here too.

    Ye Gods.

  3. Valiant for Truth

    In the NHS there’s bed blocking. This is enterprise blocking and as we’re talking about Christian bookshops, mission blocking also.

  4. I’m still here too watching , and waiting with disgust , what I want to say must wait .

  5. Valiant for Truth

    Let’s be clear about this, on three points
    1. Despite feeling hurt and angry about SPCK’s misguided decision in 2006, does anyone want the shops to go to the Brewer Brothers, one of whom was described by his peers in the Texas law courts as “unethical”, and the other who was made bankrupt this summer by the courts in Arizona?
    2. Do the hundreds of small suppliers and service providers, not to mention HM Government, who are still owed money by Messrs Brewer, feel that it is right that in the eyes of British law, post July 2007 is a no claim area via the Interim Managers because of the Brewers going from SSGCT to SSGLLC etc?
    3. Is it right that the final staff, in the Durham shop, dismissed and unpaid by the Brewers, again are facing no help via the Charities Commission because of Brewer chopping and changing?
    If you feel right has not been done, don’t feel helpless, comment here or to the Interim Managers, whether an individual or organistation. Don’t forget, and as we do this Wednesday, when we remember the sacrifice of wars, let us REMEMBER what has happened and that we fight for rights.

  6. Are you considering petitioning the Interim Managers, VfT?

  7. Valiant for Truth

    I’m in no position to be able to do so as I’m in no way a claimant of any kind, but there are those out there who could.

  8. Pingback: Weekly Round Up: The Will It Blend Edition | The Church Sofa

  9. Valiant for Truth

    Thanks, Church Sofa for the round up, and for the pointer to the SSGCT website which is radically different from the one that SPCK Bookshop Managers viewed in October 2006 and which made them say immediately to anyone who would listen (not many) that these Brewers were not true Christians. The new site is equally loony and the charity bit is so American when the Brewers are trying to fight in the UK for the properties which should rightly stay in UK ownership. But, what’s new? Becoming an LLC is not English custom and practice, just another unethical get out.

  10. Appaulling, simply appaulling!
    It doesn’t matter how long it takes…we have to continue to protest about the unjustness of this!

  11. Probably worth noting that the St Stephen the Great website to which the Church Sofa has linked is not the SSG website set up by the Brewers. I’ve no idea who owns/controls the domain now — a whois query via nominet gives the owner’s address as Doncaster — but it’s almost certainly not the Brewers: most likely some parasite who picked up the domain when the Brewers lost it and the Charity Commission’s Interim Manager didn’t bother to renew it.

    I have an archive of the original site available if anyone wants a copy for reference: .waff file, 4MB: Internet Explorer for Mac. Download here. May or may not open in IE Windows: feel free to experiment.

  12. Ha. Revisiting that whois report, is now owned by — parasites indeed.

    • The St Stephens Trust website looks like a standard spam-vertising site, just trading off the internet-profile of the previous one.

      Probably written by a computer with a big dictionary.

  13. Valiant for Truth

    Virtual entry – pity the Brewers aren’t virtual only in existence instead of continuing to cause concern and work load for SPCK and for former staff in Durham.

  14. Had a look at “where next”. selling the Bradford church that was gifted to the Brewers.

  15. I thought Winchester was one of the shops handed over to the Brothers Grimm.

  16. Valiant for Truth

    Not until 2013 for Winchester and let’s hope that doesn’t happen!

  17. Does anyone know if the Bradford shop is still open?…. planning a trip later this week.

  18. Valiant for Truth

    Jane – No way! Unless it’s been sold by the Interim Managers and is now a Nail Bar.

  19. Hi Valiant for Truth – thanks for replying but sorry to be dippy, I’m not sure from your answer whether it is still open ?? Hope it is.

  20. Valiant for Truth

    Jane – the shop is definitely NOT open, sorry to say.

  21. Thanks Valiant for Truth – deffo saved me a journey – very interesting website – thanks to all.

  22. Went to Salisbury yesterday and noted shop closed ( I worked there many years ago), has been since before Christmas apparently-‘under offer’. Also the one in Bristol no longer around so how many to go?


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