Tag Archives: Durham

Durham Cathedral Bookshop: One door closes…

Durham Cathedral Shop: Due to some necessary archaeological works, as we explore ways to improve physical access to The Cathedral Shop, this entrance is temporarily closed...

Durham Cathedral Shop - this entrance is temporarily closed...

Phil Groom writes:

One door closes — but will another one open? Christians love to talk about God’s provision and guidance, don’t they? About how one door may close but another one will always open, yadda yadda yadda… but the reality that we must all face is that by and large, God has entrusted that provision to us, his people. It’s God’s people who close doors and it’s God’s people who open them. It’s God’s people who shut people out, let people in or, sometimes, lock people up and forget where they left the key…

This notice, which appeared towards the end of January at the shop entrance in Durham Cathedral, begins:

Due to some necessary archaeological works, as we explore ways to improve physical access to The Cathedral Shop, this entrance is temporarily closed. Entry to The Cathedral Shop is through the easy access off The College which can be found by following the disabled signage…

That’s no bad thing and I’m not for one moment suggesting that it is: improving access to the shop is good news, especially if it means that disabled people don’t have to take that longwinded route to get there. Bravo, those planners! Nor am I suggesting that there are plans afoot to close the shop, although one little bird (not a member of your staff, please note, O Most Venerable Dean, should you happen to read this) tells me that there are plans to reduce the size of the shop, which might well impact upon staffing requirements — and that, given all the uncertainty and door-slamming that the shop staff have faced over the past few years, is most definitely not good news for anyone.

Let’s look back briefly: first the bookshop staff were, not to put too fine a point on it, betrayed by SPCK when the shop was handed over to the Brewers without adequate diligence (please don’t anyone try to tell me that the “due diligence procedure” SPCK went through in that disastrous handover was adequate). Then when it all went pear-shaped what, pray, did the Dean and Chapter do to help and support the staff? Ah yes: they prayed; no doubt about that, I’m sure. Prayed and panicked and prevaricated because God had put the means to answer those prayers in their own hands; but terminating the lease apparently proved too hot a potato: instead, they dropped it, leaving the bookshop staff to resist the bullying and abuse by themselves…

Eventually, of course, the Brewers’ mismanagement backfired as the Charity Commission moved in on the other shops to leave Durham as the last bastion of the Brewers’ bastardised British empire; and finally that, too, came tumbling down…

Enough of the history lesson, however: where are we today? This former SPCK bookshop — once described by no less a scholar than Professor James D G Dunn as “the best theological bookshop in the world” — appears destined to become little more than yet another Cathedral tat and gift shop, books sidelined to leave the City of Durham, home to the world-renowned Shrine of St Cuthbert, without a Christian bookshop worthy of the name. The Cathedral’s own description of the shop seems to say it all:

The Durham Cathedral Shop stocks a range of guide books, gifts and souvenirs, as well as a selection of religious and theological books.

Screenshot, 10/2/2011: The Cathedral Book and Gift Shop: Books sidelined?

The Cathedral Book and Gift Shop: Books sidelined?

And what of the staff? Where does this leave them after the years of abuse and neglect? In today’s world no job is secure, of course, but one would hope that having at last secured the shop for the Cathedral’s own use, the Cathedral authorities would set out to support, reassure and — dare I suggest such a radical idea? — perhaps even reward the staff for their loyalty and commitment to the Cathedral. Because that is assuredly what has kept them there: personal dedication to the cause.

Durham Cathedral Shop staff: I salute you!

May those who have been entrusted with power to open and close doors before you always do so with the fairness, integrity and respect that becomes a renowned Christian institution; may charlatans such as the Brewers never darken your doorways again; and when your closed door reopens, may it open the way to good things and happier times for all.

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Durham Cathedral Shop: Resurrection in Progress

Phil Groom writes:

RIP. I just love those initials: just when we think it’s all over, along comes Jesus and says, “Party time, people: join me?”

Parties never happen by themselves, of course: there’s a heck of a lot of work goes on behind the scenes and a lot of work involved in keeping the party going, but after the ruination visited upon Durham Cathedral Shop by the Brewer brothers — both sadly still at large when they really ought to be locked away — it did my heart good to receive these photos of the resurrected Durham Cathedral Shop from our intrepid photographer. Congratulations and well done to all involved in achieving such an amazing transformation:

Durham Cathedral Shop, September 2010

Durham Cathedral Shop, September 2010

As I write this we’re halfway through our third Day of Prayer for the UK Christian book trade: please continue to pray for everyone caught up in the ongoing situation in Durham:

  • For the shop staff — for courage, grace and patience and perseverance as they continue to seek a fair settlement…
  • For the Cathedral authorities as they struggle to come to terms with their complicity in the Brewers’ mistreatment of staff…
  • For Usdaw, ACAS and all others involved in ongoing negotiations towards a settlement that will be fair and just for all…
  • For Phil and Mark Brewer, for repentance, change of heart and justice to be served…

What is happening with the shops?

Phelim McIntyre writes:

OK – we have had movement with the SSG saga but I was asked a question by Clem Jackson of Christian Marketplace as to the number of shops still operating. The list on the Thirdspace website is as follows: Bradford, Canterbury, Chester, Chichester, Durham, Hereford, Manningham, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Poole, Salisbury, Truro, Winchester, Worcester, York. This list (though updated in January according to the website) is really inaccurate. So over to you – what is the latest at each shop if anything? Durham, Chichester, Chester are still open. Is the shop in the Bradford area actually the Bradford shop or the one in the church in Manningham?

Durham Cathedral Shop Adverts and Anagrams: Third Space Books = Crooks Ship A Debt

Matt Wardman writes:

Firstly, the shop in Durham Cathedral is operated on a Leasehold basis and is not directly managed by Durham Cathedral Dean and Chapter. The business malpractices documented in this article concern Mark and Philip Brewers’ running of the former SPCK chain of bookshops. These are not legally the responsibility of Durham Cathedral.

I hope that that disclaimer is clear in its meaning. So – to business.

‘Third Space Books of Durham Cathedral’

This is an advert for Third Space Books scanned in from the Middlesborough Diocesan Year Book 2009 of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Middlesborough:


Call me St Cuthbert and set me spinning in my grave, but I’d have thought that any adverts bigging up Durham Cathedral Great Kitchen as the base for the Brewer run bookshop should actually use the website and name of Durham Cathedral Shop. Certainly when I phoned up 0191 386 2972 this morning, that is how the phone was answered by a very friendly-sounding shop assistant.

Further, the terms of the Lease on the shop commit the lessee to “diligently publicise” the shop. Using a different name in adverts to that used to answer the phone does not seem to me to fit that bill.

And surely the real advantage of the name “Durham Cathedral Shop” is that it stays the same for a reasonable length of time. You almost have to put a display screen in where the lease used to say “SPCK” these days, because responsibility for the lease has gone through a series of business entities like a game of pinball as the Brewers try to dodge paying for the at least $1.5m worth of goods, services and employees’ money they have obtained or retained in violation of all their legal responsibilities.

The Durham Cathedral Bookshop Lease

This is what the Lease (I have a copy of the lease under which SPCK operated Durham Cathedral Bookshop) says (my italics):

Terms of an Agreement Between

The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK)


The Dean and Chapter of Durham Cathedral

Clause 11: Both SPCK and the Chapter will diligently publicise the SPCK shop. The Chapter will put out and maintain notices directing the public to the SPCK shop.

As explained above, “SPCK” should be replaced by whatever the name of the business entity operating the shop happens to be this month. So far, it has been (I think, but it’s tough keeping track from outside):

  1. The Society of St Stephen the Great Charitable Trust.
  2. St Stephen the Great (Company Limited by Guarantee), where it has sometimes been responsiblity for employees was transferred.
  3. St Stephen the Great LLC – purported name of the non-existent entity in the US Bankruptcy Scam.
  4. Durham Cathedral Shop Management Company (which has now held the lease for a remarkable 8 months).

Next month it will presumably be renamed to something like Shysters ‘R’ Us.

Does anyone know if you you can get leases with the name of the lessee written in erasable ink?

Transferrable Assets (or not)

This post assumes that the Brewers have managed to transfer the lease successfully among their various business organisations. If that is so, I cannot understand their problems in transferring any of the following (to pick a few examples out of the air):

  1. Transferring the “Personal” alcohol licences of the “premises supervisor” at Durham Cathedral from the previous shop manager who was sacked on the spot told that she had resigned when she refused to sign a heavily slanted “franchise” agreement to take on the cathedral shop. (Note: this was a proposed sub-let from the Brewers, not involving the Dean and Chapter).
  2. Transferring payments for booklets supplied by the cathedral in August 2007 in the sum of 418 ukp to the Dean and Chapter. There exists a debt of $664.10 to “Durham Cathedral Chapter Office” recorded (see below) on the papers submitted by J Mark Brewer in his admitted “bad faith” Bankruptcy Application to the South Texas Bankruptcy Court. That might suggest that someone needs to send the Brewers on a course in “transferring money to your suppliers for Goods Received” (*), along with the one that J Mark Brewer has hopefully attended by now on “Legal Ethics and Texas Bankrupcy Law” at the insistence of the Judge Marvin Isgur of the South Texas Bankruptcy Court.
  3. Transferring monies deducted from their employees’ paychecks as “National Insurance” and “Pensions Contributions” to the relevant authorities.


Strangely, J Mark and Philip Brewer seem to be incredibly efficient (PhD Level at least) at transferring payments of hundreds of thousands from the former-SPCK chain of bookshops to other organisations they control.

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