Sunday 25th February 2018
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Words: Sarah Winstanley
Photography: Courtesy of Mount & Minster
Featured in the September 2017 issue

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When builder Mark Jackson was working on a development of new homes at Bassingham, near Lincoln, he couldn’t help notice the redundant chapel opposite.

A prominent feature of the village since 1839, The Old Wesleyan Chapel had seen better days. Since its doors had closed to worship in 2010, it had been placed on the market for commercial use. But with years of experience developing homes, Mark, who owns Jackson Homes (Scopwick) Ltd, recognised it might be a great place to live.

“I was working on the Village Farm at the time and I just kept looking at the chapel,” said Mark, who is married to Wendy and has two daughters, Valerie and Emma, who have just graduated from university. “There were three buildings around a courtyard – the old chapel, the former Sunday school and the headmaster’s house. The site didn’t have planning permission for residential use but my idea was to buy them, get planning permission, renovate them and sell them on.”

Mark is used to developing property, having worked in the business since leaving university after a year in the mid-80s. In recent years the business has built ten new homes opposite Doddington Hall and others in Eagle and at numerous locations between Sleaford and Lincoln. In Bassingham, the Village Farm is an award-winning development of twelve houses opposite the chapel which won the ‘Best High Volume New Building Development’ from North Kesteven District Council’s Building Control Awards in 2014. The company has also built six new homes and converted some barns at Manor Orchard in Bassingham.

His work on The Old Wesleyan Chapel won the ‘Best Change of Use of an Existing Building or Conversion’ from NKDC’s Building Control Awards in 2015, and more recently the company won the same award in 2017 for alterations to convert The Old Lincoln Club House at Sleaford Road, Navenby, for residential use.

The redevelopment of The Old Wesleyan Chapel and The Sunday School came with more challenges than expected as they became Grade II listed whilst Mark was buying them. “I didn’t mind it being listed,” Mark said. “I wanted to restore it rather than totally remodel it.”

Mark completed the purchase in 2012 and once planning permission had been granted, he began working on The Sunday School first. This building was built in 1855, sixteen years after the Chapel, and was also Grade II listed. He said: “The Sunday School was a rectangular building which needed dividing up into separate rooms which was quite easy but the building did need a full renovation as well. We took it back to basics, even down to putting in new floors and a new roof.”

Meanwhile, work had begun on The Old Wesleyan Chapel to create living accommodation in the huge interior space whilst preserving and reusing as many original features as possible. First, the building needed a complete renovation including new wiring and plumbing, floor joists, floors and doors; then original features were renovated and reused. The solid oak panelling was restored, the listed pulpit was renovated and a stained glass expert was brought in to replace missing panes in the glorious windows.

The building layout was created internally around a large open plan living kitchen on the ground floor, along with a downstairs guest bedroom with en-suite shower room, garden room and bathroom. The chapel organ, which wasn’t listed as it was a later addition to the building, was taken out and the pipes remounted on the wall to make an unusual, but fitting, feature. Some of the internal organ pipes were used to add interest to the bespoke handmade kitchen, which features gold leaf tiling, and even the organ stops became door handles for the kitchen units.

Many of the chapel pews were placed downstairs as Mark wanted to keep them. “It didn’t seem right to sell them and they fit in with the building,” Mark said.

Upstairs, the front row of the theatre style pews were kept and the sloping floors removed to create two en-suite bedrooms using partition walls. The gallery space was kept and a mezzanine area with shower room was created as an occasional bedroom.

The Chapel House, a two bedroomed cottage which was once the old headmaster’s living accommodation, was the final part of the project to be completed.

Although Mark had all three properties on the market initially, he soon decided he wanted to live in The Old Wesleyan Chapel instead, use The Sunday School to accommodate his daughters when they come home from university and rent out The Chapel House.

“Living in the chapel was not a typical choice for me,” Mark said. “I usually prefer new places but it grew on me. It suits me to be in Bassingham because it’s a good location and close to the A1 and the train station at Newark.”

Despite all the work Mark has put into the three properties, he has now decided to place them on the market separately. He said: “Although the three properties are being marketed separately, they would be ideal for an extended family or for someone to buy to live in one and rent the other two out as either living accommodation or use as holiday cottages.

“Any of them would also be ideal for someone wanting a ‘lock up and leave’ property as they are secure and private with a courtyard with automatic gates and CCTV. They would be ideal for someone who works in London as the train station in Newark is only fifteen minutes away, or maybe someone who lives part of the year abroad.”

Meanwhile, Mark is currently designing his new home – a modern building on Torgate Lane in Bassingham. “It’s a plot of land with planning permission to build two houses but I’ve decided to redesign it into one larger property,” Mark said. “Ideally I’d like to build a very contemporary, bungalow-style property as I prefer the bedrooms on the ground floor. Building plots are not easy to find in Bassingham so I have decided to keep this one for myself.”

The Old Wesleyan Chapel, The Sunday School and The Chapel House are on the market with Mount and Minster with asking prices of £499,000, £290,000 and £265,000 respectively. For more information contact the estate agents on (01522) 716204.

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