Converting a chapel: How easy is it to do and what to look out for

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Sanctuary: This converted chapel in Bishopstone, Wiltshire, is £550,000, hamptons.co.uk


Should you take a leap of faith? Chapels are roomy, full of character, often in a great location… and ripe for conversion

  • Chapels tend to be at the centre of a town or village
  • Tend to let in plenty of light and often offer splendid views
  • We take a look at what you need to consider before taking the plunge 

A lot of reconfiguring has gone on in the past four months, particular about where to live. 

Searches on Rightmove by Londoners looking for homes outside the capital were up to 51 per cent, compared to 42 per cent this time last year.

People in Edinburgh, Birmingham, Liverpool, Sheffield, Glasgow and Bristol also looked more often at properties well away from their overcrowded centres.

Having quit the smoke, a good number will be looking for characterful old buildings ripe for conversion. They need look no further than a redundant former chapel.

Sanctuary: This converted chapel in Bishopstone, Wiltshire, is £550,000, hamptons.co.uk

‘Churches tend to be ornate and overwhelmingly spacious, whereas chapels — being smaller with plain interiors — make easier conversion projects,’ says Simon Backhouse of Strutt & Parker (struttandparker.com). 

‘They offer enough height to create a statement room and usually let in a lot of light from the high windows.’ 

About 8,000 Methodist chapels alone have been closed in recent years. Backhouse warns, however, that a chapel conversion should not be attempted by novices.

A specialist architect should be employed, together with a chartered surveyor who is a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

‘Don’t try to design this on the back of a fag packet,’ adds Backhouse. ‘You are dealing with a centuries old building so expect problems and be prepared to use up a contingency fund.’.

External alterations are routinely prohibited. Having a graveyard on your land could also pose problems: relatives having rights of access to visit the deceased.

Nevertheless, converting a chapel is often worth it for its location alone. Chapels tend to be at the centre of a town or village or on the outskirts, with a splendid view.

The chapel at St Mary Bourne in the Bourne Valley between Andover and Basingstoke is in a sought-after village within commuting distance of London.

‘It’s a ten-minute drive to Whitchurch station, has trout fishing on the River Test nearby and excellent local schools, so it has an ideal location,’ says David Smith of Myddelton & Major estate agents (myddeltonmajor.co.uk) who is looking for more than £200,000 for the chapel. 

‘It may look dilapidated, but it comes with mains services and planning for a three-bedroom house.’

One good example of a converted chapel being at the hub of the community is found in the village of Edge, near Stroud in the Cotswolds.

There, the two-bedroom Grade II-listed Commodious Chapel stands close to the village pub. It’s priced at £595,000 with murraysestateagents.co.uk.

In the pretty village of Bishopstone, Wiltshire, there’s a chapel with four bedrooms, priced at £550,000, hamptons.co.uk.

What makes a good converted chapel? ‘The trick is to create a modern interior while leaving little reminders of the building’s history,’ says Karen Chawner, 56, who is selling her converted Methodist chapel in Caverswall, Stoke-on-Trent. 

‘On the practical side, check insulation. We have special blocks between the walls and the plaster which work so well I haven’t had to have the heating on upstairs for five years.’

Karen’s house is for sale with purplebricks.co.uk, at £350,000.

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