Ten years ago, Ian Bottomley and his partner, Sally Onions, came across St. Nicholas Church in Northumberland, England on a search for their first home together. The church, built in 1792 on the site of an earlier church dating from the 1100s, was already in the early stages of conversion. The current owner was struggling with the scope of the project, and had decided to sell. Though the church was a Grade II Listed building, which signifies a building of historical significance and may not be demolished or altered without special permits, planning permission had already been granted through the previous owner.
Construction took seven years, including two years of initial planning with various historical and ecclesiastical organizations. Most of the renovations were completed by Ian, Sally and their families, including plasterboarding, laying floorboards, and installing insulation. The total construction cost was around $420,000, plus $145,000 for the land. The now three-story house consists of four bedrooms plus office, two baths, two kitchens, two reception rooms, a library, storage room, and utility room, plus main nave area which houses the main common areas. The land is one acre, which includes a large garden, as well as an outbuilding with permission completed to convert to a two-bedroom cottage. Some of the gravestones were moved to create a private lawn area to take advantage of Northumberland's heritage coastline.
|Main entry, with Brazilian slate flooring|
The main body of the church houses the main kitchen, dining, and living area. Realizing that heating the church in the coldest part of the year would be impractical and expense, Ian and Sally build a second kitchen and sitting area for more modest winter quarters. The 35-foot-high space is kept warm by underfloor heating and six Victorian cast-iron radiators. The new skylights bring natural light through the preserved timbered ceiling and highlight the beautiful tinplate frieze with original handpainted Psalms. Wherever possible, needed fittings have been brought in from other churches. The wainscot panelling around the main living room was sourced from a church in South Wales.
|Main living area. The original stone flooring in this area was removed for use in another part of the home.|
For the main kitchen construction, Ian himself handcrafted the cabinets from pitch pine sourced from pew frames, and constructed the counters from old pew seats. The vivid blue plaster ceiling color was original to the church, and has been reinstated through color-matching from untouched areas and restored where needed. The stained glass throughout dates from the mid-1800s, and was crafted by the renown workshop of Clayton & Bell, known the world over for their high-quality glass and construction methods, with ecclesiastical installations throughout England, Canada, and the United States. Other kitchen features include travertine limestone floors, a double Fisher Paykel oven, a double dishwasher, underfloor heating and a log-burning stove.
Ian crafted the dining room table from leftover pitch-pine pews and seats with newel post legs. Ian also constructed the staircase leading up to the galleried library. The reclaimed chapel wainscot panelling, shown in the picture below, extends throughout the main vestry area.
|Sally Onions in her nave dining area.|
|View of the grand bedroom in nook, which can be closed off with curtains.|
The photo below shows the Grand Bedroom on the main floor, with a hand-built bed replacing the original altar, situated in a nook directly underneath three Clayton & Bell stained glass panels and the original handpainted Psalm frieze.
|The grand bedroom in nook|
|Ian's handcrafted staircase, with original baptismal font on the right.|
|One of two mirror bedrooms on the second floor|
The main bathroom is illuminated through a 12' stained glass window, and features a deep, free-standing French bath, heated tower rails, and heated limestone flooring.
Now with the conversion complete, Ian and Sally are ready to move on, and have placed their beloved property for sale for $1,130,000. “Taking on this conversion has been a real labour of love,” says Ian. “It has totally changed our outlook and the way we live. In fact, now we can’t even visit another church without wondering where we would put the bedrooms!”