Springfield House - An old chapel in Middleton-in-Teesdale converted to a beautiful family home
PUBLISHED: 12:33 17 January 2012 | UPDATED: 20:55 20 February 2013
A picture in a magazine tempted the Prestons to turn their backs on the bright lights of London and move to a Teesdale chapel Words and pictures by Helen Johnson
Mark Preston was hooked on home renovation programmes and he had grand designs of his own when he saw an old chapel in Middleton-in-Teesdale come on the market. He and wife Sam were living in London at the time but came straight up and knew they wanted to make the move the moment they stepped out of the car.
Id been captured by watching the TV series Grand Designs and fancied doing something similar, Mark said. We wanted to escape from the City. Wed done our time there ten years. And as were from South Shields originally, it was closer to family.
Marks vision for the chapel involved opening up the interior of the building into a large space, filled with light from the tall stained glass windows.
It would be a major change. The previous owner was an artist who had bought the chapel from the clergy in the 1970s and used the top floor as a studio with the lower floors divided into a four bedroom home.
Mark aimed to take the building back to a bare shell and start over again. thought about getting a company to do it all but it was too expensive, he said. So hired a foreman and project managed it myself.
Hiring a good foreman was the best thing did, because he brought in good people. They were all Geordies who stayed at the pub in the week and got given nicknames from Auf Weidersehen Pet. We were still in London and used to come up at weekends. We slept on an airbed and ate from the chip shop.
They opened up the ground floor to create a huge, airy living space. second floor provides bedrooms, bathrooms and storage, while the third floor is a large games room with a snooker table and a discreet bar tucked behind a feature curved wall.
The building is listed and conservation features the couple retained include cast iron pillars, the curved wall behind the pulpit, a moulded plaster ceiling and stained glass. We needed to keep the curved wall downstairs, so we continued the shape of it up through the building and used it as a basis for the stairs, said Sam, an accountant.
he contemporary stairs, imported from Italy, contrast the original staircase at the other end of the building.
heir favourite feature is the stained glass which throws colour across the floor as the sun moves through the day. They decided not to fit blinds or curtains as they would detract from the shape of the arched windows and since the windows are so high, privacy isnt a problem.
he couple had also set their hearts on having a place with plenty of room for entertaining and when they moved in, they used it. Sam said: After we moved in, we had a joint housewarming and Christening weekend. We had the housewarming upstairs with seventy people and it didnt look full.
he conversion created flexible spaces, meaning changes could be made to the house, with minimum upheaval. Weve changed rooms three or four times as weve evolved, Mark said.
Theres been no expense; weve just changed the purpose. The gym became a room for daughter Abigail, the games room doubled as home office, and the office became a temporary granny annexe.
The space is great. When Abigail was small, she could ride her bike round the room in winter. And I love the feel of light weve got glass flooring upstairs to let in more light.
As for the change from London, Sam added: love it here theres a nice community feel. When we moved people asked if Id miss the shops in London but actually find it easier here. The local shop is open till 10pm and can easily nip up there. But in London, if Id forgotten something, do without it didnt go out at night in London.
And Mark, who works as an IT architect, added: We changed the way we work to suit living here. There is broadband through the whole valley, so that means we can work from home. When do need to visit clients, its a beautiful drive over the top to Newcastle airport, and it only takes 50 minutes.
When they converted the chapel, they thought theyd stay forever but Mark has been bitten by the redeveloping bug. want to do it again, he said.
loved the adrenalin of the process and the satisfaction of seeing it all come together. So now want to find a piece of land and to design and build the whole thing myself. were in love with Teesdale, and we definitely want something in this area.
* Springfield House is for sale with GSC Chartered Surveyors of Barnard Castle, 01833 637000, www.gsccharteredsurveyors.co.uk.