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Converting or renovating unusual properties

The UK has seen some spectacularly innovative conversions over the years. You might be forgiven for holding out on your grand development plan because you haven’t yet found the right property, but as some of these examples show, what property is actually ‘right’ might surprise you!

With the right amount of imagination and daring (and the right finance), you can turn some very unusual buildings into perfect residential or commercial property. Have you thought about converting…?

…a disused railway station?


Barter Brooks, Northumberland, a disused railway station

Barter Books, Northumberland


Anyone with a prodigious memory who had cause to use Alnwick railway station before its closure in 1968 might remember the building pictured in a slightly different light. After 23 years of disuse, an entrepreneurial couple turned the old station into Barter Books, one of the largest second-hand bookshops in Europe, which attracts over 200,000 visitors a year.

…an old military fort?


Picklecombe Fort, Cornwall

Fort Picklecombe, Cornwall


This once-imposing fort was constructed on the Cornish coast a century and a half ago, but in 1970 it was decided that France no longer posed an immediate invasion threat and the entire place was converted into a residential complex. Earlier this year a single studio apartment in the complex was put on the market at a guide price of £162,000.


Golden Hill Fort, Isle of Wight

Golden Hill Fort, Isle of Wight


150 miles East of Fort Picklecombe is Golden Hill Fort, on the Isle of Wight. This Grade 1 Listed Building has been derelict for many years. Planning permission to convert the fort into a luxury property complex was granted a decade ago, and the complex now comprises 18 individual units, which are available to rent from around £1,250 a month. (That’s £270,000 per year for the whole complex!)

…a chapel?


A converted chapel, Ely, Cambridge

Ely, Cambridgeshire. © Copyright Hugh Venables.


The spacious family home to the left of the picture is actually a converted chapel dating back to the 1800s. Comparably-sized properties in the area might sell for around £200–210,000, but the last time this place was on the market, the guide price was twice that. (Note: if you are planning an audacious conversion, be sure to get an expert opinion – sometimes houses that are very much out of line with the local style might not be able to fetch as much as they should when they sell. This isn’t such a problem in rural areas where properties are more spaced out, however.)

…a former factory?


Former factory, Southfields

Merton Road, Southfields. © Copyright Stefan Czapski


Remember OK Sauce? Well, from 1928 to 1969, it was made in this building, which has since been converted for many other uses and is currently commercial premises. Interestingly, the factory in which the sauce was made prior to 1928 had been converted from a swimming pool.

…a 600-acre estate including two castles and a golf course?


Rowallan Castle, Kilmaurs

Rowallan Castle Estate, Kilmaurs. © Thomas Nugent

Admittedly, the whole Rowallan Castle Estate may be pushing it, but the 600-acre grounds near Kilmarnock in Scotland are home to some very unconventional property conversions including ex-stables and an engine house.

Grand Designs

Many unusual properties have been restored and renovated over the years: bunkers, castles, fire and police stations, flour mills, libraries, lighthouses, schools, town halls and pavilions, water pumps, water towers, windmills, and more besides. If you have an idea for your own grand design, a bridging loan can provide the ideal renovation finance – with a turnaround in as little as 10 days, you can borrow from £25,000 to £25,000,000 for up to 24 months. Contact us today and we can help get your project off the ground.

This information should not be interpreted as financial advice. Bridging loan rates are subject to change. Speak to our advisors for a loan illustration.