My Chapel

Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

We went and had a closer look at that chapel yesterday. It really is rather nice, even seems to be in pretty decent condition.

The last couple of passed planning applications are available online, the UK is pretty good with that sort of thing. Thanks to land registry information we can also see how much it last sold for.

So, the previous owner got planning approval passed to convert the place into a two bedroom home back in April of 2006. At the end of the year it was sold for £315,000, no work having been done. Failed dream? Perhaps the owner found out exactly how much it would cost to actually have the work done. Perhaps the whole aim was to get planning consent then sell it on.

The current owner doesn’t seem to have been happy with a 2 bedroom conversion. And in November 2007 got planning permission to convert it into a 4 bedroom residence. Four bedrooms? It is a 6m by 14m rectangle! The planning permission comes complete with architectural diagrams [PDF], the owner was going to fit all this in by digging out a basement. Clearly he had, or thought he had, deep, bulging, pockets.

I guess the pockets weren’t as deep as expected, here we are a year later and it is back on the market. This time for 285k, that’s less than a 10% drop since, pretty much, peak prices. Could maybe knock off another 10% – could even be worth putting in a 250k offer. Though, for me, 200k would be more realistic. But even then, what of the cost of actually making the place a home? It would have to be astronomical, surely. I should get a guy down at the pub to browse the plans, and see what he thinks. Probably pointless though, getting a mortgage is hard enough right now – borrowing even more on speculative post-conversion value? Probably more likely to get a “yes” asking a banker if he’d like a stick rammed up his backside. And where would we live in the meantime? Would the council let us live in a caravan on site? The poor old neighbours would think the pikeys have moved in. Not bloody likely.

The council is a whole other ball game of course, their way of ensuring only the “right sort” get the place is to make it twice as expensive to do anything. The trees are all under protection orders of course, which is fine by me, I want the trees – but of course this means you need to consult a qualified arbourist before you so much as step foot in the direction of one of them. Before a single bit of work is done, scaffold-grade protective barriers must be erected around the trees at a British-standards specified distance (also requiring specialists no doubt.) Of course, the other thing you have to do is pay for a full archaeological survey of the site – and probably have an archaeologist around while you dig out the basement, assuming you have the money to go all the way with that plan (in reading all the fine print, it seems the archaeological survey condition is only on the basement-plan approval, the 2 bedroom one doesn’t have it.)

The site itself is quite large, at a third of an acre, and has housing all around it but separated by a good buffer of space. It is just crying out for a lush yew hedge – which would have to be acceptable, yew hedges and churches are like bread and butter. There’s a site layout plan in the council records as well. Given all the trees there is probably limited scope for a productive garden, but I’m sure I could manage something.

As for the history of the site, it is part of the old Caldicott School site, that page includes some history including when the chapel was built (1909.) Locals in the pub tell us its most recent public use was as a youth club, mostly used as a boxing gym. That’s when it was under control of some kind of youth trust, before being sold into private freehold (with preservation conditions attached) to raise money or something.

Potential galore, for someone in possession of both dreams and money. Enough dreaming for now though, back to work tomorrow and on to the finalé of 2008. Must try and just forget about it.

Bought a bottle of 18yo Glenlivit today, only one 10,000th the price of the chapel, it’ll just have to do I think.


Note: This entry has been restored from old archives.

Christmas hey? There goes another one of these “year” thingys, almost. It has been more than 3 of the things since I first left Australian airspace
for these antipodean (relatively speaking) shores. Shores, hah, midlands more precisely. Six months in Aylesbury (good ducks), 2 years in Rickmansworth (good looks, zero personality, HHGTTG fame), now 8 months in Hitchin. Hitchin is the sooty gem of the lot. Don’t get me wrong, I love the place.

Where are we now? Kat continues to toil in the “City”, without the infamous London “city” bucks (though they’re reserved for the privileged few these days.) I get by in my little techno-world, haphazard in a way, knowing how to poke the damn computational devices where it hurts. “Our” three bedroom terrace house suits us like an empty suit of medieval armour to a hermit crab. We rent, we vent, and get on with life.

I keep starting to write about what I’m up to, but never get to finish. Last weekend it was roast pheasant, beef and lambs’ liver shepherds’ pie, and butternut and sweet potato soup. Lately I should write about my roast Xmas duck. Crispy spiced skin glazed with orange, honey, and elderberry jelly. But the time escapes me. Perhaps my enthusiasm for writing up my kitchen shenanigans departs, perhaps the numbers add up to zero. It really does take a lot of effort and time to get it right. I should get around to saying something about my “pancetta” too, brilliant stuff. And I stewed a hare two weeks ago. I think I’m living my life from desk to kitchen these days, with a regular detour via the pub. If I can convince myself to spend some money, ever so hard, on a less cumbersome laptop I may be able to use my hour-per-day on trains to get some of these thoughts to text.

Pubs hey? Hitchin is full of the things. But if you’re here go to The Nightingale, around the corner from the station on Nightingale road, and, given the time, The Half Moon, a mile down the main road but, also, always a purveyor of fine ales. For some reason The Sunrunner carries all the “real ale” glory for Hitchin, buggered if I know why, numbers do not equal quality. And quality is all you’ll find at the other two.

Here in Hitchin we ever have our eyes open for a place of our own. And just now a real doozy has been thrown in front of us. By chance we took a loop up over the hill today, over Windmill Hill and down via Highbury. Near the roundabout what did we see? A chapel, for sale. For sale! A chapel!

A little investigation leads us to believe it is on the market for £285k. Which is, possibly, just barely affordable to us. But it is probably an empty shell of a building, not suitable for habitation. Certainly not something I’d ever subject Kat to (I could probably happily live in a culvert myself – so long as it has electricity and landline/3G.)

Seriously though. Near the middle of town, only a little further from the station than we are now, a third of an acre. No idea if it is freehold/leasehold, or of other pertinent details. Is it listed? “Conservation area,” must be. Is there a basement, photos indicate it is likely. How bad is it inside? Sure, it isn’t on the scale of my earlier castley postulations, but ever so more realistic. Tantalisingly so. Damn it.

Anyway, merry new near, and such. I hope life, and business, goes well for all. Over and out. Monkey boi.