A controversial church conversion
When Dean Marks took on a Grade II-listed church in Birmingham, Kevin McCloud was sceptical...
Kevin McCloud’s initial assessment of Dean Marks was ‘bordering on the lunatic’. The builder reckoned he could transform a Grade II-listed Birmingham church into a comfortable family home without an architect, or even a mortgage for the first seven months of the build.
So convinced was Dean of his vision that he put in an offer the day after seeing the church. However, it took another four and a half years to get permission to change the usage of the building into a home and begin construction.
The church building had fallen into disrepair after a decade of disuse, yet behind the decay was a huge amount of space, lofty ceilings and an array of original features, including 12 beautiful stained-glass windows. When it came to the church conversion, Dean was determined to go it alone; he eschewed architects, whom he felt were too uncompromising about their own ideas.
But he made sure his daughter Abbie, wife Hilary and stepson Jonathan, who has Asperger’s and would find a new house unsettling, were as involved as possible.
One of the biggest jobs involved slicing into the double-height space to create two floors in the church conversion. Kevin felt the ground floor was a little too dark, but upstairs is a different story, with its bell tower-turned-observatory flooding the space with light and giving 360° views over the Black Country.
It was an arduous task, with an overrun of a year, but the family’s ‘spiritual home’ proves Dean was not mad after all.