grand designs church conversion, birmingham

A controversial church conversion

When Dean Marks took on a Grade II-listed church in Birmingham, Kevin McCloud was sceptical...

By Intern | 10 January 2017

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.

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One of the most controversial aspects of Dean’s church conversion was the plastic dome he placed on top of the bell tower. Photo: Jefferson Smith

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.

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In the huge ground-floor living area, the church’s original tiled aisle leads to the focal point, the swimming pool Dean installed. Photo: Jefferson Smith

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.

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Flooded with soft light from the stained-glass windows, the formal dining room is home to the church’s original altar table. Photo: Jefferson Smith

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.

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In one of the home’s four bathrooms, Dean installed a dramatic circular bath. Photo: Jefferson Smith

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.

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Where possible, Dean has found uses for items left in the church – these old pews are given a new lease of life as a bed frame. Photo: Jefferson Smith

It was an arduous task, with an overrun of a year, but the family’s ‘spiritual home’ proves Dean was not mad after all.