homemaker featured property - 12 April 2014

With panoramic views from the top of a bell tower, this former parish church has been the perfect place to live for Terry and Barbara Roberts

With panoramic views from the top of a bell tower, this former parish church has been the perfect place to live for Terry and Barbara Roberts.

Just a stone’s throw from the spectacular shoreline at Seaburn, in Sunderland, the unusual property was built in 1909 and served the Monkwearmouth area as a parish church until the mid-1990s.

The couple, both 63, have carried out substantial yet sympathetic improvements to the building, and as a result, have transformed it into an idyllic coastal residence able to accommodate multigenerations.

“We bought the house 10 years ago, knowing there was unfinished work – a project was needed to start and finish the tower conversion,” explains Terry.

“This gave us the opportunity to add a spiral staircase serving the three new floors of the tower, and a separate bespoke wooden staircase to take us to the observatory.

“We loved the fact that there was scope for improvement and a new wet room allowed us to make it our own.”

Occupying a prominent corner plot site, the building has conservation area status and has therefore retained many original features, including beautiful beamed ceilings and high church windows.

The home is set apart by its observatory, which is a truly unique feature located at the very top of the former bell tower.

It provides exclusive, panoramic views over Sunderland’s skyline, overlooking the coast at Seaburn and Roker, making it ideal for watching the New Year’s Eve firework display on the seafront, and the city’s international airshow.

The other rooms in the belfry tower are an attractive, informal sitting area, a library with windows overlooking the kitchen and a study leading up to the observatory.

Another focal point of the home is the impressively large kitchen, originally the chancel of the building.

Flooded by an abundance of natural light through three tall arched windows and a roof window, it also has attractive slate floor tiles and is gently warmed by an Aga.

The main lounge is spacious, with two mezzanine areas, fantastic high windows and a wood-burning stove set upon a paved hearth. There is also a second, smaller lounge.

“When we viewed the property we were overwhelmed by its fabulous features,” says Terry. “We were also looking for somewhere we could accommodate and entertain friends and a dependant relative.

“There are so many light, bright spaces that it just makes us feel very comfortable living here. After work, relaxing over dinner in the kitchen then retiring to one of the two main sitting rooms is bliss.

“We already knew the area very well. Barbara grew up in Seaburn and spent a lot of time on the beach here, so we were very familiar with the excellent amenities in the area.

“There is a fantastic park at Roker nearby and it’s in an excellent location for commuting.”

The property also has five bedrooms, a striking reception hallway with wood-effect floor and spindle staircase, sun room and utility room. There are walled gardens to the front and sides, a private patio terrace to the rear, and a garage and driveway.

Terry and Barbara have decided to sell up to move closer to their grandchildren. “It’s now time for us to move on,” says Terry, adding: “It will be a huge wrench to leave this beautiful building.”

Aidan House, in St Georges Terrace, is on the market for £450,000, through Fine and Country, tel: 0845 459 6000.


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