There can be something rather sad about former Methodist chapels. Hundreds of devout worshippers have passed through their handsome porticos, inspired to awe-struck worship by the grandeur of surroundings created on a grand scale and in a grand, classical style.

Many such cathedrals of non-conformity are now slumming it as carpet warehouses or restaurants. Even sadder are those left boarded up, rotting and vandalised, with no obvious future ahead of them.

Not so The Chapel, an Italianate marvel in Grove Road, Harrogate. Thanks to the passion of a visionary Yorkshire businessman, this Grade Two listed building is now an eclectic masterpiece of spectacular design and artistry.

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Mark Hinchliffe was well used to transforming property, with plenty of four-bedroomed townhouses having had new life breathed into them by his attentions. But his obsession for collecting art and objets – he calls it a drug, not a hobby – had reached the stage where something had to be done.

That something, as it turned out, was the transformation of the chapel and its neighbouring Sunday School, a project that would at last give him the space to showcase a collection that had hitherto crammed two shipping containers and all the available spare space of his long-suffering friends.

Originally from Leeds, Mark was living just around the corner from the chapel when it first came on to the market. He had been to one of the last services to be held in the building and had fallen for its charms. “It is an amazing chapel, totally unlike any other Wesleyan chapel, with this incredible Italianate facade,” he enthuses.

A spirited local campaign had deterred developers interested in converting the property to flats and led to its being given listed status by English Heritage. It was listed for community use, but a buyer for that purpose seemed unlikely, so Mark pushed forward with a proposal to get planning permission for it and its Sunday school to become two houses.

Permission was granted, which led to a serious wobble for Mark when another potential buyer suddenly came out of the woodwork. “Those were the worst four days of my life,” said Mark.” I just did not sleep.” Luckily, the Methodists stayed with him and sold him their property, using the proceeds to renovate another nearby chapel which Mark says is now doing well as a place of worship.

For The Chapel, however, came years of detailed renovations which caught the eye of TV architect George Clarke, who recently featured it in his series Restoration Man. They documented a gruelling process that Mark says cost him his girlfriend of 12 years.

“I also lost about a stone, my hair is now grey, and I’ve had two discs removed from my spine!” he reflects, ruefully.

But the results of this epic restoration are astounding. The Chapel’s balcony frieze and pillars have been retained, architectural details have been renovated or replicated where they were missing and two huge Victorian stained glass windows were sent away for repair by Mark to a craftsman in Bradford.

“There are about a thousand pieces of glass in each of them,” says Mark. “The front of the building is south-facing and 120 years of mid-day sun had melted the lead on each piece of glass.”

The windows had to be removed in sections for a restoration that took around six months, during which time the building was boarded up and looked, says Mark, like a bomb site. “But when they went back in, seeing the light come back in the chapel was incredible.”

Original decorative tiles and wooden panelling are everywhere and at the heart of the property is a breathtaking central drawing room that was the amphitheatre of the chapel. With decorative marble flooring underfoot, you look up towards a 50ft ceiling, and the original pulpit has been retained. The space is a wonderful entertaining area as well as living area.

In the kitchen, the former pews of the chapel have been upcycled to form floor and wall units, set off with marble work surfaces, a copper double sink and an Ilve range cooker.

Upstairs is a wonderful galleried dining room that looks over the drawing room and its centrepiece is a stunning bespoke chandelier created for Mark by a longstanding friend, Mark Brazier Jones.

“The man is a genius,” he says.”His work has almost got a country house historic feel, but with a twist of something surreal.” The piece weighs 165 kilos and had to be winched into position. When the building work was complete, it had half an inch of dust on it that took three hours to clean.

“It could have been in the atrium,” says Mark, “but where it is, the light that cascades around it is magnetic, it is like stars shining on to the walls, but you still get the effect of the full height of the atrium. It’s the best of both world and it creates a fantastic sense of space.”

Altogether, the building now has four reception rooms including an elegant library with a wall of floor to ceiling bookshelves.

There are six en-suite bedrooms, with Mark’s master bedroom boasting a double-height ceiling and a stunning south-facing balcony. The ensuite has a deep free standing copper roll top bath, a separate walk-in shower and double sinks crafted out of fossilised wood.

Mark has recently opened the building for business as an utterly unique luxury bed and breakfast, function and event space, The Chapel HG1, which he hopes visitors will treat more like a home than a hotel. “I live here, and I hope people will come down and read a book or a newspaper – I want it to be a real sharing experience.”

Some of the rooms have an Asian and South-Asian feel, reflecting many of the artworks collected by Mark in his global travels down the years.

Guests so far have included an Italian count who was so taken with the individual character of the work that Mark has done that he is trying to entice him out to Italy to transform his own home. “That’s the biggest compliment about what I have done,” says Mark.

There are plans afoot to get a marriage licence, so that people can once more get married in this Methodist chapel with a twist. That will be particularly touching for Mark, who during the restoration work occasionally had people telling him about how their own marriages had been solemnised within the chapel’s walls.

The property is on the market, although Mark says he can hardly bear to think about parting company with his masterpiece. “I have put so much passion and love into this place,” he says. “It would be like selling my heart.”

Reluctantly, he admits he could possibly be tempted if he had the opportunity to make his next project a chateau in the south of France. Buyers, please take note.

The Chapel is offered for sale by Strutt & Parker with a guide price of £1,500,000.

Strutt & Parker, Princes House,

13 Princes Square, Harrogate

T: 01423 594854



T: 07790 902 603