19th-century church becomes holiday let

Bill and Anne Monroe, at Greystead Old Church, near Kielder Water.
Bill and Anne Monroe, at Greystead Old Church, near Kielder Water.

A Northumberland couple has converted the church in which they tied the knot into a successful holiday let.

Art historians Anne and Bill Monroe leapt at the chance to purchase the church, which is also next door to their home, as a second holiday-let investment.

Greystead Old Church (formerly St Luke’s Church), near Kielder Water, dates back to 1818 and is particularly special for the Monroes.

Not only did the couple get married under its roof, their four children were christened there and Anne has fond memories of visiting with her parents as a child. They also live in the Old Rectory next door and own another holiday let on the same site, The Coach House.

When it went up for sale, the Monroes were lucky enough to snap up the impressive property for a relatively small amount, due to a number of restrictive covenants placed on the building by the Church of England following its deconsecration in the 1990s.

Using income from The Coach House alongside a mortgage, the Monroes embarked on a complete conversion of the property, working with heritage specialists to restore its historic charm for holiday guests.

It took six months to convert the church fully and it now has four bedrooms, as well as a spacious East End sitting room formed from the original altar area and a newly-created mezzanine level.

There is also an array of original features showcasing its historic past, including a fully-restored Victorian stained-glass window and Gothic archway as well as exposed Georgian stonework, flagstone flooring and panelling. It’s not just the interior of the property that’s seen some changes – there’s now an outdoor tennis court and barbecue area in the Old Rectory garden next door.

Anne and Bill have so far earned over £40,000 a year from letting out Greystead Old Church as a holiday home. The property has been particularly popular with larger family groups for birthdays and other special occasions and is typically booked out for 48 to 50 weeks of the year.

They now have ambitious plans for the church in the future. Having just installed a stargazing platform in the grounds for guests, they are now looking to convert the church tower. Installing a spiral staircase will allow visitors to enjoy the panoramic views looking out from across the bell tower, the original church bell dating to 1818 – and even, they hope, view the night skies from a telescope on the roof.

Meanwhile, Anne and Bill are busy converting the neighbouring church hall, built in the 1890s, into another holiday let on the Greystead site.

Anne said: “Converting the church has been hugely enjoyable. I’ve grown up with it and Bill and I wanted to revive its beautiful period charm for people to enjoy again. We have been very pleased with the result, and I was expecting it to be hugely popular, but the amount of bookings we’ve had has surpassed my expectations.

“We knew that in remote areas like this one, it can be difficult obtaining long-term tenancies. It’s a great tourist hub though and being within Northumberland National Park and near the Kielder Observatory is a massive draw for visitors.”