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Five churches in Kent turned into gyms, pubs, homes and more

There are lots of chapels and churches in the county which were once used by thousands to worship their god and many have now been converted into other uses.

Here we take a look at five in the county which have transformed over the years...

Rochester: St Bartholomew's Chapel - now Granite Gym

St Bart's Hospital Chapel, Rochester, pictured here in May 1990. Stock picture
St Bart's Hospital Chapel, Rochester, pictured here in May 1990. Stock picture

The chapel, on the corner of Gundulph Road and the High Street, and is the only remaining part of the original nearby St Bartholomew's Hospital and is a Grade II listed building made of flints and rubble with a limestone dressing and tiled roof.

It was built in Medieval times between 1115 and 1124 and part of it has remained unaltered, including three round headed windows and a rounded domed sanctuary at the east end. It has been suggested it may be the earliest remaining example in the country.

Part of the chapel was altered in the 13th century including the nave, but by 1560, it was described as 'being old and ruinous and likely to come to utter decay' and even back then it was hoped it could be repaired and turned into an 'an honest and seemly dwelling'.

It is recorded in 1699, the building had two upper and two lower rooms, but 25 years later, it was converted back to a chapel and in 1787, three galleries were added.

Between 1830 and 1846, further repairs were done and in 1896 Sir George Gilbert Scott was given the task of restoring the church and said of the building "a precious archaeological and historical relic, the preservation of which was of the utmost importance".

New stained glass was provided and in 1962 the chapel was described as being "in a perfect state of preservation and beautifully decorated, and is equipped with modern lighting and heating arrangements".

In 1978 an archaeological excavation was carried out near the entrance. As well as one of the original walls, a variety of pottery dating from Roman to modern times was found. After that the chapel became redundant and fell into a state of disrepair.

Later it was put on the market and was for sale for almost a decade before it was sold, the grounds were cleared and tidied with extensive renovation work done inside.

The new occupants were the Celestial Church of Christ, but in 2017 the building changed from a place of worship and became home to Granite Gym, where mixed martial arts, wrestling, boxing, Jiu-jitsu now happen in the building.

And when a barrister fancied a career change she swapped her highly-paid job at the Bar in London's law courts for barbells at a the gym.

Folkestone: New Salem Baptist Chapel - now The Samuel Peto pub

Samuel Peto pub in Folkestone, the frontage of the building has not changed much over the years. Stock picture
Samuel Peto pub in Folkestone, the frontage of the building has not changed much over the years. Stock picture

The new Salem Chapel in Rendezvous Street was built by local architect Joseph Gardener between 1873 and 1874 and was funded largely by a loan from Samuel Morton Peto (later Sir Samuel) and has two storeys with a balcony all round and a basement.

It is now a Grade II listed building.

A Baptist himself, Peto was one of the great railway contractors of the Victorian age and his company also built Nelson’s Column, in London.

It's frontage elevation is stuccoed and the rest is made of stock brick and it has a slate roof.

Four massive coupled composite columns go through all storeys and round windows are on the first floor.

Baptist worship came to an end in 1987 at the church and the building was then sold and a change of use was granted in 1988 to make way for an antiques market and craft workshops.

A further change of use was granted in 1993 to turn it into a theatre and then again in 1997 to change it into a pub.

It was then turned into The Samuel Peto, a Wetherspoons, and was opened in April 1998, but most of the internal features retained during the conversion, including organ, pulpit and gallery remain to this day.

It is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

St John's Board House in Canterbury - now a stunning home called St John's Hall

St John's Board School pictured in 1973. Picture: Historic England
St John's Board School pictured in 1973. Picture: Historic England

An austere Methodist chapel built in 1876, which then became a school for the poor children of Victorian Canterbury, is two stories and built in buff brick.

St John's Board School took over the Methodist chapel in St John's Place to use as an Infants School and changed the stone heading to that effect.

It was previously part of the former Kingsmead School before its closure and merger with St John's primary.

The Grade II listed property, which has renovated from a shell with new foundations, floors and ceilings - but has been carefully and sensitively converted, retaining features like its nine arched Georgian windows and has now been transformed into a luxury home.

Architects converted the former St John's Board House into a stunning five-bedroom property with every mod con and bespoke feature including a solid walnut staircase and Brazilian quartz kitchen worktops.

In February 2019, it was valued at £2.5 million.

The ground floor has five reception rooms and a conservatory with seven metres of fully automated glazing, all with bespoke fittings and high-quality wood and stone flooring.

A dramatic suspended fireplace is a feature of the dining room and the library has a stunning barrel-vaulted, solid walnut ceiling.

Another bespoke feature is the magnificent, central solid walnut staircase with solid bronze railings and a curved solid walnut handrail.

On the first floor, overlooking the private garden, is the master bedroom suite with dressing room, bathroom and separate cloakroom.

The property has a secluded paved, walled garden complete with cedar barrel hot tub.

St Paul's Dockyard Church, Sheerness - now being turned into a gallery exhibition area, restaurant and more

Old photos of the Dockyard Church. Picture: Colin Johnson
Old photos of the Dockyard Church. Picture: Colin Johnson

The building dates from 1828 and isGrade II listed. It was designed by George Ledwell Taylor, who was surveyor of buildings to the Navy.

The former church is at the entrance to the former Royal Dockyard, which closed down in March 1960.

The church has been badly damaged by fire twice, the first time in 1881, and the second in 2001.

But it is described as an 'architectural masterpiece' and one of the most important buildings which was at risk in the south east. It has a strong naval architecture and was where naval, military and civilians came together.

When the dockyard closed in 1960 the entire site, which included an impressive range of industrial and residential buildings, passed to a port operator.

In 2001, when it was derelict, it bought by a developer who got consent for a scheme to convert the building into 19 flats, but it suffered a devastating fire during renovation work.

Swale council ended up serving a compulsory purchase order on it and then gifted it to the Spitalfields Trust which has since gifted it to the Sheerness Dockyard Preservation Trust.

The new charity, the Sheerness Dockyard Preservation Trust; was formed to take on the building and see through the project of repairing it and converting it to a mixed use space featuring a permanent gallery to display the famous 1,600 sq ft model of the dockyard constructed when it was first laid out.

The project for the repair and reuse of this landmark building has been commissioned by the trust. The renovation create a business incubator hub for local young people, an exhibition area, a restaurant and an events space.

When finished it will be operated by Kent Youth Support Trust, a charity working locally to help young people establish financial independence through entrepreneurship, by providing business incubation units and on-site advice and support.

In May last year, The National Lottery Heritage Fund agreed to pay £4.2 million to rescue, repair and transform the church.

Walk-thru video of Sheerness Dockyard Church and how it will look. Hugh Broughton Architects

The outside will be restored to match the profiles of Ledwell Taylor’s design as completed in 1828 and the existing internal fabric, including the original cast iron columns, will be also preserved.

Work only started last week and is being driven by Will Palin, son of Ex-Python star Michael Palin, Will lives nearby and was horrified to see the church in such a shape.

The Church of the New Jerusalem, Snodland - now a unique family home

The Church of the New Jerusalem is now a unique family home
The Church of the New Jerusalem is now a unique family home

The 19th century church was formed and built by the Swedenborgian group, it was built in the High Street in 1881 but has not been used as a religious building since the late 1980s.

The church in High Street is a Grade II listed building.

The interior fittings of this church, such as reredos, pulpit, lectern, font, altar-table, reading-desk, and the stained-glass east window, were costly at the time it was built in the 19th century.

However, the church has been transformed into a unique family home by a couple, who worked for six years to transform the disused building into a stunning home.

Dave and Melissa Skelton wanted to maintain the integrity of the old building, but at the same time create a real home that would work perfectly for modern living.

The majority of the downstairs has been left open plan with great stretches of walls - the highest point from floor to ceiling is 10m.

A stone pulpit and organ sit alongside sleek white worktops and a glass mezzanine.

There are five bedrooms including a 'yoga area' with the master bedroom in the tower and beautiful stained glass windows set in walls of Kentish ragstone.

The old Sunday school of the grade two listed property has been converted into an office but has a small kitchen, toilet and shower room which can be used as an annex.

Mr Skelton bought it in 2011, intending to use it as office space for his electrical company. But when he met his wife, they realised it could make an incredible home.

But it had been empty a long time and was in a bad condition, but the couple did almost all renovation themselves.

It took the couple six years to complete.

Appearing on Homes Under the Hammer many years ago, previous buyers got planning permission to turn it into two houses before developers bought it.

The Skeltons later applied for it to be one house and put it on the market when it was completed.

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