Gran transforms chapel into dream home using skills taught by late husband

Jayne Fowler, 59, was house sitting for a friend when she walked past an estate agent’s window and spotted an old chapel up for sale.

She decided to put in an offer of £155,000 and turn it into her dream home.

Within a week the former school administrator set to work and project managed the entire project for the next 12 months.

She was able to draw on skills her late husband Harry taught her when they built their house – named Pear Tree Cottage – from scratch together in 1999.

The gran-of-three now lives in the 1852 Chapel, in Salisbury, Wiltshire, which now boasts a modern interior with a kitchen, plush bedroom and its own stain-glass window.

Mum-of-two Jayne said: ‘I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out.

‘When I got my Completion Certificate I looked at Harry’s photo and said “I did it Harry!!”

‘When we built Pear Tree Cottage from the ground up I learnt everything.

‘Harry taught me how to use power tools and then let me use them under his guidance until I was confident to use them safely.

‘He taught me everything – from how to mix cement, chop wood, how to cork and tape plasterboard.

‘After he had passed away I realised I had a real curiosity for self build, renovations and the housing market in general.’

Jayne did have professional help and mostly project managed but helped with the work where she could.

She added: ‘I used hand drills, regular hand saw, jigsaw and chop saws during the renovation.

‘I was helping out with the flooring. It was so much fun.

‘It took about a year and I did have sleepless nights wondering whether I could pull it off and one of my neighbours seriously doubted me.

‘But a year later I did it! A 59-year-old widow with more determination than sense it seems!’

Jayne and civil engineering manager Harry built Pear Tree Cottage in Pamber End, Hampshire, in 1999 and she lived there until his death in 2015.

Suddenly widowed, she sold the home and bought a holiday lodge.

But three years later while house-sitting for a friend Jayne stumbled across the Ebenzer Methodist Chapel in an estate agents window.

She viewed it two days later, and bought it the next day for £155,000. Two days after that, she started work.

She spent £135,000 to renovate it, including a reroofing but it was finished last July and she has been living in it ever since.

Jayne said: ‘After building the first house I always had an interest in properties.

‘We built that one from scratch. The site we bought was an acre site with a derelict 15th Century cottage on it, a London South West first class train carriage and lots of tin outbuildings.

‘We cleared the land and out building, and erected a three-bed detached and thatched house, and then renovated the little cottage.

‘It was a fun project we did together and I found it really rewarding.

‘Then a couple of years back when Harry passed away I walking past an estate agents and it caught my eye.

‘There were three other people interested in it but my offer was the best at £155,000. I completely fell in love with it.

‘The next morning I woke up and my husband popped into my head. I thought “Oh my God Harry, what have I done?”

‘But there was no going back and I didn’t have Harry to help me.’

When she first arrived the house was covered in ivy and mould and the windows and roof timbers were rotten.

Jayne adds: ‘I started gutting it out over the next three months as I applied for a change in planning consent and had to have a bat survey done.

‘Once that was done I took it back to just four walls and started from there.

‘I did have some serious doubts over the course of it.

‘I had many sleepless nights wondering if I could pull it off.

‘There was a point where I was £200,000 out of pocket and the place was anything but habitable.

‘But I was able to do it drawing on everything Harry had taught me.’

Jayne has had the house valued between £375,000 and £450,000 but says the unique property is hard to value.

She said: ‘Harry was really remarkable and didn’t have any qualifications.

‘He gave me the ultimate gift of giving me the confidence to take on a challenge.

‘I see it as a legacy to him.’