In the early part of the 20th-century one option for a country house to avoid demolition was to be converted to institutional use. In this way, many houses became schools, hospitals or offices, but also some became religious institutions – for example, in the 1940s and 50s, Gloucestershire lost seven houses but twenty-two were converted to institutional use. Now with property prices rising but membership of convents falling, houses used for holy purposes are now being sold – and could once again be homes. Rempstone Hall in Leicestershire, currently the Holy Cross Convent, is on the market for £2.5m, as the nuns move to a purpose-built home nearby.
Rempstone Hall is a classically beautiful Georgian red-brick house, originally built in 1792 for William Gregory Williams, a major local landowner. Various families passed though the house usually keeping it as a secondary house to much grander seats elsewhere. By the beginning of the 20th-century it was unoccupied as probably, as with many other houses, at risk of demolition as the houses became surplus to requirements and a drain on finances already under pressure. Rempstone Hall was saved in 1909 when P.W. Carr moved in and made significant additions including a new north wing and a fine stable block before selling it in 1920 to the Derbyshire family from whom the Convent bought it in 1979 for just £110,000.
During their time at Rempstone, the nuns have removed the exterior stucco to expose the warm red-bricks giving the house a bold appearance, the two red blocks framing an elegant loggia which faces the gently sloping lawn. At 21,000sqft this is undeniably a large house with 20 bedrooms, a large entrance hall with possibly Jacobean staircase, a sizable chapel and many other rooms. One downside of institutional use is the rather functional decor and Rempstone is no exception, with lino, acres of red carpet and various partitions which the new owner would need to remove; total renovation costs are estimated to be in the region of £500,000.
This fine and beautiful house, well-located in the Midlands, with 60-acres and several estate buildings, cries out for someone with taste to restore this house back to being a family home – which is helpfully the outcome favoured by the local planners.
More details: ‘Your prayers have been answered‘ [Sunday Times: Home]