‘As soon as we stepped through the door we fell in love with it’

Work has started on converting the inside of the building into individual rooms - including a home cinema
Work has started on converting the inside of the building into individual rooms - including a home cinema

It might be a little early to talk about Christmas presents...but Rob Ayling and partner Sandy Huskisson know exactly what they want this year - their new home.

However, it’s no ordinary home.

Crowds gather outside the church in this historic picture - perhaps of a wedding scene or after a service.

Crowds gather outside the church in this historic picture - perhaps of a wedding scene or after a service.

Instead, the couple are spending half-a-million pounds converting a former church in Woodhall Spa.

And, it promises to be no ordinary conversion either...the couple have permission for a five bedroom house - complete with a home cinema!

Mr Ayling and Ms Huskiss used to live a couple of hundred yards from the ex-Methodist Church.

Mr Ayling explains: “We either walked or drove by the building every day but weren’t even aware it was for sale.

The outside of the church as it looks today. The tower and spire on the right is set to be come a library while the main window will be retained.

The outside of the church as it looks today. The tower and spire on the right is set to be come a library while the main window will be retained.

“For some reason, we never saw the for sale board.

“When we were made aware, we knew we wanted it straightaway.

“As soon as we stepped through the door, we fell in love with the it. We could see the potential. We knew we had to have it.”

If it all this sounds like an episode of TV ‘Grand Designs’ then don’t be surprised - it’s one of the couple’s favourite programmes.

Waiting at the door: Rob Ayling and partner Sandy Huskisson

Waiting at the door: Rob Ayling and partner Sandy Huskisson

Contractors have already started work and the couple hope to be in by Christmas.

They haven’t revealed how much they have spent on the building but admit the final bill will be around £500,000 - money, they say, well spent.

Mr Ayling added: “We wanted something different - something we could really put our mark on and call home for the rest of our lives.

“This is it. We love Woodhall. We don’t want to live anywhere else. We could have looked for another ten years and not done any better.”

Agreeing to buy the building was one thing...securing planning permission was quite another.

Ask the couple about the process and you are guaranteed sharply raised eyebrows.

The church had not been a place of worship for at least ten years and was then taken over as office space.

When the company folded, the building was in danger of falling into disrepair.

Mr Ayling added: “We’d like to think we’ve helped save it...given it a new lease of life.

“Everyone has been so supportive . People are always popping their head through the door and if we’re here, we invite them in to look around.

“Their reaction is always ‘amazing - there’s so much space.’

“I think they are just pleased - and relieved - it won’t become another derelict building.

“It’s in a really prominent position and surely what we’re doing is better than converting it into a gym or ten flats!”

While the couple can’t wait to move in, East Lindsey’s Conversation Officers needed some convincing about plans.

“It was a long, drawn out process,” explains Mr Ayling.

The couple will retain as many original features as possible - including a rose window which will form a centrepiece of their bedroom.

The 50 foot tower will house a library or - as Ms Huskisson describes it - ‘a peaceful retreat’ for her.

All the wooden panelling has been carefully removed and will be replaced.

They’ve discovered the old chancel, discarded in a corner. That will become another feature.

Mr Ayling works in the entertainment industry. His business partner is rock star Rick Wakeman.

The home cinema was a must. Unfortunately, contractors have not discovered the church organ.

The five bedrooms are all taking shape, as is the kitchen, large central hall and that cinema.

There’s only one slight snag...how do you gift wrap a converted church as a Christmas present?