Medieval church and bell tower that's going to auction could be converted into your new home

By Joanne Ridout

If a unique home is your dream home, a medieval church in a tiny hamlet within one of Wales best landscapes and close to the coast can surely be classed as a pretty perfect property?

Add into the mix the fact that the historic building has its own bell tower and also comes with planning consent already in place for conversion to a two-bed home.

That's one headache for renovating this ancient building completed, although the fact it is Grade II* listed means a conversion needs to proceed with love, care and caution.

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The church is hidden amongst the hedgerows on the edge of the tiny and picturesque hamlet of Whitson, located on the atmospheric Gwent Levels.

It is just a few minutes' walk from the sea wall, the coastal path and panoramic views across the Severn Estuary to Somerset.

Elinor Meloy on the Visit Wales website describes the coast of the Gwent Levels as an intertidal zone of salt marshes, mudflats and sands, revealed to keen eyes at low tide along the northern coastline of the Severn Estuary.

The Gwent Levels are a special place and include six SSSIs (Western Mail)
The area has a maze of manmade drainage waterways called reens that support an abundant wildlife habitat (Western Mail)
At the end of the lane from the church is the sea wall, coastal path and incredible views (Google maps)

She says: "The low horizon, flat landscape, and big skies, often enhanced by dramatic cloudscapes, sunrises and sunsets, give the Levels a unique ethereal quality."

Arguably the atmospheric location is as unique as the property proposition, as most of the surrounding area was reclaimed from the water and the mudflats by the monks of Tintern Abbey and Goldcliff Priory during the middle ages.

Hidden in the hedgerows (Paul Fosh Auctions)
A Grade II* listed medieval church (Paul Fosh Auctions)
The church is special and the location is atmospheric and unique - but not always misty (Paul Fosh Auctions)

They drained the majority of the flats to create fertile farmland and created a maze of sunken drainage waterways called reens as well as an iconic landscape of international significance.

The blankets of fields and hedges that stretch across the flat landscape supported by the manmade reens provide a rich habitat that supports an abundance of rare insects, plants, animals and birds.

This unique environment and its combination of wildlife has resulted in the creation of six Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs).

The church dates back in parts to the 13th century and the 15th century (Paul Fosh Auctions)
There's already planning in place to create a two-bed home (Paul Fosh Auctions)

These are protected sites totalling about 14,000 acres that stretch from east Cardiff along the coastal plain to Caldicot. It is a very special place indeed, arguably unlike any other in Wales or beyond.

And the medieval church and the hamlet in which it nestles is within its own protected site called Whitson SSSI. So unique is surely a word that can be used to describe Whitson church going to auction with a guide price of £135,000.

According to the auction house selling the property it is mentioned in local history records where it is noted for its fine tower and ‘pinnacle’, and dates back as far as the 12th century with later additions including a 15th century bell tower.

The rarity of this combination and age of surviving elements from different eras resulted in the church being awarded a Grade II* listing from Cadw in 1863, amended in 1996, due to it being 'a church with much surviving medieval fabric'.

The graveyard does not come with the sale of the church (Paul Fosh Auctions)
But there is land for a garden (Paul Fosh Auctions)

The Grade II* listed property is currently derelict inside and missing much of its roof, but the potential here is obvious too.

Some of the windows have survived and the incredible wooden roof structure inside will surely be a stunning future period feature of the buyer's new home once restored, within the building's listing consent and planning permission rules.

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Once renovated, the panoramic coastal, country and city views from the top of the bell tower will surely be astounding.

The church is approached via a new driveway with work already commenced on the installation of a small bridge over one of the reens.

Amazing to see lots of the windows still in place (Paul Fosh Auctions)
Imagine this as your front door (Paul Fosh Auctions)

The planning permission obtained in December last year is for the development of a two bedroom dwelling with open-plan living area and kitchen to the ground floor, two bedrooms and bathroom to the first floor, and further accommodation within the tower.

The graveyard adjoining the property is not included in the sale but there is an area near the building which the vendors say could be used for a garden.

Could be a spectacular open-plan ground floor space (Paul Fosh Auctions)
The two bedrooms are planned for a new upper floor in this main area (Paul Fosh Auctions)

Sean Roper, of Newport-based Paul Fosh Auctions who is handling the sale, says: "The church is situated on the serene Caldicot Levels where there are a number of farmsteads and houses.

"The city of Newport is approximately four miles away, with its wide range of amenities and shopping facilities including the Friars Walk shopping centre. The M4 is easily accessible too, offering access for commuters to both Cardiff and Bristol especially.

The bell tower is a historic feature that will have rooms inside too (Paul Fosh Auctions)
Inside the tower looks derelict but it can and will be saved (Paul Fosh Auctions)
The views from the top of the bell tower, even in the sea mist, are mesmerising (Paul Fosh Auctions)

"Prospective purchasers can see the potential for this property with the benefit of planning permission for conversion to an awesome, away-from-it-all two bed home.

"This is a true one-off property which is already creating a great deal of interest on both sides of the Severn Estuary."

For further information, the church's planning application is number 19/1215 on Newport City Council's website.

There is also planning in place (with conditions) to create a bridge across the reen and the creation of a driveway, application number 16/0518.

Whitson Church is going to online auction with Paul Fosh Auctions on Tuesday, February 1 from noon until Thursday, February 3 until 5.10pm with a guide price of £135,000.

Viewings of the church pre-auction must be booked with the auction house, see their website or call 01533 254044 for further details.

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