Room with a view that’s the envy of any rail en­thu­si­ast

This water tower is now a con­tem­po­rary home but its rail­way her­itage is right at the heart of the con­ver­sion. Sharon Dale re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY -

WHEN Mark and Pat Rand de­cided to down­size from their his­toric home they very nearly bought a bun­ga­low.

It was the ob­vi­ous choice for a cou­ple who are of re­tire­ment age though it wouldn’t have brought them half as much plea­sure as the prop­erty they even­tu­ally plumped for.

The cav­ernous water tower at Set­tle rail­way sta­tion was just four damp walls and a jun­gle of gi­ant pipes topped with a huge cast iron tank but its lo­ca­tion and po­ten­tial proved ir­re­sistible.

For train spotter Mark, a long-time mem­ber of the Friends of the Set­tle Carlisle Line com­mit­tee, it of­fered un­ri­valled views of the tracks, along with the chance to res­cue an im­por­tant piece of Mid­land Rail­way her­itage.

“We had been on the verge of buy­ing a bun­ga­low but this op­por­tu­nity came up and we de­cided to go for it,” says Mark, who paid £208,000 for the grade two listed build­ing in Oc­to­ber 2010.

Built in 1876 by the Mid­land Rail­way, its 43,000 gal­lon tank fed steam lo­co­mo­tives un­til the 1960s and is now the only one of eight Set­tle Carlisle line water tow­ers to sur­vive.

It had been used as a stor­age fa­cil­ity and came with per­mis­sion for a dwelling when the Rands bought it, though they sub­mit­ted new plans by ar­chi­tect Stu­art Green.

“Stu­art wanted to buy the tower but his wife wouldn’t let him. He loved the build­ing and pleaded with us to let him do the designs,” says Mark.

The plan was to cre­ate an “up­side down” home with bed­rooms on the ground floor, liv­ing space on a new­ly­cre­ated first floor, a three-storey ex­ten­sion at the rear and a new, pre­fab­ri­cated room on the roof of the tower that would give 360 de­gree views.

Plan­ning per­mis­sion took six months, the ex­ten­sion was cut to two storeys and there were 65 con­di­tions that the Rands had to ad­here to.

“I was frus­trated but it was a bless­ing in dis­guise as it gave us time to get the lo­gis­tics right. We were dis­ap­pointed they wouldn’t let us take the ex­ten­sion to the top of the tower to meet the roof room but on the plus side they did agree to let us have the roof room,” says Mark, a re­tired chief su­per­in­ten­dent of po­lice.

Hav­ing tack­led ren­o­va­tions, at their pre­vi­ous home The Folly in Set­tle, the cou­ple weren’t daunted by the project. Pat was in charge of the bud­get, which came in slightly un­der, though the Rands don’t want to re­veal the sub­stan­tial amount they spent. Mark was at the site ev­ery day mak­ing sure ev­ery­one had what they needed in­clud­ing cups of tea from the “Bright Ideas Fa­cil­ity and Daft Ideas Erad­i­ca­tion Unit”, oth­er­wise known as the site hut housed in an old car­a­van he bought from ebay.

He also spent months scrap­ing rust from the me­tal pan­els that sur­rounded the old water tank and re­paint­ing them in their orig­i­nal Mid­land Rail­way colours.

“I knew it as time to stop when the wind blew the paint hor­i­zon­tally off the brush,” says Mark, who swung 45ft up in a gantry to tackle the job. His an­tics were filmed for the TV se­ries Restora­tion Man, which is screened on Thurs­day, and which will show that all went re­mark­ably smoothly thanks to a crack team of lo­cal builders and trades­peo­ple. It also helped that the struc­ture was so well-built it didn’t even need re point­ing.

The only is­sue was con­den­sa­tion on the bot­tom of the water tank, so that was in­su­lated and other mod cons such as un­der­floor heat­ing, a heat re­cov­ery and ven­ti­la­tion sys­tem and rain­wa­ter har­vest­ing in­stalled. Many of the walls in­side are ex­posed and some of the pipes have been left as a re­minder of the prop­erty’s past. The cast iron win­dow frames also re­main though their bro­ken panes have been re­placed with sin­gle glaz­ing. To combat their draughts, the ground floor rooms have been heav­ily in­su­lated and new quadru­ple glazed win­dows have been in­stalled well back from the orig­i­nals, along with a mir­ror in the cav­ity be­tween to re­flect nat­u­ral light.

The ground floor houses a mas­ter be­d­room suite, util­ity room, bathroom and an of­fice that dou­bles as a guest room. On the first floor, there is an enor­mous liv­ing space span­ning width of the tower, while a kitchen sits in the rain screen clad ex­ten­sion be­hind. A float­ing stair­case leads to the top floor and the piece de re­sis­tance of this project.

The room on the roof, in­spired by Modernist ar­chi­tect Mies Van Der Rohe’s Barcelona Pav­il­ion, is a glass walled struc­ture pre­fab­ri­cated by the ar­chi­tect’s Hull-based com­pany Com­mer­cial Sys­tems In­ter­na­tional and craned onto the top of the tower, where it sits a me­tre from the edge. This makes it less ob­tru­sive and al­lows for a ter­race. The Rands are look­ing for­ward to re­lax­ing up there af­ter fin­ish­ing the con­ver­sion, which took just six months and was rel­a­tively stress free.

The only frus­tra­tions came from the con­flict be­tween plan­ning and con­ser­va­tion re­quire­ments and cre­at­ing a prac­ti­cal liv­ing space. The cou­ple were re­fused per­mis­sion to put in a wood burn­ing stove, which means the first floor is chilly, though it looks homely. It’s also got soul thanks to the rail­way mem­o­ra­bilia that Mark has in­stalled in­side and out. It proves that he was ex­actly the right man for the job. His love of the build­ing and his en­thu­si­asm for its her­itage is at the heart of the tower’s suc­cess­ful new life.

The newel posts are old tele­graph wire in­su­la­tors dug up from the gar­den. The stairs are painted in St Pan­cras in­ter­na­tional blue and the steps are made from old sleep­ers. He also has a per­ma­nent search set on ebay for Mid­land Rail­way items, many of which are framed. The buf­fers out­side came from Net­work Rail, as did the cob­bles, and his garage is to be fash­ioned from a re­dun­dant wooden work­shop at Ap­pleby sta­tion, while the gates and fences are orig­i­nal Mid­land Rail­way pat­terns copied by Set­tle Fenc­ing.

“We wanted to build as much of the Set­tle to Carlisle line into this as pos­si­ble,” says Mark, who has no re­grets about by­pass­ing that bun­ga­low. “The project has kept me fit and we in­stalled the lift so we can stay long-term. I aim to keep busy too. I will be re­sum­ing du­ties as a guide on the rail­way,” he says, while sur­vey­ing pretty Set­tle sta­tion from the top of his tower and not­ing ex­cit­edly that the 13.48 is bang on time.

DOWN THE LINE: Top, the water tower now has two floors and a roof room. Bot­tom left to right: The tower has been trans­formed but re­tains all its in­tegrity; Mark sur­veys the task of con­vert­ing the vast space into a home; the derelict tower be­fore work started. The tower has un­ri­valled views of the Set­tle-carlisle line at Set­tle.

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