Churchman’s legacy turns into quality homes by the Minster
York has a new ‘best address’ and it’s right next door to the Minster. Sharon Dale goes in search of enlightenment.
THE chance to create new homes in the heart of York is rare and to do it in the shadow of the city’s hallowed Minster is almost unheard of.
Yet Mike Green made it happen. Walking through Dean’s Park in 2009, he glimpsed the former Nuffield Hospital and had a Eureka moment.
“I couldn’t believe that a beautiful listed building like that had been empty for three years. It was perfect for residential use,” says Mike, who owns Gem Construction Services.
He made inquiries and soon found out why it had languished on the market. The price tag was too high, there was no planning permission, little chance of bank funding and it came with the daunting prospect of pleasing everyone, from English Heritage to trusts and the Dean of the Minster.
Undeterred, he put the word out to ask for private funding and found three wealthy individuals who were as enthusiastic as he was. They formed YO1 Property and began negotiations.
“The site wasn’t viable at the price the Nuffield had set and its use was limited because there was a covenant stating ‘no alcohol or gaming’, so residential was the obvious way forward,” says Mike.
It took two years to buy but the result is that The Purey Cust is set to be one of the best addresses in the city. It is already attracting attention from all over Yorkshire and beyond.
Philippa Faith, who is marketing the seven town houses, which start from £800,000, and three apartments, from £515,000, has had inquiries from America, Belgium and Switzerland.
“We hadn’t even launched them and we had 250 unsolicited inquiries. The interest has been incredible,” she says.
More interest was aroused when part of the property was used for the TV series Eternal Law. Its hidden-away location and historic good looks made it perfect for filming.
The site includes a building designed by Arts and Crafts architect Walter Brierley in 1914 and commissioned by a former Dean of York, Canon Arthur Purey Cust. He was a muchloved man and when he retired a collection raised enough money for him to fund the Purey Cust Nursing Home on land gifted by the Church that also came with a gothic house.
The hospital was designed to help the poor but was made redundant by the NHS. In the late 1960s, the private Nuffield Hospital took a long lease adding operating theatres at the rear and converting the house into consulting rooms. They moved to a purpose-built site in 2006
The grade two listed buildings were empty for five years until Gem Construction started on site last autumn.
“Getting it to that point was stressful and we could have pulled out at any point but I knew I’d never get another opportunity like this. It is an iconic building.
“Luckily, the planners were very supportive as were the Purey Cust Trust, which had the freehold. We asked them what they wanted us to do and we weren’t greedy. We demolished the 1980s operating theatres at the back when we could have used those buildings for extra footage.
“We also had good relationships with the Civic Trust and the Dean of the Minster,” says Mike, a former bricklayer turned quantity surveyor who started Gem in 1997 to specialise in converting listed buildings.
The Purey Cust is his biggest project and has run like clockwork. The first phase is finished and completion is expected in March next year.
The original Walter Brierley building is now split into town houses with a set of three apartments at one end. Apart from new doors, the facade is virtually unchanged, while inside, the unfussy Arts and Crafts features work well with the contemporary interior design.
Purey Cust Chambers, the gothic Tudor-style house is, by contrast, rich in elaborate architectural detail, including ecclesiastical arches and historic windows, and when renovated it could well be the most exquisite house in the city.
It’s so good that it has prompted a life change for Mike and his family, who plan to leave their country home to live there.
“It wasn’t the original plan but the more time I spent here the more I realised that this is the best location in York. It feels like a haven. It is so quiet and peaceful,” he says.
It certainly is until the Minster bells start ringing. While many of us love the sound of church bells, Mike is well aware that some people may not. Prospective buyers will be informed of peals, carillons and the cathedral clock that chimes every quarter hour from 8am to 8pm, with the hour struck on the bourdon bell, Great Peter.
The benefit is that you’ll always know what time it is. Another advantage of living next door to a medieval masterpiece is that you may not need a TV. All the properties look out on the Minster and they are about as close as you can get without standing next to it.
The view is beautiful, spiritual and so mesmeric that all you want to do is stare and think of a heavenly host of adjectives to describe one of Yorkshire’s greatest wonders.
For more details visit www. thepureycust.co.uk or tel 01904 670640.
There is an open viewing for the first phase of three apartments, which start from £515,000, and Stafford House, £975,000, on June 30 and July 1 from 2pm to 4pm.
CENTRE OF ATTRACTION: The Purey Cust site is next to York Minster though it is protected by walls that give it seclusion from the madding crowds of visitors to the city’s most famous tourist attractioon. What was a hospital is now seven town houses and three apartments.