For sale for the first time, the new home in a medieval tower
This historic landmark has become a home for the first time in its 700-year-old history. Now it’s up for sale. Sharon Dale reports.
TACKLING the renovation of a scheduled ancient monument is not for the faint-hearted but serial renovator Ian Berg was confident he could negotiate his way through the red tape that often strangles such projects.
“I used all the skills I use my job,” says Ian, a human resources expert, currently advising the government.
Between offering to buy York’s medieval Lendal Tower and completing the deal in June 2010, he managed to get English Heritage ,York City Council planning department, conservation officers, building regulations and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to agree to his scheme of work to turn the tower into a home for the first time in its 700-year history.
“A project like this is all about people skills. If I had accepted the first answer I got I wouldn’t have got anywhere.
“It’s about seeing things from their perspective, being persuasive, respectful and thinking creatively. I also lined up the craftsmen and builders and so they were ready to start as soon as the property was mine,” he says, proud that his quest to save the neglected landmark from dereliction, and turn it into York’s quirkiest abode, was complete in just 14 months.
“It was in a sorry state when I first saw it. It had been empty for ten years, the roof was leaking and the windows were smashed. It had been left to rot, damp and pigeons. But I knew it I could make it into something special.
“No-one else seemed to be interested in buying it but I have renovated a lot of historic buildings and I thought: ‘It has to be mine and it has to be sorted out and done properly’.”
After spending well over £300,000, he hopes that others will be equally charmed by the property and its exceptional riverside location by Lendal Bridge in York city centre. It is now on the market for £1.35 million with Carter Jonas.
“It is unrivalled in terms of location and you now have the benefit of a modern home within an historic property,” says Ian.
The medieval building was built in 1300 as part of the city’s defences. Back then, a huge chain was stretched across the Ouse from Lendal Tower to Barker Tower on the opposite shore, to keep enemies out and to ensure visitors paid a toll
In 1677, the tower was leased to what would become the York Waterworks Company and used as a pumping station. A donkey used to power the pump and was forced to make circuits of what is now the living room. If it was sick, prisoners would be drafted in to do the work.
In 1836, the tower became York Waterworks Company’s headquarters.
Money was no object when fitting it out with oak panelling and decorative plasterwork. A Pickering lift was later installed to take visitors to the grand boardroom on the top floor.
The building then passed to Yorkshire Water, who sold it to local developer the Helmsley Group in 2004.
It got permission to convert the tower and sold it on to entrepreneur David Hattersley, whose company went into liquidation before it could tackle the project.
Ian stepped in and admits he didn’t bother with a survey because “the building has been there long enough without falling down and woodworm don’t live for 700 years.”
Instead he got on with renovating the mullion windows and ornate panelling, while walls were re-plastered and the whole place re-plumbed and wired.
Heating was also installed and the roof made watertight.
“These projects are always more expensive than you think because you can’t buy off the shelf or nip down to B&Q for that kind of thing,” he says. “It’s been worth it though. The central heating in particular has had enormous benefits. The tower has changed colour since we put the heating in. The stone was grey and damp and now it’s dry and more mellow.”
The property, which comes with a garden and parking, has yielded 2,500sq ft of living space on three floors. The ground floor has a sitting room, dining hall and kitchen plus a bathroom opposite the lift.
The high-ceilings support a mezzanine office/bedroom accessed via a spiral staircase. On the first floor, there is a bedroom, dressing room and en-suite, while the second floor has another bedroom and en-suite.
But the real wow factor comes from the roof terrace at the top of the crenellated tower. It boasts spectacular views of the city including the Minster and the river.
Its proximity to the Ouse prompted fears that the tower might flood, but Ian says it is watertight. “I checked that risk out very carefully before I bought it because it is right next to the river but it was the basement that used to flood and that was filled in.”
While he had intended to live in the tower full-time, his work has taken him away for long periods.
He bridged the gaps by letting it as a holiday home but has now decided to sell.
“I have put a great deal of work, care and time into rescuing, renovating and regenerating this superb building and I have grown very fond of it,” he says.
“Even though it is in the centre of York, it is very cosy and quiet thanks to the 4ft thick. It’s also very secure. It’s withstood everything from Oliver Cromwell’s Roundheads to the Luftwaffe and I’m hoping that the work I’ve done will see it last another 700 years.”
HEART OF THE CITY: Lendal Tower is now a quiet and cosy home thanks to a renovation that has given it three bedrooms and a roof terrace with 360 degree views of York. Though it sits alongside the River Ouse next to Lendal Bridge, only the former basement was prone to flooding, and that is now filled in and the tower itself is watertight.