This charming converted chapel lies on the easterly edge of the pretty village of West Ilsley, on the border of Berkshire and Oxfordshire. Built in 1887 and extending to 915 sq ft internally, the building retains all its ecclesiastical architectural integrity, but contains subtle contemporary interventions within. The Old Chapel is surrounded by lush countryside and situated in the designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that is the Berkshire Downs. The ancient Ridgeway Path, believed to be the oldest road in England, is a short walk away and is one of the greatest rambles in the country.
Setting the Scene
The Old Chapel sits within a designated conservation area. It has been sensitively redesigned and restored in recent years by the current owners, an artist and a musician, who bought the home directly from the personal property portfolio of Her Majesty the Queen. Prior to this, The Old Chapel functioned as accommodation for staff from the surrounding stable yards (after its deconsecration in the 1950s). As part of the extensive works carried out, everything from mains utilities to the wooden sash windows were overhauled and replaced. In opening up the interior to reconfigure the existing space, the current owners have created a superb home, wonderfully airy and light. The soaring double-height living area with its original oak exposed beams acts as a focal point, and a celebration of the building’s original intent.
The Grand Tour
Approached through undulating country lanes that lead from the east, The Old Chapel is the very first house in the village and is something of a local landmark. The main entrance is through a grand doorway with a pointed brick arch and original chapel doors; however, the current owners mostly use the side entrance to the left, accessed through a private courtyard. A glass doorway leads into an expansive open-plan living room, kitchen and dining area, with hand-honed limestone flooring running underfoot. A heat source pump provides underfloor heating throughout the house.
Directly ahead lies the heart of the home: the kitchen. Beautifully painted cupboards and pale quartz worktops are complemented by a double butler sink, while a built-in dresser in a similar style houses china and crockery. The spacious living room has a wonderful quality of light care of tall sash windows on all sides and an oculus window with hand-stained detailing, nestled at the top of the front elevation. Original rafters high above provide a sense of structure, and act as a visual reminder of the building’s history.
Off the rear of the ground floor hallway is a wet room and WC with laundry area, where hand-glazed metro tiles in a deep blue are set off against a stone-coloured hexagonal floor design. To the left is a glazed study room, currently used as an artists’ studio-cum-potting shed, which takes advantage of the abundance of natural light.
The open-tread oak staircase leads from the main living area to a mezzanine level, where the sleeping accommodation can be found. An aesthetically arresting oak truss with full height panes of glass set within acts as a dramatic wall between living and sleeping quarters. This is a place for relaxation, with a roll-top bath positioned to one side of the bedroom that allows for languorous evenings spent soaking and reading before bedtime.
The Great Outdoors
The small south-facing courtyard garden is a brilliantly easy space to maintain, and provides ample opportunity for alfresco dining and cooking in warmer months. To the front of the house is a demised area meant for parking, although this is currently used as a green space for large planters filled with bay trees and shrubs. Further undesignated parking can be found directly to the rear of the house on Churchway.
Out and About
West Ilsley is a charming and welcoming village with a notable history, believed to be the site of the battle of Ashdown in 871AD when Alfred the Great was victorious against the Danes. There is an excellent pub – The Harrow – opposite the village green and pond. The focus is firmly on the natural environment; cars often stop to allow the local ducks to pass by. A vibrant equestrian community also exists here, with several of the country’s leading racehorse trainers operating stables nearby.
A choice of scenic walks exists for those who enjoy rambling, both locally and in the greater surrounding countryside. The village of Streatley, a short drive away, offers open water swimming on the banks of the Thames for those hot summer days. Nearby larger towns include Newbury and Oxford, well connected by the A34 and home to an excellent range of shops and restaurants. The market town of Wantage offers amenities closer to home, including a Waitrose and a weekly farmers’ market. The Old Chapel is a 10-minute drive to Didcot Station which runs regular trains to London Paddington (a 45-minute journey).
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