Where have all the old public buildings gone – the post offices, banks, churches and pubs – that used to line the High Street and be our local landmarks?

They have, at times, been turned into holiday homes.

‘Holidays in the UK have become the norm since Covid made travelling abroad so difficult,’ says Kate Eales, head of regional residential with Strutt & Parker. 

“So instead of renting cottages in August, people build their holiday homes, and then let some of them out.

Historic: A two-bedroom apartment in the former Royal Navy building, Brewhouse at The Royal William Yard, Plymouth, is £575,000 with Knight Frank

Historic: A two-bedroom apartment in the former Royal Navy building, Brewhouse at The Royal William Yard, Plymouth, is £575,000 with Knight Frank 

Eales explains that there are many advantages in converting an existing public building. 

‘You get a lot of property for your money, there is often car parking and you seldom have a garden to maintain — good news if you are letting,’ she says.

 ‘Above all, an old building in a brochure catches the eye. Families love the idea of holidaying somewhere quirky — in, say, a converted lighthouse, a school or a pub.’

You’d be hard pushed to find a more eye-catching holiday property than the four-bedroom, 3,800 sq ft Bath House in St Leonards, East Sussex, for sale for £1.5 million with Fine & Country.

It’s a tribute to fairground art, glitz and the surreal renovation of the old Turkish Baths. 

Solomon Parker, an agent for music, created it after he spent three years searching South’s antique stores looking for enough gaudy “objets” to fit his vision.

This creates a huge, dark room filled with a giant clown’s smile from the wall.

The mezzanine is suspended from the ceiling like a cage, while original tiles from the pool’s swimming pool can be seen. Parker proudly created the St Leonards and defends it, despite its reputation for social issues.

The converted Bath House in St Leonards is on the market with Fine & Country for £1.5million

The converted Bath House in St Leonards is on the market with Fine & Country for £1.5million

He said that a large number of Londoners moved to the South Coast since the pandemic. “The city now boasts a vibrant arts scene as well as some fantastic restaurants.

It can be a smart financial move to rent out holiday homes in old, decayed buildings.

Twenty years ago Derek Thomas bought the abandoned chapel in Llanrug, North Wales for £85,000. He converted the building into two homes — Capel Mawr and Basement 19 — at a cost of £300,000.

Having at first lived in one of them himself, he now makes £60,000 a year letting them to holidaymakers who are attracted to the cottages for their proximity to Snowdonia and Anglesey. 

The properties’ value today is £800,000. Derek Sykes Cottages lets these homes to the homeowners. He says, “This is my masterpiece.” It’s the culmination all that I’ve learned about building over the years.

Holiday lets don’t just pay well in the beach. You can find visitors in other locations all year. 

In Bath and North Somerset, for example, tourism contributes £470 million to the local economy. Martin Fahie, 65, makes about £12,000 a year from running the former Ebenezer Chapel in Wellow, Somerset as an Airbnb. 

This chapel still contains many original features such as the stained-glass windows and was converted to Christianity in 1990.

Fahie, an artist, said that Bath was a popular attraction with both parents and tourists visiting their university-aged children. The quintessential English village is Wellow with its pubs and manor houses. Chapel House, Wellow is for sale with Knight Frank for £650,000.

It is a good idea to read the fine print before you make any investment in your holiday home. 

There is a stipulation, for example, that the three-bedroom flat for sale with Winkworth for £695,000 in the converted synagogue in Devonshire Place, a short walk from the seafront in Brighton, may not be used as a holiday let, perfect though it would be.

There are other problems that pubs could pose. A conversion is usually prohibited by local planning regulations unless owners can prove that the pub is not profitable.

No such problems at the Nag’s Head, Avening in Gloucestershire for sale with Murray Estate Agents for £595,000. Tourists will love this former inn from the 18th century.

‘We are in the middle of the Royal Triangle — the homes of Prince Charles at Highgrove, Princess Anne at Gatcombe Park and Badminton — so we get lots of royal watchers,’ says owner Nicole Sabine, a journalist. 

It has a terraced, easy-to-maintain garden that would be ideally suited for letting as a holiday home. 

Market… Reinvented buildings

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