One of York’s most important historic landmarks has been given new life as a home and luxury holiday let.
The conversion of 700 year-old Lendal Tower has created one of the city’s quirkiest dwellings and has saved the structure from dereliction.
Owner Iain Berg-Jenson renovated the grade one listed scheduled ancient monument and lives there part-time. He is also renting the tower out to weekenders and holiday-makers.
The medieval building, which sits on the banks of the River Ouse by Lendal Bridge, was built in 1300 as part of the city’s defences.
In 1677 it was leased to the York Water Works company and later passed to Yorkshire Water, who sold it to local developer the Helmsley Group in 2004.
It got permission from English Heritage to convert the tower and sold it on to flamboyant entrepreneur David Hattersley, whose company went into liquidation before it could tackle the project.
Mr Berg-Jenson, who bought it in June last year, said: “I saw it advertised and there didn’t seem to be anyone else interested in it. I thought that was a shame.
“I have renovated a lot of historic buildings and I like properties that are a bit different. The tower had been empty for 10 years and but I looked at it and thought: ‘It has to be mine and it has to be sorted out and done properly.’ I put a lot of time and effort into making it something special.”
The stone tower’s medieval construction is complemented by other period features including 1930s wood panelling and decorative plasterwork installed by the water company.
Mr Berg-Jenson had to work with a host of officials from English Heritage, York City Council planning department, the city’s conservation department, building regulations and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to ensure the tower’s integrity and listed features were retained.
He says his business, which specialises in human resources, helped him negotiate his way through the red tape.
“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. That applies to dealing with contractors too.”
He won’t say how much he spent, only that it was “a bob or two”, but the work took a year and he employed specialist craftspeople who carried out extensive repairs to the roof and timbers. The ancient stone was re-pointed with lime mortar, a damp proof course installed, windows and panelling renovated, walls re-plastered and the whole place re-plumbed and wired.
“These projects are always more expensive than you think because you can’t buy off the shelf. The timbers had to be oak and you can’t nip down to B&Q for those,” he said.
“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.”
Inside, the ground floor has a sitting room, dining hall and kitchen. A spiral staircase leads to a mezzanine bedroom. On the first floor, there is a bedroom, dressing room and en-suite, while the second floor has another bedroom and en-suite. At the top of the crenallated tower there is a large roof terrace with breathtaking views.
Although there were fears that the tower would be prone to flooding, Mr Berg-Jenson 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,” he said.
“I had an idea of what needed doing inside and I 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.”
Although he intended to use the tower as his full-time home, he travels extensively with work and so is letting the property through www.cottages4you.co.uk for £1,997 a week.