When the mid-19th century the Methodist Conference met to discuss the style of architecture it would use for all new chapels. Ministers agreed on “Gothic with beauty and perfection in design and without unnecessary adornment”.
It’s not hard to imagine what the Methodist Conference would make of the Chapel of Rock, which started life in 1904 as a Wesleyan place of worship. The property, in the pretty hamlet of Shaw Mills in Nidderdale, is now one of the UK’s quirkiest holiday lets.
Owned by a couple of avid collectors and music lovers who take a maximalist approach to interiors, it is a shrine to rock ’n’ roll with all the trimmings. It may be some consolation for preachers to know that the converted chapel still brings joy and offers a place of peace and to remember that, as American band Kiss sang, “God gave rock ’n’ roll to you, gave rock ’n’ roll to you. Put it in the soul of everyone”.
“All the original features are still in there, including a beautiful stained glass window. We love them and we haven’t spoiled them. We’ve just added some rock ’n’ roll and tried to make it a really happy place to be,” says Sandy Spilsbury.
She and her fiancé, Ian O’Brien, originally bought the property in 2011 as home for them and their four children. When the children moved out, the couple took the opportunity to embark on a property odyssey.
They turned the chapel into a five-bedroom holiday let and began buying and renovating a series of interesting and unusual homes. These include an apartment in an old tobacco mill in York, which is now a York-themed holiday let, a windmill in Norfolk, which they are restoring as a holiday rental, and a water mill and gite in France, which will be their next project.
“A lot of people our age like to go travelling but we got the property bug and we like to give all our homes a theme. Roger Moore lived at the windmill for a time so we are giving that a Bond island theme. We’ve been collecting things for that, including a head of a crocodile with a sign saying ‘trespassers will be eaten,’” says Ian, who honed his humour on creating side-splitting greetings cards for Harrogate-based Pigment Productions, the company he co-founded. Sandy was a specialist in writing sentiment cards before they decided to concentrate their efforts on homes.
The chapel’s rock ’n’ roll theme was chosen because it is close to their hearts. Both are music fans and Ian is a keen keyboard player. “We have keyboards in all our properties and the piano has to take pride of place. The chapel has three of them,” says Sandy. “It’s not unusual for Ian to get up in the middle of the night and start playing like Jerry Lee Lewis.”
When they bought the building, it had already been converted for residential use. Along with the idyllic location, Ian and Sandy were attracted by the ecclesiastical features and the potential. “It was an amazing space and we knew there was scope to put our own mark on it,” she says.
The couple converted the loft space into a twin bedroom and added a new metal staircase. They also utilised the vestry and made a one-bedroom apartment and created a large living kitchen by extending into what was a separate laundry room. One of the main features in the kitchen is a dining table, which has a zinc top made by local craftsman Richard Cowling.
Elsewhere, they took plaster off some of the walls to expose the original brick, added rustic floorboards and exposed beams. When it came to the decor, the cream and green palette was replaced by dramatic colours. The furniture and furnishings are equally bold and interesting and there is music memorabilia everywhere.
Sandy describes the look as “us using our imagination, going wild and pushing boundaries.” “The chapel has its original sign saying ‘no dancing, no singing, no alcohol’. We’ve broken all of the rules. That’s why we decided to rename it the Chapel of Rock,” says Ian, who loves classic rock ’n’ roll and Jools Holland’s boogie woogie, while Sandy has a penchant for Motown and disco.
Among the music-themed memorabilia they have collected for the chapel is a 1950s jukebox, which sits next to a set of traffic lights. The couple have also copied their favourite album covers and used them to create a collage on one wall and papered other walls with sheet music, which they stained with tea for a vintage look.
There are musical instruments everywhere, from a baby grand piano and banjos to bongo drums, and all are available to play. Their other great love, vintage signs, also feature heavily.
“We are also keen on repurposing and upcycling. We love hunting for salvage and going in charity shops looking for anything that’s interesting and quirky,” says Sandy, who adds: “I’m a farmer’s daughter and I was taught to be resourceful and Ian is the same. We’ll have a go at anything when we’re doing a project, from designing to labouring, decorating and tiling.”
The couple’s love of industrial chic sparked the idea to turn an old feeding trough into a barbecue and to use tractor prop shafts as legs for the outdoor dining chairs.
“We had fun creating the Chapel of Rock and we hope that guests enjoy it as much as we do,” says Sandy. “It’s something different from the norm.”
*The Chapel of Rock, Shaw Mills, Nidderdale, is a holiday let managed by Gorgeous Cottages, www.gorgeouscottages.com. It has a large open-plan living kitchen with a bar; a sitting room and five bedrooms, including one with a shower room and cooking facilities. Outside is a patio and garden.