Sidbury Chapel sold to folk fans

DEVOTEES of Sidmouth FolkWeek have bought Sidbury s Congregational Chapel to turn into a home, despite only seeing the outside.

DEVOTEES of Sidmouth FolkWeek have bought Sidbury's Congregational Chapel to turn into a home, despite only seeing the outside.

Alan and Lesley Cumber fell in love with the 1820 chapel and hope to restore it, leaving most of its features intact.

Mr Cumber, 50, a car dismantler, from Harrow, came to Sidmouth this week to complete the purchase and look around the Grade Two listed building, which comes complete with pulpit, altar and pews.

He said: "We bought it because it is beautiful. At the moment all I am going to do is restore the windows and walls to make sure there is no further damage and repair the grounds."

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He and his civil servant wife have been coming to Sidmouth folk festival for 20 years and have many friends locally. A sculptor in metal, he exhibited at Beautiful Days concert at Escot.

The chapel has no mains drainage or vehicular access and has not been used for worship since 1999.

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Father of four Mr Cumber wants to put solar panels on the roof and drill a bore hole.

A friend will help him restore gravestones in the adjoining graveyard, which he now owns.

Five people have maintained the right to be buried at the graveyard, which must be cared for by the new owner.

"I would like people with family buried there to know they can come and go as they please. If there are any headstones they don't want my friend to touch they can let me know, (07796 555558), but they are too nice to let them get destroyed," he said.

The couple have no qualms about sharing what will become their home with the remains of former minister, the Reverend William Evans Bishop, who died in 1837 and his wife Mary, who died in 1853 and are buried inside.

Vendors, the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches Ltd, gained permission to turn the chapel into a home, with a mezzanine floor to make a bedroom.

Offers around £100,000 were sought for the building and the sale was handled by Sidbury-born Annette Trim, senior negotiator at Harrison-Lavers & Potbury's. Director Jay Thorne said he hoped the sale would secure its long term future as a principal feature of the village. Restoration work could cost another £100,000.


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