A spiritual conversion at former Philpstoun church

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Had Gerard McGoogan and his wife Rhona not decided to breathe new life into this lovely old church, the building was in serious danger of being demolished.

Luckily, 16 years ago, Gerard was looking for a place for a self-build when he happened to spot the old church in Philpstoun in the property section of a local newspaper.

The property has some spectacular features

The property has some spectacular features

So began a partnership with an architect firm experienced in such conversions and, because it is a B-listed building, an adviser from Historic Scotland.

Gerard said: “Historic Scotland were very practical about it all – I think everyone was just very glad it wasn’t going to be demolished.

The local community too were also glad their historic church was to be saved and Gerard says the family have spent many happy years in the lovely village.

By the time they acquired the house, which they named Seann Eaglais – Gaelic for ‘old church’ – the pews were long gone and “it looked like a cinema”, with raked flooring, which clearly had to go.

Other changes were necessary, such as reglazing the windows. Luckily, raising the floor meant, in turn, the windows were no longer incredibly high up.

The result is a unique. four-bedroomed house, dominated by the main living area which retains the high ceilings of the old church, giving an amazing feeling of spaciousness.

“It’s a nice mixture of the old and the new. It’s a comfortable place to live,” says Gerard. “We were lucky that the church didn’t have a graveyard attached as that is often a problem with church conversions, of course.”

The extensive woodwork and panelling was stripped but, as it is central to the building’s character, it was carefully replaced.

Another unique feature is the large mezzanine floor which over the years has held a pool table, gym equipment and a sitting area, showing the flexibility of the house.

The couple also have a “winter room” which is smaller and cosier.

Two of the four bedrooms are on the upper floor and Gerard found this ideal for his two children who grew up in the house.

“They each had their own en-suite,” he said. “It’s ideal if you’ve got teenagers – they don’t like having to share a bathroom.

“The top half of the house was theirs and the bottom half was ours and it was ideal.

“As a home, it’s worked very well,” said Gerard.

“We’ll be sad to leave the place but I spend a lot of time in the Netherlands now and the kids have left home, so it’s really too big for us.”