Kingston’s old church finally sells at auction for half a million pounds

The former church in Kingston near Swanage with spectacular views of Corfe Castle, has finally sold at auction after an earlier million pound deal fell through.

Four bidders on the partially converted Grade II listed property raised the price from a reserve of £475,000, to a hammer price of £501,000, although bids were slow and mostly in steps of £1,000 a time.


St James’ Church in Kingston, near Swanage, which has sold for £501,000

Post lockdown property bidding war

The old church of St James, complete with a graveyard, was first advertised for sale in April 2022 for offers over £700,000 and after a post lockdown property bidding war, it went under offer a month later at a surprising £965,000.

But this deal later fell through, reportedly because of the scale of renovation work needing to be done to the Grade II listed building, and also because it included the sealed-off burial tomb of the Lords of Eldon which could not be entered or altered.

Following the collapse of the sale, the church – minus the tomb – was put up for auction. The new buyers have not been named.

Views of Corfe Castle from St James Church in Kingston

Summer residence with glorious views of Corfe Castle and Poole Harbour

Views through the arched window include a protected grave

Bidders buying with their heads, not hearts

After the legally binding sale on Thursday 22nd September, 2022, a spokesperson for Network Auctions said:

“Things have cooled off a little bit in the market, and people are buying more with their heads than with their hearts. This is a very big project to take on.

“The desire of people to purchase this type of unique family home is still very strong, but you would need fairly deep pockets.”

The church is described as ‘a very big project to take on’

The draughty bathroom on the ground floor of St James’ Church

Partially renovated with uneven floors

St James’ Church has been used as a family home for the past 40 years, despite being only partially renovated with uneven floors, holes in the walls and broken windows with crumbling arches.

It has spectacular views over Corfe Castle from the front of the church, and over Swanage Bay out to the Isle of Wight from the master bedroom at the back.

But it is estimated that the beautiful building will need at least another £500,000 spending on it to make it fully habitable – and possibly as much as an extra £1,000,000.

The sealed-off site of the burial vault for the Lords of Eldon

The entrance to the church is over a 1761 gravestone for Mary Edmonds

Gravestones and vault

The vault has now been excluded from the terms of sale and is protected, but still sits in the middle of the half-acre plot of land with the church.

Other protected burial and memorial sites and gravestones are still within the gardens of the deconsecrated church and are now the property of the new buyers.

The master bedroom has spectacular views from original windows

A mezzanine first floor has been added to the property

Church became private home in 1970s

The old St James’ Church was built in 1833, replacing an older chapel, but was itself replaced by a much larger church of the same name, built more centrally in the village of Kingston by the Third Earl of Eldon in the 1870s.

The old church first became a village hall and was then converted into a private residence in the 1970s, with the owners using it mostly as a summer property for the next 40 years.

The church tower is accessible by ladder at your own risk

First-floor bedroom has glorious views but needs modernising

Draughty tower accessible ‘at your own risk’

The property includes a mezzanine first floor with two sets of wooden steps leading up to two double bedrooms, but the flooring bisects the grand arched windows leaving unfortunate gaps, and a hole in the wall gives access to the draughty tower – accessible only by ladder and ‘at your own risk’.

A dining hall, kitchen, bathroom and three reception rooms are on the ground floor of the church, but there are quite severe steps between room levels and a hole in the middle of the lobby floor.

The front door opens out to a gravestone for Mary Edmonds who died on January 15th 1761, though it is not thought to be over the original grave.

St James’ Church, with its own churchyard memorials

Glorious views out over Swanage Bay to the Isle of Wight

Old church built on the site of a 12th century chapel

The original Earl of Eldon was John Scott, Lord Chancellor of Britain through the Napoleonic Wars. He was made Viscount Encombe of Dorset in 1821 by King George IV, and had the old church built in Kingston on the site of a 12th century chapel.

His grandson, the Third Earl of Eldon, built the new church in Kingston at a cost of £70,000 – equivalent to around £9.5 million today.

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