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PROPERTY: Fantastic Fife church conversion

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A former church hall in Leven has been transformed into a fantastic family home.

The Bain Hall was completed in 1896 and opened the following year to coincide with Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

Around 15 years ago the B listed building was converted into an enormous six bedroom house. Since then it’s been owned by Ally and Rose Paterson, who moved there after five years in Anstruther and the same length of time in Aberdour.

The location in Leven drew them to the property. “It’s a four minute walk to the beach and there are two golf courses on our doorstep,” Ally says. “You’re just round the corner from the town centre as well, yet we’re on a quiet little street. Leven’s due to get a rail link soon which will be good for the town.”

Central yet quiet

The Bain Hall is on Forman Road, which is indeed a quiet little lane. The former church hall is tucked behind a much larger former church, which fronts onto Durie Street and has also been converted into houses. To the front of the main church is a parking area belonging to the Bain Hall. A path runs down the side of the church and through a gate to the rear courtyard of Rose and Ally’s house.

Unaware of the parking arrangements, I leave the car on Forman Road and approach via the front entrance.

I’m glad I did. It gives me the chance to see the Bain Hall from its best angle. A wide lodge-like front section has four ornate windows facing over the front garden. The large gable of the main hall rears above, with a huge round window gazing across the town. Beneath a beautiful stone arch is a pair of solid timber doors.

These open into a large tiled entranceway. To left and right are two double bedrooms. Both have two front facing windows and a window to the side.

A third bedroom lies off this corridor and has its own en suite shower room. There is also a family bathroom, with his and hers sinks and two beautiful leaded church windows.

All of the rooms have ceilings that are easily double the height of those found in modern homes. They give even the most humble bedroom or bathroom a feeling of volume and grandeur.

Amazing space

Yet these rooms are merely the introduction to the show stopper. The main living area occupies almost the whole of the main church hall. The vaulted, timber lined ceiling is at least 30 feet above my head.

It’s almost 32 feet in length and more than 31 feet in width as well. Very few homes have living rooms as big or as impressive as this one.

Despite its vast size it has a homely and happy feel. The room is clearly divided into three areas – living, dining and kitchen. Those beautiful leaded church windows add to the elegance, while huge high-level windows in each gable end throw extra light into the room.

“We’ve had some great Christmases in here,” Ally says. “You can have any height of tree in here – we usually have one that’s 15 feet high.”

Original timber flooring has aged and weathered from a century and a quarter of footfall. It has more character than any modern floorcovering could hope to match.

Such a big, high-ceilinged room might easily be a struggle to heat. Rose explains: “It used to get a little bit chilly in the winter so about five years ago we had a wood burning stove put in. When that’s going it’s absolutely baking in here. The flue has to go all the way up to the ceiling so it helps warm the room even more.”

Mezzanine master bedroom

Retired firefighter Ally says a former colleague got married at the Bain Hall before it was converted. “It’s strange to think he had his wedding in what is now our living room,” Ally chuckles.

A staircase leads up to the master bedroom, which is on its own mezzanine level overlooking the main living area. This could easily be partitioned off to give more privacy, and there’s space to put in an en suite bathroom up there as well.

A huge round window gives a great view across Leven to Largo Law.

Meanwhile, a marble plaque high on the kitchen wall gives some background to the Bain Hall. It was gifted to Leven Free Church by David Bain, of Bellevue Cottage. Mr Bain was the last survivor to have contributed to the first Free Church built in Leven back in 1843.

A corridor off the kitchen leads to another wing of the house. Here there are two more large bedrooms, one with en suite shower room and the other with a WC. At present the first of these rooms is configured as a second living room.

“We had Rose’s mum staying with us for a while and we set this up as a living room for her,” Ally says. “Since she moved out we’ve kept it that way – sometimes we use it for watching TV instead of being in the main living room.”

Sheltered garden

Another huge door – everything about this house is on a grand scale – opens onto a rear courtyard which is private and sheltered.

“The front garden gets the sun until around 5pm then this is a real suntrap all evening,” Ally explains. “We love sitting out here after work in the summer.”

Steps down from the courtyard lead to a door into a basement cellar, which offers plenty of storage space.

With four of their five children grown up and flown the coop, the Bain Hall is far too big for Ally and Rose. The couple, now 58, are reluctantly selling up.

Both work for Sky, in Livingstone and Bathgate, and would like to have a shorter commute but remain in Fife.

Rose says: “We both really like Fife. Hopefully we can find somewhere a bit closer to the bridges so we don’t have to spend as much time travelling to work.

“We both love old buildings and could never live in a new build. We’d enjoy a project so it would be good to find something that needed a bit of work – a place we could put our own stamp on.

“A Victorian or Edwardian house would be good. Or even another church conversion.”


The Bain Hall, Forman Road, Leven is on sale with Thorntons for offers over £420,000.