When Pamela and David Leon drove past a derelict, boarded-up clock tower back in 2001, they agreed “it would make a very cool home” and presumed it had been sold.
“Two years later, we were at Bakewell Farmers’ Market reading the Sheffield Telegraph property pages when we spotted the seven storey clock tower was up for sale with a new owner, and we felt compelled to view it,” says Pamela, a maths teacher.
“Thankfully it was a summer’s day when we found ourselves trudging up countless concrete stairs, scaling dodgy ladders on to the roof and admiring the sparkling reservoir beyond. It felt so exciting,” she adds.
- Name: David and Pamela Leon
- Build cost: £540,000 (£1,421/m²)
- Build time: 7 years 9 months
- Location: Yorkshire
David, an IT Consultant, was equally smitten with the desolate 22m-high Victorian utility building, which began life as a water tower for Sheffield’s former Lodge Moor hospital. Undaunted by the likely planning constraints – due to its height – the couple were thrilled to become proud owners of the historic building, which “gets the wobbles” in high winds and has a lightning conductor trailing down the stonework.
For a while time stood still for the project, but then started again with Sheffield-based TAD (Trent Architecture and Design) in 2004. The combination of designer Peter Allan and mechanically minded Paul Hinson helped move things forward to transform the tower into a modern, hi-tech, functional family home.
“They were great at translating our dogged interpretation of ideas and how our house worked as ‘a whole’. They put us back on course and there was a lot of trust on both sides,” David says.
Today, visitors can appreciate the innovative blend of combining the old technology with the new — fully restored clocks and the quirkiness of an old building mixed with smart home technology enabling multi-room audio and more.
Fire safety was a key issue as the only route up and down the tower is the 100-step staircase on the south-west side of the building. TAD’s solution was to install a water sprinkler system and partly glazed fire doors throughout.
The Victorian staircase was also one of the principal design elements of the building and hence its successful restoration was essential to the overall project. The original concrete mottled stairs, which run up to the fourth floor, are complemented by restored steel balustrades with oak handrails whilst the last two flights of balustrades are of stainless steel, flanking oak stairs with open risers.
The family rented for the first three years and then camped out on the top floor for nine months without a proper kitchen. As the bedrooms were finished, they moved down in stages.
Lower floor living became far more appealing with the completion of the extension, which houses a home office with curved oak units on the ground floor and an informal sitting room above in the curved section; and the modern spacious kitchen (with stainless steel appliances, granite worktops, sleek high-gloss units and underfloor heating) with an adjoining wine cellar.
The couple are, quite rightly, proud of their achievement and commitment to getting their home just right. As David explains, “It has been a long project and while dealing with a unique old building was not without its problems, the result is perfect.”