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A decade’s desire turns into labour of love for property developer’s city pads

A GRIMSBY-born property developer is behind the multi-million-pound transformation of on 18th century building into one of the region’s most prestigious housing developments.

A decade’s desire turns into labour of love for property developer’s city pads

Dean Draper is one of three businessmen who have taken on the historic Bailgate Court, in the heart of Lincoln’s Cathedral quarter – a unique site, offering unparalleled views of the city, its most historic buildings and across rural Lincolnshire.

With a year left to completion, eight of the 12 luxury apartments – starting from a cool half a million pounds – have already been snapped up, showing the desirability of the site, which is the last of its kind in the historic area.

For the developers behind the renovation of Bailgate Court, on the corner of Steep Hill and Wordsworth Street, their ability to create something truly special takes precedence over anything else. Known locally as the old Chad Varah House, it was built as an infirmary in 1776 – treating patients for almost a century until 1874 when it became a theological college, before being used by the university - with degree students reading conservation and restoration part of the cohort based there.

Mr Draper had been keeping a close eye on the building, and when it came on the market an offer was made at first viewing. Along with partners, Colin Holden and Philip Good, Bailgate Court Ltd was born and the hard but rewarding work began.

“I first spotted it back in 2006 and I had been the chasing the building ever since – there really is nothing else like it left in the city, it is truly spectacular,” said Mr Draper, who moved from Grimsby to London five years ago, but has kept Lincolnshire close to his heart.

He began his career in property development in the town where his father Barry and mum Gillian ran a successful cargo services business on the docks. And success certainly runs in the family – Mr Draper’s niece Daniella is the successful jewellery designer, who opened her first shop in Cleethorpes, and now has a portfolio of four, including Lincoln.

Following the purchase, there have been weekly trips from London back to the county for Mr Draper, with Holton-le-Clay firm Jonathan Hendry Architects brought in to create spectacular plans for the building. He has worked with the practice before, notably on Museum Court in Lincoln, a 19-apartment Georgian development reworking, which contributed to the eponymous practice’s head, Jonathan, being named Young Architect of the Year in 2010, while also collecting a RIBA Award. 

“With its listed status, we are restricted to the ‘light touch’ approach on the majority of the building, it is a sympathetic restoration to make the most of the building's charming original features,” Mr Draper said.

While light touch is the approach for the historic elements of the structure, the dramatic change will come when a vast glass façade takes the place of an old 1960s extension with fantastic views of both the cathedral and castle.

Mr Draper said: “There is no doubt we have the opportunity here to create something very, very special that will only enhance the city while preserving a fantastic old building with a great new future.”

A workforce of more than 20 are undertaking the work.

Plasterer Bruce Randall is using materials containing lime and horse hair – taking methods back to the 1700s.

He said: “It is getting used to these products, and patience is everything as a job that would take two hours can take four – but it is all worth it when you see the finished result.”

They are adding mezzanine floors, while retaining the high ceilings and vast room sizes to create open-plan living with light flooding in from the floor to ceiling windows.

Each apartment has great views, with the majority having private gardens or outdoor terraces. Outside, the grounds encompass the site of a Roman fortress, which will remain untouched, although Mr Draper is keen to work with the relevant organisations to see what can be done in the future.

Joining him on a recent tour was Jonty Pearson, partner at Wilkin Chapman solicitors, who was brought in to assist with the purchase. “What a great project to be a part of, a fantastic development for the city with the involvement of many local people,” he said, stating that was a passion of his and the company’s. “I take great pride in seeing projects coming together in this way,” he added.

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