Couple transform bank on George Clarke's Remarkable Renovations

Couple who bought Grade II listed Victorian bank on their high street for £50,000 at auction spend three years transforming it into stunning family home on George Clarke’s Remarkable Renovations – but go over budget by £250,000

  • Cornwall couple Richard and Sarah bought their former local high street bank for just £50,000 in auction
  • Plan to spend £100,000 transforming the 5000sq foot building into a stunning modern family home 
  • The couple end up splashing out an amazing £350,000 on lavish interiors, colourful carpets and furnishings  

A couple who bought a Grade II listed Victorian bank on their local high street for £50,000 have revealed their unrecognisable transformation of the property into a stunning family home on George Clarke’s Remarkable Renovations.

Richard and Sarah, from Cornwall, had been banking at the building in St Columb Major for 20 years when they bought it at an auction in 2017, and began working on renovating it into an Insta-worthy four bedroom house in 2019. 

The couple appear on the Channel 4 programme tonight as they reveal their hopes to transform the 5,000 sq ft property in less than a year for a budget of just £100,000.

But the couple’s build is hampered by difficulties from the outset, including delays with planning permission and the Covid-19 crisis, pushing their project bill up to £350,000. 

Richard and Sarah, from Cornwall, who bought a Grade II listed Victorian bank on their local high street for £50,000 have revealed their incredible transformation on George Clarke’s Remarkable Renovations (left, the main room before, and right, after) 

Meanwhile upstairs in the bank, the couple remove the ceiling in their master bedroom and create a stunning cavernous suite (left, before, and right, after) 

The couple, who have two young daughters, had been banking at the building for 20 years before they decided to buy the magnificent building (pictured after the renovation) 

In 1857, the bank house was built but as the economy grew, locals needed new places to put their cash and in 1893, the Cornish bank arrived. 

It was a fixture on the high street for three decades before it was taken over by Lloyds in the 1920s.

They ran the branch for almost a century until 2017 when, thanks to the increase in online banking, the decision was made to sell them off.

Richard, a surf brand owner, and his wife Sarah, an interior designer, decided to buy the bank the same year.

The couple appear on the Channel 4 programme tonight as they reveal their hopes to transform the 5,000 sq ft property into a four bedroom house in less than a year for a budget of just £100,000 (left, the staircase before, and right, after) 

Richard and Sarah focus their efforts on preserving some of the bank’s original features, including the Grade II listed staircase and tile flooring 

Richard explains: ‘We’d been banking here for about 20 years. It was our bank. One day they told us it was closing and it went up for auction with sealed bids.

‘We put a bid on on Friday night and on Monday, we got the phone call to say we’d won the bid. It was £50,000.

‘It was who had the money at 12pm on Monday and could prove it.’

Sarah adds: ‘We are a growing family so we’re not looking for our bigger family home yet – so it knocked us sideways. I thought, this is incredible.’ 

The couple, who have two young daughters Mary and Este, began work on the home immediately, ripping out original bank features like safes and tearing down walls.   

Downstairs, the decision is made to keep the layout as it is, with the couple revealing their hope to transform the banking hall into a large living and kitchen space.

Meanwhile the bank’s former safe will be renovated into a pantry, while the solicitor’s office will be a sitting room.

Upstairs, they will turn five of the six existing rooms into bedrooms, while the last one will be used as a bathroom for their grand master suite.

The bank was first built in 1857, and became a Llyod’s bank in the 1920s. But it was closed in 2017 and auctioned off to Richard and Sarah for £50,000

Sarah, an interior designer, is determined to recreate some of the bank’s original ‘strength’ with her choices and treats her husband like her client during the process 

George is immediately blown away by the height of the ceilings, saying it shouts ‘grandeur and money.’ 

But Richard stuns George by telling him their total budget for the project is just £100,000, which the presenter calls  ‘challenging.’ 

He also reveals their aspirations to finish the project in just eight months time.

It’s not long before the plans change however – and the couple decide to opt for a vaulted ceiling in their master bedroom.

After an eight week wait, the couple are granted planning permission, with the main contractor Jim saying: ‘It just makes this room a bit of a feature, which I think this building deserves.’

Sarah is totally blown away by the space, adding: ‘The width of the room is one thing, but the height as well. So much room and so much light.’

By December 2019, George arrives to visit the couple and check in on their progress, confessing: ‘You’ve ripped out a lot more than I thought you were going to rip out.’

Richard admits: ‘We didn’t want to leave any of it, because we thought the right way to goa bout it was to get back to the bare bones.’ 

Richard and Sarah say their children Mary and Este believe their home is ‘like a castle’ (pictured, the children in the cosy sitting room) 

The solicitors office is transformed from a large, imposing, unfriendly space into a refined sitting room where dark, lush decor and a dual aspect fire place create a cosy atmosphere beneath the 14ft high ceilings

Discussing her plans for the interiors, Sarah says the building ‘wasn’t designed to be silent and sophisticated’ (pictured, the hallway upstairs and downstairs)

With Richard focusing on the initial work, Sarah begins planning how to make the building into a stunning family home. 

But he admits to George that the budget has already doubled to £200,000, saying: ‘To end up with a building that is almost brand new to live in an contemporary for a family, with an old building…there is only one way to do that.

‘I don’t think I fully understood the opportunities of what I had to do. So I decided to take the hard route and to absolutely strip it right back.’

After eight months of renovation, the couple’s build start to take shape and they rip out all the windows. 

As the façade of the bank is listed, a condition of their planning permission was replacing the bank’s PVC windows with wooden sashes like the bank would have originally had.  

But disaster strikes when, just one month later, the pandemic hits. Merchants and manufacturers shut up shop, leaving building sites at a standstill.

George visits the couple to see how they’re coping, with Richard saying: ‘We’ve all been dealing with Covid. I gave up accounting ages ago, I just thought, I’m not going to budget for this anymore.

‘But seriously, I think we’ll come in all in at about 230,000.’

Sarah reveals she is treating her husband ‘like a client’ when it comes to the plans for the interiors of the home, because  he has ‘a really great eye’.

The couple try their best to preserve the character of the bank, and use the original counter from the bank to make an island unit for their kitchen (pictured) 

Sarah fills the home with bold and clashing colours and patterns to transform the dim and dingy space into a stunning Insta-worthy home 

She says: ‘I was more scared presenting my ideas to him than [anyone else].’

Richard admits he is ‘really impressed’ with her work, adding: ‘There’s an honour to the originality [of the bank].’

Inside the couple make more progress, exposing original tiles in the entrance hall and painting the walls white. They also use the original counter from the bank to make an island unit for their kitchen. 

Sarah reveals: ‘It was in the garage for the whole of the first year, and then we thought – what about the counter?’  

Discussing the budget for the interiors, Sarah says: ‘This building wasn’t designed to be silent and sophisticated. It was designed to be powerful and strong and secure.

‘And I feel like the interior needs to be met with that strength. The richness of colour does that.’

Months later, George arrives to see if the couple have finished the project and is totally blown away.  

The listed granite façade is like new, and tinder sash windows have been reinstated. It’s even had a name change outside from Llyods to The Cornish Bank. 

Previously the ground floor was a series of small dingy rooms, designed for transaction, rather than a welcoming family home.

Meanwhile another back room on the groundfloor of their home is transformed into a modern family dining room leading into the garden 

Meanwhile the couple’s master bedroom also includes a bath-tub crafted from an old safe they found in the bank (pictured)

The main banking hall is now an incredible reception room which makes the most of the architecture, and fitted with pieces salvaged from the bank. 

Next door, the solicitors office is transformed from a large, imposing, unfriendly space into a refined sitting room where dark, lush decor and a dual aspect fire place creates a cosy atmosphere beneath the 14ft high ceilings.

In the hallway, the banks original staircase has been restored to its full glory while upstairs, the interiors are more fresh and modern. 

In the end, Richard and Sarah reveal they spent an incredible £350,000, with Richard saying: ‘There’s so many parts to this building which as you got into it were honouring to its historic value. You almost cant say no to it.’

Sarah reveals: ‘The kids love it, they keep saying they want to go to the bank.’

And Richard adds: ‘To them it’s like a castle. It’s really important to me to give our children wonderful childhood, and I’m really grateful to give them a home like this. 

‘I couldn’t have done this work without Sarah – the amount of nights she’s put the children to bed or at nights not being there because I’ve been working on this. I’ve really missed that.

‘So it’s going to be beautiful to bring that back into the home.’  

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