Stone Court House Hotel, Maidstone, has been restored in a multi-million pound makeover
Ten years ago, the Stone Court Hotel on Lower Stone Street in Maidstone was making headlines for all the wrong reasons.
In 2012, police executed a search warrant at the scene in an attempt to stop drug trafficking and prostitution.
Saban Demirbasa talks from home
There was a certain irony – in the 18th century the building had been used as accommodation for itinerant judges who heard the most serious cases in the city’s crown court.
In 2015, the hotel had closed shop and the building was starting to deteriorate.
It was a low point for one of Maidstone’s historic buildings with a once proud history dating back almost 700 years.
But after two years of major renovations worth millions of pounds, the new Stone Court House is once again a proud addition to the streets of Maidstone.
Converted into a private home, its new owners hope to soon open its doors to guests for Airbnb-style accommodations.
Owners Saban and Belinda Demirbasa bought the Grade II listed property in August 2019 for the indicative price of £550,000.
Saban, 52, said: “We were about to go overseas, but we saw it go up for auction and it was very popular.
“However, many people did not go because the property was on the Heritage in Danger Register for Historic England and there was an enforcement order placed on it by the council. A few more winters and the house would have collapsed.
“When we got the funds, we phoned the auction house and said we’d like to buy it.”
Alice Brockway, Historic England Buildings and Areas Inspector, is delighted with the building’s transformation.
She explained: “Seban and Belinda have done a most extraordinary job.
“They poured all their passion and love into saving this incredible historic building, which now means it can be taken off the endangered heritage register.”
She adds: “It has been a really positive trip. They faced tremendous challenges when taking over the building.
“It was in very poor condition, with a major structural problem at the front of the building. “But they approached the repair and conservation with an open mind and were genuinely enthusiastic and passionate about learning and using traditional techniques and materials.
The most interesting find the couple found while renovating the house was a Tudor fireplace, hidden behind a wall in one of the rooms.
Saban explained, “We didn’t know what was going on behind that wall as it crumbled. “The first suggestions were to inject lime into it to solidify it, then leave it.”
Once they got consent from Historic England, Seban was allowed to drill five holes in the collapsed wall.
“The first hammer blow I made, a Tudor fireplace appeared.
“I immediately phoned Alice. So I thought, ‘What do we do with that?’ The idea was to restore it to its original shape.
As renovations inside the building draw to a close, its very obvious transformation is attracting many admiring glances.
Along with the stamp of approval from Historic England, the public body that aims to protect the nation’s historic environment, the family was able to show off their progress to local MP Helen Grant.
And she’s all too aware that it’s likely to become a popular spot for tourists looking to rent rooms when it’s finished.
Ms Grant said: ‘Stone Court House is a wonderful and very unique property in the middle of historic Maidstone, close to the 14th century Archbishop’s Palace, the Maidstone Museum and the beautiful River Medway.
“As well as having all the facilities of our county town within easy reach, Stone Court House will also be an ideal location for tourists visiting other nearby Kent attractions such as Leeds Castle, Canterbury Cathedral and the magnificent vineyards of the lower Weald.
“Can’t wait to come back for the opening – check out this space.”
The couple plan to use the property as a family home and an Airbnb-style business.
Seban adds: “It’s too big for a family home… unless you have 16 children!
“It doesn’t operate as a hotel, as there isn’t enough room for staff or parking levels.
“But it would be a cross between a family home and somewhere like a home to come and stay. The idea has always been “come and stay at our family home”.
Stone Court House is expected to be open for bookings for stays in April.