Built from a flat pack on a bank of the Shropshire Union Canal in 1909, the Little Tin Chapel is an intriguing new addition to Chester's accommodation scene. The city's last surviving tin tabernacle was the product of a trend for ecclesiastical buildings that could be knocked up quickly in corrugated iron, to serve the transient workforce that powered the industrial revolution.
As the Sealand Road United Reformed Church, it provided a place for the Rev Jesse Salt to spread the word to the waterborne community that passed by, and even had a schoolroom for the children of the bargees. Today, it is a stylish retreat, less than 10 minutes' walk from the centre of a British city that deserves more attention.
The outside of the old chapel has been spruced up with a lick of grey paint and a smart red front door, while its interiors have been transformed into a spacious two-bedroom holiday home, sleeping four. This is the work of the Edge family, whose labour of love you can appreciate in words and pictures in the visitor information (there's a fascinating book about tin tabernacles on the shelf, too), and then admire the results for yourself.
The meeting hall is now an open-plan space for cooking, dining and relaxing, with reclaimed pine floors and tongue-and-groove rafters. At one end, sofas are arranged around a television and a wood-burning stove, while at the other are a table and chairs next to a sleek, low-level suite of kitchen units. French windows lead out to a garden with a decked patio and barbecue.
The bathroom is stocked with thick, quality towels, with a rolltop bath and a walk-in shower, while the two bedrooms feature comfortable double beds (one a zip-and-link affair that can be split into two singles) plus good-sized wardrobes. There's a laundry room and bicycle storage, too.
Just as this place is well planned, it's easy on the eye. In the main room, a wood-clad wall adds warmth to this bright white-painted space. The original arched windows are appropriately Calvinist in spirit, bearing just a modest red thread of stained glass. Harris Tweed, leather sofas, and a quaint run of pew seats are typical of the tasteful mix of modern and antique furnishings.
Out and About
Chester has 2,000 years' worth of distractions to occupy a short break. Walk along the Roman walls that enclose the city – the most complete in Britain. From May to September, you can see the horses galloping around the city's racecourse (01244 304610; chester-races.co.uk) from the walls.
The red sandstone cathedral (01244 324756; chestercathedral.com) provides a visual journey through medieval architecture, from its beginnings as a Benedictine abbey.
Take a boat ride (01244 325394; chesterboat.co.uk) along the River Dee and picnic on the surrounding meadows. Or go shopping in the Rows – these covered walkways on the first floor of the black-and-white buildings that radiate from Chester Cross are unique to Britain. For designer discounts, head to Cheshire Oaks (cheshireoaksdesigneroutlet.com), a 20-minute ride on bus No 1 or X8 from the main bus station.
Food and drink
The owners supply a generous selection of tea, coffee, milk, sugar and condiments. Guests staying more than two days also receive biscuits or small cakes and a loaf (a bottle of wine, too, if the owners know your visit is a celebration).
You're less than 10 minutes' walk from the shops. For basics, pop around the corner to convenience store The Keg, on Catherine Street.
Notable independents include The Cheese Shop on Northgate Street (01244 346240; chestercheeseshop.co.uk), PA Jones butchers on Garden Lane (01244 372951), and the wine merchant, Corks Out, on Watergate Street (01244 310455; corksout.com).
The main market is on Princess Street, daily except Sunday, and there's a farmers' market outside the town hall every third Saturday, except in August and October.
If you don't feel like cooking for yourself, it's five minutes' walk to Joseph Benjamin (01244 344293; josephbenjamin.co.uk), which serves local, seasonal food. Rabbit, ox cheeks, blood oranges, Jerusalem artichokes, octopus, Swiss chard – they're all in the modern European mix.
For a stellar meal in an informal setting, Sticky Walnut (01244 400400; stickywalnut.com) is drawing foodies from around the country to the suburb of Hoole.
Little Tin Chapel, Whipcord Lane, Chester (bit.ly/LittleTinChapel). From £85 per night, or £68 a night for a stay of one week or more. Children aged above five welcome. No pets.Reuse content