Watermist suppression enables church conversion

Renovated church benefits from Automist


Automist installed in hallway
Automist installed in bedroom


Approved Automist installer Chilman Fire & Security were commissioned to install watermist fire suppression at a former church that was being renovated into a luxury holiday let in Paxford.


Constructed with Cotswold stone in 1866, The Old Mission Church was originally built as a school. Designed with an ecclesiastical style, in addition to benefiting local families, the building was also used for Sunday church service.

Although the school closed in 1921, the church remained in regular use until the 1990s. However, usage became increasingly sporadic, and it was eventually put up for sale in the autumn of 2018. At the time, Geoff and Julie Bolam had recently moved to Paxford and were looking for opportunities to reinvest some of the profit from their own house sale when a friend asked if they’d considered buying and renovating the church.

After viewing the building and seeing its potential, Geoff and Julie placed a bid which soon led to them becoming the official owners. The couple were keen to undertake a sensitive restoration that would embrace the building’s rich history while still enabling them to convert the building into a two-bedroom holiday let.

Due to the unique properties of the building, The Old Mission Church was treated as a ‘non-designated heritage asset’ from a planning perspective – posing similar constraints to that of a listed building.


Pushback from a conservation officer on the couple’s initial renovation plans led to them appointing an architect with heritage expertise to design a new two-bedroom layout that would meet the planning parameters in place.

The architect proposed moving the ground-floor bedroom into the old schoolroom at the rear of the building and having the kitchen under the mezzanine in an open-plan layout. The mezzanine floor could then be used as a contemporary second bedroom.

Excited by the new design, the couple were later advised that to secure planning approval they would need to install fire suppression to enable the open-plan layout – ensuring that the means of escape is protected and complied with building regulations.

For Geoff and Julie, the idea of installing a sprinkler system went against the aesthetic they had imagined for their luxury holiday let. Curious to see whether sprinklers had evolved in recent years, Geoff scoured the internet to look for alternative options which is how he came to learn about Plumis’ Automist.


Automist is a discreet wall, rather than ceiling-mounted system that doesn’t require large pumps or a sizeable water storage tank to be installed within the property. Instead, it has a compact pump unit – ideal for small spaces, that connects to the existing water supply. The system has been proven to achieve the same or even improved performance compared to residential sprinkler systems, while using 90% less water – resulting in minimal water damage in the event of an activation.

In addition, the system’s faceplates that are placed on the wall are available in different colours to enable homeowners to choose a look that suits them and their project needs, without compromising safety.

While Geoff and Julie intended to retain a lot of the building’s original features including the doors, stained glass windows and clock, they still planned on complementing the conversion by installing modern fittings. Installed by local Automist specialists Chilman Fire & Security, the couple opted for Automist’s chrome look, which seamlessly blends in with the property’s interiors.

On the installation, Geoff commented: “We were really excited and fixed on having the open-plan layout proposed by our architect, but the reality is that if we hadn’t discovered Automist and had approval from building control, we would have had to go back to the drawing board.

“Sprinklers didn’t fit with the design we had imagined, and in addition to their appearance, we couldn’t see how we’d be able to accommodate a large tank. We’re pleased we were able to find an alternative option that met building regulations and didn’t jeopardise our plans.

“We worked with great contractors like Chilman Fire & Security throughout the project and couldn’t be happier with the final result.”

To learn more about the renovation, visit The Old Mission Church. You can also see the luxury holiday let featured on George Clarke’s Remarkable Renovations (Channel 4, series 2, episode 5).