Settle couple Mark and Pat Rand have reached an age where they could be forgiven for taking it easy and sitting back and enjoying life. But their lives have been far from restful. They have spent the past 18 months restoring the old water tower at Settle Railway Station and turning it into a cosy one-bedroomed home.

“It’s more restoration than conversion,” said retired police officer Mark, who is a former chairman of the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Railway Line.

He and his wife, trading and customer relations manager for the Friends, bought the Grade II-listed water tower for £208,000 in October 2010.

“We had an over-arching desire to restore the building, which was hidden by trees and ivy,” said Mark.

The 19th century tower is a survivor of the steam age and its function was to store water at a sufficient height above the railway and in sufficient volume – it held about 43,000 gallons – to enable thirsty steam locomotives to fill their tenders quickly.

Such structures were once familiar features of the railway scene, but of the eight on the Settle-Carlisle line, only the Settle tower remains. It was last used about 40 years ago.

“When we bought it, the building itself was in an excellent state, but the interior was just an empty box,” said Mark.

Permission had already been granted to convert it into a home, but the plans were not to the couple’s liking, so they went back to the drawing board.

They were approached by architect Stuart Green, who had wanted to buy the tower himself and was brimming with ideas on how it could be converted.

“Our biggest challenge, without any shadow of doubt, was the time taken to obtain planning permission. It took six months – the same time as the actual building process,” said Mark.

The couple were keen to retain the integrity of the building and took care to ensure modern additions – including a pre-fabricated roof room – had minimal impact and did not eclipse the tower itself.

They have also gone out of their way to ensure every detail is correct – for example, the staircase is painted sky blue to match St Pancras Station and the finials are reconditioned ceramic tops from old telegraph poles.

The water tank’s 72 panels have been restored to their original colours of Denby Pottery cream, Venetian red and Brunswick green – a job taken on by Mark himself in order to keep costs down.

However, the couple employed local tradespeople for the bulk of the project, with the main contractors being Settle builders Richard Kilburn and Carl Johnson.

“I find it absolutely amazing that all the work was done within six months,” said Mark.

“We are thrilled with the outcome.”

Asked about his favourite part of the restoration, he said: “I think it is probably the view from the top of the roof. No-one has been able to see it before.”

The project was filmed by Channel 4’s Restoration Man programme and the results were revealed to viewers on Thursday night.

“We offered the project to Restoration Man as a means of getting some nationwide publicity for the Settle-Carlisle Line,” said Mark.

And he is not bothered about potential sightseers at his new home – he and his wife are used to the attention as they previously lived at 17th century The Folly in Settle, one of the few Grade I-listed buildings in Craven.

“We are planning to open the tower for the national heritage open days in September and are also looking at the possibility of holding a local open day,” said Mark.

To read Mark’s blog of the restoration, visit