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Is this the spookiest house in Britain? Gravestones in the garden and a former mortuary for a living room... the family who have made a home in a cemetery
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By Kerry Mcdermott
PUBLISHED: 16:33 EST, 28 October 2012 | UPDATED: 16:35 EST, 28 October 2012
Would you be brave enough to spend Halloween sleeping in a cemetery?
For one family, this former mortuary chapel surrounded by crumbling headstones and eerie gargoyles is home 365 days of the year.
Unperturbed by its spooky statues and proximity to ancient graves, Jayne Stead and her partner Mike Blatchford fell in love with the one-time cemetery keeper's lodge in Southampton, and set about turning it into a home for themselves and their three children.
'Spookiest house in the city': Mike Blatchford and Jayne Stead at home in the former cemetery keeper's lodge with their children (l-r) William, 13, Florence, 15, and Joe, 17
Eerie: The former cemetery keeper's lodge and chapel in Southampton is home to Jayne, Mike and their three children
Designer Ms Stead admits the couple's decision to move into the former Jewish mortuary chapel - which dates back to the 1800s - raised some eyebrows among their more superstitious friends, but insisted the house has 'a nice feeling'.
With the creepiest holiday in the calendar fast approaching, the family has invited local schoolchildren to trick-or-treat at the old chapel this Halloween.
Ms Stead said she suspected youngsters have been too afraid to venture down the path leading to the spooky Grade II listed building in previous years.
'We've had plenty of Halloween parties because the house is the perfect venue, but nobody has ventured down here for trick-or-treating before,' she said.
'We are the spookiest house in the city after all.'
Atmospheric: Ms Stead said trick-or-treaters have been too afraid to venture down the path to the historic chapel on previous Halloweens
Creepy: The family's living room once housed a mortuary
'Homely': The couple fell in love with the former chapel and cemetery keeper's lodge and spent £100,000 transforming it into a family home
Modern: Victorian urinals and a tatty storage shed in the ramshackle building became a modern kitchen
While the 52-year-old said she had never seen a ghost in her time in the chapel - which is also home to the couple's children Joe, 17, Florence, 15, and 13-year-old William - she admitted there have been some strange occurrences in the living room - once the mortuary.
'The cemetery didn't put us off...we don't spook easily'
'I’ve been sitting on my own in the living room and I’ve felt like there was someone standing behind me a few times,' Ms Stead said.
'I’ve also found the dog barking at nothing in the corner of the room, but it’s not scary.
'Mike’s aunt is a medium and when she came to visit us for the first time she the place had a really nice feeling about it.'
'We don't spook easily': The house is the perfect venue for a Halloween party, its owners say
Jayne and self-employed builder Mike, 51, bought the property six years ago when it was put on the market by the council.
'I’ve always loved broken down cottages,' Ms Stead said.
'When we saw this it just seemed perfect.
'It was one of those opportunities where you have to make a snap decision to go for it or not go for it.
'The cemetery didn’t put us off. We don’t spook easily, in fact I love watching scary films and television shows.
'When we first had a look around it was really run down, there were graves everywhere but it never really felt scary, there was very nice feeling about the place,' she said.
Despite their affection for the old mortuary chapel, Ms Stead admits they rented out their old house rather than selling it to ensure the family had a back-up plan.
'That way if it all went horribly wrong we could move back home,' she said.
'Nobody really knows what it’s going to be like living in a graveyard.'
Builder Mr Blatchford spent a year and £100,000 turning the ramshackle property into the family's dream home.
The Victorian urinals and tatty storage shed were transformed in to a beautiful, modern kitchen, while the chapel, built in 1845, became the dining room.
The old cemetery keeper’s lodge now houses bedrooms, bathrooms, and a playroom.
Family home: The historic building has been given a new lease of life by the family, who say its location in a cemetery 'didn't put us off'
Ghostly: The family can see headstones and statues when they peer out of the mullioned windows
The interior may have been transformed, but from the outside the building appears to have changed little since its days as a mortuary chapel and cemetery keeper's lodge, with original features including the mullioned windows and gargoyles retained.
'You get people peering in to the windows of the chapel and when they see us watching television they jump a million miles,' said Ms Stead.
'It may be covered in gargoyles and we may be surrounded by graves but on the inside it just looks like a normal house.
'A lot of visitors were wary at first and thought it was spooky but after a while, like us, they forget they’re in a cemetery.
'It's a very homely place.'