Chapel owner: 'I'll fight to keep my home'
THE OWNER of a converted church which is at the centre of an ownership row has said a campaign group is making his life hell.
Ryan Meredith, 38, who purchased the grade two listed Score Chapel last year, said the Friends of Score Cemetery group has launched an unjustified campaign against him over the past 18 months.
Mr Meredith, who says he fell in love with the two-bedroom converted church as soon as he saw it, says he is the legal owner of the property and will fight to protect his home.
In May the Journal reported on the Friends of Score Cemetery group's plans to reinstate the overgrown cemetery which contains more than 1,000 graves.
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The group claims the cemetery was left to the people of Ilfracombe in trust.
However, around 2005 the adjoining Score Chapel was converted into a house and has been sold on since.
The group believes the chapel should not have been sold and is currently in legal talks to try to reclaim the land.
Mr Meredith, who bought the chapel in March last year from previous owner Ross McEwan, has come under fire from the group for creating a driveway at the property.
The group claims the graves of babies were dug up to create the drive.
But Mr Meredith, who obtained planning permission to build the driveway, says he has done everything by the book.
He said: "I fell in love with the property as soon as I saw it.
"I bought it entirely legally and in good faith through local estate agents and solicitors.
"I also created the driveway completely legally and with planning permission from North Devon Council.
"I didn't think I was buying into any trouble."
Mr Meredith says he has never been invited to any of the group's meetings and has not received any legal correspondence.
He said: "I've done everything correctly. I own the deeds, it's my property.
"I haven't done anything wrong yet they are trying to oust me from the home I love.
"I am going to fight for my property."
Mr Meredith said there was public access to the cemetery to the right of his gates, though it had become overgrown.
Carpenter Ross McEwan, who transformed the derelict Score Chapel into a two-bedroom house, has also been in touch with the Journal to dispute the group's claims.
Mr McEwan, who bought the chapel from previous owner Fred Redmore in 2004, said: "I bought it with planning permission and listed building consent to turn it into a house. When I bought it the chapel was close to falling down.
"I employed professional stone masons to redo the stone work, had special windows made, paid for Bath stone and new natural slate and installed cast iron guttering.
"I think I did a very good job. It was on its last legs and I preserved it for the future."
Mr McEwan said the sale of the property was entirely legal: "You can't legally buy or sell a property without the correct permission and solicitors checks."
The Friends of Score Cemetery are currently in talks with a solicitor to determine ownership of the chapel and cemetery.
Group spokesman Betty Engmann said: "We maintain the chapel and cemetery belong to the people of Ilfracombe. If Mr Meredith has been taken for a ride then that's for him and his solicitors to discuss."