A £25 million scheme to transform an historic East Dorset abbey and grounds is due to get underway next month (January).
Property developer Ankers & Rawlings will begin work at Stapehill Abbey near Wimborne after purchasing the former home of Cistercian Trappist nuns.
The development includes converting parts of the Grade II listed building, including the twin chapels which date back to 1847, to 20 dwellings.
A further 25 homes are to be built in the grounds while the formal garden is to be restored.
Agreement has also been reached with Ferndown Town Council to set aside land for allotments.
Scott Rawlings, Director of Ankers & Rawlings, said the scheme was a “landmark development.”
He added: “This is a unique restoration project at a very historic site. We plan to keep as many of the original features and artefacts as possible.”
Ellis Jones Solicitors acted for Ankers & Rawlings in the purchase.
Partner Nigel Taylor said: “As someone who took history at A-level, it was a fascinating, albeit a complex, acquisition to work on.
“It is unusual for residential dwellings to be permitted on green belt land but without this development the restoration of the abbey would have been unsustainable.”
Stapehill Abbey was built in the early 19th century and was home to the Holy Cross Abbey order of Cistercian Trappist nuns from 1802 to 1991.
The founding group of women was led by Madame Augustin de Chabannes, a professed sister of the Parisian Abbey of Saint Antoine.
She had been imprisoned in the Bastille, narrowly escaping the guillotine when the Bastille was stormed, and fleeing to Switzerland and a brief respite at La Val Sainte, before joining the monastic odyssey, which took the refugees across Europe in search of asylum.
Stapehill Abbey was acquired by Stapehill Abbey Enterprises in 1990 and operated as a tourist attraction, craft centre and rural life museum until 2010.