Major transformation on the cards for landmark Burnley hotel which once hosted 007 himself
A major project, to restore a landmark hotel in Burnley to its former glory, is underway.
And the couple behind the project to turn around the fortunes of the former Keirby Hotel are very well aware of the major task they have taken on.
"We are aware of all the problems this hotel has faced in the past and its chequered history," said Tony Hussain, a successful interior designer and owner of a thriving furniture company with his wife and business partner Kay.
When looking for a new challenge the couple set their sights on the 48 bedroom Keirby, now re-named The Brun Lea Hotel.
They have taken over as the new tenants and are determined to make a success of the hotel that once welcomed the likes of James Bond himself, Roger Moore and the late singer, TV presenter and national treasure Cilla Black.
Tony said: "The response we have received so far from the public has been positive.
"Several people have called in to congratulate us on what we are doing and one gentleman came in to say his parents held their wedding reception here and he would love to see the place back on its feet again, he got quite emotional telling me about it.
"But we realise there are some people who would love to see the place pulled down also."
Tony would love to find some old photographs of the hotel in its halycon days and he hopes that people who have held functions there in the past, including weddings, will have images they can share with him that he can put on display.
Work has started on breathing new life into the iconic ballroom and piano bar that many people will recall in its heyday.
The huge sprung dancefloor, with its stage and ornate chandeliers surrounded by picture windows, was quite a sight to behold when dressed for a function.
Tony said: "When we came in there were holes all over the walls, it looked a mess and someone had even put a dartboard up next to the bar. But you can clearly see that this used to be a superb venue and it can be once again.
"It needs time, money and patience, this is nothing if not a labour of love."
On the day I was given a sneak preview of the work going on caretaker Dave Joy was busy with a paintbrush in the ballroom which you could describe as an unpolished diamond that needs some tender loving care.
Towering above the Burnley skyline with its distinctive 1960s architecture the Keirby opened for business at the start of that decade, just in time for Burnley FC to celebrate its League Championship victory.
And where else would the players hold a party to mark the occasion other than this stunning venue that was one of only three four star hotels in the whole of Lancashire?
The name came from the old name for the brewery that once stood on the site of the hotel.
It had been founded in 1823 by John Keirby who came to Burnley from Liverpool as a yeast merchant.
Over the years the Keirby hosted hundreds of lavish functions including huge weddings, corporate events and it was the hotel of choice for many celebrities who came to the area for guest appearances.
But as other hotels sprung up around the area the Keirby faced stiff competition and soon fell out of favour.
After a series of different owners tried and failed to revive its flagging fortunes and a bid to transform it into an apartment and retail complex was pulled at the last minute, the hotel was closed down last year after being served with a series of legal notices by Lancashire Fire and Rescue and Burnley Council.
The orders related to concerns about health and safety, and specifically about fire safety, at the landmark building.
Because of these orders, people living and staying at the hotel were forced to move out.
Tony has been working closely with the authorities to make sure the building is safe and up to standard.
When he first arrived at the hotel and took a tour, Tony was shocked to find people still living there, many of them squatting.
"It was something of a shock discovery at first," said Tony who soon became used to people wandering into the foyer looking for a room for the night but with no visible means of paying for it.
A businessman with a heart, Tony found he could not turn away such vulnerable people and he offered help where he could, along with pointing them in the direction of agencies who could support them.
He has also been in contact with Burnley Council to discuss ways of tackling the problem of vulnerable and homeless people on Burnley's streets.
And Tony also plans to launch weekly coffee morning sessions for vulnerable people to go along for friendship, company, help and advice.
"We have the room here and the place is central so it is easy for people to get to," said Tony.
With their little team of staff Tony and Kay are very much hands on with the business and their friendly and welcoming approach to guests is winning them rave reviews on social media from guests.
The hotel is also being complimented for its cleanliness, comfortable beds and value for money.
And Tony is proud of his recently refurbished continental style breakfast area where guests can relax in the morning.
Tony said: "The reviews are encouraging and we have a variety of guests staying here, from people on business trips to those attending family gatherings to a group of girls who went to the Parkifel festival in Manchester.
"By staying here and not in Manchester they saved £1,000 between them."
To quote the well known saying "Rome wasn't built in a day" Tony and Kay are patient but hard working and dedicated to their project. And they have the business acumen and talent to know what will make it a success.
They believe in it and they are hoping that the people of Burnley will too.