SEE INSIDE THE EMPIRE
In 2015 community campaign group Burnley Empire Theatre Trust (BETT – now Burnley Empire Trust) formed to raise awareness and campaign for the restoration and reuse of the Grade II Listed venue. In 2016 a stakeholders group comprising of BETT, Theatres Trust, Burnley Borough Council, Burnley College, UCLan and Burnley Civic Trust commissioned a Viability Study on the future of the #BurnleyEmpire.
In 2017 the results of the Viability Study were published and detailed a potential viable future use for the Empire; using an innovative and incremental approach to the renovation of the building. In 2018 National Trust joined efforts alongside Theatres Trust and David Wilmore at historic theatre consultancy – TheatreSearch, to support the community group to save the historic asset. In late 2018 it was announced that the Burnley Empire was set for auction despite collective efforts to stop the sale. Regardless of tremendous blows throughout their years of campaigning; BETT decided to take the Empire’s fate into their own hands and set up Burnley Empire Ltd to take ownership at the last possible opportunity, in order to safeguard the building and its future legacy. The previous owner, The Duchy of Lancaster kindly honored its original offer from 2016 to allow the group to buy the building for £1.
Thanks to the support of Theatres Trust, David Wilmore, National Trust, Napthens Solicitors, and in particular thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, the building transferred ownership to Burnley Empire Ltd on the 5th of December 2018. Burnley Empire Trust was awarded charitable status in January 2020 thanks to the support from National Lottery Heritage Fund through the Resilience Heritage scheme.
The Burnley Empire was built in 1894 by local Architect G B Rawcliffe, with the auditorium reconstructed in 1911 by renowned Theatre Designer and Architect Bertie Crewe.
It is Burnley’s only Grade II listed purpose-built Edwardian theatre, the only venue of its kind in East Lancashire and one of very few designed by Crewe remaining throughout the whole of the UK.
The Burnley Empire has a high level of architectural interest and retains most of the original structure and elaborate detail with robust and richly formed plasterwork in a Classical style. Currently in poor condition, the building was once described by critiques as the ‘prettiest’ and ‘finest theatre in the North’.
Originally built as a Music Hall of Variety the Empire went on to operate as a cinema then Bingo Hall, until its closure in 1995.
In April 2019, National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) awarded the project (in partnership with National Trust) a £44,000 grant through the Resilient Heritage scheme. Thanks to the support from NLHF, Burnley Empire Trust were able to develop the charitable organisation, improve the building knowledge through structural and condition survey work as well as, revisit the Viability Study and fund our wonderful new website.
Theatres Trust awarded Burnley Empire Trust £10,000 through the Theatres at Risk, Building Capacity Programme in May 2019. This grant funded an asbestos survey and Construction Design Management (CDM) advice.
Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) awarded BET a Crowdfunding Challenge Grant of up to £15,000 in September 2020. BET successfully fundraised £9,672 through public donations which was 100% matched funded by AHF. Thanks to the support from the public and AHF, urgent stabilisation works were carried out in December 2020.
To restore, revive, and regenerate the Burnley Empire for future generations.