The Elms Hotel, the Broadway, the Whistling Oyster and the Battery. All were once bastions of Morecambe’s tourism and entertainment scene. Now, all four have either been – or will be – converted into flats.
The Battery pub has stood proudly on the corner of Heysham Road and Morecambe promenade since 1900. The adjoining Millhouse dates back even further to 1845.
But in 2010, the pub closed its doors and was left to go to rack and ruin, one of many boarded-up buildings in the town.
Ian Bond has rescued the Battery from certain demolition, purchasing the former pub and the next-door former Sandylands House offices and Harveys nightclub, in a £300,000 deal.
Now he’s planning a £1m refurbishment to breathe new life into the 19,000 sq ft site.
Inside The Battery it’s dark and musty. Windows are broken everywhere. Holes gape in the ceiling, the roof having been targeted by the epidemic of lead thefts which blights the town.
A labyrinth of rooms in the bowels of the building reveal dusty remnants of the old nightclub. The disco balls and beer pumps scattered on floors and tables are the only surviving relics of many a 1980s and 1990s Harveys night out for those Morecambrians for whom its delightful kitsch was a memorable part of growing up. It’s a sad sight.
Ian’s plan is to convert this rotting shell of Morecambe’s nightlife past into 17 swish apartments, some offering breathtaking views aross the bay.
Building is in Ian’s blood. An accountant by trade whose father Richard worked in construction, the 44-year-old father of three has been in property since his 20s.
After working in South Africa and the USA, he has settled in Morecambe, successfully renovating properties in Bare and Heysham, and now owns around 50 flats in total.
He also works with The Prince’s Trust, giving young people advice on how to start up businesses.
And after spending just a few minutes in his company, it becomes clear Ian has a real passion for the architecture and history of the Battery.
“The Battery is the book end of the prom,” he said.
“It would have been criminal to demolish it.
“I didn’t want it to go the same way as the Grosvenor Hotel. They knocked that down and replaced it with flats which have no character.
“So many modern buildings have a life span of 40 to 50 years and are built in a commercial manner. But what happens if you take a mortgage out? I could get more flats on the site if I knocked it down, but it’s not all about the money.
“I get a lot of enjoyment out of turning a rundown site into a quality development.And this building will be special when we’ve finished it.
“We’ll try to restore all the cast iron and keep as many original features as we can.”
Ian believes the closure of hotels, pubs and clubs is due to changes in people’s spending habits because of the recession, but that the property market is turning a corner.
He said: “I rent out some really nice Victorian properties on the prom for £600 a month and people will pay that for the views. I don’t have this kind of money in my back pocket but with the Frontierland development and the link road due, that shows me Morecambe is on the up.
“That’s why I’m prepared to take this risk.”