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Lancashire Life Luncheon - Holmes Mill, Clitheroe

PUBLISHED: 00:00 04 August 2017

Main course; Pan fried Goosnargh chicken breast, peas, broad beans, heritage carrots, asparagus, Parmentier potatoes and chive velouté

Main course; Pan fried Goosnargh chicken breast, peas, broad beans, heritage carrots, asparagus, Parmentier potatoes and chive velouté


James Warburton and his team have taken an old mill and turned it into something special. It was the venue for our latest Lancashire Life luncheon.

Bryan Townson (Head of Food Production), Alex Marshall (Sous chef) and Paul Grice (Sous chef) Bryan Townson (Head of Food Production), Alex Marshall (Sous chef) and Paul Grice (Sous chef)

It requires great vision to take a run down old mill and turn it into the sort of facility that any town would be proud to call its own. Great vision, great patience and, no doubt, a great deal of money.

It was during the early part of the 19th century that Holmes Mill had a significant impact on the economy of Clitheroe, employing hundreds of men and women in its weaving sheds. Almost two centuries on, the mill once more hums to the sound of a very different type of commerce.

Businessman James Warburton and his team have created one of the county’s most striking leisure and hospitality facilities starting with what is thought to be one of the biggest bar rooms in England. Not that it looks like a bar in a barn – the chic industrial décor means it could never be mistaken for anything other than a former mill but with bold 21st century twists.

However, this is much more than simply somewhere to enjoy delicious real ale from the adjacent Bowland Brewery.

Laura and Max Walker-Williams Laura and Max Walker-Williams

As part of the James’ Places portfolio, which includes Mitton Hall, the Shireburn Arms and the Royal Hotel in Kirkby Lonsdale among several others, the substantial Holmes Mill complex is set to become a landmark destination for Lancashire.

Great efforts have been made to maintain the character of the building and they’ve even restored a 1910 steam engine and turned it into a striking centre-piece.

There is also a function room, an ice cream parlour and a Bowland Food Hall concentrating on the produce of Lancashire, supplying local people and visitors as well as the kitchens at the Hill.

Further work is underway to create a restaurant and grill, a boutique hotel, bakery and the final phase will transform the old weaving shed – now with a smart new curved roof – into a gym, pool and spa.

It has been quite a learning curve for the James’ Places team. Transforming such a huge industrial space could and did present all manner of health, safety and structural challenges.

Carol Sleet, who is in charge of operations for the group, said: ‘These have been testing times but they’ve also been a lot of fun. We’ve learned a lot of new things from the project and that will help make the next one easier!

‘It’s really been such a privilege to work with the local community. They have taken our vision on board and together we have been able to create something that we believe will be a real boost to tourism in this area.

‘Local people have been interested and excited to see what we have been doing and we are now employing 120 people so it is making quite an impact on the local economy.’

The new function room – a striking hall combining retro architecture and old beams with contemporary furnishings – was the venue for the latest Lancashire Life luncheon when guests enjoyed some outstanding canapés followed by a main course of Goosnargh chicken with summery vegetables followed by a deliciously light chocolate and strawberry mousse.

‘There are so many amazing facilities in the Ribble Valley and we are delighted to be a part of it,’ added Carol. ‘James has real passion and great vision. Initially, it was hard to grasp what he was trying to achieve here but it soon become clear that it was going to be something special.’ That’s mission accomplished.

Bowland Brewery Beer Hall opens at Holmes Mill, Clitheroe.

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