6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Lancashire Life today click here

Stirk House - weddings, fine dining and boxing

PUBLISHED: 00:00 14 July 2017

The hotel was built in the 1600s

The hotel was built in the 1600s

glynn ward

One of the Ribble Valley’s oldest hotels has had a stylish contemporary make-over, writes Roger Borrell.

A suite perfect for honeymoons A suite perfect for honeymoons

If you ever see a photograph of a bride wearing a pair of boxing gloves don’t worry – this probably wasn’t the start of a stormy marriage. It’s more likely the happy couple were wed at Stirk House, a historic hotel in the Ribble Valley.

It has to be the only hotel with a full size boxing ring – something that has become a favourite for newly weds looking for a quirky reminder of their big day.

It’s a very modern concept at a very ancient establishment, found on the outskirts of Gisburn. It was built in the 1630s partly with stone ‘acquired’ from Sawley Abbey after Henry VIII knocked it about. It has its own priest hole, a mark of the first owner’s allegiances.

In the early 1800s Stirk House was a venue for wild parties thrown by a London financier and later owners included the Hartley family, most famous for one member, William, who was bandmaster on SS Titanic.

Trainer Kevin Maree with boxer Mark Heffron Trainer Kevin Maree with boxer Mark Heffron

A gent called Harry Speak bought it in the 1930s for a mere £500 and set about turning it into a hotel. A major refurbishment followed a fire in the 1950s and the restored hotel gained a reputation as an exclusive venue with flunkies in white gloves and tailcoats.

It was around this time that it became a popular location for wedding receptions and that continues to this day. Amanda Arends, the sales and business development manager, said: ‘Not so long ago we hosted 18 weddings in a year. We’ve just done 22 in one month!’

Its most recent owner is businessman Paul Caddy and the hotel is run by his daughter, Helen Kay, in partnership with Kevin Maree, one of Britain top boxing trainers, who runs Maree Leisure.

He is based at the neighbouring leisure club which boasts, as well as a boxing ring, a gym, heated pool, steam room and sauna. The connection means that some of the world’s top boxers – including Mike Tyson, Rickie Hatton and Joe Frazier – have been spotted at the hotel. Hoping to join them in the hall of fame is Oldham’s Mark Heffron, an unbeaten middleweight, trained by Kevin at Stirk House and now managed by the legendary Frank Warren.

Amanda and the team are helping to ensure the rest of Stirk House punches above its weight. ‘When I arrived I went out onto the streets of the towns and villages in the Ribble Valley and did my own marketing by asking people what they knew about Stirk House,’ said Amanda.

‘Everyone had heard of it but many said they hadn’t been there for 20 years. People passed the sign on the A59 but didn’t come in. We are changing all that.’

Parts of the hotel had become dated and the owners are investing substantial sums giving it a new lease of life. Contemporary furnishings, exclusive wallpaper from the USA and high end lighting have worked well with the ancient stonework in the public rooms. The bedrooms are being similarly upgraded and the restaurant – under the guidance of experienced head chef Chris Dobson – has been rebranded as Prime and renewed as a sophisticated space where guests can enjoy locally sourced food.

Chris, from Accrington, has been a market gardener so he knows his greens as well as his meat. ‘I have Michelin-style classical background,’ he said. ‘We aim to produce good simple food, locally sourced, seasonal and sympathetically cooked.

Stirk House is set in 22 acres, with its own piece of ancient woodland, a bird hide and picnic lawns. Its drive to reduce its carbon footprint has brought it awards for sustainability as well as for its work on wildlife conservation, particularly with the World Owl Trust. The grounds are regarded as a wildlife haven with the hotel team listing 15 mammals and 49 bird species.

‘It’s a beautiful hotel in what has to be one of the most beautiful locations in Britain,’ said Amanda. ‘More and more people are coming to the Ribble Valley and we are determined to be part of that.’

More from Out & About

00:00

Hearty breakfasts and delicious dinners are just two reasons for walking in this stunning area, as John Lenehan discovers

Read more
Bowland Walks
00:00

There are few finer thing than exploring the countryside surrounding the many rivers situated across the county.

Read more
Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Victoria Smith always loved horses but her high pressure job meant she had little time to ride – until she met a deer in the Forest of Bowland

Read more
Equestrian
Monday, May 14, 2018

Developments underway and planned around the city are celebrating its proud heritage and building for the future

Read more
Preston
Wednesday, May 9, 2018

For almost 25 years, outdoor writers and photographers Dennis and Jan Kelsall have produced guides and articles covering many of the country’s popular walking destinations. Here, Dennis picks five of his favourites.

Read more
Lancaster
Friday, May 4, 2018

Ramsbottom is well known for its food and drink scene, but Rebekka O’Grady meets some arty residents that will inspire your creative side.

Read more
Ramsbottom
Thursday, May 3, 2018

A devastating riding accident may have saved Katherine Beaumont from a life of anxiety and stress. Now she is sharing her experience.

Read more
Equestrian

A unique community musical in Wigan is taking one of George Orwell’s most famous works from the page to the stage and making a song and dance about social inequality.

Read more
Wigan

When photographer Emma Campbell fell in love with Lakeland’s fell ponies she decided to raise their profile with a special project.

Read more
Equestrian photography
Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Our walking guide John Lenehan takes us on a towpath where you can see one of Lancashire’s great engineering feats.

Read more
Canals Chorley
Monday, April 9, 2018

A selection of walks in and around Bowland for outdoor types who like to end their hike on a high note – with some great food and drink.

Read more
Monday, April 9, 2018

From specialist soap to awarding winning ale, Staveley is proving to be a magnet for small businesses and visitors

Read more
Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The joy of spotting owls is described by The Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Alan Wright who tells us where to find them and how to identify these elusive creatures.

Read more
Monday, April 2, 2018

It stretches the length of the Liverpool suburb, and over the years has hosted many shops and businesses. Rebekka O’Grady chats to those who currently call it home

Read more
Liverpool
 
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter


Subscribe or buy a mag today

Local Business Directory

Lancashire's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area



Property Search