Padiham's destination hotel set to welcome world's tourists

Michael Huckerby, the owner of The Lawrence Hotel in Padiham, is ready to welcome guests with his puppy Hettie.
Michael Huckerby, the owner of The Lawrence Hotel in Padiham, is ready to welcome guests with his puppy Hettie.
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Did you know that Pendle Hill is only 166 feet short of being a mountain?

Michael Huckerby knew that and he believes that Pendle, one of the best known jewels in Lancashire's crown, is the key to boosting tourism in the area.

"There is as much history and heritage in Lancashire as there is in a place like the Lake District but we just need to learn to market it and give it showcase to bring visitors in.

"The people of Lancashire should be proud of what they have."

Michael is the new owner of the former Trevelyan guest house in Padiham which is set to re-open as The Lawrence, a design led boutique hotel for visitors who flock to the county from all over the world.

The bed and breakfast section of the business, situated in the former stables, behind the main building, is already up and running and has catered for guests from America, Australia, Canada, Italy and Wales.

So the arrival of The Lawrence is already putting the humble town of Padiham on the map as a desirable destination for tourists to visit.

The story behind the Lawrence is as interesting as some of Lancashire's heritage as it all happened by chance.

Michael was on his way to look for a property in Citheroe but was diverted through Padiham as the motorway was closed.

Michael said: "Everything looked very familiar to me as we drove through Padiham, especially the climb up the hill in the centre.

"It was then I remembered I came here regularly with my dad as a child when he used to be a lorry driver and one of his regular delivery places was the former Baxi factory."

He spotted the Trevelyan was up for sale so decided to stop and have a look and the rest, as they say, is history.

Born in Germany, where his father was stationed in the army, Michael and his family moved to Doncaster and his parents bought a supermarket.

Life was good until the recession of the 1990s and the family lost the business. They ended up living in a council house and Michael's dad got a job as a lorry driver.

After a move to Preston, Michael ended up at Blackburn College studying catering but his tutor said he wasn't suited to the course because of his "know it all" attitude.

So Michael went to to work for the Macdonald group, namely the Tickled Trout Hotel at Samlesbury where he started washing pots and worked his way up to become trainee manager.

After working at a couple of other hotels Michael then went to work at the Victoria and Albert Hotel in Manchester as the food and beverage manager.

And who should walk in one day but the tutor who had slung him out of college!

Michael said: "He was with a party of students and I was hesitant at first to see what he would say but he told them that if they worked hard they could achieve success like I had.

"I was quite happy to accept that."

The next step in Michael's career was a move to Manchester's Northern Quarter which, at the time, was rundown and a place to avoid.

He saw a niche and bought a bar he called Simple and it is this bar that is widely credited for kicking off the area as the trendy hotspot location it is today.

Michael extended to open Simple in the City restaurant and then Simple at the Light Hotel.

Feeling that publicity was lacking as so much was happening in the city, Michael set up a magazine called Moving Manchester with his business partner, Vicky Harris who is now marketing director of Welcome to Yorkshire.

They ran it successfully for seven years before selling the licence.

The Creative Spark advertising agency was Michael's next baby and he went from starting with three employees to having 30 staff on the books.

Michael jetted out to America to set up a branch of the company in New York but he actually lived in Florida and commuted!

This was because one his closest friends, who lived in the sunshine state, has been left paralysed after a diving accident, and Michael wanted to be there to offer him support.

Michael was in the States for two years and he still has a home there.

It is clear to see The Lawrence is a labour of love for Michael. The name pays homage to his own father, who died 10 years ago, and also Tolkien's uncle who took him in and cared for him when he was ill.

And the world famous author said that without his uncle Lawrence The Hobbit would never have been written.

It also pays tribute the Margaret Pearson, one of the infamous Pendle witches who was from Padiham and the only one not to be hanged. Her husband was called Lawrence.

Michael has stayed at some of the world's best hotels and he hopes The Lawrence will offer a great experience for people who come to visit from all over the world.

The Lawrence has 14 bedrooms spread over the main house and old stables and will also feature a residents' bar, three function rooms, conference rooms and an outside courtyard.

The main house has been completely renovated and the centre piece of a floating bathroom has been created in the Tolkien suite.

Michael said: "People are coming here to spend their money and we need to be ready for them.

"There are some fabulous little shops in Padiham, and more are to come, so they need to look at ending this routine of closing at 2pm on Saturday and also look at opening on Sundays.

"The history and stories connected to Padiham alone are fascinating, this is what tourists love.

"It is unique to the area and we need to signpost it for visitors."

Michael has certainly done his homework, scouring the area to source local products and he shops in the town himself.

He hesitates to describe himself as successful and believes none of his achievements would have been possible without the love and support of his family.

He said: "My family are everything to me and I believe it is essential to strike the right work and home balance."

Michael intends to do that when he closes the hotel in January while he spends the entire month at his home in the States.