THE trust working to restore the former Burnley Empire Theatre to past glories has said it’s ‘a slap in the face’ that it’s been put up for auction.

The historic building, which was named as the fifth most at risk venue in the UK by the Theatres Trust recently, is to go under the hammer in Manchester on Tuesday, October 18.


The Grade II-listed building has defaulted to the care of the Duchy of Lancaster as an ‘owner of last resort’.

Under the law, if legal ownership cannot be established a building falls to the Crown to deal with the asset.

The Burnley Empire Theatre Trust has said that it was ‘surprised’ that it’s being sold before a viability study has come back.

Acting chairman Shaun McCree said: “The news that it’s has been put up for auction without warning has come as something of a surprise.

“We’ve been working tirelessly against the clock for months to save the Empire and had so many people contact us supporting the project to save this lost gem.

“That they would put it up for auction at this key moment, knowing the viability study is actually underway to find the best future for a community facility and a part of Burnley’s heritage is a disappointment, to say the least.

“At present, we are waiting for the outcome of the study, to which the council and all our supporters contributed so generously, and this does seem like a slap in the face for them as well as for us.

“Burnley has lost so many of its historic buildings, for the Duchy of Lancaster to disregard the public support for the project to save one of its proudest is surprising - the Empire could be a multipurpose venue which is an asset to Lancashire as a whole, not just Burnley.”

The 1,200-seat venue, which has been out of use for more than 20 years, has been listed for sale with no reserve price.

A Duchy of Lancaster spokesman said: “The Empire Theatre in Burnley has reverted to the Duchy of Lancaster on escheat as ‘owner of last resort’.

“It does not form part of the duchy, which is a private estate of land and property assets held in trust for the sovereign.

“The property has been offered to both the local council and, subsequently, to the Burnley Theatre Trust.

“It has been offered to the trust without charge and this offer remains open.

“In the absence of an acceptance by the trust, the duchy will have no alternative but to put the property into auction.”

“The duchy remains hopeful that the building will remain in local ownership.”