The next chapter for Mercer Hall is set to unfold as Hyndburn Leisure has successfully secured investment from The Architectural Heritage Fund and the Community Ownership Fund.

The funding means feasibility work can begin, which includes architectural drawings and business modelling, a crucial step forward in shaping a sustainable future for Mercer Hall.

The trust has appointed heritage experts 'Buttress' to carry out the feasibility work, which will include exploring the suggestions that have already been made by Great Harwood residents.

It comes as the pool and gym at the leisure centre are set to close and be replaced by a new purpose-built £12 million leisure centre at Wilson Playing Fields in Accrington.

Stephen Anderson, director at Buttress, said: “We are delighted to have supported this successful funding application and look forward to helping Hyndburn Leisure Trust, its partners and the community, to now use the funding to consider the future of Mercer Hall.

"It's such an important place, it's a privilege to be able to shape its next steps.”

A community-led group has also been established to shape the repurposing plans.

The Mercer Hall repurposing group will build on existing community feedback, to firm up plans over the year ahead. 

Once the final plans are in place and feasibility work has been completed, the group, supported by Hyndburn Leisure will submit further bids to carry out capital renovations and to deliver community activities in and around the facility.

The repurposing group are eager to welcome other residents who share a passion for preserving the rich history whilst envisioning an exciting future for Mercer Hall.

This is an opportunity for residents to have a direct impact, share their ideas, and play a vital role in the process.

Joyce, a member of the Mercer Hall repurposing group, said: "I’m very privileged that my Uncle Jimmy, Councillor Jimmy Dunn, a well-known character in Great Harwood, also chair of the then Great Harwood Urban District Council, educated me about the town of Great Harwood and the many iconic buildings and places which I am pleased to say we still have.

"Mercer Hall has been a cherished symbol of Great Harwood's community spirit since its opening in 1921, and we are dedicated to preserving the spirit of Mercer Hall through the group.”

Resident Anthony Taylor said the Hall holds an important part in his family's history.

He added: "Long before discos and nightclubs, pre-second world war and well into the 1950s, dance halls were the thing.

"Teenagers and young folk would look forward to meeting friends old and new at the weekend bashes. Local bands were plentiful and played the circuit as most towns had some kind of venue.

"Great Harwood had the Mercer Hall, a fine neo-classical edifice, and here at one of the weekly dances Albert Taylor met Gladys Horner who would become, shortly afterwards, Gladys Taylor.

"They often reminisced about those good old days, the bands and the music unaware that around the corner Rock ‘n’ Roll, driven by Bill Hailey and his Comets was about to change the face of modern music.

"The rockers also took to the stages of these important dance halls, and yes Gladys and Albert went to a few of those too!

"Mercer Hall holds many happy memories for my family, making it an irreplaceable part of our personal history.

"As an artist living locally, I would love to see Mercer Hall offer a collaborative creative space, where the rich history of our town meets the vibrant energy of today's artistic talent."

The repurposing group are asking residents to turn memories into momentum and share their stories and photos, adding further depth to Mercer Hall’s rich history.