The hospital where entertainer George Formby died could turn out nice again after years of decay.
But the sad and sorry state of the old Mount Street infirmary in Preston city centre is revealed by the Lancashire Post today as plans for a huge renovation scheme are nearing completion.
IN PICTURES>>> Take a look inside Preston's old Mount Street infirmary
What was once the place where the “posh” paid for their medical care is a crumbling ruin with every window smashed and water pouring in through holes in the roof.
Old mattresses are stacked in corners, wheelchairs are abandoned on corridors and the hospital’s two top floor theatres, complete with their giant operating spotlights, stand forlorn and open to the elements.
Formby’s old room, where he suffered his final and fatal heart attack in March 1961 with Penwortham fiancee Pat Howson at his bedside, is still there.
But the wallpaper is hanging off, rails for the curtains around his bed have collapsed, a giant fungus has sprouted from the door frame and a huge hole in the ceiling lets in the rain.
“It’s a crying shame to see it in this condition,” said local antique dealer Brian Beck, who tried unsuccessfully to buy the old hospital, orphanage, care home and ornate chapel 15 years ago.
“When I was interested in getting it the place was intact and immaculate. Now look at it.”
Developer Simon Linford, whose Birmingham-based company specialises in rescuing derelict historic properties, is preparing a planning application for conversion to swanky city centre apartments.
The Victorian Grade II Listed buildings, the oldest dating back to 1872, will be preserved, while others built at a later date look set to be demolished and replaced.
And before work begins, the Post was invited to take a final look around to record for posterity what the ravages of weather, vandals and thieves have done to this once-magnificent structure.
Most shocking of all is the destruction of the historic chapel by a steady stream of invaders, some of them youngsters hell-bent on vandalism, some rough sleepers looking for a place to get their heads down and others paying a call to look for ornate fixtures and fittings they could sell on.
Valuable stained glass windows have been smashed beyond repair, a huge hole in the floor marks the charred spot where the altar once stood and graffiti and crude artwork adorns the walls.
“It’s sacrilege, desecration,” said Brian. “How could anyone do damage like this in a church?”
Our guide assures us the place is haunted, several times over - the most frequent spectral visitor being the Lady in Purple. She has, we are told, appeared on many a photograph snapped in deserted parts of the building, particularly in the lift shaft. But, as we entered what was the mortuary, Brian swore he saw an eerie figure of a man walk past the doorway. There was no-one there.
Despite the awful state of the buildings, only the morgue seemed to have escaped the damage. A white alabaster slab stands in the centre of the room, decorated with a bouquet of plastic flowers. Looking down is Christ from a giant crucifix.
Maybe here was George Formby’s last resting place before his funeral in Warrington the following week?
Simon Linford told the Post: “It looks like it will be March before we submit our planning application. But everything seems to be going along fine.
“We have held a pre-application meeting with the planners and everything was good.
“The delay has been making the surveyors happy enough to enter certain parts of the building to carry out their survey. But that has been sorted now.
“It is all progressing very well, although not quite as fast as we would have liked.”