The historic Angel Hotel in the centre of Midhurst has embarked on a £750,000 refurbishment project which will see a major revamp of the oldest part of the hotel.
This week traders have welcomed the move and praised hotel proprietor Ian Webb and his staff for 'putting their confidence' in Midhurst as it faces a major recession.
And new hotel manager Glen Tanswell, who has been recruited to take the ambitious project forward, told the Observer: "This is an investment not just for the hotel, but for the whole town.
"We are going to be the first boutique hotel in the area and we hope we will bring people and business to Midhurst."
He said the plans for the 400-year-old hotel were aimed at safeguarding its future, enhancing facilities for visitors and providing accommodation.
The 750,000 project at the hotel includes upgrading of 15 en-suite bedrooms in the original part of the building and the neighbouring Tudor Cottage.
The first phase of the project, which has been under way for several weeks, is due to be completed this weekend when the new restaurant and bar will be unveiled to the public.
The familiar Georgian North Street facade will remain untouched during renovations but, said Mr Tanswell, 'the historic fabric of the original 17th-century inn will be repaired, maintained and safeguarded'.
The Old Court Room upstairs is to be preserved and used for
functions and private dining as well as by groups, societies and organisations in the town.
Under its new name of The Angel Restaurant and Hotel, the far-reaching revamp is expected to be completed by April.
"The front of the hotel is a real gem, but the newer parts at the back have been tacked on to the original building over many years," said Mr Tanswell.
"At various times these back buildings have been derelict; a brewery, a manager's flat and staff accommodation, only being turned into bedrooms in the early 1990s.
"The faade of the building at the back will remain unchanged – we are simply changing the inside layout and its uses."
Mr Tanswell, who owned his own restaurant in Gloucester and has worked in four and five-star hotels across the country, said he and his specially-appointed team wanted 'to create a leader in hospitality through the south-east'.
"This is a major boost for Midhurst," he said. "We are bringing something new to the area.
"We will always try to use local produce in our menus along with local seafood and meat reared on the South Downs."
Midhurst Chamber of Commerce business manager Simon Clark said: "It is very good to see a business having confidence in Midhurst and being prepared to make this kind of investment at a difficult time for traders."
* The hotel is giving people a chance to own a piece of history. On February 21 from 11am there will be an auction and table sale of everything from lamps totelevisions.
It is also donating bedding and furniture to charities in the area. Any charity interested in taking items should contact Mr Tanswell on 01730 812421.