Why is my Holly Tree dying

My holly tree is probably 20 years old possibly more.  Last year it started to show signs of leaves going brown and dying then falling off like a decidous tree.  There was also a black weaping on the trunk.  We removed dead branches but no sign of disease inside branches.  It continued to fruit and sprout new leaves and branches. We put it down to dry 2011.  In last 2 months a huge number of branches further up the tree have died and same has happened.  No obvious sign of pests within the leaves (under or in).  There has been no change of soil or environmental factors or adjacent planting. Have photos but image too large for uploading forum says.  Books no help.  Can anyone suggest anything as is a lovely tree and would be sad to lose it but looks like will have to chop it down if cannot sort this out.

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