Rochdale Town Hall is without doubt a building of the highest level of national importance. Its Grade I listing places it the top 2.5% of buildings nationally and was described by the authoritative architectural historian Pevsner “one of the dozen most ambitious High Victorian town halls of England…of rare picturesque beauty, boasting splendid interior schemes”.
RDA undertook a major study to look at sustainable and appropriate future uses for the building following the council relocating services from the town hall into Number One Riverside in 2013. Since then, the RDA, working with Rochdale Council, Link4Life, the Friends of the Town Hall (FoRTH) group and the local community have continued to develop the plans to restore and revive the town hall and submitted a major bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
In May 2018, the HLF approved the first stage of an £8.9m bid. The £688,000 initial award means the council can now progress plans to restore and redevelop the building, which was originally opened in 1871.
The proposals include a full scale restoration of large sections of the building and its historic rooms and features, including the Great Hall’s Magna Carta mural, ceiling tiles and extensive stained glass windows. The outside of the building would also be restored, cleaned and better lit.
Sections of the building which are usually off limits to the public will be opened up for the first time to create a major visitor attraction which tells the story of Rochdale’s great history from the co-operative movement and cotton boom to the rich and diverse borough we have today.
Other major plans include the redevelopment of the old library on the second floor into the ‘Bright Hall’, a new space which would be used for small functions, as well as community and educational events.
Two new lifts and a brand new entrance would also be installed to make the whole building more accessible and welcoming.
The announcement also complements the extensive work already under way to enhance Rochdale’s unique heritage. The re-opening of the River Roch has shown the potential for the transformation of the area.
A £3m revamp of Town Hall Square is soon to get underway with the appointment of a landscape architect to transform the space and better ‘frame’ the town hall. The plan is to carry out works such as new paving and landscaping to complement the award winning river reopening scheme.
The plan will also improve the square’s links to other cultural and heritage buildings in the town centre including Touchstones, the Pioneers Museum and the recently announced ‘Heritage Action Zone’ that will see the redevelopment of the area around Drake Street up to the station in partnership with Historic England.