Rochdale’s greatest heritage asset gets National Lottery boost

Posted by on 9 May 2018

Image: Rochdale’s greatest heritage asset gets National Lottery boost

Plans to transform Rochdale Town Hall, one of the best examples of Victorian architecture in the country, have been given an initial boost after the Heritage Lottery Fund (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 Grade 1 listed building, which was opened in 1871 and is one of the country’s greatest heritage assets.

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 would 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 plans would increase visitor numbers to more than 60,000 each year and create a number of opportunities for local residents to get involved. Projects linked to the restoration will create an extensive activity programme, 366 volunteering opportunities, 10 new apprenticeships and three full time heritage jobs, which would be funded by HLF. Around 115 people would also pick up new qualifications as part of the project, including 30 students from the local Falinge Park High School, who will receive a recognised construction qualification.

Councillor Allen Brett, leader of Rochdale Borough Council, said: “This support is fantastic news for our borough. It means we can now put in motion plans for our most important building, which is unrivalled in its splendour and majesty, to be be restored to its former glory and, more importantly, opened up to the people of our borough and beyond.

“It’s fitting that the town hall, which is such a major part of our history, could now help bring the story of our great borough and its people right up to the modern day through the fantastic interpretation rooms and educational spaces which we propose to create as part of this project. We’ve been working with Rochdale Development Agency and our local community on this project to reinvent the town hall for future generations and the initial support of the Heritage Lottery Fund means we are one step closer to realising these fantastic plans.”

Around £250m has been invested in Rochdale town centre since 2010, with major projects like the re-opening of the River Roch, the opening of a new sixth form college, rated outstanding by Ofsted, and the creation of a new shopping and leisure development, Rochdale Riverside, all being delivered as part of an extensive regeneration programme.

The council and its partners will be investing around £25m into Rochdale’s heritage over the next five years on a number of projects, including the town hall restoration. A £3m revamp of Town Hall Square is also on the cards, alongside the redevelopment of the area around Drake Street, which was recently named one of Historic England’s ‘Heritage Action Zones’. The council is also supporting plans, recently submitted to HLF, to restore the Greater Manchester Fire Service Museum. A decision on their stage two bid, which will restore their 1930s building and create a brand new exhibition area, is expected in the summer.

The second stage bid for the town hall will be submitted in December 2019, with a final decision expected in April 2020. If funding is approved, the project is expected to be complete in summer 2023.

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