Crowds flock as Rochdale Town Hall reopens to the public

Visitors to Rochdale Town Hall.
More than 2,500 people joined in the celebrations as Rochdale Town Hall reopened its doors to the public for the first time in 4 years.

Published: 6 March 2024

More than 2,500 people joined in the celebrations as Rochdale Town Hall reopened its doors to the public for the first time in 4 years this weekend.

Thousands of visitors from all different walks of life packed into the Grade I listed building, eager to see the results of The National Lottery Heritage Fund supported restoration project first hand.

The iconic building, which first opened in 1871, closed its doors back in 2020 as experts and more than 500 volunteers got to work bringing its historic features back to their former glory. The teams restored a number of key areas throughout the building, including the ceiling panels and angels in the great hall, stained glass, stonework and wooden surfaces, alongside the Minton floor tiles.

Visitors can now explore spaces which have been off limits to the public for a number of years

In addition, spaces which had previously been off limits to the public are now open for all to see. These include the Bright Hall, a former office space which has had its partition walls and mezzanine floor carefully removed, before being fully restored. It can now be booked for community use and small events.

On the ground floor, a room which was used for meetings of council staff and councillors has now been turned into a permanent exhibition space, the Welcome Gallery.

A pop up café has also been created on the first floor, while the final touches are being made to the permanent restaurant, The Martlet, which is expected to open on the ground floor in May.

As well as exploring the building, visitors from Rochdale and beyond got to enjoy puppet shows and music from the Rochdale Music Service Fanfare and the Bombay Baja Brass band as they made their way around the spectacular space.

Dave Mendes Da Costa and his wife Miranda Roszkowski came all the way from Halifax with their 10 month old daughter Jessie to have a look.

“We’ve never been here before and we’re really impressed"

Dave said:

“We’ve never been here before and we’re really impressed. It’s absolutely stunning and I love the way Rochdale’s history is depicted throughout the building. I really like the new additions too, the careful mix of the old and new.”

Uzma Khan, from Norden, said:

“I got married in the Great Hall, so I have a really personal connection to this place. I’ve brought my 10 year old daughter along today and she thinks it looks amazing. Her school were involved in a project related to the stained glass work and she really enjoyed it. We’re so proud to live in Rochdale and have this building. It’s just looks stunning what they’ve done with it.”

“There’s clearly a huge amount of excitement and buzz around Rochdale Town Hall, which is great to see"

Councillor Janet Emsley, cabinet member with responsibility for Rochdale Town Hall, said:

“It’s been wonderful to see so many different people coming to see the town hall today. There’s clearly a huge amount of excitement and buzz around it and it’s fantastic to see. I’ve heard many stories today from people who have a personal connection to this place, including a woman whose mother came here to speak up for immigration rights in the 1970s, and a man who got married here and later held his wife’s wake here. In making this building more accessible than ever before, this project has ensured that many more people can make their own memories in this building and it can play an even bigger role in our future than it did in our past.”

Eilish McGuinness, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Heritage Fund said:

“It is wonderful to see this magnificent building now open to the public. As the UK’s largest funder of heritage, we believe in the power of historic buildings to ignite the imagination, offer joy and inspiration, and to build pride in place, and Rochdale Town Hall is a perfect example of that.

"The town hall has been part of Rochdale’s story for over 150 years, and is already a treasured building, so I am delighted that National Lottery funding has helped restore and protect its spectacular heritage, made the building fully accessible for the first time, and created new community spaces, ensuring that Rochdale Town Hall continues to be valued, cared for and sustained for everyone, now and in the future."

Visitor experience volunteer, Sue Burke, said:

“I’ve been in the town hall before for the odd event but never really seen it properly, but my eyes were opened when I went on one of the scaffold tours during the restoration work. It’s such a beautiful building and has a fascinating history, so when I retired and got some more free time, I wanted to get involved. The reaction from the public today has been great. I’ve spoken to people whose parents met here at dances in the 1950s, people who worked here many years ago and people who did work on the building in the past. Everyone is really enjoying being here in our much improved town hall.”

The town hall is now open 7 days a week and people will soon be able to book guided tours

The town hall is now open 7 days a week (apart from Bank Holidays) for people to pop in, look around and enjoy tea and coffee in the cafe. Opening times are 10am to 4.30pm on weekdays and 10am to 4pm at weekends. Visitors who would like a more in depth experience will be able to book onto guided tours within the next few weeks.

The town hall restoration was supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, and delivered by Rochdale Development Agency (RDA) on behalf of Rochdale Borough Council.

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