Public sees multi-million transformation of Rochdale Town Hall for first time

  • Video report by Granada Reports correspondent Andy Bonner

Visitors have been taking a look around one of the most historic buildings in the North West after a multi-million pound restoration.

The doors have reopened at the Grade I Listed Rochdale Town Hall after work costing £20 million, with a £8.9 million grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Opened in 1871, the town hall is one of the finest Victorian buildings of its kind in the country.

The intricate ceiling panels painstakingly restored Credit: ITV Granada

The town's newly elected MP George Galloway was at the opening and said the building was a "jewel" and part of the plan to make "Rochdale great again".

The council building has been closed since 2020 and will now operate as a tourist attraction for the first time in its 153 year history.

The scheme has restored many of the building’s historic features and created new community spaces in rooms, which were previously out of bounds to the public.

Teams of specialists, and more than 500 volunteers, have spent 4 years transforming the space and restoring it to its former glory.

Rochdale Town Hall stained glass windows Credit: ITV Granada

A number of the building's historic features include decorative ceiling panels and angels in the Great Hall, the Magna Carta mural, the extensive stained glass, painted surfaces and stonework have been painstakingly restored and cleaned.

Some of the most dramatic changes have taken place in the Great Hall, where specialists used a variety of equipment, including cotton wool buds, to restore the 350 panels which cover the room’s ceiling.

A visitor from Tunisia was asked for her first impressions.

"It's amazing. It's my first time being here, and I was, like, astonished of what I'm seeing right now."

She chatted to a local resident who was thrilled by the transformation.

"I remember how it was. And so this is so different. And yet I'm so proud of what we've achieved."

Years of grime had to be removed to reveal some of the building's intricate details, including English lions and Scottish thistle, which can be viewed for the first time in decades.

The Exchange and Grand staircase was built to allow people to exchange cotton goods and is the main entrance to the building.

The marble pillars and dramatic stone vaulted ceiling have been cleaned to create a lighter space.

Specialists worked alongside volunteers to restore the building Credit: ITV Granada

A permanent exhibition space, known as the Welcome Gallery, tells the story of Rochdale, its people and its past.

The first visitors were treated to the sounds of the Rochdale Music Service Fanfare, and the Bombay Raja brass band will bring Bollywood music to the event.

The intricate ceiling panels painstakingly restored Credit: ITV Granada

Councillor Neil Emmott, leader of the council, said: "It's been a long wait for our residents and I'm delighted that they will finally get to see their beautiful town hall, fully restored in all its glory."

"Rochdale Town Hall is probably one of the finest examples of neo gothic architecture in the country, but like many buildings this old, it was showing its age.

“Now, after four years of painstaking work, it looks incredible, just as it would have done when it first opened its doors well over a century ago."

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