Contractor appointed as first phase of town hall restoration forges ahead

Rochdale Town Hall

A multimillion-pound project to restore Rochdale Town Hall, hailed as one of the best examples of Victorian gothic architecture in the country, gets under way this week.

The Grade I-listed masterpiece, which is well known across the country and is often used as a filming location, is set to be transformed over the next few years following a successful bid to the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The first crucial stage of work will be undertaken by Whitefield-based contractors, HH Smith, who were selected at the end of last year following a competitive tendering process.

HH Smith will carry out critical work over the next six months including electricals, drainage, wiring, and the stripping out of modern additions, like mezzanine floors and MDF partitions, which are not in keeping with the character of the building.

This work will get the town hall ready for the next phase of regeneration, which will see teams of conservation specialists lovingly restore the building’s many heritage features, including the magna carta mural and ceiling panels in the great hall, the stained glass windows, and the ornate wood carvings.

As well restoring the town hall’s first class historic features, the project will create brand new spaces in parts of the building which have never before been open to the public.

These include the creation of a small ‘bright hall’, to complement the great hall, which could be used for celebrations and community events, and the creation of a brand new exhibition space in the reception rooms, which will tell the story of Rochdale and its people.

A host of volunteering and training opportunities for local residents will also be created as part of the restoration, including a brand new heritage skills conservation studio, to be set up in the basement, which will offer up to 15 people the opportunity to train in the skills of conservation heritage, including stained glass and ornate woodwork restoration.

The local benefits will be felt very quickly, with the team at HH Smith committing to delivering to five work placements. They are also looking to ensure that 65% of the workforce employed on the contract live within five miles of Rochdale.

In addition to this, they will also contribute to the cost of the heritage skills conservation studio.

Cllr John Blundell, cabinet member for a thriving economy at Rochdale Borough Council, said: “I’m delighted to see this incredibly exciting project ready to get under way just as we start a brand new year.

“The town hall is an important building which has a special place in the hearts of many Rochdalians. It’s served us well for 150 years and this work will ensure it will serve our residents and visitors for another 150 and many more.

“I’m really pleased that a Greater Manchester company will be working with us to deliver this first key stage of work and I can’t wait to see how this project develops.”

The town hall will reopen to the public some time in 2023.

Rob Smith, construction director at HH Smith, said: “To be able to demonstrate our restoration capabilities so close to home is a privilege and we welcome the opportunity to provide the many additional social benefits within the local community.”

The town hall restoration project is being delivered by Rochdale Development Agency on behalf on Rochdale Borough Council and the consultants working on the town hall project are: Donald Insall Associates, Conservation Architects; Max Fordham, MEP Engineers; Frank Whittle Partnership, Cost Managers; Price and Myers, Structural Engineers; Focus Consultants, Business Planners; Redman Design, Interpretation and Exhibition Designers; The Heritage Angel and Minerva Heritage, Activity Planners.