Donald Insall Associates appointed to lead multi-million pound restoration of Rochdale Town Hall

  • | Donald Insall Associates

The £16m redevelopment of Rochdale’s Grade I-listed town hall has taken a major step forward with the appointment of Donald Insall Associates to lead the transformation of one of the best examples of Gothic architecture in the country. The appointment follows a successful round one bid to the The National Lottery Heritage Fund (formerly the Heritage Lottery Fund) for £8.9m.

The project, due for completion in 2023, will restore the famous landmark’s many historic features, including the magna carta mural and ceiling panels in the great hall and its extensive stained glass windows. The Gothic masterpiece, which was once at the heart of civic life in the borough but is now used mainly for functions, will also be brought back into use for the public, with interpretation set to tell story of Rochdale and its people.

The old library on the first floor, which was more recently used as office space, will also be restored and re-opened for community use as the new Bright Hall, in honour of prominent industrialists and radical politicians, the Bright family.

A series of access improvements, including the installation of new lifts and toilets, will open up the spectacular space and make it more accessible to the public than ever before.

Councillor John Blundell, cabinet member for regeneration at Rochdale Borough Council, said: “The town hall is a place of majesty and beauty, which is renowned across the country. For that reason, we set the bar extremely high when selecting specialists to lead its restoration. A building so special needs the absolute best and we’re confident we’ve got the calibre here to make this critical project a huge success.”

Tony Barton, Chairman of Donald Insall Associates, said: “Rochdale Town Hall is one of our great, internationally important civic buildings which has served the people of the borough for 150 years. Our team is proud to have been selected to help deliver this important project to provide a world class focus for residents and visitors as part of the council’s on going transformation of the area.”

The appointment comes weeks after global landscape designers, Gillespies, were appointed to lead the £3m redesign of Town Hall Square, which surrounds the town hall. Gillespies, who will be working alongside Donald Insall Associates and the rest of the team, are planning a complete redevelopment of the space to better frame the town hall by creating a stunning public realm to rival the best public squares in Europe.

Interiors of Rochdale Town Hall. Images courtesy of Rochdale Borough Council.

About Rochdale Town Hall

Grade I listed Rochdale Town Hall in Greater Manchester was described by Pevsner as “one of the most ambitious High Victorian town halls of England”. The building is the work of nationally significant architects, designers and craftsmen: Architect William Henry Crossland; Alfred Waterhouse, also the Architect of Manchester Town Hall and the Natural History Museum in London; Heaton, Butler and Bayne (glass makers); Henry Holiday (painter and stained glass artist); Thomas Earp (among the best stone carvers of his generation).

The principle elevation of Rochdale Town Hall survives almost as it was in 1887, when Waterhouse’s tower was completed after the fire of 1833. Crossland’s vision for a unified interior and exterior scheme made this building one of the most elaborate examples of heraldic decoration of all Victorian town halls. The Magna Carta mural by Henry Holiday is ahead of its time and forms part of an art historically significant interior ensemble. Similarly, the theme of other pictorial decorations showing industrial processes and working people are extremely rare within Victorian fine art.