Rochdale Town Hall, one of Greater Manchester’s most spectacular buildings, reopens

And it will be free to visit.

Daisy Jackson Daisy Jackson - 29th February 2024

Rochdale Town Hall is one of Greater Manchester’s most impressive and historic buildings – but until now, large parts of the building have been closed to the public. 

All that has changed this weekend when, following several years of careful restoration, the magnificent Grade I-listed giant threw open its doors. 

From Sunday 3 March, people are able to visit Rochdale Town Hall completely free of charge seven days a week (excluding Bank Holidays), exploring grand halls, historic offices, and impressive sweeping staircases. 

The landmark looms over the heart of Rochdale town centre, an easy walk from tram and train stations. 

Up until this year, spaces were available to book for events like weddings, and it was used for official business, but has never been properly utilised as a tourist attraction. 


It’s taken a 500-strong team of volunteers and teams of conservation specialists thousands of hours to bring it fully back to its former glory – they’ve carefully stripped away years of grime using cotton buds and other equipment to expertly bring life back to the ornate stained glass windows and historic features in almost every room. 

So what exactly is it like inside after its multi-million-pound refurb, you ask? Well it’s pretty damn impressive. 


The most breathtaking space of all is the Great Hall, where 350 hand-painted panels cover the vaulted ceiling, carved wooden angels hold lanterns, stained glass windows tower overhead, an enormous organ stands on the stage, and a huge Magna Carta mural covers one wall. 

It’s a room filled with red and gold patterns, including images of the English lions and Scottish thistle, and you might recognise these colourful walls from a little show called Peaky Blinders…

But before you even reach this point, there are wonders to behold. 


The Grand Staircase sweeps its way up from the ground floor – look up and you’ll see enormous stained glass windows documenting Rochdale’s place on the global stage. 

The Exchange will be used as the town hall’s main entrance, where different shades of granite and marble were used to make candy-striped ceilings, and craftsmen carved various flora and fauna into the stone pillars. 

Off here there’s a brand-new exhibition space, known as the Welcome Gallery, which tracks the timeline of the landmark, including the fire that destroyed its original clock tower (it was later re-designed by the legendary Alfred Waterhouse). 

There are also historic spaces, where the walls are covered not with wallpaper but with hand-painted patterns. These intricate designs have also been restored. 

In one room, you can see the history of the cotton industry in the paintings, from the Ancient Egyptians all the way up to the industrial era that Rochdale played such a huge part in. 


And as well as celebrating the historical features of Rochdale Town Hall, there are also new artworks that have been created with local community groups and schools, celebrating present day Rochdale.

Rooms which were formerly used by council staff and councillors have been turned into usable spaces for the public, like the new Bright Hall, which has double-height ceilings, angels along the walls, and a window overlooking the Great Hall from up high. The Bright Hall will now be available for community use and events.

When it officially reopens on Sunday 3 March, there’ll be bookable tours, longer opening hours, and new exhibition spaces for locals and visitors to explore.

And in a few months’ time, a brand new restaurant – The Martlet – will open, under the steer of executive chef Darren Parkinson who has honed his craft at some of the country’s best gastropubs. 

The whole building has been made fully accessible for the first time, and there are new heating systems and a sturdier roof in place to future-proof Rochdale Town Hall for decades to come.


Councillor Neil Emmott, leader of Rochdale Borough 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. 

“Not only will they see the town hall they know and love, looking as good as it would have when it first opened in 1871, but they will see brand new features, like the Welcome Gallery, which makes it an even better space than it was before. We can’t wait to welcome people back in.”

Councillor Janet Emsley, cabinet member with responsibility for Rochdale Town Hall, said: “Sunday 3 March will be a wonderful celebration, but it’s really just the beginning for our brand new town hall. Our new offer means that residents will be able to see it and enjoy it seven days a week. 

“We will soon be offering guided tours, alongside a full activity, events and education programme, which will be revealed soon. 

“We anticipate the opening day being very busy, so people who would prefer a quieter experience may wish to come along another day. This beautiful building certainly isn’t going anywhere and our new extended opening hours offer many opportunities to enjoy this special place.”


The huge project was made possible with funding support to the tune of an £8.9m grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

For its launch weekend, there’ll be activities at Rochdale Town Hall like rug tufting workshops, the roving Bombay Raja brass band, and a special puppet show by Fool’s Paradise. 

Pre-booking is now full but walk-ups are available, so, if you don’t mind a wait, you can head to Rochdale Town Hall between 10am and 4pm this Sunday to see the incredible spaces for yourself. 

For more information about the town hall, including opening times and upcoming events and activities, go to rochdaletownhall.co.uk.

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Featured image: The Manc Group