Inside the iconic former Grand Theatre in Oldham town centre

Date published: 08 March 2023

A photographer from Oldham has documented the interior of one of the town’s most recognisable buildings.

The former Grand Theatre building on Union Street has been empty since the Rainy City Roller Derby Team left in 2020 but now photographer Chris Maybury from Oldham has investigated what’s left of the building interior.

Chris, who goes by the name of Razor, is one of an army of ‘Urban Explorers’ who document abandoned sites across the UK.

“I have been exploring abandoned places for three years now.” Chris told the Chronicle.  “The appeal and interest of exploring these places is rediscovering hidden history and being adventurous and creative in my photography and filming.

“To able to share these photos and videos by documenting them for everyone else to see and bring back great memories,  almost gives it a new sense of life in these places once more - even if just for a brief moment in time.”

The Grand Theatre opened in 1908, and was designed by architects Thomas Taylor and Ernest Simister who also designed Chadderton Town Hall.

The building was completely redesigned by Gaumont Super Cinemas in 1937 when the site was re-opened by comedian George Formby.

Before the indoor roller derby centre, the building was home to Riley’s Snooker Club, and before that, to Butterflies nightclub (previously Romeo & Juliet’s).  It also housed Frogger’s nightclub, and spent some years as a bowling alley in the early 1970s.

Chris says to explore a building in his own town was extra special.

“I've heard stories of this place and many times have passed only to wonder what it was like.  To see the clock tower and the overview of Oldham’s night life was a dream come true.

”I have visited few places also in Oldham -  from the Livingstones nightclub to the Prudential Assurance building with the underground Holy City Zoo night club, to  the old NatWest Bank.

“It's such a shame to see such once amazing buildings been left to ruin and decay some which hold great history and memories within Oldham.”

Whilst – strictly speaking – entering disused buildings could be treated as trespass, Chris is keen to point out that if he was ever asked to leave a building, he would do so.

“I never force entry or break in, and never vandalise or steal, as that is when it becomes criminal matter.  I only ever take the photos and footage and never disturb the site.  It’s about gaining memories of your experience, which I always promote in my videos.”

The images show the former roller derby centre, now with the specialist flooring removed, and lights hanging from the ceiling.

The area formerly filled by Riley’s Snooker club shows damaged and rotting furniture, disused bars, and even a full-sized pool table – now unusable.

The building has remained unused since 2020 when the Rainy City Roller Derby Team were advised that the property owner had accepted an offer from Oldham Council to buy the property. As part of that sale, the landlord must demolish the venue.

However, the building still stands at the top of Union Street, complete with its chequered and diverse history.

You can see all the photos on Chris’s Facebook page here.

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