Oldham Area Civic Society

Oldham Town Hall crisis

In September, 2008, the Oldham Evening Chronicle revealed the dreadful neglect of  the old Oldham Town Hall with a story headed "Crumbling shame of our town hall"

The society immediately responded with this letter published on September 12, 2008.

Saving what we have

AS has been pointed out by many of your correspondents, the appalling state of disrepair into which the old town hall has fallen is a direct result of a complete lack of vision and action on the part of all OldhamÕs political parties for the past 30 years.

While it does not benefit anyone now to go over old ground, concerns have been expressed by Oldham Area Civic Society since its inception about the state of the fabric of the building and also the condition of many of its original fine features which sadly have not been cared for or protected from theft. Requests in recent years to visit the building to inspect have been turned down by Oldham Council on safety grounds but also, one suspects, out of embarrassment at the present condition of the building.

Oldham Area Civic Society also sought suggestions from Oldhamers for a future use for the building and submitted them to the regeneration department for their consideration in an attempt to generate a positive debate on the future of this fine building.

The old town hall occupies a prime site at the heart of Oldham town centre, facing the Parish Church, and while it is not as flamboyant as Rochdale Town Hall, its classic simplicity, from an earlier period, certainly has merit and is an iconic building which represents the whole town. It would be shameful not to make an attempt to preserve it and what remains of its original fine features which many Oldhamers remember with both pride and affection.

Oldham Area Civic Society would like to see the front facade and the main staircase preserved. It would seem it is too late to save the ballroom, but every effort should be made to retain other features to the rear of the building which apparently are not in such a bad condition, such as the Egyptian room and borough treasurer's hall. And what's happened to the stained glass windows? What plans are being made for work to be done to prevent further deterioration of this listed building?

The council claim they "have not any use for it". Isn't it about time they took a look outside Oldham at how other northern towns have attracted new life and new visitors to their centres with the conversion of fine old buildings (Titanic Spa in Huddersfield and Red Brick Mill in Batley) and conservation areas.

The proposal to put the new Coliseum theatre in the old town hall makes excellent sense and could well breathe new life into the centre of town. It is also a project which could attract the necessary large amounts of financial backing from national sources. What's needed is a bit of local oomph, both from the council, local businesses and all Oldhamers to show the determination and pro-active support for the project. Someone has already suggested forming a Friends of the Old Town Hall - that would be a start.

The fate and condition of the old town hall is part of a larger picture of the conservation and development of buildings in Oldham town centre and Oldhamers should remember that the old library and half of the Lyceum, both magnificent buildings, are also now empty. Is there any strategy in place to help preserve them and perhaps place them, together with the old town hall, at the heart of a conservation area in the centre of Oldham?

Finally, Oldham Council is asking Oldhamers what they want to see the building used for and which bits they would like to save. How about hearing from Oldham's planning department, the conservation officer and Oldham's heritage champion.


Contact Information

Oldham Area Civic Society

c/o Wyngate
Higher Hartshead

Tel: 01457 833148

Meeting times

All are welcome to attend our meetings, usually held at a town centre venue on the third Tuesday of each month.

Membership of the society runs from January 1-December 31, but new members joining after September 1 will have continuing membership until the end of the following year.

Membership fees:

Individual - £5

Joint - £7 (two or more at same address)

Concession (student/unwaged/OAP) - £3

Corporate (business) - £50 min

Corporate (community/voluntary) - £10