FWP plays major role in iconic town hall renovation

02 Apr 2024

FWP Rochdale Town Hall

The restoration of one of the North West’s finest historic buildings has been unveiled after more than four years of hard work – with Preston headquartered FWP playing a leading role in the success of the project.

The result is the spectacular transformation of Rochdale Town Hall, the iconic Grade I Listed building which has stood proudly in the town centre since 1871.

FWP has been a member of the team tasked with delivering the restoration since 2019, working with Rochdale Development Agency (RDA) and acting as quantity surveyor and cost manager throughout the project, to ensure that it remained within budget.

The scheme, which has restored many of the building’s historic features and created new community spaces in rooms which were previously out of bounds to the public, began in 2020 when the town hall closed its doors to allow experts to get to work.

The work has been supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund with an £8.9m grant. The building opened its doors to the public this month.

They have witnessed a dramatic transformation. Some of the biggest changes have taken place in the Great Hall, where specialists used a variety of equipment, including cotton wool buds, to painstakingly restore the 350 panels which cover the room’s ceiling.

Now, hundreds of beautiful designs in red and gold can be viewed for the first time in decades.

In the Exchange, at the main entrance to the building, Minton floor tiles, which depict a hanging fleece and other insignia of Rochdale, have been repaired.

The elaborate vaulted ceiling and sweeping staircase in granite and marble, have been cleaned and restored. Stained glass windows, painted surfaces and wood panelling and furniture throughout the building have also been brought back to their former glory.

One of the standout features of the restored town hall is the creation of new community spaces in areas of the building which were previously completely closed from public view.

On the first floor, a room which was previously used as office space has had years of unsympathetic additions, including partition walls and a mezzanine floor, removed to reveal a double height ceiling, angels along the walls and a previously hidden window with views directly down into the Great Hall.

This room, named the ‘Bright Hall’ after the late Rochdale born MP and social reformer, John Bright, will be used by community groups and for events.

On the ground floor, a room which was previously used for council meetings has been transformed into a permanent exhibition space, known as the Welcome Gallery, which tells the story of Rochdale, its people and its past, through objects, interactives and imagery.

In addition to the aesthetic changes, crucial additions, including more lifts and entrances, have made the building fully accessible for the first time, so everyone can enjoy the space.

Other major changes, such as the repair of the roof and the installation of new, more efficient heating systems, will also help future proof the building, so it can continue to be enjoyed for decades to come.

A multi-million pound revamp of Town Hall Square has accompanied the work inside, with new seating, decorative paving and landscaped areas framing the building and creating a new events space.

FWP has built a strong reputation for its expertise on sensitive restoration and regeneration projects and used all that knowledge to help deliver the Rochdale Town Hall project.

With offices in Preston, Manchester and London, FWP has extensive experience in project and cost management across a wide range of sectors. its work covers all aspects of construction, from cost management to architecture and masterplanning.

The FWP Rochdale Town Hall team was led by Kate Shuttleworth, a partner at the firm. A fully qualified Chartered Quantity Surveyor, she has been in the construction industry for more than 30 years, providing both cost and project management services on a wide range of private and public sector schemes.

Kate said: “We’re extremely proud of the role we have played in the restoration of Rochdale Town Hall, a truly iconic building treasured by the local community.

“The result of the work is truly spectacular and marks the start of a new chapter for a building that is the subject of so much civic pride. 

“As well as protecting the heritage of the town hall, the project has opened up the building to the community for generations to come.

“It has been a privilege to have played a part in turning the vision for this special building into reality.

“Throughout what has been a complex project, FWP has looked to foster close working relationships with all members of the delivery team, with clear communication and full reporting at the heart of the process.”

FWP is also involved with a further grant application for the National Lottery Heritage Fund to support the Broadfield Park Slopes scheme, which aims to create a historic landscape setting in the heart of Rochdale, to the rear of the iconic building.

As well as Rochdale, FWP has also helped successfully deliver a number of National Trust and National Lottery Heritage Funded-supported conservation, restoration and regeneration programmes over the last five years.

These include the award-winning transformation of the medieval Fratry at Carlisle Cathedral – another complex project on a sensitive site.

The development, which included essential conservation work, has brought the historic building back to life, making it a cultural hub in the city centre. FWP acted as project manager and quantity surveyor.

Its impressive portfolio also includes the restoration of Rivington Terraced Gardens on the edge of the West Pennine Moors and work on the Walton Hall Estate, near Warrington, which has included returning its spectacular glasshouses to their former glory.

FWP led on the challenging restoration of the Victorian market canopies in the heart of its home city of Preston. The much-loved listed structures underwent extensive refurbishment as part of the regeneration work taking place in the historic Harris Quarter.

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