Our first port of call the amazing Grade II* listed church of St John the Baptist.
Original design pre-1917 by Oswald Hill, executed in 1923-25 by Ernest Bower Norris of Manchester architects’ practice Hill, Sandy and Norris.
Mosaic scheme of 1932-33 by Eric Newton of Manchester company L Oppenheimer Ltd.
Ferro-concrete dome and barrel vaults, red brick with artificial stone dressings.
Early Christian Byzantine style.
Extensive restoration and repair work undertaken in 2022 has now been completed
Just across the way the old Fire Brigade Station
A feature of note is the hose drying tower – not a ladder practice tower – that rises to a height of 115ft and a reminder that in the day the canvas hoses used had to be dried out after use. There is a local story that the tower was deliberately of such a height to architecturally compliment the adjacent Catholic Church, completed some 10 years earlier and with an amazing dome but no tower!
Designed by the Borough Surveyor S H Morgan and his Assistant S G Eldred the station was formally opened by Alderman J Rodley JP on 3 May 1933, with the Mayor, Councillor J W Dutton JP present.
The Station is to be restored and opens in 2020 as a Fire Service Museum.
Let’s walk into town following the tram tracks past the former Rochdale Observer Offices.
Closed in 2009 as the Manchester Evening News Guardian Media Group consolidated its production base.
The building and surrounding area have been designated as Heritage at Risk by Historic England – and form part of a Heritage Action Zone.
Down the hill and across the way the delightfully traditional Sixties Italian Coffee Bar the legendary San Remo.
To the right of the town square the former Regal Cinema
The Regal Cinema welcomed its first patrons on 16th May 1938. It had been designed for Associated British Cinemas – ABC by architect Leslie C. Norton with ABC’s ‘in-house’ architect William R. Glen, and had a fine location in the northern town of Rochdale. With a total of 1,901 seats the Regal Cinema was re-named ABC in around 1962. It closed in January 1978 for tripling.
The new cinemas opened in March with screen 1 seating 538 and two rear stalls cinemas seating 281 & 199. The ABC was renamed Cannon in around 1986 but closed in October 1992.
It was then very expensively de-tripled and restored to its original appearance for bingo. This proved short lived however and the ground floor has now been turned into a pub by the J.D. Wetherspoon chain which opened on 20th November 1997, and is known as the Regal Moon.
Across the way a branch of Burton’s – sadly lacking its commemorative foundation stone.
Though way out of our period – one cannot ignore the looming presence of Rochdale Town Hall.
Widely recognised as being one of the finest municipal buildings in the country – built in the Gothic Revival style at a cost of £160,000 in 1871. The architect, William Henry Crossland, was the winner of a competition held in 1864 to design a new Town Hall. It had a 240 foot clock tower topped by a wooden spire with a gilded statue of Saint George and the Dragon, both of which were destroyed by fire on 10 April 1883, leaving the building without a spire for four years. A new 190 foot stone clock tower and spire in the style of Manchester Town Hall was designed by Alfred Waterhouse, and erected in 1887.
Missing are the Black Box and Bus Station of yore – by Essex, Goodman and Suggitt 1976.
Demolished in 2014.
Replaced by the award winning Number One Riverside – FaulknerBrowns Architects 2013.
Onward to the Magistrates’ Courts now closed and auctioned for £6,316.
Rhona Pointon, here on site in 1971 – oversaw the work of County Architect Roger Booth.
The adjoining Police Station – also by Booth, has recently undergone refurbishment.
Let’s bob on to see the Seven Sisters – towering majestically above the town.
Building contractors were Wimpey and the flats were designed by Rochdale’s Borough Surveyor, Mr W H G Mercer and Mr E V Collins who worked with George Wimpey and Company’s chief architect D. Broadbent.
On Friday October 1 1965 the Minister of Housing and Local Government, Richard Crossman, officially opened the first of the College Bank flats – Underwood.
Charles Donald Taylor – The Construction of College Bank Flats
Constantly under threat.
Of note is the one remaining example of ceramic entrance murals, the work of George and Joan Stephenson 1966 – lecturers at the Rochdale College of Art.
All six murals survived until around 1995, when the residents were asked to vote on whether or not to keep them, five out of six blocks voted to have them removed.
As of November 2109 – the College Bank Support Group is working with a group of architects to draw up alternative plans. RBH has said it will consider them if they are feasible and sustainable, as well as safe and genuinely affordable for tenants and residents.
Under the underpass to Lower Falinge Estate.
And finally around the corner to St Patrick’s RC Church.
A striking and effective design from the early 1960s by Desmond Williams & Associates. The robust interior is well-lit and serves its purpose effectively, but the church does not contain furnishings and artworks of particular note.
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