The Ramsbottom Co-op Hall was built in 1876 when the Ramsbottom Industrial and Provident Society built a three-storey extension alongside its existing (1863) building. The new extension was constructed to house shops on the ground floor with offices, stores and a music hall above. Designed by Bird and Whittenbury of Manchester and was the chief theatrical and social venue in the town, the hall was to seat 800 people and cost £4,300.
The upper floor hall was originally used for variety entertainment of the kind commonly associated with music halls of the period as well as lectures, Guild meetings, Temperance Services and grand concerts. Adverts at the time support these activities. During the 1920s the hall was used by travelling theatre groups and players. The Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS) ran promotional films and smoking concerts in the 1930s. During World War II it was used as an army training centre and the seating removed. In 1944 it was taken over by the Labour Exchange and has remained unused since.
Externally the building is constructed of Ashlar. Three storeyed range facing Bolton Street with 5 original uniformly placed timber sliding sash windows at first floor. The second floor features roundels over casement windows. Eaves cornice and blocking course, along with Quoins, chimneys, pitched slate roof and shopfronts across ground floor (later) are all features. Entrance to hall features gabled cornice, corbel, circular fanlight and original timber doors.
The hall was approached by a stone staircase directly from the Bolton Street featuring decorative metal scrolled balustrade and stained mahogany handrail. The auditorium had a full gallery around three sides, the side tired ranges with arcades of decorative cast-iron columns with moulded arch braces to hammer beams carrying basket-arched roof trusses and a boarded upper ceiling with ornate cast-iron ventilator sunburners. The balcony had gilded panels of open ironwork (now stored on site). The fourth side contained a stage area. The hall was 54 feet x 51 feet x 50 feet high. The original decoration was a French grey colour with the walls stencilled with co-operators’ symbols and mottos – the beehive and the wheatsheaf etc. The furniture was pitched pine which was stained and varnished. The hall was lit by two gas sunburners.
At first floor, the original mahogany panelled offices survive featuring glazed and timber partitions. The ceiling was finished in tongue and groove panelling and supported by cast-iron columns. The doors feature leaded glass work.
The theatre room itself was typical of smaller music halls, in that it was a long rectangular flat-floored room. In the 1870s music halls were steadily moving away from the ‘supper room and promenade’ style, with an open concert platform, to a more theatrical configuration with rows of benches and a simple proscenium stage and galleries. It is known that the Co-op Hall had a portable proscenium and scenery, which suggests a mid-point transitional form. Music halls were once numerous everywhere, but only a handful of those of the 1850 to 1880 period now remain to be seen. The Co-op Hall represents a historically significant building type of a provisional nature. It must also be important for the history of the Co-op.
- 1876 Design/Construction:Bird & Whittenbury (Manchester)- Architect
- 1876 Owner/Management: Ramsbottom Industrial & Pimclant Society
- ListingIICommentListing submitted by Theatres Trust