Co-op Music Hall

Built as an integral part of an extension to the Ramsbottom Industrial and Provident Society’s estate, the theatre is a rare surviving example of a music hall from the 1850 to 1880 period.

Hrs 1294 ramsbottom co op and theatre buildings c1974 detail
Address
53 Bolton Street, Ramsbottom, Bury, BL0 9HU
Risk Rating
6 (Community Value: 1, Star Rating: 2, Risk Factor: 3)
Owner
Private
Architect
Bird and Whittenbury
Date of Construction
1876
Listing
Not listed (pending)
Capacity
800 (original)

Significance

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. Seating 800 people, it was the chief theatrical and social venue in the town.

Designed at a point when music halls were steadily moving away from the ‘supper room and promenade’ style with an open concert platform to a more theatrical configuration, the Co-op Hall contained a gallery around three sides with the fourth side containing the stage area with portable proscenium and scenery. The gallery together with decorative ironwork supporting columns still exists, as do the upper columns and hammer beams carrying the basket-arched roof trusses and original boarded ceiling complete with ornate cast-iron ventilator sunburners.

The 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. During the 1920s the hall was used by travelling theatre groups and players. The Co-operative Wholesale Society 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, although the balcony level tiering still remains. In 1944 it was taken over by the Labour Exchange and has remained unused since.

Music halls were once numerous everywhere, but only a handful of those of the 1850 to 1880 period now remain. The Co-op Hall therefore represents a historically significant building type. It is also believed important in the history of the Co-op.

Why is this theatre at risk?

Ramsbottom Co-o Music Hall is new to the Theatres at Risk Register in 2021.

In August 2020 development company Landa Corporation Ltd submitted a planning application to convert the upper levels of the building into apartments. The scheme would have seen the complete removal of the interior of the upper levels of the building, which would have resulted in the complete loss of the interior of this historically significant music hall. These types of buildings are rare in the UK and the Co-op Music Hall is intact and a well preserved, undivided example that retains nearly all its original features including paintwork. Should redevelopment be approved, either now or in the future, this music hall will be lost forever.

Ramsbottom Co-op Music Hall interiorTheatre potential

There is much of the original structure of the theatre remaining and the venue could be fairly easily restored. There has been previous interest for the theatre to be restored and reopened as a music venue.

Current situation

The music hall has been vacant for many years and there have been previous ambitions for redevelopment as residential, including a scheme in 1999 that would have seen the upper levels converted into flats.

The 2020 planning application also proposed converting the historic building into residential apartments. Theatres Trust strongly opposed the application and recommended its refusal. The building is also in the Ramsbottom Conservation Area.

In September 2020, Theatres Trust applied for the Co-op hall to be listed. In the same month, Bury Metropolitan Borough Council placed a Building Preservation Order on the building, thereby giving it the same status as a listed building for the next six months. A local authority can serve a Building Preservation Notice if it considers that a building has architectural or historic interest and is in danger of being lost. 

The planning application has since been withdrawn; however, the building is still considered extremely vulnerable. 

Update February 2021

Our application to Historic England was successful and Ramsbottom Co-op Hall is now listed at Grade II. Read our full statement.

Main image from Ken Howarth www.heritagephotoarchive.co.uk, 1973. Interior Theatres Trust, 2017.