Built as an integral part of an extension to the Ramsbottom Industrial and Provident Society’s estate; the theatre is a rare surviving example from the Co-operative movement.
- 53 Bolton Street, Ramsbottom, Bury, BL0 9HU
- Risk Rating
- 6 (Community Value: 1, Star Rating: 2, Risk Factor: 3)
- Local Authority
- Bury District Council
- Local Group
- Ramsbottom Co-op Hall Heritage Trust Ltd
- Private owner of freehold – Starcrest Developments Ltd, private owner of leasehold – Landa Corporation Ltd
- Bird and Whittenbury
- Date of Construction
- Grade II
- 800 (original)
- Database Link
- View in Theatres Database
Ramsbottom Co-op Hall was built in 1874-1876 when the Ramsbottom Industrial and Provident Society built a three-story extension alongside its existing 1863 building. The new extension was constructed to house shops on the ground floor with offices, stores and an entertainment hall above, seating 800 people. Designed by Bird and Whittenbury of Manchester it was the chief social and entertainment venue in the town.
The Co-operative movement pledged to make provision for education, culture and the arts. This included 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 was removed. In 1944, it was taken over by the Labour Exchange and has remained unused since.
The hall itself was typical of smaller music halls, with a long rectangular flat-floored room with rows of cast-iron columns supporting a gallery. 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, but only a handful of those of the 1850 to 1880 period now remain. 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.
Theatres Trust successfully applied to have the Co-op Hall listed Grade II in February 2021.
Why is this theatre at risk?
Ramsbottom Co-op Hall was added to the Theatres at Risk Register in 2021.
The building’s freehold is owned by Starcrest Developments Ltd. It has a long-term lease of 999 years dating back to 1862. The lease is currently owned by Landa Corporation Ltd, a development company, purchased in July 2019.
In June 2020, 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. Theatres Trust strongly opposed the application and recommended its refusal.
In September 2020, Bury 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.
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.
Campaign group, Ramsbottom Co-op Hall Heritage Trust Ltd was set up to raise awareness of the hall and to work to bring it back into community use.
The group was one of the recipients of Theatres Trust Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme in 2021, receiving £19,000 to commission a market appraisal and a building valuation survey. The market appraisal concluded that there is evidence of demand for performances, events, weddings, meeting room and workspace hire, and hires for community activity such as yoga and dance. It also developed an outline business model demonstrating financial viability.
The group was also successful in an Architectural Heritage Fund bid for an architectural feasibility study and associated cost report for the building, which was commissioned with the market appraisal. This report backed the findings of the market appraisal, concluding that a hybrid model was the most suitable approach for the building. The grant was also used to support governance and training.
Leasehold owner Landa Corporation Ltd supports and is in regular contact with Ramsbottom Co-op Hall Heritage Trust Ltd regarding the progress of the reports and gaining access to the building for surveys etc to take place.
In August 2022, Ramsbottom Co-op Hall Heritage Trust Ltd submitted a Community Ownership Fund application, requesting £250k to support the purchase of the building. Theatres Trust provided a review of the supporting business case. In December 2022, the group heard the bid was unsuccessful. The group will now need to look at alternative options for purchasing the building.
Theatres Trust will continue to advise and support the campaign group to ensure the preservation of this important theatre.
Main image from Ken Howarth www.heritagephotoarchive.co.uk, 1973. Interior Theatres Trust, 2017.