Ramsbottom Co-operative Hall


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
51-53 Bolton Street, Ramsbottom, Bury, BL0 9HU


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Statutory Address:
51-53 Bolton Street, Ramsbottom, Bury, BL0 9HU

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Bury (Metropolitan Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


Co-operative hall, offices and shops, 1874 to 1876 to designs by Bird and Whittenbury for the Ramsbottom Industrial and Provident Society.

Reasons for Designation

Ramsbottom Co-operative Hall, of 1874 to 1876 to designs by Bird and Whittenbury for the Ramsbottom Industrial and Provident Society, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* the hall is similar in appearance to early music halls, but providing a venue for all manner of gatherings in line with the Co-operative Movement’s provision of education, including culture and the arts, to widen the perspective and opportunities of its working-class community; * the imposing, rock-faced stone building is architect-designed in a Romanesque style with the treatment of the second-floor windows and roundels indicating the presence of the substantial upper hall within;  * the functional planning remains as built, with access to the two ground-floor shops and basement cellars kept apart from the upper-floor hall and offices; * the original stone staircase rises to a lofty hall with cast-iron columns and a timber gallery to three sides, and a panelled wagon roof supported by Gothic side aisles of cast-iron and timber; * the interior retains decorative cast-iron columns, beam plates, and roof timbers and remnants of painted decoration to the roof panels and secondary staircase in the hall, also an impressive main staircase with a decorative balustrade.

Historic interest:

* the hall demonstrates the ambition and self-confidence of Ramsbottom’s working-class community in the later C19, nurtured through the principles of the Co-operative Movement which was particularly strong in the north-west of England; * as an early surviving example, pre-dating other known remaining Co-operative halls, which were built either in the late-C19, or more commonly, in the early C20.


Many of the earliest and grandest co-operative halls were to be found in the north of England, often identifiable externally by the double-height row of windows over ground-floor shops and usually with their own separate entrances. Their size meant they were the main focus of communal functions and money-raising, with a broad range of events promoted with the intention of attracting non-members as well as committed co-operators.

Ramsbottom Industrial and Provident Society was founded in 1858, drawing upon the experience of the neighbouring Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers. It thrived, and by 1876 there were 2,400 members. In 1874 construction began on the Co-operative Hall in Bolton Street. The Society had commissioned the architects’ practice of Bird and Whittenbury, of Manchester to design the building; Clifton Whittenbury (1846-1896) had been born in Ramsbottom. The new building, which had a rather Romanesque appearance, stood next to their co-operative store, dated 1862. It provided a large upper hall able to seat 800 people, together with cellarage, and butchers’ and grocers’ shops on the ground floor. The principal contractors were James Garnett and Robert Crowshaw, joiners and slaters; Mr Schofield, plumber, glazier, etc, and Mr Rothwell, painter. The total cost was £4,300. A stone staircase led up to the 50ft (15.2m) high Gothic hall, originally lit by twin 40-jet gas lights, with a gallery on three sides supported by cast-iron columns and fronted with gilded iron openwork (now - 2021 - removed). At one end was a raised stage, shown in an 1891 drawing in the Ramsbottom Observer, at which time the wall behind was decorated with the motto 'Unity is Strength' over a beehive. When the hall and shops opened in 1876 the adjoining premises were converted to house a library and newsroom, accessible via a new passage from the hall’s main staircase. Once opened the hall had assorted uses, including: variety acts of the kind commonly associated with music halls of the period, like Barrett and Rose 'Comedians, Speciality, with Buxton’s Pierrots' (1899); political meetings for factory operatives and weavers; public meetings; lectures; musical concerts; educational prize-giving ceremonies; Guild meetings, and Temperance services.

In the 1920s the hall was used by travelling theatre groups and players and perhaps at this time the walls were stencilled. During the 1930s the Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS) ran promotional films and smoking concerts (where men would smoke and discuss politics while listening to live music). It is likely that a second staircase was inserted to the rear of the building in the early C20; the stairwell has an iron fire door on the first floor with a plaque dated 13/4/1931. In the Second World War the hall was used as an army training centre and the seating was removed. It then became a Labour Exchange in 1944. An historic photograph thought to be taken in the 1940s shows the exterior of the building. At this time the hall entrance had a large lamp projecting over the doorway. The two adjacent shop fronts had awnings and stall risers incorporating cellar lights. The left-hand shop had a central, recessed doorway with large plate-glass windows; the right-hand shop had a recessed doorway to the left and a display window of five-over-five lights. The hall has remained unused since then. A photograph from the 1970s shows that at this time it retained a stage with a painted proscenium arch at the south end of the hall. This is no longer present.


Co-operative hall, offices and shops, 1874 to 1876 to designs by Bird and Whittenbury for the Ramsbottom Industrial and Provident Society.

MATERIALS: the building is constructed of sandstone with a slate roof.

PLAN: the building is approximately square and is built on land which slopes down steeply to the rear. It is of three storeys to the front elevation and five storeys to the rear, with additional basement and lower basement levels. The ground floor has two shops with a separate entrance and stair hall on the north side, the staircase rising to the second-floor hall. There is a second, later staircase in the south-east corner. The lower basement appears to originally have been divided into individual spaces with separate external doorways. The first floor is divided into offices and the second floor contains a large hall which rises into the roof space, with a gallery on three sides.

EXTERIOR: the building stands on the east side of Bolton Street, adjoining the former co-operative stores dated 1862 to the left and adjacent to a Baptist chapel dated 1861 to the right.

The front elevation is of three storeys, the upper storey particularly tall, and five bays. It is constructed of squared and coursed rock-faced stone with dressed ashlar stone dressings, with corner quoins, a flush sill band at first-floor sill level, moulded string courses at second-floor sill and window head levels, and a moulded eaves cornice and parapet. On the ground floor is a large, round-headed doorway on the left-hand side with a moulded ashlar door-case with a triangular pediment and a moulded, decorative console on the left-hand side. The doorway has two stone steps and panelled double doors with a multi-pane glazed overlight. To the right of the doorway are two replacement shop fronts. The left-hand shop has timber, panelled pilasters and fascia, with a central, recessed doorway with plate glass lights to each side and above set in a timber frame. The right-hand shop has a painted stone shop front with a recessed doorway to the left and a large, plate glass window. The first floor has five vertical rectangular windows in ashlar frames with chamfered sills and pedimented lintels. The windows have two-over-two pane horned sash timber frames. The second floor has a row of five moulded, round-headed ashlar frames encompassing vertical windows with shouldered lintels, and above, moulded bands and roundels. The vertical windows have three-pane timber casement frames. The central roundel has a multi-pane window frame; the other roundels are presently blocked up.

The south gable wall is constructed of squared and coursed rock-faced stone, with ashlar coping with a shaped kneeler on the right-hand side (rear elevation), and a truncated gable stack. Towards the front (west) side of the building there is a single-light vertical rectangular window at ground-floor level and set slightly to the left is a two-light mullioned window at first-floor level. They have square-cut ashlar sills and lintels and a square mullion to the first-floor window, with timber casement frames.

The north gable wall abuts the lower south gable wall of the adjoining former co-operative stores. It is similarly constructed with an ashlar coping and a shaped kneeler on the left-hand side (rear elevation). The visible upper wall is blind with two abutting tall stone stacks.

The rear elevation is of five storeys, with a lower basement and a basement and three upper storeys which equate to the ground floor, first floor and tall second floor of the front elevation. It is constructed of uncoursed rubble stone with quoins and ashlar dressings, including sill bands to the first- and second-floor windows. Those windows which remain unblocked have timber casements. Adjacent to the left-hand corner is a former doorway (possibly a taking-in door) with a timber sill and dressed, rounded-edge jamb stones, now partially blocked with a window at the building’s basement level with a square-cut sill and lintel. At lower basement level, to the right of the former doorway, is a wide bricked-up doorway with a stone lintel. To its right is a narrower doorway with a stone step and lintel and a timber plank and batten door; a blocked window and blocked doorway, and a boarded-up window and a doorway close to the right-hand corner. All have dressed stone jambs, the windows have stone sills and lintels and the doorways have stone lintels. At basement level there are seven windows including that in the former doorway. They have dressed stone jambs, square-cut sills and lintels and iron security bars. At ground-floor level there is a taking-in door (boarded-up) on the left-hand side with rounded-edge dressed jamb stones and square-cut sill and lintel. To its right are five taller vertical rectangular windows, mostly blocked-up. On the first floor there are six tall vertical rectangular windows and on the second floor there are five vertical windows with shouldered lintels and roundels above, all blocked.

INTERIOR: the lofty second-floor hall rises up to roof-level. It has a timber gallery structure on three sides supported along the east and west sides by cast-iron columns with high bases, stylised acanthus leaf capitals and decorated beam plates. The columns support the gallery's timber front plate and one end of horizontal bracing beams, the other end being supported on moulded timber wall corbels. An upper tier of similar cast-iron columns is placed directly over the lower columns and supports the panelled wagon roof structure. Between the upper columns are round-headed timber arches forming five-bay arcades in line with the east and west walls. Horizontal bracing beams in the outer aisles run between the columns and moulded timber wall corbels. Raking struts also rise from the columns to the rafters in the aisles and large curved braces rise from the columns to the rafters over the main floor space. Above the main floor space there are horizontal iron rods running between the outer ends of the bracing beams, with central vertical rods providing additional support. Many of the roof timbers are chamfered and stopped. The plastered roof panels have remnants of painted decoration and the second and fourth flat apex panels have decorative circular cast-iron ventilators (originally combined with gas sunburners). The gallery retains the timber raked staging on which the seats were originally set with the exception of two bays at the southern end of the west side of the gallery where it has been removed. In the north-east corner there is a raked, timber dividing baffle separating two surviving rows of curved bench seating. The remaining seats have cast-iron legs and back supports with shaped timber seats and two horizontal back rails. Beneath the gallery in the north-west corner is the enclosed top landing of the original staircase, with two sets of double doors with moulded architraves opening into the hall. There are also two boxed-in timber staircases (now - 2021 - partially collapsed) rising against the north wall to the gallery. In the south-east corner is the enclosed secondary staircase, which rises up to the gallery level, where it also incorporates a ladies’ lavatory. The plastered brick stairwell wall partly subsumes the cast-iron columns between the first and second bays and retains fragments of painted stencilled decoration. These include bands of stylised anthemion and Greek key ornamentation. There are also the fragments of a band of double black lines running around the hall at ground-floor level. Double doors with upper lights of textured glass open off the stair well onto the main floor and the gallery above. A number of the roundel windows, which are at gallery level, have decorative cast-iron safety railings.

The main staircase is dog-leg with half landings and is enclosed in a stair well. It has stone cantilevered steps with a turned and moulded newel post with a ball finial in the entrance hall and a moulded, swept timber handrail with decorative cast-iron balusters incorporating a scrolled motif between two verticals. The inner wall has moulded skirting boards. On the first-floor landing there is a four-panelled door with a moulded architrave to the left, formerly opening into the adjoining co-operative stores, and a door to the right with two lower timber panels and an upper light with geometric leaded, textured and coloured glass, now broken but retaining the letter O of Office. The door frame has a rectangular, two-pane overlight. The landing wall is painted with a pointing hand and the sign GENERAL OFFICES / & BOARDROOM, and added above, CHECK OFFICE.

The secondary staircase is a dog-leg with half landings and is enclosed in a stair well with a central, plastered brick wall between the flights. It has concrete steps and simple timber handrails attached to the walls. Painted on the stair walls are two signs with pointing hands and LADIES / LAVATORY pointing towards the lavatory at gallery level. On the first floor the segmental-arched doorway has an outer sliding metal fire door with a maker’s plaque with the date 13/4/1931.

The first floor has three rows of cast-iron columns with simple Tuscan-type capitals supporting chamfered and stopped timber beams running north-south. A number of columns have reinforcing I-shaped rolled steel joists (RSJ) fixed between the columns at right-angles to the timber beams. They are supported below the column capitals on bolted corbel collars. The floor is sub-divided into rooms by timber-framed partitions with timber panels to dado-height and rows of multi-paned glazing above up to ceiling-height, some of the lowest rows glazed with textured glass. The rooms open off corridors formed by the partitions; the doors have two lower timber panels and an upper light of clear or textured glass. The ceiling has tongue-and-groove boarding.

The ground floor has two separate shops (not inspected internally).

The basement and lower basement were not inspected internally.


Books and journals
Pearson, Lynn, England's Co-operative Movement An Architectural History, (2020), 11-13
Co-operative Hall, Ramsbottom, on the Architects of Greater Manchester 1800-1940 website, accessed 14/12/2020 from https://www.manchestervictorianarchitects.org.uk/buildings/co-operative-hall-ramsbottom


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

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