Plans to redevelop Rochdale’s Greater Manchester Fire Service Museum are firing on all cylinders, with the National Lottery approving a £1.7m grant to transform the space.
The success of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) bid, means the museum, which is currently located in a workshop in the grounds of Rochdale’s old fire station in Maclure Road, can now move into the fire station itself, a 1930s art deco building, which will be restored and turned into a major visitor attraction.
In a further boost for the scheme, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, which owns the fire station, has gifted the building to the council, which supported the bid, to enable more money to be ploughed into the project.
The money will help create a brand new exhibition space on the ground floor of the building, which will take the museum’s floor space from around 200 square metres to over 1,200 square metres.
The proposals will also enable the museum to increase its opening hours, which could boost visitor numbers from 5,000 to 15,000 a year.
A new café and education centre will be built to support more school visits and paid posts will be created to help manage the museum, which is currently staffed by volunteers.
The council is also looking to create office space in the building to support small businesses, in a move which could create 100 jobs and be worth £40m to the local economy over the next ten years.
Nathan Lee, Head of HLF North West said: “It’s fantastic news that thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, we are able to support the restoration of this wonderful 1930s fire station and bring it back into community use as a museum dedicated to telling the story of one of the most important public services in Greater Manchester.”
Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “I’m very pleased to support the development of this fantastic project in Rochdale. The revitalised Rochdale Fire Station will breathe new life into this important town centre gateway and be a catalyst, along with other projects like the Heritage Action Zone, for the borough’s on-going regeneration and development.”
Councillor Janet Emsley, cabinet member for culture and neighbourhoods at Rochdale Borough Council, said: “It’s great to see both the National Lottery and the Mayor investing in the future of our borough in this way. With their generous support, we will create a fantastic visitor experience right in the heart of Rochdale which will celebrate the long and proud history of the Greater Manchester Fire Service and complement our wider cultural offer, which also includes Touchstones and the Pioneers Museum.”
Councillor Allen Brett, leader of Rochdale Borough Council, said: “This is yet more good news for Rochdale, as we near the end of our £250m transformation programme and get ready to embark on our next phase of regeneration, which will see us invest a further £150m.”
Bob Bonner, the curator at the museum, said: “This is the news we have all been waiting for and means we can fulfil our dream to relocate the museum into the right setting, the wonderful Maclure Road Fire Station.
“It’s a fantastic endorsement of all the hard work done by the volunteers here over the last 35 years and we are all looking forward to seeing the project come to fruition.”
The council and museum trust will now start the process of appointing architects and designers, with work expected to start in summer 2019. The brand new museum is due to open to the public in summer 2020.
There will a number of opportunities for residents to volunteer as the project progresses and enjoy behind the scenes tours.
Image shows an impression of how the museum may look. Picture provided by GMFRS.