The first phase of a major project to restore and reopen Oldham’s historic Old Library has started.
The work will protect and preserve the Union Street building, ready for bringing it back into public use.
The Grade II listed building was originally constructed in 1883 to provide a free public library for the residents of Oldham. Soon after opening it was also extended to provide additional lecture theatre and gallery space to meet the requirements of the growing town.
However, in recent years there have been limitations on how the building could be used, and in 2017 all public access finally came to an end.
Cllr Arooj Shah, Oldham Council Leader, said: “This important refurbishment work is the start of an exciting new future for the Old Library. We know it has a special place in the hearts of many Oldhamers, and we are committed to bringing it back into public use and safeguarding it for future generations.
“We want to bring it back into use in a way that compliments the cultural quarter and celebrates Oldham’s history and heritage - but we’re open to suggestions on how exactly you would like to use the building in the future.
“We’ve received many fantastic ideas and suggestions through our Big Oldham Conversation consultation, and you can still tell us what you think at www.oldham.gov.uk/towncentre
“Your comments will help us shape more detailed plans so that very soon we can reopen the doors and put this iconic venue at the heart of the community once again.”
With extensive experience in this area, Tilbury Douglas, a leading UK building, infrastructure, engineering and fitout company are undertaking the works to restore the much-loved building.
The first phase of the works will create a safe space which can then be further developed. More detailed plans for the interior will be submitted following the Big Oldham Conversation on your new town centre - a community consultation currently taking place online and in person.
The Old Library is a key site in Oldham’s cultural quarter and sits beside Oldham Library and Gallery Oldham. The cultural quarter will also be boosted by a new theatre when the Old Post Office and former Quaker Meeting House are redeveloped, providing a new home for Oldham Coliseum.
The first phase of the works initially focus on the Old Library’s exterior, to prevent further deterioration and structural works to futureproof the building. There will be a new roof that will also reinstate the original 19th century design for the southern gallery, the external stonework will be cleaned using specialist treatments and, internally, moulds of the existing plaster will be taken for future replication.
The scheme, which was procured through the Procure Partnerships Framework, will have a strong focus on local employment and labour.
The project will also offer apprentice and work experience opportunities for specialist trades including stone restoration, timber repairs, lead working, roofing and zinc cladding. The site team have selected POINT from Oldham Council’s Mayoral Charities to focus their fundraising efforts and on Street Angels for their ‘Give a Day of Your Time’ activities.
Phil Shaw, Divisional Director for the North West at Tilbury Douglas, commented: “Being able to transform such an historic and important site into a new venue, which will add so much to the local community, is a real honour for the team working on this scheme.
“This is why we are focusing on ensuring the construction team also gives back to the local community through offering employment or learning opportunities.
“For example, the team recently delivered guest lectures on site management and behavioural safety to more than 100 Oldham College students, with similar initiatives planned over the next 18 months.”