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Pupils at the Old Library Published: Thursday, 02nd June 2022

Primary school pupils have created their own bit of history at one of Oldham town centre’s best known buildings.

Youngsters from Knowsley Junior School, Springhead recently buried a time capsule in the historic Old Library on Union Street, which is currently being refurbished as part of a major project to bring it back into public use.

The Year 5 children have been taking part in a history project with staff from Gallery Oldham. In one workshop they were shown a time capsule that was discovered in 1974 following a fire at the old Tommyfield Market Hall.

The young people were able to examine two newspapers and a letter containing the names of the people who had buried it in 1904.

For their own time capsule, which was donated by Tilbury Douglas who are renovating the building on behalf of Oldham Council, the schoolchildren included self-portraits, a poem about Oldham in 2022 they had written, a list of their names, a Covid 19 test kit, a till receipt from Tesco, a school badge and a copy of a local newspaper.

The capsule is now hidden as part of the regeneration work on the Grade II listed building.

Councillor Amanda Chadderton, Leader of Oldham Council, said: “We are really pleased that work on the Old Library is well underway and it’s good that pupils, who will hopefully visit when the work is complete have been able to come and along and get involved in what we are doing.

“Burying a time capsule is a great way for the children to remember their visit and is something they can possibly tell their children about in years to come.”

Time capsule at Old Library


Originally built in 1883 to provide a free public library for the residents of Oldham, the building was later extended to provide a lecture theatre and gallery space to meet the requirements of the growing town.

Latterly it was superseded by Gallery Oldham and in 2017 all public access finally came to an end.

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 focuses 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.

Cllr Chadderton added: “The Old Library is special to many Oldhamers as they visited it when they were younger.

“We hope they will be pleased we are looking to bring it back into use.

“Our aim is to have a building that compliments the cultural quarter and celebrates Oldham’s history and heritage.”

Phil Shaw, Divisional Director, Tilbury Douglas, said: “It’s been a pleasure to welcome the students to site for them to witness the transformation of the Old Library. The project is significant for Oldham and because of the building's heritage, it’s entirely fitting that we bury a time capsule to celebrate.” 

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