Old Oldham library cgi interior Oldham Council p planning documents

The exterior of the Old Library will be retained, but the interior of the building will be transformed for modern use. Credit: via planning documents

Oldham’s Old Library set for new chapter

Designs by Ellis Williams Architects bring a series of meeting rooms, a council chamber, an art gallery, and a theatre into the grade two-listed building off Union Street.

Oldham Council had listed the Old Library plot as a key component of its Creating A Better Place regeneration programme. The local authority’s plans for the Old Library focus on bringing it back into public use and improving its energy efficiency credentials without sacrificing its heritage features.

The 34,800 sq ft Old Library dates to 1883. It was a public library for more than 130 years, and was replaced by the Oldham Library & Lifelong Learning Centre in 2006. Public access to the Old Library stopped in 2017, and the building has been vacant ever since.

The submitted plans showcase phase two of the council’s Old Library revamp. The first phase, which sees main contractor Tilbury Douglas repairing and restoring the structure of the building, began last year.

Old Oldham library cgi atrium on ground floor Oldham Council p planning documents

A glass lift will be a central figure in the atrium of the building, shown here on the ground floor. Credit: via planning documents

Oldham Council Leader Cllr Amanda Chadderton praised the planning application submission of phase two of the Old Library project.

“This building has been special to many hundreds and possibly thousands of Oldhamers and it is yet another exciting milestone in its restoration to see the architects’ drawings as part of the planning submission,” she said.

“The visuals show a building that retains features of a hugely important part of our history along with providing a modern, useful and sustainable place for everyone in the town to make good use of.”

Old Oldham library cgi flex conference room Oldham Council p planning documents

A flexible conference room, that could double as a council chamber, at the Old Library. Credit: via planning documents

Dominic Williams, director at Ellis Williams Architects, shared his approach to giving the Old Library a new use.

“We recognise the importance of the Old Library building to the local community and understand that it has a special place in the hearts of many local residents,” he said.

“With that in mind, the newly refurbished building will celebrate Oldham’s cultural heritage whilst providing a range of exciting new community facilities including theatre workshops, meeting rooms, gallery and democratic function spaces arranged around the original Victorian atrium space with historic displays,” Williams continued.

“As well as celebrating the building’s Victorian past, the scheme also looks positively to the future with new digital infrastructure and low energy systems providing long-term sustainability for this important community asset.”

Old Oldham library cgi atrium looking north east Oldham Council p planning documents

The Old Library would house a gallery, if plans are approved. Credit: via planning documents

Phil Shaw, divisional director for Tilbury Douglas, said it was an honour for the company and its local supply chain to be involved in creating a new cultural hub in Oldham. He acknowledged the importance the project will have to the community as well.

“This is why we are focusing on ensuring the construction team also gives back to the local community through offering employment and learning opportunities inspiring the next generation of constructors,” Shaw said.

Already, the Old Library project has seen the generation of 143 weeks of apprenticeships, as well as 121 hours of education outreach and career support. Oldham Council estimated that this level of social value equated to around £2.6m.

Old Oldham library cgi atrium looking west Oldham Council p planning documents

View of the atrium from the first floor of the Old Library. Credit: via planning documents

Lambert Smith Hampton is the planning consultant for phase two of the Old Library project.

Turner and Townsend is the project manager and Keelagher Okey Klein is the principal designer.

Heritage Project Management is the heritage consultant. Rider Levett Bucknall is the quantity surveyor.

Curtins is the structural designer, AEC is the acoustic engineer, and SI Sealy is the MEP expert. Ridge is leading on lighting design.

Tetra Tech is the fire consultant. Buro Happold is the security consultant.

Mather & Co is advising on exhibitions and Stage Right is the theatre consultant.

For those interested in learning more about the project, the application reference number is FUL/350535/23 on Oldham Council’s planning portal.

Your Comments

Read our comments policy

I remember using the Lifelong Learning Centre in the 1980’s as part of my Oldham College course. This was housed in a separate building still used as a community space , and information centre ,it was never replaced in 2006.

It’s just local Govt mismanagement that has left the old library more or less derelict in the meantime, other local councils created museums , information centres or public use spaces for such beautiful buildings. Don’t let Oldham council make out they are transforming their town centre when it has taken 16 years of inaction to finally begin the process of revitalizing a derelict building.

By Anonymous

Where are all the books? Looks like the Oldham glass lift museum

By Levelling Up Manager

    Hi Levelling Up Manager – in its new life the building will not be a library, thus the lack of books.

    By Julia Hatmaker

Related Articles

Sign up to receive the Place Daily Briefing

Join more than 13,000 property professionals and receive your free daily round-up of built environment news direct to your inbox


Join more than 13,000 property professionals and sign up to receive your free daily round-up of built environment news direct to your inbox.

By subscribing, you are agreeing to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

"*" indicates required fields

Your Job Field*
Other regional Publications - select below