One of the most important historic buildings in Middleton has been re-opened at a special ceremony following a £590,000 revamp by us and the National Lottery.
The renovation is the final and biggest project in the Middleton Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI), a £2.8 million council and Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) scheme to restore a number of historically important buildings in Middleton, thanks to National Lottery players.
The grade II* listed Long Street Methodist School, which has been out of use for a number of years, has been transformed following the completion of the 8-month project and will now be removed from the national ‘Heritage at Risk’ register.
Specialists have restored a host of original features, including the leaded windows, stonework, lime render and canopies over the doors. Other crucial work, including rewiring and fitting a new heating system, has also been carried out to give the old building a new lease of life.
Completed in 1900, the school was designed by the famous Middleton-born architect Edgar Wood. The architectural style, a mixture of arts and crafts and art nouveau, was ground-breaking at the time and influenced subsequent 20th century design.
Other projects in the THI include the restoration of Jubilee Library, Edgar Wood properties at 51 and 53 Rochdale Road, which won the People’s Choice Award in the Rochdale Borough Design Awards in 2017, and the famous staircase and exedra (seating area) in Jubilee Park.
Councillor June West, member of the THI board, said: “The Long Street School is an important part of Middleton’s distinctive architectural tradition, as well as its social history.
“This project has restored an important piece of local history and, by getting it ready for use once again by the local community, has really brought the past to life.
“I’m incredibly proud of everything the THI has achieved with lottery support over 7 years and we now have a lasting legacy of spectacular buildings and structures across Middleton which have been restored to their former glory”.
A lifelong member of the church, Geoff Grime, attended Long Street Sunday School as a boy in the 1950s and later joined the Cubs and Scouts. He has been heavily involved in the restoration project, alongside his wife Christine.
He said: “Since the church opened in 1901, many thousands of local children will have attended the Sunday School, as I did, so it’s a really important part of Middleton’s history. It means so much to have it brought back into community use, so people can enjoy it once more”.
Christine added: “The public reaction has been fantastic. Many people with connections to the building through the Sunday School, the uniformed organisations and community groups who met here, have donated generously towards the repair and replacement of the leaded windows”.
The work was led by conservation architect, Lisa McFarlane, Director at Seven Architecture.
She said: “It’s been a real privilege to have been given the opportunity to be involved in this significant project that has not only played an important part in the history of the development of the Arts and Crafts style, but also in its role in the local community of Middleton. Completion of the first phase of the works, to restore the Former Schools and to bring them back into use, ensures that the buildings are protected for both current and future generations and allows ongoing investment for their continual repair”.
Nathan Lee, Head of HLF North West, said: “Historic town centres are the beating heart of our communities, and research shows that even small changes, such as improving shop fronts or restoring architectural features, can make a real difference. I’m delighted to see the restoration of the Middleton schoolrooms – the final piece in a regeneration ‘jigsaw’ in the town that would not have been made possible without money raised by National Lottery players”.
The Long Street Methodist Church and Schools are now owned by the Greater Manchester Building Preservation Trust.