Inside the once magnificent Greater Manchester town hall which has been left in ruin

Planning documents have revealed the scale of the works needed to restore the iconic building in the heart of Ashton-under-Lyne to its former glory.

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

New images of crumbling ceilings and rotting beams have laid bare the challenges of repairing Ashton’s Grade-Two listed iconic Town Hall.

Tameside council is planning to repair the building on Market Square after winning nearly £20m in Levelling Up funding in 2021. And now planning documents have revealed the scale of the works needed to restore the iconic building in the heart of Ashton-under-Lyne to its former glory.

Ashton Town Hall, which opened in 1840, has been closed, along with the Museum of the Manchester Regiment, since 2015. It houses the Civic Hall, which contains the former full council chamber. Currently full council meetings take place at Dukinfield Town Hall, and also Guardsman Tony Downes House in Droylsden.

Reports had previously revealed that ‘significant damage’ occurred when the physical link between the town hall and the Tameside Administrative Centre (TAC) was disconnected in order to demolish the centre and clear the site. Now a planning application for listed building consent from the council’s development partner Robertson North West has been lodged.

Inside Ashton town hall Credit: Tameside councilInside Ashton town hall Credit: Tameside council
Inside Ashton town hall Credit: Tameside council

Proposed work

The proposed enabling works include a temporary rainwater diversion to facilitate the drying of saturated external masonry, scaffolding and tenting methodology, additional localised ceiling penetrations to provide access for intrusive roof timber surveys and removal of the ballroom timber stage intervention.

A structural survey submitted with the application states that some elements of the building have become ‘dangerous’.

“Internally the building bears evidence of many prior alterations, some of which appear ramshackle/substandard in character, and rationalisation / remedial work is required in several areas,” it adds.

“Some crudely implemented and apparently incomplete structural openings will require repair or reconstruction.”

A heritage document also published alongside the application states: “The timber damp rot survey has outlined numerous outbreaks of both wet and dry rot to parts of the building.

“Fruiting bodies from the true dry rot fungus were evident upon inspection. The timber stair leading from the stage to the intervention mezzanine changing rooms adjacent has been condemned by the structural engineer.

“Existing timber landings and stair treads have rotten through and failed making it unsafe.”

Inside Ashton town hall Credit: Tameside councilInside Ashton town hall Credit: Tameside council
Inside Ashton town hall Credit: Tameside council

The main challenge now faced by engineers is how to dry the building before rotted timber and other structural elements can be replaced.

Bosses had planned to reopen the town hall as part of phase three of the Vision Tameside project, but the collapse of construction firm Carillion in 2018 delayed works.

The council had previously budgeted £10m from its capital budget renovate the iconic civic building.

In January 2020 the council agreed to spend £270k on urgent repairs to the town hall, with emergency repair works costing £120k to the building parapet and roof.

Officers had warned that if works were not undertaken urgently then the ‘ significant heritage asset may be put at risk’.

A decision on the application is expected to be made after mid-May by the local authority.