In 2009 Oldham Town Hall was named by the Victorian Society as one of the top ten endangered buildings. After a £37 million re-development, the Grade II listed building has been transformed and is now a major cinema and leisure complex. A major element of the recently completed project was to replace over 2,000 of the original ceramic wall tiles, in 55 different formats and designs, which dated back to 1917. The transformation is largely due to Craven Dunnill Jackfield’s specialist restoration skills and the traditional techniques used which ensured a virtually seamless match to the remaining original tiles.
Craven Dunnill Jackfield was commissioned by the specialist contractor Heritage Project Contracts to painstakingly copy and manufacture matching wall tiles to the surviving Pilkington originals for the centrepiece Egyptian Room and anterooms . For most of the designs, new moulds had to be made as many of the tiles are unique sizes and embossed with a variety of decorative features.
The Greek Key pattern around the upper section of the room’s walls required the creation of numerous moulds to accommodate the left and right window reveals. This running border also involved the hand-manufacture of bulb-glazed, square tiles in two colours, accurately matched in hue.
Rising towards the ceiling is a band of plain yellow tiles for which Jackfield manufactured some 1200 replacements.
Striking, tile-clad pillars dominate the room, for which Jackfield produced three variations of the embossed, yellow leaf design to cater for the tapered dimensions. For the base of each pillar, eight different styles of tiles were required, all with intricate embossed detailing.
Sited in a unique heritage setting next to Parliament Square in the heart of Oldham (Greater Manchester), the Town Hall was originally constructed in 1841. It was then extended in 1879 to provide additional civic facilities, namely a court room and police station. In 1917, it was once again expanded to encompass an Egyptian themed room, complete with ornate pillars and decoration, where local citizens could pay their rates and for local utility bills. However, in 1977 a new Civic Centre was constructed and the original Hall gradually fell into disuse; by 1995 it was empty. Over the ensuing years the building steadily and extensively decayed due to wet and dry rot and in 2009 the Victorian Society, which campaigns to protect Victorian and Edwardian buildings in England and Wales, placed it on its list of the ten most at-risk buildings.
The Shropshire-based manufacture Craven Dunnill Jackfield is acclaimed for its specialist skills in restoration ceramics, having successfully completed many other prestigious projects, including Leeds Library, the London Underground, Newcastle Cathedral, St. George’s Hall in Liverpool, and is currently working on a major project at The Palace of Westminster.
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