Rochdale’s medieval bridge, which has been hidden from public view for more than a century, is set to be uncovered following the approval of a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant to reopen the River Roch.
The Heritage Lottery Fund’s £1.2m grant is a huge boost to the scheme, which is a vital part of Rochdale town centre’s ongoing regeneration.
The project, which is also backed by the Environment Agency and Regional Flood and Coastal Committee with financial support of £1m, will remove two sections of the culvert that covers the river to reveal the stunning 800-year-old bridge, which was hidden from view in 1864.
Aside from a brief period in the early nineties when the river was uncovered for engineering works, no one has glimpsed this unique part of Rochdale’s heritage for over one hundred years.
As well as uncovering and restoring the bridge the project includes measures to enhance the natural heritage of the river by including features that encourage river vegetation and creatures to re-establish themselves.
Sara Hilton, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North West, said:
“Rochdale’s exciting plans to re-open the River Roch will not only reveal the hidden heritage at the heart of the town, but will inspire local people to get involved and support the surrounding natural environment. Running through the heart of the town, the River Roch has played a vital role in Rochdale’s history over the years and this project, made possible thanks to National Lottery players, will ensure that it will again.”
The exposed sections of the river will be located at the junction of Yorkshire Street and the Esplanade.
Rochdale Borough Council Leader, Richard Farnell, said: “This is great news for Rochdale and we’re incredibly pleased the Heritage Lottery Fund has agreed to support this vital project. The smaller scheme approved by the Council has saved over £1m and concentrates on revealing the historic 13th Century bridge. This will be a fantastic heritage attraction for the town.
“We also have plans to regenerate the wider Butts area which will house a traditional outdoor market. All these plans are intended to make Rochdale town centre a much more attractive place to shop and visit.
“The river reopening will help create a stunning town centre attraction and will be quite unique in the area.”
The Environment Agency welcomed the news, as the river reopening will significantly reduce the flood risk in Rochdale town centre.
Tony Callaghan, Project Lead for the river reopening for the Environment Agency, said “This project will deliver some fantastic outcomes for the people of Rochdale. It will reduce flood risk for over 40 properties and deliver significant environmental improvements to 450m of concrete river channel by establishing more natural habitats. The project is a great example of how we are working with local and national partners to reduce flood risk, improve the natural environment and help restore some of Rochdale’s fantastic heritage”.
Work is set to start as early as February 2015, with the entire scheme due to be completed in the autumn of that year.
Cllr Farnell added: “Rochdale’s redevelopment, which has gained real momentum in recent years, is not just about bringing new shops and developments. Honouring our extensive heritage is equally important, and this scheme will sit wonderfully alongside our Grade I Listed Town Hall as well as our historic ginnels and walkways.”
Photo by Andrew Brookes
Photo provided by Touchstones, Rochdale
Photo by Andy Marshall