Rochdale sits at the foothills of the South Pennines. It flourished into a centre of Northern England’s wool trade from the 13th century. Rochdale was also a prominent boomtown during the first Industrial Revolution. With textile manufacture as key industry, the area subsequently developed as one of Britain’s first industrial towns.
The town’s rapid development was partly due to Rochdale Canal. Because of its broad width, it became the major route of commerce between Lancashire and Yorkshire. Consequently, it accommodated a huge volume of traffic. Its peak came in 1845, with 979,443 tonnes.
Co-Operative Movement in Rochdale
The rise of industrial capitalism, and the introduction of the factory system, brought hardship for many workers. For example, poor wages, long hours, child labour, bad air and crowded housing are just some of the well-documented conditions in Friedrich Engels’ seminal The Condition of the Working Class in England. Co-operative movements emerged. The Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers became a prototype for such societies.
The Society formed in 1844 to address working conditions, and designed the Rochdale ‘Objects’. They included establishing stores to sell provisions, acquiring housing for members and procuring employment for members. Also these are principles that form the basis of the modern co-operative movement. They rented their first store at 31 Toad Lane, and it became a museum in 1931. Structural problems in the 1970’s led to a £2.3 million renovation, and it reopened in 2012.
The museum tells the story, history and development of the co-operative movement, and is therefore well worth a visit.
Inaugurated in 1871, Rochdale Town Hall is a prime example of Gothic Revival architecture. Guided tours are available for an expert perspective on the Great Hall, Mayor’s Parlour and police cells.
The Natural History Museum’s famous dinosaur cast, Dippy the Diplodocus, is touring the UK, and Rochdale is one of just eight venues he will visit. He’ll take pride of place in the award-winning customer service centre, library and council building, and from 10 February 2020 to 28 June 2020.