Griff salutes build­ings that are far from run of the mill

Manchester Evening News - - NEWS - By DA­MON WILKIN­SON da­mon.wilkin­[email protected]­i­tymir­ @Da­monWIlkin­son6

TV STAR and ar­chi­tec­ture lover Griff Rhys Jones has is­sued a pas­sion­ate plea for lo­cals and vis­i­tors to cher­ish the re­gion’s Vic­to­rian build­ings.

Dur­ing a visit to Old­ham’s mills – in his role as pres­i­dent of ar­chi­tec­ture con­ser­va­tion group The Vic­to­rian So­ci­ety – Griff told the M.E.N. of his love for Greater Manch­ester’s ‘amaz­ing’ in­dus­trial her­itage.

In 2009, The Vic­to­rian So­ci­ety listed the then-derelict Old­ham town hall as one of its top 10 most en­dan­gered build­ings.

A decade later the build­ing has been trans­formed into a cin­ema, bar and restau­rant com­plex which is the fo­cal point of plans to re­gen­er­ate the town cen­tre.

Mr Rhys Jones, who has been star­ring in How The Grinch Stole Christ­mas at the Lowry at Sal­ford Quays, says it’s projects like that which show the power of pre­serv­ing our her­itage can have.

He said: “What’s in­ter­est­ing about Old­ham is the cot­ton in­dus­try pro­duced wealth and these ex­tra­or­di­nary build­ings, like the Lyceum Theatre. It gave Old­ham a wealth of ar­chi­tec­tural her­itage. “And what makes Old­ham a town of the fu­ture is its cul­tural iden­tity – that’s what gives it hope. “Peo­ple want to live in beau­ti­ful places and that in­volves pre­serv­ing the cul­ture in the town.”

The first stop on Mr Rhys Jones’ visit was Gallery Old­ham, home to Squire Knott’s fa­mous 1876 panoramic pho­to­graph of the town at the height of its in­dus­trial power.

It’s said there are 365 mill chim­neys vis­i­ble in the pic­ture – one for ev­ery day of the year – but to­day only a hand­ful re­main.

Mr Rhys Jones, who pre­sented the 2003 BBC se­ries Restora­tion, which led to the Vic­to­ria Baths in Vic­to­ria Park be­ing saved from de­mo­li­tion, be­lieves we should do our ut­most to en­sure those that are still stand­ing are pre­served for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions.

He said: “They (the mills) are build­ings which had a lot of money, care and at­ten­tion to de­tail lav­ished on them,” he said.

“In fu­ture years our grand­chil­dren will say that is the most beau­ti­ful build­ing in the area – they are the equiv­a­lent of cathe­drals.

“Peo­ple go to see huge coun­try houses all the time, but not as many go to see places such these (the mills), places such as John Ry­lands li­brary in Manch­ester – which is bril­liant – and they re­ally should.

“When I’m on tour one of the great ex­cite­ments is go­ing to see Vic­to­rian build­ings – they are such so beau­ti­fully done.

“Manch­ester is an amaz­ing Vic­to­rian town. The peo­ple who live here and the nu­mer­ous vis­i­tors who come here should seek them out and cher­ish them.”

Lyceum Theatre Old­ham; In­set, Griff Rhys Jones

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