Griff salutes buildings that are far from run of the mill
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