Touchstones Rochdale


Bust of John Bright

Rochdale has significant collections relating to the American Civil War and its impact on the cotton industry during the 1862-63 Lancashire cotton famine. There are many people connected with Rochdale who supported the abolition of slavery, including John Bright.

Rochdale’s Arts & Heritage Service Museum Team manages the award-winning museum at Touchstones Rochdale. Touchstones Rochdale opened in 2002 as an integrated arts and heritage centre, but the history of Rochdale's art gallery and museum goes much further back. The building was developed in three phases, beginning with the section nearest the town hall, which opened as the town's public library in October 1884. Nearly 20 years later, in 1903, local dignitaries were finally successful in their long campaign to establish an art gallery and museum.

Rochdale Corporation had been receiving gifts and donations for the museum since 1874, and it was thanks to generous funding from the town's wealthy mill owners that the museum extension was finally built. The two-storey extension proudly displayed the cultural benefits being funded through the town's cotton wealth, in three carved panels representing science, art and literature.

Another extension was added in 1913 to provide more space for the art gallery and museum. This is the building that is today occupied by the redeveloped gallery and museum service, Touchstones Rochdale.

The museum service has collections which include: social history; costume and textiles; archaeology; Egyptology; geology; natural history and decorative arts.