Old Rochdale tradition still burning bright

Councillor Richard Farnell, Leader of Rochdale Borough Council with members of the FoRTH group Sheila Acton, Bob Brierley, Cllr Ann Stott JP and Cllr Irene Davidson

A pair of historic ornate lamps which originally stood outside the Mayor of Rochdale’s home during their term in office are back show in the town.

The mayoral lamps were last lit in 2003, but got damaged and were put in storage. The Friends of Rochdale Town Hall have since tracked them down and paid for their repair. 

Now, following restoration by a master craftsman, the eight-feet-high lamps are back in top condition and shining brightly from their new home outside Rochdale Town Hall. 

The tradition of mayoral lamps is shrouded in mystery, but it is thought to have originated from the proposal from Edward Taylor, who was mayor of Rochdale in 1891, to pay mayors a small allowance. This proposal, which was passed, meant that people from modest backgrounds could become mayor for the first time. The idea of mayoral lamps may have been to serve as a reminder that mayors were ordinary people, who lived in the community that they served. 

Although it is not known when the tradition of mayoral lamps started in Rochdale, historic photos show them on display outside the home of Alderman Thomas E Kershaw in the early 1930s. 

Councillor Richard Farnell, Leader of Rochdale Borough Council, said: “Rochdale’s fascinating heritage is one of its greatest strengths and our beautiful grade I listed town hall is the focal point of this. 

“Our friends group has done a fantastic job in tracking these down and organising their restoration and it’s very appropriate to have them on show again in such a historic part of our town centre.” 

Bob Brierley from the Friends of Rochdale Town Hall (FoRTH group), said: “I’m so pleased that these mayoral lamps are back. I’m pretty sure mayoral lamps have never been used anywhere else, so they’re a fantastic part of Rochdale’s heritage. I think they look great right in front of our beautiful town hall. 

“Our next project is to restore the paintings of the first three mayors, which are in the town hall, and we’re already well on our way with this.” 
Master craftsman John Wade, who restored the lamps at his cast iron workshop in Lincolnshire, said that the repairs had revealed detailed engravings of sheep and stars on the lamps. 

He added: “I’ve never heard of Mayoral lamps before, but it seems like a lovely tradition.” 

The Friends of Rochdale Town Hall (FoRTH) group, are a group of volunteers who have an interest in the heritage of the town hall and helping to restore the building. 

Anyone who would like to find out more about becoming a member can visit their facebook page at www.facebook.com/friendsofrochdaletownhall or find them on twitter @FoRTH1871 

To take a virtual tour of Rochdale Town Hall or find out about the regular guided tours visit www.rochdale.gov.uk/townhall 

14 Nov 2016