Rochdale got its name from the fact that the settlement grew up in the valley (dale) of the River Roch. The river starts up in the Pennine Hills to the east of the city, flows through Rochdale and the northern suburbs of Manchester until it joins the River Irwell south of  Bury. The water then flows through the city centre and out to Salford Quays before draining into the Manchester Ship Canal. 

Originally it was a clear, trout stream but the industrialisation of the Victorian times did for that when the cotton mills poured their effluents into the river. The river used to flow through the centre of the town. At some point they decided to culvert the river and a number of bridges were simply covered up and the space above was given over to roads.

The cotton industry died and the town went into decline. It has needed to do things to revive itself. One of the things it has decided to do is make the best of some of the beautiful architecture in the town centre. And it was decided to open up the river again so visitors to the town could see it running by the spectacular town hall (more of that soon). The river, now the industry has gone, is running clear again and the fish have returned. They found the remains of one of the old bridges and have restored the old stones, building the new bridge sensitively on top of it. It’s a triumph I think. Another town in the Manchester area, Stockport, built a 1960s shopping centre on top of the River Mersey that ran through the centre of that town. The shopping centre, 50 years on, isn’t a thing of beauty and is in bad decline. People drive past it on the way to the Trafford Centre or on the train into the city centre to go shopping. They could do worse than look at this scheme and apply it to Stockport.

The new scheme in Rochdale shows off nicely some of the attractive Victorian buildings in the town. They are made of that honey coloured sandstone that you see a lot of the Victorian buildings in city centre Manchester. But not on such a grand scale of course.

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