Touchstones Rochdale Reviews
Rochdale's Town Museum Sep 17, 2011
Touchstones is a small municipal museum in Rochdale. It is a good place to get out of the stinging Lanashire rain for a half hour (in which time you can see most things), although probably not worth a special journey.
I love small municipal museums, more for what they tell you about local pride than about anything you actually see there. From the tiny display space, you can see that Rochdale is proud of its long history of working class stroppiness (plenty about the strikes, slightly less about the foundation of the co-op movement which is apparently covered elsewhere in town), its links to the textile trade, and, inexplicably, Gracie Fields. I know she was very famous in the 1940s, and her comedy could be quite funny, but I could have done without the constant sound of “Sally from our Alley” – to modern tastes she had a voice like nails down a chalkboard. There was an interesting little bit on the social history of marriage, including the local tradition of “wife selling” at the market cross, but it was uncomfortably close to the microphone blaring “saleeeeee” out so I couldn’t stop long there!
Like many tiny museums, there was a surprisingly good art collection. They were re-hanging chunks of it so I only saw the landscape paintings, but I liked them very much. Mostly early twentieth century, with a good Nevinson and some other names I recognised. Upstairs was much more peaceful (No Gracie blooming Fields).
There are also two interesting stone heads in the lobby. One is thought to be Celtic, and the other is an 18th century post head, and they could be twins.
Entrance is free, accessibility is probably fine, certainly downstairs (I didn’t see a lift but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have one). There is a gift shop and café (of course). You can see everything in half an hour, which, this being the western half of the UK, is probably enough time for the sun to come back out. Probably not worth a special trip, but if you are in Rochdale for some other reason this is a pleasant lunch-break’s worth of things to do.
Part of the 2011 - UK Hometowns travel blog
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Part of the list Manchester and the North West
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