A historic Bolton hall has been saved after a cash injection by the National Lottery.

Rock Hall will have nearly half-a-million pounds spent on it to breathe new life into the building in Moses Gate Country Park, which dates back to 1807, straight away - with £3.2 million set to be awarded in total.

Banana Enterprise with Bolton Council have been jointly awarded development funding of £466,662 by The National Lottery Heritage Fund for their “Rock Hall Revival” project.

The funding is for the development stage and once that is completed in approximately one year, the charity can then apply for the remaining £3.2million they need to transform the Grade II listed building.

The lottery does not give the full amount in one go, but awarding the development stage money is a strong signal the funding body has confidence in the charity and the council to proceed with the plans.

The remainder of the money can be asked for once planning permission has been obtained in a few months.

The grant will contribute to the development stage of the project which will cost approximately £725,000 in total. 

The development stage of the Rock Hall Revival project is designed to preserve the heritage in Farnworth by redeveloping Rock Hall and enhancing the natural environment of the Moses Gate Country Park.

Restoring the hall will provide an attraction for the community and will include a café, multi-use spaces and interpretive displays.

The park will also be improved with new community champions developing the right skills and knowledge to care for the natural environment, including the new sensory space and the areas where activities take place.

The Bolton News: Jayne Allman, CEO of the Banana Enterprise Network, at the Rock Hall digJayne Allman, CEO of the Banana Enterprise Network, at the Rock Hall dig (Image: Banana Enterprise Network)The project will focus on five key heritage themes:

  • Industrial history of Rock Hall & Moses Gate
  • Natural heritage and environment of Rock Hall and park
  • Recreation and wellbeing heritage in the nature reserve and Rock Hall
  • Craft and Heritage skills associated with the hall/park
  • Heritage link to Farnworth Town

Activities taking place during the development stage will include free community heritage activities, some urgent repair work, further design work and public consultation, leading to the preparation of final architectural plans for the restoration and expansion of Rock Hall to be submitted to planning.

The funding will also pay for legal and planning application fees leading up to the acquisition of the building by Banana Enterprise, from Bolton Council via a Community Asset Transfer.

The Banana Enterprise will also be expanding its capacity by using some of the funding to commission specialist consultants and partners who will be appointed to help manage the project. 

For example, a heritage expert will help develop a community archive so that a more detailed history of Rock Hall and Farnworth’s paper making industrial past can be shared publicly.

The project, which will begin once the Heritage Fund confirm the start date, will also include some interesting, fun, and educational activities for all ages to encourage more people to get involved in their local heritage.

The Bolton News: Proposed design of Rock HallProposed design of Rock Hall (Image: Banana Enterprise Network)There will be activities that are co-designed in conjunction with the community too.

Jayne Allman, the Charity’s CEO, said: “This is a major achievement for our small charity. We are just ordinary people who decided to take on this extraordinary challenge.

“Unfortunately, our 2022 bid was unsuccessful; however, we submitted a joint funding bid application in partnership with Bolton Council in May 2023 and received the wonderful news that we have been successful. 

“We sincerely thank the National Lottery Heritage Fund for agreeing to support the next stage of our project, which gives Rock Hall the lifeline it deserves. 

“We wish to thank Bolton Council for agreeing to be a joint grantee and work in partnership with us on the project.

“We also wish to thank our other professional Advisors from Buttress Architects and Heritage Trust Network who have supported us.

“Special thanks also go to our loyal group of volunteers, supporters and trustees for believing in our idea to save Rock Hall.

“They have consistently provided us with moral and physical support to get us to this stage.”

Cllr Nadeem Ayub, Bolton Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, said: “Rock Hall is of great importance to the local community and I am delighted with the future vision for an important part of the town’s heritage.

“The council has been working closely with the charity and local ward councillors to secure the future of the building and today’s announcement is great progress in bringing a local cultural asset back to life.

“This funding means Rock Hall will benefit from the investment and development it needs and is a significant step forward in terms of regeneration activity beyond Bolton town centre.”

The Bolton News: Save Rock HallSave Rock Hall (Image: Banana Enterprise Network)Rock Hall was built in 1807 by the Crompton family of papermakers.

TB Crompton was a pioneer and developed a unique paper drying process, which he patented.

This project is “pioneering” in the local area because it will be the first time that a disused historic building has been the subject of a CAT (Community Asset Transfer) process.

The Hall, which is owned by Bolton Council, closed in 2014 and has been unused since then.

Further details about how the community can get involved in the project and book onto the various FREE events and activities will be advertised once the Rock Hall Revival project begins.

The Charity has a Rock Hall project specific website here www.rockhall1807.co.uk and a dedicated Facebook page called Save Rock Hall https://www.facebook.com/RockHallFarnworth