History of the Museum

The museum is housed in the remains of the old Victoria Mill (originally built in 1862) which was purchased in 1959 by our founder Roger Tanner MBE DL. The museum building (probably the original steam room for the mill) was the only part of the mill to survive. The rest of the mill used to occupy a sizable area including the space which is now the car park at the side of the museum.

After the reconstruction required to make the building safe and secure, work on the inside of the museum was started by volunteers who wanted to preserve for the future and display wherever possible, the relics of an already changing society. The museum eventually opened as an independent museum in 1962.

The next few years were spent on receiving collections, enhancing the displays, gaining museum accreditation, charity registration and exploring local government funding for a full-time curator and tourist information centre.

In 1982 the Museum was extended, thanks to a well-supported public appeal, and an Art Gallery was added for exhibitions, which also serves as a community resource for various local events including lectures, children’s events, and charity fundraising.

By 2010 most external funding had been withdrawn. The fabric of the museum building, by this time nearly 150 years old, was also causing serious concern. The maintenance of the fabric of the building had become a serious strain on resources. The museum, around this time opened its own free visitor information centre following the local government cut backs in funded tourist information centres. 

In 2014, after 7 years of hard work, and thanks to a well-supported match fund appeal, Heritage Lottery Funding was obtained for a major refurbishment. The main building was cleared and closed for the construction phase in late 2015. Planning for the gallery interpretations began in earnest, for around 9 months a limited shop and visitor information service operated from a portakabin on the car park. Gallery hire and museum admissions income stopped for this period.

In May 2016, the museum acquired the services of a learning officer (the job was shared between two young and enthusiastic applicants) funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund for 3 years, primarily to organise the volunteers and promote learning partnerships with schools.

After a yearlong project the fabric of the building was made secure, the frontage was extended to the high street with a half glass atrium, and the reception area was modernised and extended to allow for major internal improvements. All the museum galleries were completely refurbished and interpretations installed. High tech. and interactive solutions were used alongside learning areas for children, open plan where possible and the use of sound and visual aids was extensive. The retail area was extended and modernised to provide more opportunities for sales.

The museum re-opened on the 17th September 2016 and this was followed by a ceremonial re-opening by Sir Norman Stoller CBE KStJ DL on the 6th November 2016.

The museum continues to fund its own visitor information service and carried out some refurbishment, at its own cost, of the community gallery which, like the external store and internal office and archive areas, was not included in the 2014 grant.

Today, as always, the museum remains in West Yorkshire (with an Oldham post code) and is part of the Saddleworth landscape and fabric. The museum appears reasonably secure for the immediate future. However, to secure its’ own long term future, it is essential that the museum continues to, be self-sufficient, seize opportunities and promote its’ own value and worth.

Your support is essential. Many thanks. November 2016