Our Story

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 (1922 – 2022) 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. A board of trustees was formed which still guides the museum to fulfil its’ aims and objectives.

In 1980 the Museum was extended, thanks to a well-supported public appeal, and a community gallery was added for art exhibitions, which also serves as a community resource for various local events including lectures, children’s events, and charity fundraising. We also began to extend further our partnerships with local groups and organisation. Some of these partnerships exist to this day.

Despite our best effort by 2010 most official or centralised external funding had been withdrawn.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.

Within one-year 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 shop sales.

In May 2016, the museum acquired the services of a learning officer, partly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund for 3 years, primarily to organise the volunteers and promote learning partnerships with schools and staff and volunteers were able to have restricted access to help refit those collections needed for display and later to stock the shop.

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

With the departure of the partly HLF funded learning officer in 2019 the small residual HLF funding ceased and late in 2019 we appointed a half-a-day a week learning activity officer, funded by ourselves for a short term period.

Following the outbreak of coronavirus, https://www.gov.uk/guidance/ and the UK government’s instruction to museum and galleries on the 20th March 2020, the Saddleworth Museum and Gallery remained closed to the public until 22nd May 2021.

On the 1st October 2020, mostly as a response to the changing cultural and social landscape and how the public and community interact with museums, an upgraded website and social media platform was launched. This enabled the museum to take advantage of the enforced closure of the shop by creating an online shop with both shipping and pick-up (collection) options  and an online public lottery scheme. The museum is also positioned to offer online booking systems for the shop, collection  galleries and art gallery/community space,  once UK instructions allow.

An amazing group of volunteers continues to help maintain, and develop, the museum. From back room accessions, accounts, building, garden and kitchen maintenance, to public collection displays, reception duties, through to social media and website activities we are forever indebted to our volunteers.

Our fantastic “Friends” group organise much needed fund raising events, a newsletter and an annual subscription membership scheme. We ask that you link to join the “Friends” group from this page and/or attend events.

Along with our own events, art gallery income, museum admissions, shop sales, learning activities and public donations we remain just about sustainable. The museum continues to meet its main objectives to showcase, and preserve, Saddleworth’s landscapes, history and peoples and also continues to fund its own visitor information service, community gallery, shop and schools programmes.

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. We hope, with your help, we are here for years to come!

Today, as always, the museum remains in West Yorkshire (with an Oldham post code) and is part of the Saddleworth landscape and fabric.

Saddleworth Museum and Gallery is a registered charity (no. 528225) and fully accredited museum (no. 191).

Your support continues to be the most essential element in securing our future! Many thanks. 23rd May 2021


Saddleworth Museum and Gallery

High Street Uppermill, Saddleworth, Oldham OL3 6HS

Call us on 01457 87 4093 or Email curator@saddleworthmuseum.co.uk