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The formation of the Local Studies Collection dates to the late 1800s when, having realised the value of early administrative companies and family records, the borough librarian began to store material of this nature in deed boxes – one of the earliest items in the Collection is a land grant in Todmorden dating from 1318.

The Local Studies Centre at Touchstones Rochdale holds the main Local Studies and Archives collection for Rochdale Borough. This includes a wide range of material relating to the Rochdale area including Castleton, Littleborough, Milnrow, Wardle and Norden.

Over the years the Collection has grown to include a wide range of material relating to the Rochdale area including Castleton, Littleborough, Milnrow, Wardle and Norden. Local Studies material for Heywood and Middleton is held at Heywood and Middleton Libraries.

Resources held by Local Studies include:

  • Parish Records View Parish Records here
  • Census returns
  • Trade Directories
  • Newspapers
  • Photographs
  • Maps and plans including Ordnance Survey maps, estate plans and railway maps
  • Books, pamphlets and articles

If you would like to view specific material, please make a request at least two weeks in advance of your visit.


Telephone: 01706 924915   

Highlights Include:

Rochdale Police Rogues Gallery of Offenders (1887-1929)

Deposited in 1983 this item consists of passport-sized photographs of habitual offenders together with details of previous convictions and a character assessment of each prisoner. The crimes listed against some of the 741 offenders range from minor misdemeanours such as stealing a fowl (which resulted in a sentence of six weeks in prison) to more serious crimes such as robbery and assault. The inclusion of photographs brings this unique archive to life.

Archive of Co-operative and Pioneers Societies (1856-1976)

Archive of Co-operative and Pioneers Societies (1856-1976)

In 1844 the Rochdale Pioneers began what is generally regarded as the first successful co-operative retail venture devising a set of principles which included:

  • Democratic control of the organisation
  • One member, one vote
  • Equality of the sexes
  • Political and religious neutrality
  • Education for all
  • Profits divided pro-rata depending on the amount spent

The Pioneers began trading from 33 Toad Lane in December 1844. As they expanded, other societies mushroomed throughout the area until the principles of co-operation spread all over Great Britain and gradually encompassed the world. The early minute books in the archive collection were acquired in 1960 with significant later donations making this archive one of our most substantial.

Yorkshire Street in 1925


Our extensive photograph collection encapsulates the historical backdrop to a Northern mill town and its people, from the town centre slums to the magnificence of the Victorian Town Hall.

This photograph shows Yorkshire Street in 1925, still one of the busiest shopping streets in Rochdale. With the well-established banks situated at the bottom of the street and the market stalls a little further up, shops flanked either side of the road including ‘Jimmy Ducks’ – the famous James Duckworth store. The street was also home to a number of hotels and public houses.

This photograph pictures the River Roch before it was covered over in order to facilitate the introduction of trams to Rochdale town centre. The area has now gone full circle and was recently uncovered again as part of a major regeneration project to reveal the medieval bridge that was hiding underneath.

Town Hall ephemera


Our collection of ephemera contains over a thousand items and includes posters, tickets and invitations.

The invitation below was to the official opening of Rochdale Town Hall which took place on Wednesday 27th September 1871. The gothic building was designed by the architect W.H. Crosland. His original tender for £20,000 was a substantial underestimate and when costs rose to £150,000 he was ordered to stop. Considered one of the finest civic buildings in the North of England, an invitation to the opening ceremony would have been highly sought after.