Skip to main content Skip to accessibility

Famous portrait paints a picture of Rochdale’s rich heritage

20 January 2017

​​​​​​​​Rachel Shawcross painting.

They say a picture paints a thousand words and never was the adage truer after a famous heritage portrait went on display at Rochdale Town Hall.

Behind the late John Collier's splendid late 19th century painting of famous Rochdalian Rachel Shawcross is a compelling story of local politics, culture and philanthropic actions that benefitted generations of local people.

​ Rachel Shawcross was the daughter of the pioneering biologist Thomas H. Huxley, who was an early proponent of Darwinism. She was also the wife of Rochdale Councillor Harold Shawcross, a significant figure in local civic life during the early 20th century.

​'After World War One, Harold purchased Wolstenholme Hall for use as a military hospital which nursed soldiers injured at the Somme, Gallipoli and other battles.'

​Rochdale Town Council later bought the hall to help provide care for TB patients. Harold, having made a pledge and true to his word, handed the money he received from the sale back to the council for use as a hospital fund.

​Wolstenholme Hall closed as a hospital in 1977 and today the aesthetically pleasing building thrives as the home of Andrew Nutter's popular restaurant, Nutters.

​Collier's painting can be found in committee room two at Rochdale Town Hall, following its loan to the council by Pennine Acute Hospital. It will hang there permanently, as another vivid reminder of the town's rich heritage.

​Councillor Janet Emsley, cabinet member with responsibility for culture​, said: "There is such a fascinating history behind this important portrait, it is wonderful that Pennine Acute has allowed the council to permanently display it.

​ ​"Harold and Rachel Shawcross did so much to improve civic life across the Rochdale borough, so it is fitting that this lasting legacy will go on permanent display in the town's most iconic building." ​

Share: