A look at the small town along the 409 bus route

Royton Town Hall
In Transition: though of a compact size, Royton town centre has a lot to offer. Image by Jeremy Sutcliffe (Creative Commons License – Some Rights Reserved).

The last five years have seen some upheaval for Royton. Some of which has been consistent with many small towns throughout the UK: bank closures, pub closures, and the rise of online shopping. Since 2012, issues of a Roytonian nature have affected the town’s shopping centre.

In 2008, the town’s Assembly Hall had closed. A private owner, Royton Hall, wanted to rejuvenate the facility and hire it out for functions. That failed. Then came Dransfield Properties’ efforts to revive the centre. The original plans entailed a mid-size superstore like Morrisons. This would have seen the loss of local shops, so the plans came to naught.

By 2015, the precinct’s owners had entered into administration; Barclays and HSBC had closed their branches. Even Greggs had closed; a move which led to a petition. On a happier note, its unit was taken over by Card Factory.

Fast forward to 2016: we not only see the superstore plans back on the table. We see the steel work and the glasswork in situ for Lidl. Thankfully, the smaller shops were retained. Very few units are empty.

Royton today

The town is bisected by High Barn Street, Middleton Road, and Rochdale Road. In the last year, its precinct has been boosted by the arrival of Boyes. The arrival of the Scarborough-based discount department store chain marked their first incursion into the Red Rose county (later followed by Padiham’s branch). They took on the former Co-op unit, latterly occupied by Haldanes. Though smaller than the Boyes branches I am accustomed to (the ones in Scarborough, Bridlington, Bradford, and Beverley), they manage to sell a wide range of items.

1990s partial redevelopment of the precinct saw the addition of some lock-up units and a Somerfield superstore. Part of the site was occupied by Royton’s police station. After The Cooperative’s takeover of Somerfield, they vacated what is now Boyes’ unit. By the end of this year, they will be joined by Lidl, thus giving Royton two small to medium-sized supermarkets.

There is a vibrant mix of local chain stores, charity shops, and two public houses. One of them occupies a corner unit with the second one adjacent being an ex-Wilsons house. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, there are two sweet shops. Should you choose to visit one of them, Sweet Deals (with its gloriously 1970s style typeface on the sign) is the one.

Sweet Deals, the one closest to Rochdale Road of the two, has near-legend status in the town. Its wealth of discounted confectionery is nothing short of incredible: Thorntons chocolates going for half the usual price; Jaffa Cakes going cheap; plus a selection of traditional sweets sold at non-discounted prices. The discounted lines are short-coded but, if you’re about to enjoy your toffees or biscuits within the next two days, don’t let that put you off (at EM60 Towers, Jaffa Cakes go faster than Usain Bolt running for a 346). No visit to Royton is complete without popping in John’s and Mavis’ shop.

For food, you also have The Bakehouse café, which offers traditional English fare. Pound Bakery, well that’s self explanatory, other than the fact it opened as Burneys many moons ago. The Railway (so called owing to the long-closed Royton branch line from the Oldham-Rochdale Loop Line), offers the usual pub fare as well as John Willie Lees’ finest ales.

On Rochdale Road, is the town’s public library, Post Office, and town hall. Behind the library are two representatives of the new face of Royton. That of the town’s new health centre (replacing the site next to its precinct) and its new swimming pool. The move was met with controversy being as Royton’s leisure centre also replaced the pool at Shaw.

Royton Market

The best day to go to Royton is on a Thursday. Along the pedestrianised precinct (on Market Street and King Street), there are 20 stalls. For a small market, the variety of stalls was pleasing. Fresh oven bottom muffins, cuts of meat, and mobile phone cases were all available at reasonable prices.

Before the redevelopment of the town’s shopping area in the 1970s, its market was held on the the Public Market ground next to the town hall. The use of its pedestrian precinct each Thursday adds life to the centre, in the same way how Oldham Council repeated this idea in Shaw and on the way into Tommyfield Market hall. (We can think of another small town nearby that could benefit from Royton’s approach).

Whilst you’re in Royton town centre…

You could also combine your visit to Royton with a trip to Shaw. Their market day is also on a Thursday. In the last year, their open market has moved from the open market ground beside the library and (now demolished) Crompton Pool to Market Street. What’s more, Shaw is only a bus ride away from Royton.

If you’ve had your fill of shopping, you could visit Tandle Hill Country Park and go for a walk. There are superb views of Manchester, Middleton, and Rochdale from the highest point of the hill. For more details, one of our previous Go Cheapway… articles covered the place, which inspired The Chameleons’ song View From A Hill (final track on their 1983 album, Script Of The Bridge).

Getting there

From Oldham

  • 402: Oldham – Royton Circular (MCT Travel – no Sunday, Evening and Bank Holiday service);
  • 408: Shaw – Royton – Oldham – Stalybridge* (Rosso/First Greater Manchester/MCT Travel/Stagecoach Manchester);
  • 409: Rochdale – Royton – Oldham – Hathershaw – Ashton-under-Lyne (First Greater Manchester);
  • 412: Oldham – Royton – Middleton (Rosso/MCT Travel – no Sunday and Bank Holiday evening service).

From Ashton-under-Lyne and Stalybridge

  • 408: Shaw – Royton – Oldham – Stalybridge* (Rosso/First Greater Manchester/MCT Travel/Stagecoach Manchester);
  • 409: Rochdale – Royton – Oldham – Hathershaw – Ashton-under-Lyne (First Greater Manchester).

From Rochdale and Middleton

  • 409: Rochdale – Royton – Oldham – Hathershaw – Ashton-under-Lyne (First Greater Manchester);
  • 412: Oldham – Royton – Middleton (Rosso/MCT Travel – no Sunday and Bank Holiday evening service).

* Peak hours, evenings, Sundays and Bank Holidays only on journeys south of Oldham town centre.

S.V., 28 August 2016.

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