Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings, the forerunner to the modern-day skyscraper, opens its doors to the public today following a £28 million, eight-year restoration programme.
The site opens to the public, 225 years after the Mill originally opened, for visitors to learn more about its incredible role in the Industrial Revolution and the great contribution Shrewsbury and the Midlands have made to the world as manufacturers and innovators.
The complex, consisting of eight listed buildings, has been closed for the past 35 years.
Following redevelopment under Historic England’s ownership with the help of architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, four of the listed buildings – the Grade I listed Main Mill, the Grade II listed Kiln and the Grade II listed Smithy and Stables – are now restored and the Main Mill is opening for the first time as a visitor destination – where people can come to celebrate and explore the site’s story.
The restored site features a new ticketed exhibition, The Mill, on the ground floor. The ground floor also features the Turned Wood Café – a new independent eatery run by a
local firm, offering a delicious vegetarian and plant-based menu and special house blend coffee. A new shop also stocks a selection of unique and artisan, ethically
sourced products with over 50% from local suppliers and over 85% from across the UK.
No tickets are required to enter either the café or shop. Above this are four floors of newly renovated office space, for around 300 workers, which are due to open later this
‘The Mill’ exhibition
Created by Historic England and exhibition consultants Mather & Co, new exhibition The Mill tells the story of Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings and its crucial role in the
Over its history Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings has been a place of ideas, innovation and change, constantly developed and adapted against the backdrop of revolution,
technological advancement and societal change.
With digital and hands-on activities for all ages, visitors will walk the floors where spinning machines whirred, flax flew, and barley was processed for beer to brew. They will discover the lives and stories of workers, engineers, soldiers and entrepreneurs who played their part in one of the greatest heritage transformations and regenerations of all time.
The story of its pioneering beginnings and how its engineering paved the way for skylines across the world, the people who created the Mill and who worked there, and the campaign to save and repurpose it for future generations to enjoy, is fascinating and holds something for everyone.
Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings’ Main Mill building was the first to have an internal frame of cast iron columns, beams and tie rods.
This innovation by architect Charles Bage gave it the necessary structural strength for multiple storeys, and, as such the building is known as the ‘grandparent of skyscrapers’, paving the way for modern-day buildings such as London’s Shard, Manhattan’s Empire State Building and Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.
Following the site’s beginnings as a flax mill and major local employer for the area from 1797-1886, it was repurposed into a modern maltings, which operated from 1897 to
1987, converting grain into malt for brewing, whisky making and vinegar production. The site was also used as a temporary army barracks during the Second World War.
£20.7 million of funding for restoration of the Main Mill and Kiln has come from National
Lottery players through The National Lottery Heritage Fund. The remaining funding for
the restoration of the site has come from Historic England, Shropshire Council, philanthropic donations and additional funding from the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership via its Growth Deal with Government.
As well as providing important volunteer support, the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings played a significant role in supporting the conversion of the Smithy and Stables, which were completed in 2015 thanks to funding from the European Regional Development Fund.
Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive, Historic England, said:
“The restoration of Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings has been challenging and rewarding in equal measure. This is a remarkable and complex site which has involved a vast team of specialists, partners, funders and volunteers to get it back up and running. The result is that a historic building of international importance has been rescued and repurposed, from a derelict state. I am proud that Historic England has led this ambitious and challenging project to successful delivery.”
Eilish McGuinness, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said:
“The Flaxmill Maltings opens to the public, wonderfully restored and launching a new chapter as a visitor attraction and fantastic work-space – I am sure it will become a must-see destination locally, regionally and nationally.
“The transformation is testament to the tenacity of many people, tirelessly working over many years to preserve this unique part of our industrial revolution heritage, and I am
delighted that we were able to join other funding partners and invest over £20 million to support this sustainable project, led by the partnership of Historic England, Shropshire Council and the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings. Thanks to National Lottery players the pioneering Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings will continue to inspire generations to come.”
Though four of the eight listed buildings on the site have been restored, the four remaining listed buildings – the Apprentice House (Grade II), the Cross Mill (Grade I), the Dye House (Grade II*) and the Warehouse (Grade I) – still need funding to bring them back to life. It is hoped that they will be restored in the coming years, once plans for how they will be used and funding to carry out the restoration works are in place.