Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings has closed down as both a charity and a company after many years of working in partnership with Historic England, The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Shropshire Council.
Originally the Friends were established to work within local and wider communities to raise awareness, knowledge and support for the project to gain substantial funding for the restoration of Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings and to stimulate regeneration of the area.
The Friends are widely acknowledged as being a crucial factor in the successful National Lottery bid and went on to have a substantial role in the development of the visitor experience which has recently opened to the public. Over the years they have engaged with many thousands of people through the provision of learning, cultural, recreational and social events and activities.
Commenting on the closure of the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings, their Chair, Alan Mosley said:
“All Trustees are extremely sad that circumstances have led us to close however we have immense pride in what we have achieved over the years.
“Indeed, the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings are delighted that the world’s first iron framed building is now open to the public, including a state of the art exhibition, a shop and café. That pride is the culmination of 12 years of hard work by volunteers, trustees and our staff as we sought to realise our Mission: “To bring the site back to life at the heart of the community”. In particular for the last 6 years we have worked in partnership with the main funders, The National Lottery Heritage Fund and owners, Historic England, so that the Mission is now fulfilled in so many respects.
“For many years we were the public face of the project, managing the previous Visitor Centre, running open days, exhibitions, tours, learning activities, talks, research, family activities, large and small events, etc. We also played a major role in the design of facilities and operational planning.
“However, as we progressed towards opening The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic England decided, for reasons we strongly dispute, that it would be their preference for a company set up by Historic England to take over the operations in the run-up to opening. At this time there was a clear commitment that the Friends would resume full operational management responsibilities in due course.
“We had to accept this on the basis that the Friends were to continue with their successful management of volunteers, providing a comprehensive activity plan and extensive community engagement. However, recently we were confounded to be told that these three crucial functions were also to be placed in the hands of Historic England.
“Hence, the Friends were left with no meaningful functions and the decision has been made to wind up and close as a charity and company. This we are doing forthwith and in fact the Friends have had no part to play in the recent opening nor the on-going operations except for the vital contributions we made in planning and preparation.
“We have much to celebrate, from being a major element in the award of the massive National Lottery funding, to drawing many thousands of people to the site and also recruiting 130 volunteers, which itself is testament to our success.
“It has been a disappointing end to a roller coaster ride but we are all still engrossed with the Flaxmill Maltings and those who lived and worked there. We wish the project every success with the current visitor opportunities and the commercial and regeneration master planning initiatives which are to follow.”