Flaxmill restoration enters final phase

The restoration of the world’s oldest iron-framed building at Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings has now entered the final phase, boosted by £1m of funding from Shropshire Council.

Construction works to bring the historically significant Grade I listed Main Mill and the Grade II listed Kiln back to life began in 2017 after a £20.7m grant was awarded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Site owners, Historic England, and project partners, the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings and Shropshire Council, also committed to contribute significantly towards the project.

The restoration of the Grade I listed Main Mill and the adjacent Grade II Kiln is creating a new learning and enterprise quarter for Shrewsbury.

The buildings are being transformed into offices for the region’s growing creative industries and small business start-ups.

A new visitor centre and a café open to the public are also features of the new design.

The third and final construction phase got underway in January, with contractor Croft Building and Conservation leading the main building works.

Working alongside Croft will be Alun Griffiths, who will be carrying out infrastructure works around the site from later this year, thanks to additional funding from the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership via its Growth Deal with Government.

Over the next 18 months, final repairs will be carried out on the interior and exterior of the Main Mill and Kiln, before services can be installed across the site and other infrastructure works are carried out. Finally, the internal fit out of the buildings will take place early next year, in preparation for opening in summer 2021.

Duncan Wilson, chief executive at Historic England, said: “The Flaxmill is one of the most extraordinary historic places in the world. Not only has it played a central role in Shrewsbury for hundreds of years, but its pioneering design preceded the modern day skyscraper and has influenced architecture worldwide. This partnership with Shropshire Council and the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings has been crucial in enabling this project to happen. It is a pleasure to see these unique buildings coming back to life as we enter the final stages of the restoration of the Main Mill.”

Dating back to 1797, the building operated as a flax mill until 1886 and then as a maltings from 1897 to 1987. It was also a temporary barracks and training centre during the Second World War. Its iron frame was pioneering, the work of British engineers who were determined to overcome the problem of timber-framed mills and factories being destroyed when fires broke out.

The design gave birth to the modern skyscraper.

Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for assets, economic growth and regeneration, said: “We’re delighted with the progress of work to transform the historic Flaxmill site into a centre for learning, leisure and business. Work has now reached the stage where, as we promised back in 2010, we will now contribute £1m to help the project proceed to completion, and we’re happy to do so. The development and regeneration of the site will provide a huge boost, not just to this area of Shrewsbury but to the town as a whole, and to the Shropshire economy, and I look forward to welcoming businesses and visitors to the site in the not too distant future.”

Alan Mosley, chair of the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings, added: “It is fantastic to see the restoration of these historic buildings reach the final phase of construction. For 30 years the community has become used to seeing the Main Mill and Kiln standing empty and in poor condition or shrouded in scaffolding, but have been thrilled to see the progress in the last few years. It will be wonderful for local people to see these iconic buildings revealed and being fully restored over the next 18 months, as we move towards their long-awaited opening in summer next year.”

Left to right: Historic England’s Project lead for the Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings restoration, Alastair Godfrey; Shropshire Council’s assistant director for economic growth, Gemma Davies; Chair of the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings, Alan Mosley; Shropshire Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet member for assets, economic growth and regeneration Steve Charmley.