Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings
Gallery
In Brief

Client:
Historic England

Location:
Shrewsbury

Construction Value:
£23,000,000 (Current Phase)

Completion:
September 2022

Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings has been referred to as the ‘grandparent of skyscrapers’. When built in 1797, it was the world’s first iron-framed building, a new technology developed to give better fire protection, that paved the way for modern-day buildings such as London’s Shard, New York’s Empire State Building and Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.

For nearly a century, the site operated as a state-of-the-art steam-powered flaxmill. It was later converted into maltings and during the Second World War the site was used as temporary military barracks. Following the closure of the maltings in 1987, the future of the site and its important buildings became increasingly uncertain until it was bought by Historic England in 2005.

 

The £28 million project has provided a new space for learning on the ground floor which tells the story of the Mill's role in the industrial revolution and in world architecture, along with a public café. Above, four floors of flexible office space will provide accommodation for around 300 people, circulation and meeting space within the Kiln for commercial tenants, as well as access for tour visitors to the restored Jubilee Tower.

As a flagship heritage regeneration project for Historic England, Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings has been brought back to life as an adaptable workspace, leisure destination and social enterprise hub for ‘the next 100 years’ and demonstrates how historic buildings can be sustainably reused and restored after many decades in decline, through understanding, innovation, and a gentle touch to repair the fabric. 

 

 

Context

Derelict for many years, the big challenge has been to identify a future for the site that protects and conserves the historic buildings

Situated on the northern edge of Shrewsbury, the site reflects a time when Shropshire led the way in engineering. Its remarkable story is one of revolution, innovation and evolution.

For nearly a century the site operated as a state-of-the-art steam-powered flaxmill. It was later converted into maltings and during the Second World War the site was used as temporary military barracks.

Following the closure of the maltings in 1987, the future of the site and its important buildings became increasingly uncertain until it was bought by Historic England in 2005.

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Design Approach

Putting the building ‘back to work' required comprehensive repair of the existing fabric and the insertion of new core facilities

A light touch conservation approach has been employed where interventions seek to preserve and enhance the special character.

Traditional craft, materials and skills were used and any new layers of intervention have been chosen to complement the industrial character of the site.

A heritage skills programme was delivered during the construction works, using the site itself as a tool for learning. Between 2017 and 2020 a programme of heritage skills activities supported by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation was delivered with work placements, site tours and training events were targeted at all levels from students to industry professionals.

Lime render - heritage skills
Working with communities

We have engaged with the local community and wider interest groups to help energise interest in the project.

By developing a narrative around the site, as a place to offer an international learning resource, we have helped Friends of Flax Mill Maltings grow from a handful of interested neighbours to an active group of 700 members. The many events hosted, including art exhibitions, interpretation and heritage open days has resulted in an increasingly involved community, who fully appreciate the impact the restoration of this important national landmark site will have on the area’s wider regeneration.

Innovation & Sustainability

A pioneering and experimental building which is of outstanding importance in the development of fully-framed, multi-storeyed buildings

The buildings have evolved with their changing uses, and so this phase of their life brings more change.

Natural light and natural ventilation have been re-introduced to the Main Mill building through the re-opening of 110 former windows, whilst state-of-the-art structural works reinforce the masonry around the cast iron frame, retaining the unique character of the pioneering historic structure.

A ground source heat pump will reduce the in-use carbon from the space heating and the reuse of the building retains the carbon embodied in the 200-year-old structure. 

 

Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings
Quotes
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"This is the most important building of the modern age and it deserves to be much better known!"

Sir Peter Luff, Chair of the National Heritage Memorial Fund and Heritage Lottery Fund

"Nobody passing a scruffy, half-derelict industrial estate on the outskirts of Shrewsbury would imagine that one of the battered, red-brick structures is the ancestor of today's skyscrapers - the first iron-framed building in the world."

Maev Kennedy, The Guardian

"It is one of those rare structures that changed the world of construction and design. With its revolutionary iron frame it was the predecessor of the modern skyscraper"

Sir Neil Cossons, Chairman of English Heritage
Team

Client:
Historic England
Building Contractor:
Croft Building and Conservation
Mechanical & Electrical Engineer:
E3 Consulting Engineers
Structural & Civil Engineer:
AKTII
Landscape Architect:
LT Studio
Quantity Surveyor:
Gleeds
Archaeology:
University of Salford
Ecology:
Middlemarch
Catering:
Cooper 8
Acoustics:
ION Acoustics

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Drawings
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