Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings
Historic England’s flagship multi-million pound rescue project to develop a vibrant centre for living, working, social enterprise and leisure within an outstanding group of historic buildings is progressing on site at Shrewsbury’s Flaxmill Maltings.
The site contains three Grade I buildings, two Grade II* buildings and three Grade II buildings. The Grade I listed Main Mill is the first cast-iron framed building in the world and forerunner of the modern skyscraper.
The project includes the creation of a ground floor interpretation, learning visitor experience, exhibition and events space and a café space, now which will open for the public to enjoy in Summer 2021, together with 2,580m² of office and /commercial space within the upper four floors of the Main Mill building.
There will also be a new car park and an access route for commercial tenants to the rear of site. The current project will be complete in summer 2021.
Strategic Advisors and Architects for the scheme are FCB Studios; main contractors for phases 1 and 2 of the project are Croft Building & Conservation, who have been praised for their work on the scheme.
The Main Mill was built in 1797 to the design of local man, Charles Bage, just 18 years after the completion of Ironbridge. It is the first known multi-storey iron-framed building in the world and described as the grandparent to the modern skyscraper.
The site operated as a flax mill from 1797 to 1886, and as a maltings from 1897 to 1987, with a period as a temporary barracks and storage training facility during The Second World War.
Historic England bought the site in 2005 as it was at risk of being lost forever, due to being left derelict for almost two decades. Historic England is working with key partners, the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings and Shropshire Council to save the buildings and bring the site back into use.
The ground floor of the Main Mill building is will be a state of the art visitor centre experience open to the public in Summer 2021 and telling the story of the Flax Mill Flaxmill Maltings, including the mill’s role in the industrial revolution and the pioneers who made it happen, the transition to a maltings, and the stories of the people who lived and worked on site.
The first, second, third and fourth top four floors will incorporate offices and the Kiln building will provide vertical circulation between floors for the Main Mill and in the future, the Warehouse and Cross Mill.
The project has been split into three different phases to address its complexity and limit the risks. The Phase 1 works, consisted of the complex task of renewing the roof and repairing the walls of the Main Mill, as well as re-opening all the windows that were blocked when the Main Mill was transformed from flax mill to maltings at the end of the 19th century.
The first phase was completed in December 2018.
Phase 2 began in January 2019 and will finish in March 2020.
Phase 2 works comprise the completion of the new windows and repairs to elevations, roof, renewal of the Kiln and both North and South Engine Houses, all structural strengthening works and intumescent painting of the existing iron frame’s columns and the tie rods.
The cast iron frame of the Main Mill is its most important historical feature and needs to be retained as much as possible. It is being upgraded to provide 60 minutes of fire resistance by applying fire protection to the cast iron, steel and timber elements where necessary.
The smoke detection system provided includes a smoke vent in at the top of the Kiln roof, which will be linked to the smoke detection and fire alarm and will open automatically in case of fire to increase the standard of safety for the occupants.
Internal finishes will be in limewash to regulate the patchwork of new brick, existing brick and old limewash.
The third and final phase of the project will begin in April 2020 and complete in summer 2021.
Phase 3 includes all the mechanical and electrical services, all internal and external doors, possible fit out of the Main Mill 1st and 2nd floors and Kiln, all site services and utilities and landscape works.
Tim Greensmith of FCB Studios said: “This is a fascinating project to work on and a ‘world first’. We are uncovering 220 years of history and reviewing materials which haven’t seen the light of day in all that time. We have unearthed items including a Victorian era child’s shoe, pencil drawings of aircraft by soldiers who were garrisoned at the site during The Second World War – and even some ‘live’ ammunition!
“We are very fortunate in that we are working with a wonderful team of people, including the contractors who are doing a fantastic job. They really care and are totally invested in the project – as we all are. Everyone is in it for the long-term.
“This is a key regeneration project which will benefit the whole community who have seen the scheme develop from what were fairly dark and dank brick box-like interiors to restored buildings flooded with light and offering extensive views.”
Nick Hill, National Conservation Projects Manager from Historic England said: “The buildings at Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings are remarkable survivors of the industrial age and Historic England and its partners are committed to ensuring that these magnificent buildings are brought back to life and safeguarded for future generations to enjoy.
“The current restoration project is very complex and challenging and will bring another two of this site’s incredible listed buildings back into use, the 1797 Grade I listed Main Mill and the Grade II listed Kiln.
“We are very fortunate to have been working with a number of reliable and talented contractors and suppliers, who are all helping to drive the project forward on time and on budget, and ensure that the standard of work and materials are fitting for such a prestigious project.”