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Historic flaxmill set to open its gates

Historic England has announced that Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings will open to the public on Saturday September 10, 2022.

Built in 1797, the Grade I listed main mill is the world’s first multi-storey, cast iron-framed building. The strength that iron gave to the main mill was the leap needed to allow buildings to be built taller and is now described as “the grandparent of the modern skyscraper”.

Now fully restored, the main mill and kiln are opening for the first time as a visitor destination, café and workspace where people can come to celebrate and explore the site’s story.  

A new exhibition, called ‘The Mill’, will detail the development of Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings and its crucial role in the industrial revolution.  With digital and hands-on activities for all ages, it will feature the stories of the lives of the workers, engineers, soldiers and entrepreneurs who played their part in one of the greatest heritage transformations and regenerations of all time. The exhibition will also tell the story of those who campaigned to save and repurpose this global engineering landmark for future generations to enjoy.

The ground floor of the historic main mill will also have a new independent café and gift shop. The café will have a strong focus on sustainability, serving a range of vegetarian and plant-based dishes, cakes and house blend coffee which is specially roasted for the site.

Next to this, the new shop will showcase a wealth of local producers featuring over 50% of products from local suppliers and 90% from across the UK. All products have been sourced following the same environmental ethos adopted in the restoration of the building and every effort has been made to ensure products are made from recycled or sustainable materials.

The site is a flagship project for Historic England in demonstrating how historic buildings can be sustainably reused and how technology can be used in heritage sites to help tackle climate change.

Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings has a ground-source heat pump, has maximised use of natural lighting and ventilation, and contains reused materials - floor tiles from the site’s earliest days as a flax mill have been incorporated into window ledges. 

The site is in the final stage of a £28 million, eight-year restoration programme. The restoration of the Grade I listed main mill and the Grade II listed kiln is taking place, supported by a £20.7 million grant thanks to National Lottery players through The National Lottery Heritage Fund, combined with the additional funding from the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership via its Growth Deal with Government, and from project partners Historic England, Shropshire Council and the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings.

Though four of the eight listed buildings on the site have been restored, the four remaining listed buildings – the cross mill, the dye house, apprentice house and the warehouse - 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.

Alastair Godfrey, Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings project lead, Historic England, said: “After years of restoration work, we can’t wait to welcome visitors from all over Shrewsbury, Shropshire and beyond to visit this fascinating and important site and learn more about its role in the region and in shaping the modern world.”

Alan Mosley, chair of the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings said: “We are very proud that the site will re-open its gates after years of restoration. Through the work of our volunteers and staff over the last 12 years, the Friends have played a vital role in the site's redevelopment.

"It is now wonderful to see that our efforts to gain funding, encourage community engagement, provide research and education, open a visitor centre, provide talks, tours, events and activities for all, have finally reached fruition. We believe that Shrewsbury Flaxmill Malting will be a great success and a fabulous asset for Shrewsbury."