A three-storey wooden tower with a cast-iron coronet and flag flying on top of a five-storey brick mill building.
The restored 1897 Jubilee Tower © Historic England

Progress at the Flaxmill Maltings in 2021

21 December 2021

Work to restore one of the most important and influential historic buildings of the modern age has continued to progress well during 2021.

Despite the challenges that Covid-19 brought, the hard-working construction team from Croft Building and Conservation have made amazing progress.

It may not have looked like it, but lots has been happening inside the buildings. There have been major works inside the Kiln, a sky-bridge connecting the Kiln and Main Mill has been created, and services and utilities have been going in. The Cross Mill also has a new slate roof.

Outside the buildings, groundworks are underway, walls have been repaired, trees have been planted and the terrace is being prepared for use.

The Historic England and Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings teams are busy behind the scenes, bringing the site back to life so everyone can enjoy it when the buildings open in 2022. There will be four floors of office space for businesses to rent, and a new visitor experience, gift shop and café which will be open to the public.

The restoration of the Main Mill and Kiln at Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings is currently taking place, supported by a £20.7 million grant thanks to National Lottery players through The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Here are some of the 2021 highlights. 

The new visitor experience takes shape

2021 has been a whirlwind of activity working on the design of the new visitor experience; what it will look like and which of the incredible stories about the innovation and adaptation of these historic buildings, and the people who have worked and lived there, will be told.

The new visitor experience will replace the old visitor centre and will be largely staffed by volunteers. It will be installed on the ground floor of the historic Main Mill, and engage and inspire visitors of all ages when it opens in 2022.

A computed generated image of people in a visitor experience.
An artist’s impression of the visitor experience at Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings © Mather & Co

Sustainable energy source installed 

A low-carbon energy source in the form of a ground-source heat pump was installed this year, as part of Historic England’s commitment to sustainable restoration.

A photograph of a rig that drills bore holes into the ground
The specialist rig drilling bore holes for the ground-source heat pump. © Historic England

The ground-source heat pump will extract heat from the ground via vertical bore holes. A specialist drilling rig created the bore holes underneath the line of the former canal tow path, and heat from under the ground will be absorbed into liquid which will circulate through buried pipework. Then it will be processed through the heat pump plant and used by the hot water and heating systems within the Main Mill and Kiln.

The main heat pump plant will be on the second floor of the South Engine House, which housed the steam engine that powered the flax spinning machinery – a fitting home for the building’s future energy source.

The system will provide an estimated 69% of energy usage for the Main Mill and Kiln and reduce carbon emissions associated with space heating by around 46%.

Ground-source heat pump systems are one means of decarbonising our heating in the UK. This innovation demonstrates that centuries-old buildings can also adapt to use sustainable energy sources and play their part in efforts to tackle climate change.  

Planning renewal success

April 2021 saw the renewal of the outline planning consent application relating to brownfield land surrounding Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings, and the historic Apprentice House building.

An indicative artists impression showing a large brick mill and surrounding historic buildings, landscaping and housing.
An indicative drawing used to accompany the December 2020 outline planning consent application of what future housing might look like at Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings © Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

Historic England owns the brownfield land and the buildings that make up this historic site. The outline planning consent allows for this land and the nineteenth century Apprentice House to be redeveloped for housing, while preserving and celebrating the line of the former Shrewsbury Canal and towpath, allowing for its potential future restoration.

The new housing is part of regenerating the whole 2.7 hectare site. Historic England will re-invest profits from the sale of the land into the repair and rescue of the remaining historic buildings at risk.

New roof for the Cross Mill

In 2021, additional funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport’s Heritage Stimulus Fund assisted the regeneration.

Funding from the first round kick-started work to the Cross Mill. Unused since the Maltings closed in 1987, the Cross Mill has been in poor condition for many years, with a failing slate roof and structural problems to the iron frame. The work that this fund made possible was completed in 2021. It included structural strengthening, re-roofing and the upgrading of the main access stairs. This marks the first stage of this building’s rescue and regeneration.

A photograph showing construction work on a collection of brick buildings
An aerial photograph showing the restoration project in progress, taken 2020 © Historic England

As you walk past the back of the site you can see the new slate roof on the Cross Mill.

Funding from the second round of Heritage Stimulus Fund will see some works in the area around the Kiln and Warehouse, to a set of steps by the railway line at the back of site, and to the Apprentice House. It will make accessing the site and local amenities easier and safer for the community, and preserve the existing heritage.

Work placements move online

Work placements have been a cornerstone of the restoration since 2017 and in spring 2021 they were taken online. This marked a new way of delivering learning opportunities linked to the wider regeneration of the Flaxmill Maltings.

A photograph of two brick buildings
View of the new access road with the Apprentice House and Cross Mill shown, April 2021 © Historic England

With Covid-19 restrictions in place in 2020 and for part of 2021, the majority of the traditional face-to-face work placements planned couldn’t take place. The online placements are giving participants knowledge of working in the heritage sector, while also developing the soft skills expected from a traditional work placement, including team-working with colleagues and peers and problem-solving.

Placements last a minimum of five days and include an induction to the site and work on actual project activities. We support participants to develop useful skills for working with historic building conservation and regeneration projects.

Opportunities for placements are being explored across several project areas, including heritage management, public engagement and marketing, and e-learning. Historic England is also working with project partners and suppliers to explore the potential for hosted placements.

The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), via its Growth Deal with Government, has provided £2 million of funding to the Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings regeneration project. The works funded are integral to bringing the Flaxmill Maltings back to life for a third century of use and work placements are just one of the outputs from this part of the programme.