May 21, 2012 / Leave a comment / Permalink

Experts welcome support for Flax Mill redevelopment bid

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Leading experts from across the world have welcomed the news that a bid for £12.1m of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to support the regeneration of Shrewsbury’s historic Flax Mill Maltings has secured initial HLF support and will receive development funding of £465,300.

The bid was submitted by a partnership including Shropshire Council, English Heritage and the Friends of the Flax Mill Maltings. 

Amongst those welcoming the HLF announcement (made on 11 May 2012) are Sir Neil Cossons, former Chairman of English Heritage; Richard Coackley, President of the Institution of Civil Engineers; Angela Brady, President of the Royal Institute of British Architects; and Robert M. Vogel, Curator Emeritus at the National Museum of American History in Washington DC. 

Built on the north edge of Shrewsbury, the internationally-important Ditherington Flax Mill Maltings site reflects a time when Britain led the way in engineering innovation.  It comprises seven listed buildings, including the Main Mill – built in 1797 – which is the oldest iron-framed building in the world and the forerunner of the modern skyscraper.  

A second round bid will be submitted to HLF within the next 18 months in the hope of securing a further £11,686,000 of funding, which would be put towards the redevelopment of the site, and bring back into use some of the main historic buildings. 

Welcoming the HLF announcement, Sir Neil Cossons, former Chairman of English Heritage, said:

“The Ditherington Flax Mill is one of the nation’s hidden gems, a building known and valued throughout the world for its outstanding importance, yet for years neglected and under threat of loss.  It is one of the great symbols of Britain’s emergence as the world’s first industrial nation and of the role that Shropshire played in that revolution.  We have a duty to the wider world to secure the Flax Mill for tomorrow and this support from the HLF is an outstanding means of achieving just that.” 

Richard Coackley, President of the Institution of Civil Engineers, said:

“The Ditherington Flax Mill is one of the most important industrial structures in the UK, the ancestor of the modern skyscraper and the countless iron-framed mills that characterised the industrial revolution.  Fifty years ago ICE Vice President Professor Sir Alec Skempton chronicled the importance of this framed structure, and now half a century on I am delighted to be welcoming this announcement.” 

Angela Brady, President of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), said:

“The RIBA welcomes the news that development funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund has been awarded to the Flax Mill. It is the first ‘tall building’ of its time using an iron- framed structure, which is of major significance to our built history, culture and identity. Reuse of such a magnificent historic building would make us a richer nation in the way that we value the very essence of our past.” 

Robert M Vogel, Curator Emeritus of Mechanical & Civil Engineering, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, USA, said:

“In 1973 I, like many others, made the pilgrimage from the United States to see the Ditherington Flax Mill when the floors were still completely covered with malting grain.  I am delighted to learn that this renowned mill has received Lottery Fund support.  The building’s importance has for so long been recognized by the entire international body of industrial, architectural, and engineering historians.  I’ve no doubt that an appropriate use will emerge for a structure still fully fireproof and highly adaptable.” 

If the full £12.1m is secured, it would be put towards the first phase of the redevelopment of the site, which aims to restore and bring back into use some of the main historic buildings on the site – including the Main Mill, the Kiln, the Dye and Stove House and the Office and Stables.  The site would be opened up as a centre for learning, enterprise, culture and leisure for its third century of productive use. 

Chris Smith, English Heritage’s National Planning Director, said:

“The Ditherington Flax Mill is one of the most significant monuments of the Industrial Revolution – an outstanding structure that changed the world of construction and design. With the vital help of the HLF, we are now one step closer to bringing the site and its buildings back into use so once again, they can be a thriving local resource, bringing new life to the surrounding area.” 

Mal Price, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for economic growth and prosperity, said:

“It’s great news that we have been awarded this funding by HLF to help put together a detailed development plan and I’m delighted that the announcement has been welcome by so many illustrious experts.  I hope that within the next two years we’ll all be welcoming the award of the full amount of funding, which would allow us to start work on the restoration of these internationally important buildings.” 

Alan Mosley, Shropshire Councillor for Castlefields and Ditherington, and Chair of the Friends of the Flax Mill Maltings, said:

“This is tremendous news and we are proud of the role we have played in making it happen.  We now have the money to develop our capacity so that we can do even more in providing restoration, access, community involvement, learning and a whole range of activities which will bring these wonderful buildings to life again.  We also look forward to taking a leading role in ensuring success in the next phase which will truly protect the heritage and rejuvenate the area.  Many thanks go to all the volunteers and others whose enthusiasm and efforts have achieved so much.” 

Reyahn King, Head of HLF West Midlands, said:

“Ditherington Flax Mill is of international importance, reflecting a time when Britain led the way in engineering innovation.  As an early prototype for contemporary architecture, the mill was a forerunner of the skyscrapers that are now such a familiar backdrop to city life.  The Heritage Lottery Fund is pleased to be giving its initial support for phase one of wider plans which have the potential to transform the site into a centre for learning, leisure and social enterprise.” 

English Heritage acquired the derelict buildings in 2005, and has since been working with Shropshire Council, the Friends of the Flax Mill Maltings, architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, and the Homes and Communities Agency to find a new use for the site.  The goal is to create a long-term future for the historic buildings and for the community of which they have so long been a part.

For more information visit www.ditheringtonhlf.info  

Further information 

1) Neil Cossons was the first Director of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum – from 1971 to 1983 – and has lived in Shropshire for over forty years.  From 1986 to 2000 he was Director of the Science Museum, London and from 2000 to 2007, Chairman of English Heritage.  He is a noted historian of the industrial revolution and has been a long-term advocate for the Flax Mill.

2) *A first-round pass means the project meets HLF criteria for funding and HLF believes the project has potential to deliver high-quality benefits and value for Lottery money. The application was in competition with other supportable projects, so a first-round pass is an endorsement of our outline proposals. Having been awarded a first-round pass, the project now has up to two years to submit fully developed proposals to compete for a firm award.

On occasion, an applicant with a first-round pass will also be awarded development funding towards the development of their scheme.

3) English Heritage acquired the derelict buildings in 2005, and has since been working with a steering group made up of Shropshire Council, the Homes and Communities Agency, the Friends of the Flax Mill Maltings and architects of the scheme Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, to find a new use for the site. The goal is to create a long-term future for the historic buildings and for the community of which they have so long been a part.

4) The Friends of the Flax Mill Maltings will continue to play a pivotal role in developing the project. With objectives based on restoration, access, community involvement and learning the Friends has now grown, over the last two years, to have over 800 members and is based on the work of volunteers. The first round approval from HLF will provide them with revenue for the appointment of a manager and to undertake a number of heritage related community activities alongside research and education projects. This capacity building will enable the Friends to take full responsibility for the areas designated for public access and other activities as described in the proposals. For more information on the Friends go to: http://www.flaxmill-maltings.co.uk

5) About the Heritage Lottery Fund
Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) sustains and transforms a wide range of heritage for present and future generations to take part in, learn from and enjoy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported over 30,000 projects, allocating £4.9billion across the UK. website: www.hlf.org.uk. For further information, please contact Katie Owen, HLF Press Office, on tel: 0207 591 6036/07973 613820.

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