Attractions industry news

15 Dec 2020

Flaxmill Maltings – the world's first cast-iron framed building – is to be redeveloped as a visitor attraction

Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings, one of the most important buildings of the UK's industrial past, is to be restored and redeveloped as a heritage visitor attraction.

Built in 1797, the building is known as the "grandparent of the modern-day skyscraper", due to its pioneering cast iron frame, which was the first of its kind in the world and paved the way for the development of skyscrapers.

It operated as a flax mill for almost a century, before being converted into a maltings – producing malt for the brewing industry for another century – before closing for the final time in 1987.

Design consultancy Mather & Co has won a competitive tender to support the restoration of the building.

The new visitor experience will interpret the many stories of the collection of historic buildings and Mather has revealed plans to develop an "interactive and engaging scheme" which will give visitors an exciting and uniquely memorable experience.

Mather & Co will develop a range of engagement opportunities and active interpretation on site celebrating the heritage of innovation at Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings and the historical, technological, and social significance of the site.

Work has now begun on restoring the Main Mill and Kiln buildings, while the upper floors of the Main Mill will be transformed into office space.

The visitor experience – located on the ground floor – will be operated by the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings and is scheduled to open in spring 2022.

The project is part of plans by Historic England, which owns the site, to regenerate the maltings as a hub for the community and a "place where people can work, play, learn and live".

The project has been funded by a £20.7m grant from the UK's National Lottery Heritage Fund, combined with 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.

Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England said: “This special site is the product of an innovative leap and a collaborative approach which allowed bold new ideas to evolve and be put into practice.

"We’re looking forward to working with the Mather & Co team as they help us to develop a thriving visitor attraction which will engage the community and inspire visitors to return to the site again and again.”

Sarah Clarke, managing director at Mather & Co said: “We're excited to get started on this truly transformational project at Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings.

"The building has an incredible story to tell over two hundred years and we are looking forward to bringing that history and innovation to life for the surrounding community and visitors to the town.”

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