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Mather & Co to help transform Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings into thriving community hub

Cheshire-based design consultancy Mather & Co has won a competitive tender to support the restoration of Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings, home to the world’s first iron framed building

Mather & Co will use its expertise in heritage and place making to design and build the site’s new visitor experience. The company will interpret the many stories that this internationally significant collection of historic buildings has to tell, and develop an interactive and engaging scheme to give visitors an exciting and uniquely memorable experience.

“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,” says Sarah Clarke, managing director at Mather & Co.

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 structure.

The owners of Flaxmill Maltings, Historic England, are currently regenerating the site as a hub for the community; a place where people can work, play, learn and live. The Main Mill and Kiln buildings are currently being restored, with the Main Mill’s upper floors being transformed into unique office spaces and the ground floor set to host a vibrant visitor experience and café. The latter will be operated by project partners the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings.

The restoration of the Grade I listed Main Mill and the Grade II Kiln at Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings is now underway, facilitated by a £20.7 million grant from National Lottery Heritage Fund, combined with additional funding from the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership via its Growth Deal with government. Project partners Historic England, Shropshire Council and the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings are also supporting the scheme.

“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,” says Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England.

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

Built in 1797, Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings is known as the grandparent of the modern-day skyscraper. Its pioneering cast iron frame was the first of its kind in the world and paved the way for the development of skyscrapers we see across our cities today.

Operating for almost a century with workers spinning flax into linen thread, the historic site’s use changed as the industry declined. It was converted into a maltings, producing malt for the brewing industry for almost another century before closing for the final time in 1987. The building since fell into disrepair.

“Being the world’s first iron-framed building and a precursor to the skyscrapers of today, Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings is an incredibly significant heritage site,” notes Anne Jenkins, National Lottery Heritage Fund director for England, Midlands & East.

“Thanks to National Lottery players, we’re very proud to be able to support the restoration of the site, and are delighted to see that it has reached a noteworthy milestone in the progress of this incredibly important project for UK heritage.”

The new visitor experience at Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings will open in spring 2022.