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Students from University Centre Shrewsbury (UCS) are playing a part in the regeneration of one of the town’s most iconic and the world’s most important historic buildings.

History undergraduates and postgraduates are volunteering their time to support the National Lottery-funded restoration of the Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings - known as ‘the grandparent of all skyscrapers’.

Second year Caitlin Osborne, third years Bethany Maddock and James Hingley, and postgraduate Zach Ploszay are carrying out research which will help to ensure that the public’s thoughts and ideas are at the forefront of its multi-million pound redevelopment. 

Derelict for decades, the Maltings’ Office and Stables, converted in recent years with funding received from the European Regional Development Fund, are now an interactive visitor and education centre, run by the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings. A partnership led by site owners Historic England is now restoring the 1797 Grade I listed Main Mill and Grade II listed 1898 Kiln thanks to £20.7 million from the National Lottery. The refurbishment will include the creation of a new interpretation and learning space and café on the ground floor of the Main Mill; space for commercial use on the upper floors; and improved accessibility across the site.

The Flaxmill Maltings are currently open to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The UCS students talked to visitors on Saturday (June 9), and will be again on Saturday June 23. They are gaining people’s views on what they would like to see in the new interpretation and learning spaces, including their feedback on the current displays, and which aspects of the stories and themes they find most appealing.

Tom Williams, History and Archaeology Lecturer at UCS, said: “We are thrilled to be able to contribute in a small way to the work to save and restore this remarkable piece of the industrial revolution.

“Hands-on experience such as this is an integral part of courses at UCS. It is important that we go outside our learning and research centre and contribute to local projects. Our history and heritage degrees blend theory and practice, with opportunities to participate in research projects with real life outputs, in this case helping to ensure that the Flaxmill is a place that everyone can be proud to live, work and play in.”

Student Caitlin Osborne said: “It’s great to talk to visitors to gain their views on the Flaxmill. The redevelopment work is bringing such an important building back to life - and by getting involved in such research we can bring our studies to life.”

Alan Mosley, Chair of the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings said: “Our centre has proved popular with local people and visitors to the area alike since its opening in late 2015. 

“We are now working closely with the expert consultants at Headland Design Associates and making great progress in planning a wonderful exhibition/interpretation centre, which we will manage, and café on the ground floors of the Main Mill and Kiln.

“The survey work by UCS students will be invaluable in ensuring that the finished product reflects both what the public want and the international importance of the first iron framed building in the world.”

Alastair Godfrey, Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings Project Lead, Historic England said: “It’s fantastic that University Centre Shrewsbury and its students are supporting the project to restore the Flaxmill. 

“Firstly, working with local organisations is crucial to the success of this project and this is a great example of how these local partnerships are helping to shape the future of this world-class building. It is also giving young people skills and experience through our Heritage Skills programme, funded by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, which we hope will support the students’ studies and employment prospects. We look forward to seeing the results of this valuable work and we thank the students and UCS for their involvement.”

For further information on UCS, go to:,,, call 01743 297185 or email

More details on Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings are available at:


Further information

About Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings

The Stage 2 project at Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings, which has received National Lottery funding of £20.7million from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), will restore the Grade I listed Main Mill - the first cast-iron framed building in the world and forerunner to the modern skyscraper, and the Grade II listed Kiln along with landscaping and a new car park. When complete there will be visitor interpretation and activity on the ground floor which will be managed by the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings, as well as a café. The upper four floors of the Mill will provide commercial office space. A programme of activities will be available during construction with training opportunities and chances for the local community to get involved.

Work began on 19 June 2017, carried out by Croft Building and Conservation Ltd, who are responsible for structural repairs to the Main Mill and reintroducing windows that were closed during the Maltings phase. This will flood the building with natural light. The works should be complete by the end of 2018 when work will start to repair the Kiln, fit out the buildings and complete all associated landscaping work and the car park. The works will be completed in 2021, when the restored spaces will be open to the public.  

The Flax Mill was built in 1797 and was the largest employer in Shrewsbury. The flax business declined in the 1870s and the Mill closed in 1886. The site was converted into a Maltings in 1897-8, when the Kiln was added. After being used as a temporary barracks during the Second World War, the site resumed as a Maltings until its closure in 1987. These works will transform and open the site back up for local people, visitors and local businesses.

About Historic England

Historic England is the public body that champions and protects England’s historic places. The organisation looks after the historic environment, provides expert advice about it, helping people protect and care for it, and helping the public understand and enjoy it.  

Historic England, which took over the site in 2005, and its partners Shropshire Council and the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings are building on the success of the Stage 1 project, which created a visitor centre (opened late 2015) within the Office and Stables, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, and have secured funding to cover the Stage 2 project which is due to open to the public in 2021.

About the Heritage Lottery Fund

Thanks to National Lottery players, the Fund invests money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. For further information go to,, or and use #HLFsupported and #NationalLottery.

About the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation

The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation was set up by Andrew in 1992 to promote the arts, culture and heritage for the public benefit; since inception Andrew has been the principal provider of funding for all its charitable activities. In 2010, the Foundation embarked on an active grant giving programme and has now awarded grants of more than £18m to support high quality training and personal development as well as other projects that make a real difference to enrich the quality of life both for individuals and within local communities. Significant grants include £3.5m to Arts Educational Schools, London, to create a state-of-the-art professional theatre, £2.4m to The Music in Secondary Schools Trust, £1m to The Architectural Heritage Fund, $1.3m to the American Theatre Wing and more than £300,000 annually to fund 30 performing arts scholarships for talented students in financial need.   

The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation has awarded a grant of £95,447 towards Historic England’s Heritage Skills Programme. For more details contact Truda Spruyt, Four Colman Getty, at or on 020 3697 4248. 

About the European Regional Development Fund

The Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings project is part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund Programme 2007 to 2013. The Department for Communities and Local Government is the managing authority for the European Regional Development Fund Programme, which is one of the funds established by the European Commission to help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support local businesses and create jobs. For more information visit


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