England doesn’t have towering skyscrapers like New York or Hong Kong. Sometimes we still feel daunted by Birmingham’s array of large buildings. At 433 feet high, The Merican is still only the 55th tallest building in the country. But what if we told you that the birth of modern skyscrapers happened not far away in the town of Shrewsbury?
Built in 1797, Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings was the world’s first iron-framed building and to many is seen as forebear to the modern-day skyscraper. Without its innovative design – the first to have an internal frame of cast iron columns, beams and tie rods – there would be no Shard, Empire State Building or Burj Khalifa.
As of Saturday (September 10), the 225-year-old mill will reopen to the public. After 35 years of closure, visitors can now learn about its incredible role in the Industrial Revolution and contribution to the Midlands. The restored site, consisting of eight listed buildings, features a new exhibition, The Mill, on the ground floor that tells the story of Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings.
There are digital and hands-on activities for all ages. Visitors will walk the floors where spinning machines whirred, flax flew, and barley was processed for beer. Exhibition highlights include a large 3D mill model which reveals historic happenings inside the building at different points in time; physical interactives that take visitors through the process of spinning thread and the many uses of flax; and a multisensory AV experience in the old Engine House which brings the Mill’s original steam engine to life.
“This is a joyful day for Shrewsbury as the Flaxmill Maltings opens to the public, wonderfully restored and launching a new chapter as a visitor attraction and fantastic work-space,” said Eilish McGuinness, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Heritage Fund. “The transformation is testament to the tenacity of many people, tirelessly working over many years to preserve this unique part of our industrial revolution heritage.”
The eight-year restoration of Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings was achieved through National Lottery funding of £20.7 million. Historic England restored the site in partnership with Shropshire Council. Alongside the visitor centre, there is also a new independent eatery, Turned Wood Café. While above there will be four floors of new office space.
To find out more about Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings and what to expect when you visit head here.