© FCB Studios
© FCB Studios
© FCB Studios
© FCB Studios

Ditherington Flax Mill

Advising on remediation measures for the world’s oldest cast-iron frame building near Shrewsbury, on a site hosting a number of other Grade I-, II- and II*-listed structures, offered us an opportunity to put our expertise to use in a unique context.

Built in 1797, the cast-iron system of the Main Mill building solved the issue of combustibility, common in wooden industrial buildings at the time. At a time when wool was declining, a group of entrepreneurs set out to expand into linen production using raw flax, and enlisted architect Charles Bage to design their mill. His network of columns and beams set a precedent for the steel frames later used in the first skyscrapers. Having been converted into a maltings and subsequently abandoned, Historic England acquired the site for refurbishment in 2005.

Key to the redevelopment is choosing a new function that will ensure good use and maintenance of the site; the proposal is therefore to combine 120 new homes with offices. We undertook a site inspection to find out more about the capacity of the existing structures, and were fortunate to also be able to review Bage’s original works. The aim was to minimise intrusive work to the delicate fabric of the buildings, and use traditional materials and techniques wherever possible.

Maintaining the structures as they were would not be sufficient for the intended usage: some of the existing beams had failed; long spans caused vibration issues; beams were resting on decaying timber embedded in the facades. Our complex solution incorporated bespoke trapezoidal steel beams and columns which would fit within the thin floor structures and act as diaphragms. We offered options for vibration mitigation, from the less expensive foam options, to steel springs, and proposed waterproofing and replacement of rotting timber. This approach achieved an attractive, honest repair and one that subtly reveals itself alongside the numerous historical layers.

Complex restoration of Grade I-, II- and II*-listed buildings to provide mixed-use facilities

Shrewsbury, UK
English Heritage
Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
£ 50 million