University Centre Shrewsbury students step forward to support Flaxmill restoration work

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: www.ucshrewsbury.ac.uk, www.facebook.com/ucshrewsbury, www.twitter.com..., call 01743 297185 or email [email protected].

More details on Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings are available at: www.historicengland.org.uk/flaxmill.

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