Ditherington Flax Mill backed in £12.1m lottery bid

Image caption, Plans for the former flax mill include public access areas and commercial use

A Grade-I listed mill in Shrewsbury has received initial support in a bid to secure £12.1m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Ditherington Flax Mill, built in 1797, is the world's first iron-framed building and regarded as the forerunner to the skyscraper.

In 2010, a £12.7m bid for lottery funding was rejected.

Owner English Heritage has now been awarded more than £450,000 to develop more detailed regeneration plans.

Reyahn King, Head of HLF West Midlands, described the building as of "international importance, reflecting a time when Britain led the way in engineering innovation".

'Tremendous news'

"The Heritage Lottery Fund is pleased to be giving its initial support for phase one of wider plans which have the potential to transform the site into a centre for learning, leisure and social enterprise," she said.

Alan Mosley, Chair of the Friends of the Flax Mill, described the HLF support as "tremendous news" and said the next phase of work at the site would "protect the heritage and rejuvenate the area".

Image caption, The flax mill was converted into a maltings for the brewing industry in 1886

The mill was the only project in the West Midlands to make it through to the second round of bids.

More detailed plans are expected to be submitted to the HLF within 18 months.

If successful, English Heritage said the funding would be used to restore the key historic buildings on the site, including the main mill, the kiln, dye house and stove house.

The organisation's long-term plans for the site include public access areas, as well as commercial and business use.

Ditherington Flax Mill produced uniforms for British soldiers during the Napoleonic Wars and was later turned into a maltings, to process barley for the brewing industry.

The buildings have lain empty since the maltings closed in 1987.

English Heritage acquired the site in 2005 and, with support from Shropshire Council, has since completed emergency repairs to the structure.

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