White on black illustration of Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings
An illustration of the Main Mill at Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings. © Historic England
An illustration of the Main Mill at Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings. © Historic England

As Shadows Return

A light installation that celebrated the completion of the first phase of restoration to the world’s first iron-framed building, Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings. 

'As Shadows Return' hinted at 200 years of the factory’s history and celebrated its future. The 'dragon on the hill' awakens.

Where: Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings, Spring Gardens, Shrewsbury, SY1 2SX

When: Friday 21 December 2018 - Thursday 31 January 2019


An evolving light animation by Andy McKeown

World renowned light artist, Andy McKeown, has reanimated the Main Mill building on the site with silhouettes and shadows of the mechanical and human activity that once took place within.

Light and sound are artfully entwined to reveal glimpses of the building’s incredible evolution, and the people who toiled there.

The piece will constantly change and evolve, so there will always be reason to look again.

The dragon on the hill

The Main Mill is one of the most important buildings of the industrial revolution and was the first iron-framed building in the world. It's known as the grandparent of the modern day skyscraper and changed city skylines forever. The pioneering design and layout of the mill was the forerunner of methods used by specialist industrial architects a century later.

Local people called it the ‘dragon on the hill’ due to its serrated roof, the billowing steam and roars from the machinery within, and the eerie glow from the gas lighting, which was new to Shrewsbury at the time.

An important stage in the mill's restoration

This is an important stage in the restoration project, and much has been achieved. The structure of the Main Mill is now stable, windows have been unblocked and restored and the roof has been replaced. The scaffolding that entombed the building for over a decade is finally down.

But there is still a long way to go with restoration due to complete in 2021. The £20.7 million National Lottery Heritage Fund grant and funding from Historic England, Shropshire Council and the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings will see the Main Mill Kiln become a new learning and enterprise quarter.


The shadowy forms will light up the building from sunset between Friday 21 December and Thursday 31 January. You don’t have to be on site to see it; it's visible from outside the Flaxmill site to passers-by!

More information

Find out more about the restoration project

Take part in the conversation using the hashtag #ShadowsReturn.

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