Former maltings of Bass Industrial Estate


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
Mareham Lane, Sleaford, North Kesteven, Lincolnshire


Ordnance survey map of Former maltings of Bass Industrial Estate
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Statutory Address:
Mareham Lane, Sleaford, North Kesteven, Lincolnshire

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Kesteven (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:


The former Bass maltings at Sleaford, completed in 1907 by one of England's largest and most influential brewers, is thought to be the largest complex of floor maltings to have been developed in England.

Reasons for Designation

The former Bass maltings at Sleaford is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: the maltings site is of more than special architectural interest as an example of a large-scale industrial complex in which considerations of form, massing, symmetry and scale have produced a design of high aesthetic quality combined with clear functional expression;

* Historic interest: the Sleaford maltings represent the pinnacle of floor maltings development in England, of a scale representative of the status and ambition of one of the country's largest and most influential early C20 brewers;

* Legibilty: the purpose of the different components of the maltings complex, and the sequence of stages in the malting process can still be clearly read throughout the site, despite the fire damage of 1969 and 1976.


The Bass Maltings complex at Sleaford was completed in 1907 to the designs of the company’s chief engineer, Herbert Couchman. The planning of the development dated back to 1880, when Bass, Ratcliffe and Gretton Ltd proposed the development of sixteen new malthouses in the Sleaford area of Lincolnshire. The area was a major producer of English barley, and was well-served by the rail network, which made possible the bulk transportation and distribution of both barley and the finished malt. Construction on the scale proposed dwarfed other centres of malt production, and was driven by the need to reduce production costs by increasing the scale of production, and by locating the malting process close to the source of the barley, rather than at Burton-on-Trent at the site of the Bass brewery. Bass’s requirement for malted barley had increased after it became a public company in 1888 in order to provide the capital for the development of its own public houses. The company identified a suitable source of water in Sleaford by boring an artesian well in 1892, and in 1901, purchased 13.3 acres of land around the well site. Plans for the development were submitted in 1901, work on site began in the same year, and malting began in 1906. Only eight maltings were completed rather than the sixteen originally envisaged, and the complex was finally completed in 1907.

The Sleaford maltings were traditional floor maltings, with soaked or ‘steeped’ barley spread over the several germinating floors before being kilned to produce the finished malt. This linear process replicated on a massive scale the traditional design of floor maltings found in farmsteads and small breweries throughout England, and continued to be constructed until the mid-C20, despite the development of pneumatic malting in the late C19.

From 1907 until the outbreak of the Second World War, the Sleaford maltings operated at full capacity, producing malt more cheaply than could be achieved at the company’s Burton maltings. However, in the post-war era, production was reduced and vacant space in the maltings ranges was let to local businesses. The closure of the maltings in 1959 was precipitated by Bass’s installation of a new automated pneumatic-mechanical malting system in four of its Burton-on-Trent maltings. This system allowed the malting process to be carried on throughout the year with a very small labour force, making the process far more cost efficient than could be achieved at Sleaford.

Following the cessation of malting on the site, various parts of the complex were occupied by other businesses. Partial occupation and a lack of maintenance made the site vulnerable to damage, fires breaking out in 1969, and again in 1976, this time resulting in the far greater loss of original fabric when the central range’s barley store and screens, and parts of three malthouses were severely damaged. The complex was added to the statutory List in November 1974, and various parts of the complex remained in use until 2000, when the site was closed.


An industrial-scale maltings complex completed in 1907 to the designs of A.H. Couchman, Chief Engineer for the brewers Bass, Ratcliffe and Gretton of Burton-on-Trent and believed to be the largest example of its type to have been built in England.

Materials The maltings are constructed of red and blue engineering brick with decorative brick detailing and ashlar stone dressings. The buildings have Welsh slate coverings which incorporate metal ventilators. Floors are supported on metal girders and cast iron columns. Window openings, bridges, lucams and hoist canopies have cast-iron components.

Plan The maltings complex is a symmetrical rectangular composition of nine parallel ranges aligned north-south, with a central range formed of the power unit, barley store, screens and kiln, flanked to the east and west sides by four multi-storeyed floor maltings. At the north and south ends of the complex are railway tracks, and beyond the tracks at the south end of the complex are five small mess rooms, four of which are located facing the alleyways between the maltings, with the fifth facing the central range.

Exteriors Central range: the central range is made up of the power unit for the site, and areas for the initial reception, storage, and preparation of the ‘green’ barley to be processed in the floor maltings. From this area, water for steeping, power, and grain to be processed were distributed to the maltings by pipe work and a series of power and conveyor bridges linking the component elements of the central range. At the southern end of this range is a tall four-stage square brick tower rising from a blue brick plinth to support a cast-iron water tank above a decorative brick cornice. Each elevation has tall arch-headed lancets to each level, four to the ground floor and paired openings set within recessed panels to each of the upper stages. The openings have multi-pane metal frames. Delineating each stage are decorative storey bands. Attached to the east side of the tower is a single-storey boiler house with two wide semi-circular arched openings to the front elevation, set below a shallow gable with barge boards, decorative brickwork to its verges and a circular opening with radiating glazing bars within its apex. It has a louvred ventilator to its ridge. Attached to the rear of the water tower is a single-storey engine house with double-recessed, semi-circular arch-headed window and door openings and a long clerestory ventilator below a shallow hipped roof. To the rear of the boiler house is an elegant tapered octagonal chimney, rising from a tall square brick pedestal with a moulded ashlar band to its base. Each face to the pedestal has a recessed central panel, and at its junction with the chimney shaft, a deep ashlar plinth. The chimney shaft has intermediate ashlar bands and a deep oversailing ashlar cap. To the rear of the chimney is a tall cast-iron circular head to the site’s artesian well. The remaining sections of the central range housed the barley screens, the barley kiln used to dry the green barley before steeping and the green barley intake building or granary at the northern end of the range. The barley screens section of the range, where incoming grain was screened to remove husks and harvest debris, is three storeys high, but has been seriously fire damaged with only the exterior walls, hoist platforms and vestiges of interior floor structures surviving. The barley kiln, immediately to the north of the screens section, is a long, two storey structure with a five-bay open arcade to each side of the ground floor, Above each of the semi-circular arcade arches is an arch-headed lancet with a cast-iron multi-pane window frame. At the wall head is a dentilled eaves band, and at ridge level, a long ventilator to vent the kiln. Set back within the arcade are the inner walls to the kiln, with arched openings to the base of its deep blue-brick plinth. Attached at the north end of the barley kiln is the central granary building, where grain was received on site from the rail head running the length of the north end of the site. The granary is of three storeys above a half basement, and is five bays wide and two bays in depth. The largely blind gable walls incorporate paired full-height arch-headed recesses, each with a ventilation opening at its head, and in each gable apex is a single circular opening. The north elevation has a central two-storied lucam with a hipped roof set above a deep ground floor canopy supported on curved cast-iron brackets. Each bay to this elevation is delineated by shallow buttress-like pilasters with set-offs. The bays have stacked window openings with segmental - arched heads and sloping sills. The central bay has a double doorway immediately above the blue brick plinth at a level which allowed unloading from railway wagons.

Maltings ranges: each of the maltings ranges (numbered 1-4 and 6-9 from west to east for the purpose of this description) is identically detailed, although ranges 4, 6 and 7 are incomplete, having been significantly damaged by fire. Each range is comprised of granary areas where both barley and the finished malt were stored, steeps where barley was soaked prior to germination, germination floors where the soaked grain was spread to allow germination, and kilns where the barley was transformed into malt. The steeps are located at the southern end of each range, with the germination floors immediately to the north. The twin malt kilns for each range are sited to the north of the germination floors, with the final section of each range, comprising malt storage granaries incorporating a deep ground floor canopy supported by curved cast-iron brackets, located at the north end of each range.

The front section of each range is a five bay, six storey building, aligned east-west. The bays are delineated by buttress-like pilasters with set-offs, and all but the central bay have shallow segmental arch-headed window openings to each level. The central bay has no openings to the first five floors, but there is a lucam to the upper floor supported by deep curved cast-iron brackets. Each lucam is clad with wooden boarding and has a hipped roof. The gables to the frontage buildings are of three-bay depth and have shallow stepped corbelled brick decoration to the verges. The central bay to each gable which faces adjacent maltings ranges has openings to each level, that to the fourth floor originally giving access to a metal power transmission bridge supported on curved cast-iron brackets. The flanking bays have window openings to the first three floors and dentil decoration to the top of the windowless upper section. Extending from the rear of the frontage buildings are four storey, ten-bay germination floors. The bays have stacked window openings set between full-height pilasters. The main section of each germination floor building has parallel pitched roofs with a central valley, aligned north-south whilst the three northernmost bays are contained within a gabled range aligned at right angles to the southern bays. The fourth bay from the north end has a gabled hoist cathead above a fourth floor platform with a latticed metal enclosure, supported on deep curved cast-iron brackets. These gables, where they face adjacent ranges, were designed to support conveyor bridges and pedestrian access ways at third and fourth floor levels. The surviving two storey conveyor bridge structures span the alleys between the maltings ranges, and incorporate five two-light windows within boarded side walls.

To the north of the germination floors in each range are pairs of malt kilns, their louvered roofs aligned east-west. The kilns are located behind paired gables, each of three bays, the bays defined by pilasters. There is dentilled brickwork to the head of each bay, and a circular window to each gable apex. There is a window opening to the head of each central bay, openings to the two innermost bays of each gable, and low semi-circular headed arches to basements below the kiln floors. The kilns have ridge ventilators with shallow hipped roofs, but some have been replaced by later C20 cylindrical ventilators. The northernmost section of each maltings range is a seven-bay, two-storied granary or ‘malt garner’ for the storage of kilned malt, set beneath parallel hipped roof structures. The bays are delineated by pilasters, with alternating bays with openings, including low arched openings to basement areas. At the end of each range is a deep single-pitch canopy with boarded sides supported on curved cast-iron brackets. The canopies cover the centre three bays of the five-bay north end elevation of the maltings ranges, the middle bays of which house the double doorways from which the finished malt was dispatched.

Interiors The design of the maltings complex was strongly influenced by functional imperatives – storage and load bearing capacities, together with spatial interconnectivity and both vertical and horizontal grain transportation capability. The structural characteristics of the interiors were determined by these imperatives, with load-bearing floors comprised of metal beams supported on cast iron columns. Some beams of deep section are riveted, others are rolled steel joists. In the lower floors at both ends of the maltings ranges where barley was stored, steeped or germinated, the floors beams are supported on triple arcades of metal columns. At second floor level, the granary floors at the north end of the ranges have a single row of columns, whilst the germination floors and steeps retain triple column arcades to all floors. The three germination floors within the maltings are tile covered, with timber floors elsewhere in the ranges. The roof structures are carried on queen post trusses with collars and angle struts. Where the roof structure includes a roof ventilator, it is supported by short posts rising from the truss collars.

The central range of the maltings complex, together with substantial areas of ranges 4, 6 and 7 were severely damaged in the 1976 fire. All timber floor and roof structures in the germinating floor and steep areas of ranges 4, 6 and 7 were lost. The kilns in ranges 4 and 6 suffered partial roof collapses, and the bridges between blocks 4, 5, 6 and 7 were burnt out, with only sections of metal frame remaining. The barley screens area of the central range and the attached bridge structures suffered similar levels of damage. However, five of the eight malthouses remain externally intact, as do the water tower, boiler and engine houses, barley kiln and the green barley granary.

The interiors of the remaining maltings ranges have undergone varying degrees of alteration as a result of the adaptive re-use of much of the complex, following the cessation of malting. These alterations include the creation of a limited number of new internal and external openings in some ranges, the replacement of cast-iron window frames with modern components, and the removal of the kiln floors. Internal fixtures and fittings survive in varying degrees in the different ranges, with ranges I, 2, 3 and 9 retaining the highest proportion of internal material. Many of these features are integral to floor and roof areas, and include chutes, drainage and waste holes and covers, floor hatches and mechanisms for adjusting roof ventilators. Storage equipment, such as barley steeps, water tanks, and associated pipe work survive in the most complete ranges. Most of the ranges retain sections of line shafting and hoist mechanisms, particularly in the surviving lucams. A small number of belt or bucket conveyors and barley conduits remain in-situ. The most altered areas are the kilns, where furnaces and kiln floors have been removed. Ranges 3, 8 and 9 retain kiln features, including, in range 9 the only surviving area of perforated tile kiln flooring. Range 1 contains the largest number of surviving fixtures and fittings of any of the maltings, whilst the water tower retains significant elements of its water storage and distribution equipment, together with an iron spiral staircase and other timber stairs giving access to upper levels and the water tank at the top of the tower. All of the power plant, including the steam engines and boilers have been removed. A full inventory of surviving fixtures and fittings, and plans indicating their locations are contained within the historic buildings report prepared by the agents for site owners in June 2007 (see Sources).


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Amber Patrick, Strategy for the Historic Industrial Environment Report No. 1: Maltings in England (2004), English Heritage ,
Kathryn Sather and Associates., Sleaford Maltings, Sleaford Lincolnshire: Historic Buildings Report., May 2007,


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

End of official listing

Images of England

Images of England was a photographic record of every listed building in England, created as a snap shot of listed buildings at the turn of the millennium. These photographs of the exterior of listed buildings were taken by volunteers between 1999 and 2008. The project was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Date: 07 Mar 2007
Reference: IOE01/16331/03
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr James Brown. Source Historic England Archive
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