Former stables, of the early C19 with minor late-C19 and mid-C20 alterations, and the remains of a packing warehouse of c1800; largely demolished in 1979. Part of a former flax mill owned and operated by Marshall, Benyon and Bage; converted to a maltings in 1897-98 and closed in 1987.
Reasons for Designation
The Stables and remains of the Packing Warehouse at Ditherington Flax Mill, both constructed in the early C19, are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: they provide an insight into the ancillary functions of a large multi-period industrial complex;
* Architectural interest: as simple but interesting survivals dating from a period of increased specialisation at the flax mill;
* Group value: as integral components of a steam-powered textile mill that have a strong spatial and visual relationship with other listed buildings.
Ditherington Flax Mill on the north-eastern outskirts of Shrewsbury town centre was built by a partnership of local merchants, Thomas and Benjamin Benyon, and Yorkshire entrepreneur, John Marshall, for the processing of flax into linen yarn and thread. However, the partnership later suffered from internal stresses and in 1804 the Benyons left to set up rival factories, and Marshall ran Ditherington Mill, in time with his sons and grandsons, until the failure of the business in 1886. Shrewsbury was not an area synonymous with the textile industry, but proposals to build two canals, authorised by Acts of Parliaments in 1793, to serve the town were expected to greatly improve its transportation links. Only one, the Shrewsbury Canal, was actually built and its route appears to have been altered to run parallel to the site of Ditherington Mill. In terms of infrastructure, the canal which opened a few days before the contract for the flax mill was completed, promised a reliable supply of coal and a source of water for the mill. Its construction was, therefore, probably a key factor in enabling the mill to be built in this location.
Construction of the flax mill commenced in 1796 and production began in 1797. The mill was erected in two main building campaigns: the first following the agreement in 1796 to purchase the site, and the second after 1809, following the addition of new buildings and rebuilding after a destructive fire. From the start it was equipped with the full range of processes for spinning yarn and thread from raw flax, with machinery arranged into separate departments for flax dressings, preparation, yarn spinning and thread twisting. Ditherington Flax Mill provided employment for thousands of workers over the course of its operation, contributing markedly to the local economy.
The site was entered, as today (2015), from the south end, where gates opened into a yard bounded to the south and west by a packing warehouse (demolished 1979), stables, and a smithy and offices. To the north was the operational core of the factory, an L-shaped complex made up of a five-storey main mill building (Spinning Mill), adjacent to the Shrewsbury Canal and aligned north to south, and a four-storey with attic wing (Cross Building) extending westwards at right angles from the north end of the main mill. At the either end of the main mill were engine houses which accommodated the steam engines that provided power to the complex. To the east, extending along the narrow space between the main mill and the canal (since infilled), were two boiler houses which are no longer extant. To the west of the main mill was a dyehouse and stove house, the latter used for drying materials after dyeing. To the south of the stove house was a drying shed (demolished). To the north, beyond the main mill, was a warehouse, with an apprentice house beyond that. At the north end of the site was a gasworks which has been demolished.
The yard is an early feature of the complex and the STABLES building is depicted on an 1811 plan of the site. It was divided internally into three stalls, and during the 1820s and 30s a black draught horse and a black hacking mare were kept on the premises, together with two carts. In 1886 it was known as the ‘Old Stable’ and was adapted to garages in the mid-C20. To the south-east of the stables was the Packing Warehouse which was built by 1800 and housed the store and offices where finished goods were prepared for dispatch. It was demolished in 1979, except for its rear (south-west) elevation which now forms part of the boundary to the mill complex.
By 1812 Ditherington Flax Mill contained all the buildings, apart from a dedicated bleachworks, required in a flax mill specialising in the production of yarn and thread, and between 1813 and the early 1820s a limited amount of weaving was also carried out at the site. Few new buildings were added after 1812, though changes to the steam-power plant necessitated the construction of new boiler houses. A more extensive programme of reorganisation and re-equipping was carried out in the 1820s and 1830s so that the business could remain competitive and up-to-date, but no new major buildings were constructed. Changing markets for linen goods and increasing competition, particularly other manufacturers in Scotland and Ireland, from the mid-C19, threatened the company’s pre-eminence. Management changes, better integration and marketing, and some investment failed to improve the company’s fortunes and the flax mill closed in October 1886.
In 1897 the site was purchased by William Jones of Shrewsbury and adapted for use as a maltings and became known as the Shropshire Maltings. The company went bankrupt in 1933-34 and the business was then administered by Alliance Insurance Company which was itself taken over by Ansells in 1948. During the Second World War the site served as a barracks for the basic training of infantry recruits, but malting resumed in the post-war years. Due to the challenges facing traditional floor malting operations from purpose-built maltings facilities, as well as its aging plant and constrained site, Shropshire Maltings could not compete against modern factories and closed in 1987.
Former stables, of the early C19 with minor late-C19 and mid-C20 alterations, and the remains of a packing warehouse of c1800; largely demolished in 1979. Part of a former flax mill designed by Charles Bage, and owned and operated by Marshall, Benyon and Bage. The mill was constructed in two major phases of 1796-7 and after a fire in 1809, with later additions and alterations. Converted and extended to a maltings in 1897-8. Undergoing repairs and restoration (2015).
MATERIALS: the stables are constructed of red ‘great’ (measuring approximately 100mm x 110mm x 240mm) bricks under a gabled, double roof of Welsh slates. The surviving wall of the packing warehouse is built of red brick.
PLAN: rectangular on plan, of two storeys with a hayloft to the upper floor. There are small single-storey additions to its south-east and north-west sides which pre-date 1882 and 1902 respectively. To the south-east is a length of walling which is part of the rear elevation of the former Packing Warehouse (largely demolished).
EXTERIOR: the north-west and south-east elevations of the two-storey STABLES have a dentilled eaves cornice, and there are also cast-iron tie plates beneath the eaves of the former. The north-east frontage has two large inserted ground-floor openings of mid-C20 date, and to the first floor is a taking-in door within a heavy timber frame and beneath a brick segmental arch. The surviving south-west elevation of the PACKING WAREHOUSE, which is built of brick, has been lowered and capped with concrete. It retains six segmental-headed openings which have been bricked in. To the right is a vertical joint and beyond this is a short length of ramped boundary wall with stone coping. There is a further, short length of walling to the east of the gated entrance which has been truncated at its eastern end.
INTERIOR: (not inspected 2015). The stables has a fireproof construction and its ground floor has vaulted brick ceilings supported by cast-iron beams.
Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the short section of infill walling between the stables and the packing warehouse is not of special architectural or historic interest.