Ditherington Flax Mill: Dyehouse and Stove House


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:
Statutory Address:
Marshalls Court, Ditherington, Shrewsbury, SY1 2HX


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Statutory Address:
Marshalls Court, Ditherington, Shrewsbury, SY1 2HX

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

Shropshire (Unitary Authority)
National Grid Reference:


Former Dyehouse and attached Stove House, dating from the early 1850s and pre-1810 respectively. Dyehouse altered in late C19, and Stove House enlarged and rebuilt in the 1840s. Part of a former flax mill designed by Charles Bage, and owned and operated by Marshall, Benyon and Bage. Converted and extended to a maltings in 1897-8; closed 1987.

Reasons for Designation

The Dyehouse and Stove House at Ditherington Flax Mill, constructed in the early 1850s and early C19 respectively, are listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

* Technological interest: the lightweight, wide-span roof of the Dyehouse represents one of the most up-to-date and sophisticated metal roof designs of the mid-C19, while the Stove House illustrates further developments in structural ironwork during that period; * Historic interest: both buildings are early and significant components of the site and reflect the increasing specialisation of production during the first half of the C19; * Group value: as significant components of a well-preserved steam-powered textile mill that have a strong functional 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 dressing, 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. Immediately 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) situated adjacent to the Shrewsbury Canal and aligned north to south, and a four-storey with attic wing (Cross Building) extending west 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 a 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 presence of dyeing facilities was an early and distinctive feature of Ditherington Flax Mill. The first DYEHOUSE was built in 1804 and an increasing focus on the production of dyed thread during the first half of the C19 necessitated the progressive enlargement of the building and it was substantially rebuilt in the early 1850s to increase capacity. Internally, it housed built-in vats that were arranged in two distinct areas, heated by pipes from the boiler houses of the spinning mill. When the complex was sold in the 1880s, only four of the nineteen main dyeing machines were still in use. The dyehouse has a lightweight, wide-span roof of cast and wrought iron; a sophisticated design which had begun to be used for smaller textile mill buildings in the 1820s, but was also developed for other innovative structures, including railway stations. The design of the roof may have been influenced by the hot and humid conditions within the building. Following the conversion of the flax mill to a maltings in 1897 it was adapted to dry and clean incoming barley which was delivered by rail. Hoist towers were added to unload the grain.

The adjacent heated STOVE HOUSE, where yarn and thread were dried, is shown on a plan of 1811 and is an early and significant component of the site. During the 1830s it was substantially enlarged, but parts of the original walls of 'great' brick were retained. Further alterations appear to have been carried out c1842-43 when £700 was spent on the building. When the flax mill was sold in the late C19 it was described as having iron grate floors with heating pipes under.

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 apart from successive additions to the dyehouse and the substantial rebuilding of the stove house, 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, however, as well as its aging plant and constrained site, Shropshire Maltings could not compete against modern factories and closed in 1987.


Former Dyehouse and attached Stove House, dating from the early 1850s and pre-1810 respectively. Dyehouse altered in late C19 to a barley drying house, Stove House enlarged and rebuilt in the 1840s. Part of a former flax mill designed by Charles Bage, and owned and operated by Marshall, Benyon and Bage. 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.

MATERIALS: the Dyehouse is built of red brick, under two parallel roofs of asbestos corrugated cladding and Welsh slate with a hipped north end and continuous ridge roof lights raised above clerestory ventilators. The Stove House is also of brick, including some ‘great’ (measuring approximately 100mm x 110mm x 240mm) bricks, with a gabled slate roof. Most of the openings to the Dyehouse are boarded over (2015).

PLAN: the Dyehouse is a double-depth building which is square on plan. The Stove House has a rectangular plan and of three storeys with attached ranges of two and one storeys respectively to the west; the former was probably semi-open and the westernmost is a mid-C20 addition.

EXTERIOR: the DYEHOUSE is single storey with a dentilled eaves cornice. Its principal (east) elevation has an arcade of twelve bays with pilastered brickwork, arcaded panels, and projecting imposts and keystones. Each bay contains a large window opening with cambered arches and projecting stone cills. The right return has a mix of flat- and arch-headed windows and doorways, and a taking-in door below the eaves. Rising above the roof is a former late-C19 grain hoist tower of brick and corrugated cladding with a gabled roof of corrugated sheeting. It contains two timber windows. The east elevation is plainer and has a number of window openings. On the roof are two further hoist towers which project out over a former railway siding. Each is weatherboarded, with a slate roof, a wooden finial to the apex, and a timber window to the gable end. There are two further hoist towers at the southern end of the dyehouse roof, one clad and roofed in corrugated sheeting; the other is weatherboarded with finials to the gable apexes. The principal elevation of the five-bay STOVE HOUSE faces east. It reflects the changes made to the building over time since most of its windows have been blocked and a large part of the ground-floor brickwork has been rebuilt and buttresses added. To the left bay is a ground-floor entrance, above which is a taking-in door, and there is a window to the upper floor. All have segmental heads. The south elevation has an inserted doorway and a window to each of the floors above in the east gable end. The central section is blind and has lost its roof, and to the far left is a mid-C20 flat-roofed addition of red brick that contains various openings under concrete lintels. INTERIOR: the DYEHOUSE has a large, well-lit interior which is open to the roof, and the valley beam is carried on five, tall, Doric cast-iron columns. A further series of columns support horizontal beams for a mezzanine floor which was inserted during the conversion to a maltings, though the floor itself has been removed. The lightweight, wide-span roof has a sophisticated design using the different structural properties of cast and wrought iron. It comprises slender, rectangular-section wrought-iron principals with ornate, angled compression struts and a system of wrought-iron ties. The slate roof covering is wired to iron laths that are located in clots in the upper edges of the principals, avoiding the use of timber completely.

The three-storey part of the STOVE HOUSE has an internally-framed framed west wall of cylindrical cast-iron columns and I-section beams joined by short spigots. The frame formerly supported the west ends of the floor beams which spanned the building. These beams have since been removed, though the attic floor beams survive. The upper floors are accessed from wooden stairs. Its roof has two-piece, cast-iron trusses and cast-iron purlins. The central section of the Stove House is roofless and the floor has been removed. A doorway in its north wall leads into the Dyehouse, and a wide opening in the west wall provides access to the mid-C20 addition (not inspected internally, 2015).

Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the following features are not of special architectural or historic interest: * mid-C20 flat-roofed addition to the west end of the Stove House; * brick and corrugated sheeting clad hoist tower at the northern end of the Dyehouse; * corrugated sheeting clad hoist tower at the junction between the southern end of the Dye House and the north end of the Stove House; * C20 veranda/open-sided shelter against the south gable wall of the Dyehouse; * C20 internal metal framework of a former mezzanine within the Dyehouse.


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

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings, accessed 23 June 2015 from http://www.flaxmill-maltings.co.uk/
Historic England, Ditherington Mill and the Industrial Revolution, forthcoming autumn 2015
M. Macleod, B. Trinder & M. Worthington, 1988, The Ditherington Flax Mill. A Survey and Historical Evaluation


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: 01 Jul 2003
Reference: IOE01/10961/04
Rights: Copyright IoE Mr M. I. Joachim. Source Historic England Archive
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