Former maltings kiln, 1896-7 designed by Henry Stopes. Within a former flax mill complex that was converted to a maltings in 1897-8 and closed in 1987.
Reasons for Designation
The maltings kiln of the former Shropshire Maltings, formerly Ditherington Flax Mill, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: it was designed by Henry Stopes, one of the country’s leading authorities on the malting industry at that time;
* Architectural: it retains the robust and distinctive external features which characterise these structures such as the pyramidal roof, cowl and regularly-spaced windows;
* Intactness: a substantially intact example of a traditional late-C19 maltings kiln which retains evidence for its kiln furnace and roasting floors.
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 between 1809 and 1812. 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 flax mill was purchased by William Jones of Shrewsbury and adapted for use as a maltings, known as the Shropshire Maltings. Designs for the adaptation of the site were produced by the contemporary authority on the malting industry, Henry Stopes (1840–1902), who had already designed another complex for Jones. Malting floors were created in two of the former flax mill buildings: the Spinning Mill and Cross Building, and the former Flax Warehouse was used for dressing, cleaning and storing grain. A major new addition to the complex was the MALTINGS KILN which was built at the north end of the Spinning Mill. It was originally served by a bank of anthracite-fired furnaces and had two drying floors, and was substantially altered in the mid-C20 when two new burners were installed. The upper floor was also stripped of its tiles and removed, and wedge wire replaced the tiles on the lower floor. By this date sprouting barley was conveyed to the kiln from the maltings floors in the adjacent Spinning Mill and Cross Building by a series of elevators and conveyors (removed). The kilning process took three or four days, during which time, in temperatures reaching 220°F (105°C), the grain was turned to ensure uniform results, originally by hand, and in later years by machine. Kilning halted the germination process and reduced the moisture content in the grain which was then conveyed, originally in baskets and by chutes from the 1950s, to the Flax Warehouse where it was stored.
William Jones & Son 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. During this period, electric lighting was installed and, due to changes in the methods of storing grain, two concrete storage silos were erected (demolished in the early C21). 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 the site closed in 1987.
Former maltings kiln, 1896-7 designed by Henry Stopes. Within a former flax mill complex that was converted and extended to a maltings in 1897-8 and closed in 1987.
MATERIALS: it is built of red brick under a pyramidal slate roof surmounted by a cowl with a rectangular hat.
PLAN: it is a three-bay building of three storeys which is rectangular on plan.
EXTERIOR: the east elevation has a three-bay arcade to the lower part with a timber, three-light window set within each; the one to the right-hand bay is at a higher level. Bays one and two also have shallow windows beneath these and bay three has a large blocked opening below its other window. Each of the two upper floors has three regularly-spaced windows, though the central first-floor window has been bricked up, and all have cills of blue brick. The opposing (west) elevation has two tall, round-arched openings to the ground floor, of which the left-hand one was formerly for a railway siding. The other opening has been bricked-in and a door and a window have been inserted into it. The upper part of the west elevation is set back from the ground floor and contains windows to both the first and second floors. Both the west and east elevations have a number of cast-iron tie plates.
INTERIOR: the kiln is accessed from the link passage in the eastern stair block of the Cross Building. The ground floor, where the furnaces were located, has vaulted brick ceilings to either side of the central heat chamber. There were originally two kiln drying floors above this, but the upper one has been removed. The first floor is divided vertically into two halves and the characteristic cast-iron floor beams remain. The maltings machinery, including elevators, conveyors, power shovels, kiln-loading machine or thrower, and the burners have been removed, but the overhead chute that fed the thrower with grain remains in situ.
This list entry was subject to a Minor Amendment on 2 March 2023 to amend the description.