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Students Get Hands-On at Iconic Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings

Shrewsbury Colleges Group students have become the first to gain hands-on experience of traditional construction methods, as part of a National Lottery-funded programme to plug England's heritage skills gap, using 18th Century Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings as a site for hands-on learning.

On Thursday 8 March, 12 Level 1 and 2 Brickwork students spent the morning at the Flaxmill Maltings site learning  to make the ‘great’ bricks  that were used in the construction of the iconic Grade I listed Main Mill - the world’s first iron-framed building and forerunner of modern day skyscrapers, which was built in 1797.

A young male student attempts to make a brick, guided by a male teacher. Both are wearing hi-vis clothing and protective goggles.
Shrewsbury Colleges Group student, Mateusz Kosinski (left) finishing off the brick which will go in the time capsule under the guidance of Northcot Brick demonstrator, Static Zbigneau © Historic England

Northcot Brick, specialist traditional brick manufacturers, have been making by hand 30,000 of the special sized bricks needed to restore the Main Mill. Today they passed on their expert knowledge, demonstrating traditional hand-throwing methods. The students were then able to get hands-on and make their own bricks. Some of the bricks the students produced will be included in a time capsule, to be placed within the Main Mill later this year.

Alan Mosley, Chairman of the Friends of Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings explained the history of the bricks: “Approximately one third larger than standard sized bricks, [they] tell part of the history as they were used for construction during a period when the number of bricks used in new buildings were taxed to raise funds for wars in the American Colonies, and using larger bricks was a method used to reduce the amount of bricks required, and consequently the amount of tax which would be charged.”

The session is part of Historic England’s Heritage Skills programme, supported by the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation which offers a number of training opportunities, work-based placements and continuing professional development opportunities for construction trainees, students, contractors, craftspeople and professionals. The programme is being made possible under the wider £20.7 million National Lottery refurbishment of Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings.

The Heritage Skills programme also includes hard-hat tours for heritage, construction, colleges and universities and local interest groups. The tours give behind-the-scenes access to the works in progress and learning from the expert craftspeople working on the project.

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