Aerial view of Lister Mills
Aerial view of Lister Mills © David Morley Architects
Aerial view of Lister Mills © David Morley Architects

Saving Monumental Bradford Mill

If you had to describe the Listers Mills complex in Manningham in one word, it would be ‘monumental’! It was once the largest silk spinning and weaving mill in Great Britain employing over 11,000 people at its peak and covering an area of 13 acres. Its iconic 249-foot chimney, inspired by the design of St Mark’s Campanile in Venice, is a prominent landmark visible throughout much of Bradford. But its future was uncertain after manufacturing stopped on the site and the task of repair and finding a new use was pretty huge.

Lister Mills was built by Samuel Cunliffe Lister who made a fortune from the family textile business by pioneering a process for transforming silkworm waste into a quality silk cloth. Disaster struck in 1871 when a fire destroyed much of an earlier mill and claimed the lives of two workers. Undeterred, Lister had a new mill complex rise phoenix-like from the ashes. Two vast multi-storey blocks dominate the site, one a spinning mill and the other used mainly as a warehouse. An imposing boundary wall creates a fortress of industry.

After decades of decline in the post-war period Lister and Company went into administration in 1997. Lister Mills were included on the first Buildings at Risk Register in 1998.

Urban Splash, a development company with a track record of converting iconic buildings to new uses, took on the site in 2004. After extensive repairs, two multi-storey blocks are no longer at risk and they now house over 300 apartments as well as commercial and community uses.

The addition of bold roof-level pods show how creative interventions can open exciting new chapters for historic buildings. The next stage of regeneration includes urgent repairs to parts of the perimeter wall, which Historic England hopes to support with funding.

20 years of the Heritage at Risk Register

This year we are celebrating 20 years of the Heritage at Risk Register, Historic England’s tool for shining a light on the listed buildings and places in England that need the most help. Looking back over the last 20 years, huge progress has been made in saving our heritage and giving it new uses.

See our top 20 heritage rescues

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