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Public Asked to Help Save Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings’ Iron Crown

This week, 200 years since Queen Victoria’s birth, Historic England is asking the public to help save the cast iron crown on top of Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings in Shropshire.

The Flaxmill is one of the most important buildings in England’s industrial past and forerunner to the modern skyscraper. Its iron crown was added in 1897 to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.

It is decaying fast and Historic England hopes to raise £26,000 with a crowd funding campaign for its urgent restoration.

Jubilee Fever

In 1897 Jubilee-fever swept the nation, as celebrations for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee lit up England and the world. Parties were held on streets across the country and civic works carried out to celebrate the Jubilee.

Some communities even had special coronations of their own and installed crowns on important buildings. A few can still be spotted today, including at Cleethorpes railway Station and Ashby’s Brewery in Staines.

The 22nd June 1897 was a bank holiday for the Jubilee and on this day the people of Shrewsbury crowned their best building to celebrate Victoria’s 60 years on the throne.

Two Victorian workmen (unidentified) stand either side of a timber elevator tower on top of the roof of Shrewsbury Flaxmill. The tower is topped with an ornate cast-iron crown designed to celebrate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria.
A view of the freshly painted timber elevator tower and cast-iron crown © Albrew Maltsters Ltd, from Shropshire Archives PH/S/13/M/1/8

122 years on, the cast iron crown on top of the Flaxmill Maltings urgently needs repairs. Over time its intricate iron-work has fractured and the paint work is peeling away.

The crown has been carefully removed and transported to Heritage Project Contracts Ltd, a specialist metal conservation company in Shrewsbury, for restoration

The paint and decoration will be analysed and surveyed, whilst fractured iron will be stitched and missing elements faithfully recreated. The crown will be repainted in its original colours, carefully reassembled and reinstalled on the highest point of the Flaxmill.

The crowd funder to raise £26,000 will close on 22 June which is the anniversary of when the crown was first installed on the Flaxmill.

Image of the iron crown on top of Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings, Shropshire, which is in need of repair
The iron crown on top of Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings was added to the building in 1897 to mark Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee © Historic England

First in the world

The Main Mill is one of the most extraordinary buildings in the world, being the first anywhere with an iron frame.

It was this British technology that led to the construction of ever taller buildings and gave birth to the modern skyscraper. For this, the Flaxmill is known as the Grandparent of the skyscraper.

During the Industrial Revolution, the new spinning mill quickly became Shrewsbury’s largest employer with more than 800 men, women and children working there to make linen thread from flax.

After it closed in 1886 it reopened a decade later to produce malt for the brewing industry. Part of the building served as a barracks for soldiers during the Second World War and finally closed as a maltings in 1987.

Front of the Main Mill at Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings, showing the new roof, windows and painted sign.  Scaffolding can be seen being erected on the north and south Engine Houses as part of the second of three construction phases.
Front of the Main Mill at Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings, showing the new roof, windows and painted sign

The Flaxmill is a very special place. Its architectural importance is rivalled only by the central role it has played in Shrewsbury for hundreds of years. It has lived many lives and is a timeless witness to creativity, change and working life. The Flaxmill’s crown is a symbol of the public celebration and pride that defined Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Now, 200 years since her birth we are asking the public to help us save the iron crown and restore it above the rooftops of Shrewsbury. Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England

The crown has become an iconic feature of this internationally important site; seen, discussed and remembered by all who visit or pass by. This urgent work will preserve it as a much admired landmark for many generations to come. Alan Mosley, Chair of the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings

Detail of the Jubilee Crown at Shrewsbury Flaxmill
Donations will help pay to remove the ornate cast-iron coronet, transport it to and from a specialist metal conservation workshop, restore and then reinstall it © Historic England DP235739

Saving the Flaxmill, step by step

The buildings soon fell into decline and were regularly vandalised. In 2005 Historic England (then English Heritage) stepped in to stabilise them and carry out urgent repairs.

Thanks to a £20.7m grant from National Lottery players through the National Lottery Heritage Fund, combined with funding from Historic England, Shropshire Council and support from the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings, the restoration of the Grade I listed Main Mill and the Grade II Kiln are underway.

The revitalised site will become a new learning and enterprise quarter for Shrewsbury. Its high quality offices for the region’s growing creative industries will help drive the town’s renaissance as a regional economic hub, just as it was when Shropshire led the way in the Industrial Revolution.

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