Ditherington Flax Mill Maltings

Visitor Centre (converted Stables)

Date

26 August 2017

Location

Ditherington, Shrewsbury
SJ 49855 13826; 52.71974°N, 2.74382°W

Information

Ditherington Flax Mill Maltings was previously featured here in GeoTopoi in December 2011. Since then there have various changes at the site, the most significant being the opening in November 2015 in the converted offices and stables of a Visitor Centre. The opening of the centre is the first phase of a restoration project undertaken by a partnership between Historic England, Friends of Flaxmill Maltings and Shropshire Council. The second phase, which will result in a mixed-use redevelopment of the historic buildings, is proceeding thanks to the subvention of the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Other changes include the demolition of various later structures on the site, such as the massive concrete silos built in the 1950s and 60s (North Silo and South Silo). Public access is currently limited to the Visitor Centre and a small area to the rear of the mill buildings.

Further Reading

Ditherington Flax Mill Maltings (GeoTopoi, 2011);
Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings (Historic England)

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Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury

Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury

Date

24 August 2017

Location

Frankwell, Shrewsbury
SJ 48906 12832; 52.71071°N, 2.75772°W

Information

Theatre Severn was designed by architects Austin-Smith:Lord and built by Wilmot Dixon. Construction began in November 2006 and the theatre was officially opened in March 2009.

Further Reading

Theatre Severn

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St Chad’s Church, Shrewsbury

St Chad’s Church, Shrewsbury

Date

24 August 2017

Location

St Chad’s Terrace, Shrewsbury
SJ 48816 12422; 52.70702°N, 2.75899°W

Information

The Church of England’s St Chad’s Church opened on 19 August 1792 and has recently celebrated its 225th birthday. The present building, designed by Scottish architect George Steuart (1730-1806), repaced the earlier 13th century chruch dedicated to St Chad.

St Chad’s is a Grade 1 listed building.

Additional trivia: Charles Darwin (1809-1882) was baptised in St Chad’s on November 15th 1809.

Further Reading

St Chad’s;
St Chad’s Church, Shrewsbury (Wikipedia)

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Quantum Leap

Quantum Leap

Date

24 August 2017

Location

Darwin Memorial Geo-Garden, Mardol Quay, Shrewsbury
SJ 48964 12740; 52.70989°N, 2.75684°W

Information

The sculpture Quantum Leap, by Ranbir Lal, Colin Pearce and Mervyn Rodrigues, is located in the Darwin Bicentenary Memorial Garden, which was inaugurated on 8 October 2009.

“Quantum Lead was designed by studying patterns and forms in nature such as flowers, shells and DNA double helix.

“The form of Quantum Leap evokes the local and incidental forms you find when visiting Shrewsbury: such as the arches of the bridges over the River Severn and the patterns formed by boats skulling on the river.”

— Information plaque

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Ditherington Flax Mill Maltings

Ditherington Flax Mill Maltings - Hoist Tower and Kiln

Date

10 December 2011
Location

Ditherington, Shrewsbury

SJ 49855 13826; 52.71974°N, 2.74382°W

Information

There were many fire hazards associated with 18th century textile mills — wooden floors, combustible atmospheres heavy with suspended fibre particles, and illumination by candles, to name a few — and many did indeed burn down. It was against this background that surveyor, engineer, wine merchant and future Mayor of Shrewsbury Charles Bage developed the fire-proof construction techniques employed in his design of Benyon, Bage and Marshall’s Ditherington Flax Mill. Opening in 1797, this was the world’s first iron-framed building — a pioneering innovation in the building technology that would ultimately lead to the construction of skyscrapers. Cast-iron columns had already been used in mills, but Bage’s design utilised these in conjunction with iron beams to support the brick-vaulted ceiling spans.

The site was developed in several phases and operated as a flax mill from 1797 to 1886. The original timber-framed Cross Mill burnt down in 1811 and was replaced the following year with an iron-framed structure of a design similar to that of the Main Mill. The complex was converted into a maltings in 1897-98 by William Jones (Maltsters), which went out of business in 1934. During World War II the site was used by the army as a barracks. The brewers Ansells, which became part of Allied Breweries in 1961, acquired the complex and operated the maltings from 1948 until its final closure in 1987. Vacant since then, the site is now in the hands of English Heritage, which is, in conjunction with Shropshire Council, the Homes and Communities Agency and regional development agency Advantage West Midlands, exploring the possibilities for the future of the site, most of the structures of which are listed buildings. Planning permission for mixed-use redevelopment of the site was granted in November 2010. The plans involve the demolition of non-listed buildings and the conversion of the listed ones to create homes and business space.

Flax production at the mill involved the following processes. First of all, partially pre-prepared imported flax was hackled (combed to separate long from short fibres) in the Cross Mill. Next, in the Main Mill it was carded (further combing), roved (stretched and joined into lengths) and then spun. And finally the resulting yarn was dyed in vats in the Dye House.

The malt kiln was completed in 1898. Various other structural changes, such as the blocking off of mill windows, the demolition of redundant structures, and the construction of the wooden hoist tower with its wrought-iron ‘Jubilee’ coronet, were also made at the time of conversion. The concrete silos were a late addition to the complex, being built in the 1950s and 60s.

Malting is the process, in which the enzymes necessary to convert the grain starches into sugars are developed, of turning barley into malt for use in brewing, for example. The production method at the maltings was as follows. Barley was first of all steeped for several days in metal tanks with three or four changes of cold water. It was then emptied out and spread across the mill floors and turned over twice daily. Once germination started — after three or four days — the barley was then conveyed to the kiln and spread out over perforated floors heated by coal fires. And finally, after drying in the kiln, the finished product would then be stored in silos ready for dispatch.

Former Ditherington Flax Mill and Attached Former Malting Kiln (English Heritage);
Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings;
Shrewsbury Flax Mill plans approved (5 November 2010)

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Shrewsbury and Hereford Railway

'Stop Look Listen' - pedestrian crossing of the railway

Date

10 December 2011
Location

Bayston Hill, Shrewsbury

SJ 49051 09578; 52.68148°N, 2.75507°W

Information

Now part of Network Rail’s Welsh Marches Line, the Shrewsbury and Hereford Railway was originally constructed from 1850 to 1853. To save costs, it was initially laid as a single line with the intention of doubling it later, which was done in 1862. All passenger trains on the line are operated by Arriva.

A public footpath from the A49 Hereford Road close to the Bayston Hill Roundabout on the Shrewsbury Bypass crosses the line just south of the A5.

Shrewsbury and Hereford Railway (Wikipedia)

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Bayston Hill Quarry

Bayston Hill Quarry

Date

10 December 2011
Location

Bayston Hill, Shrewsbury

SJ 49708 09745; 52.68303°N, 2.74537°W

Information

Bayston Hill Quarry, on the southern outskirts of Shrewsbury, is a roadstone quarry owned by Tarmac Ltd and is one of the UK’s largest producers of high-quality aggregates. The rough surface of the gritstone extracted there provides it with a high Polished Stone Value (a measure of its resistance to polishing), making the crushed rock an ideal ingredient in the manufacture of high-grip road-surfacing products. Aggregate from the quarry was used in the surfacing of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix’s Yas Marina circuit, which opened in 2009.

The quarry is 75 m deep, 1.1 km long and covers an area of 30 hectares. Extensive landscaping of the periphery of the site has been undertaken, using clay overburden to form screening mounds along the north-west edge of the quarry.

The workings feature in maps as early as 1752, but it is a recent discovery at the quarry from long before that which has forced archaeologists to re-evaluate the engineering accomplishments of pre-Roman Iron-Age Britons. The route of a ‘Roman’ road here was already known and in 2009 quarry operations were about to destroy a 400 m stretch of its path. This gave archaeologists a chance to study an excavated section. The cambered road was six metres wide, built on a hardcore and clay foundation, and cobbled with stones from the River Severn. It has been dated to the first century BC, pre-dating the Roman invasion by about 100 years.

Britannia Superior: Why Roman roads may not be quite as Roman as we think (the guardian, 15 March 2011);
P. W. Scott, Colin Malcolm Bristow, Industrial minerals and extractive industry geology

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Shrewsbury Weir

Weir on the River Severn, Shrewsbury

Date

10 December 2011
Location

Shrewsbury

SJ 50077 13061; 52.71288°N, 2.74042°W

Information

With a length of 220 miles, the Severn is the longest river in the UK. Its source is in the Cambrian Mountains of mid Wales and it flows into the Bristol Channel via the Severn Estuary. The river meanders around the centre of Shrewsbury.

Shrewsbury Hydro, a local community group, has plans to build a hydro electric plant with underground turbines at the weir.

River Severn (Wikipedia);
Shrewsbury Hydro (Transition Town Shrewsbury);
Shrewsbury weir electricity plans get £15k of funding (BBC News, 6 December 2011)