Ditherington Flax Mill

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Coordinates: 52°43′10″N 2°44′36″W / 52.7195°N 2.7432°W / 52.7195; -2.7432

Ditherington Flax Mill
Section of the rear of the main part of the flax mill
General information
Town or city Shrewsbury
Country United Kingdom
Construction started 1796
Completed 1797
Cost £17000 (including the cost of mill equipment)
Client John Marshall, Thomas Benyon, Benjamin Benyon
Design and construction
Architect Charles Bage

Ditherington Flax Mill, a Flax mill located in Ditherington, a suburb of Shrewsbury, England, is the oldest iron-framed building in the world. As such, it is seen as the world's first skyscraper described as "the grandfather of skyscrapers",[1] despite being only as tall as a modern five-story building. Its importance was officially recognised in the 1950s,[2] resulting in it becoming a Grade I listed building.[3] It is also locally known as the "Maltings" from its later use.

It is derelict, and is in the hands of English Heritage. Plans to transform the site into homes, offices and shops were given approval in October 2010.[4]

The Flax Mill's architect was Charles Bage, who designed the mill using an iron-framed structure,[5] inspired by the work of William Strutt.[6] The construction of the mill ran from 1796 to 1797, at a cost (including equipment) of £17000.[7]

The mill was built for John Marshall of Leeds, Thomas Benyon, and Benjamin Benyon. The architect, Bage, was also a partner in the venture.[8] This partnership was dissolved in 1804, the mill being retained by John Marshall, who paid off his partners on the basis that it was worth £64000. Castlefields Mill was built by the other partners nearby. These two flax mills provided the 'chief manufacture' of Shrewsbury (according to an 1851 directory). The mill closed in 1886, and was sold (with a bleach yard at Hanwood) for a mere £3000. The building was then converted to a maltings (hence its more commonly used local name), and as a consequence many windows were bricked up.[2]

Its design effectively overcame much of the problem of fire damage from flammable atmosphere, due to the air containing many fibres, by using a fireproof combination of cast iron columns and cast iron beams,[9] a system which later developed into the modern steel frame which made skyscrapers possible.

Along with the main Flax Mill, a number of other buildings in the group are listed for their architectural and historic value: the apprentice house (Grade II*);[10] the dye house (Grade II*);[11] the flax dressing building (Grade II*);[12] the flax warehouse (Grade II);[13] the stables (Grade II);[14] and the workshops and offices (Grade II).[15] The mill and buildings are on the Heritage at Risk Register.


  1. ^ 'Father of the skyscraper' rescued for the nation, English Heritage press release, undated, retrieved 27 May 2007
  2. ^ a b W. G. Rimmer, 'Castle Foregate Flax Mill, Shrewsbury' Transactions of Shropshire Archaeological Society LVI (1957–60), 49ff.
  3. ^ Historic England. "Former Ditherington Flax Mill and attached former Malting Kiln (458193)". Images of England. 
  4. ^ "Shrewsbury Flax Mill plans approved". Shropshire Star. Retrieved 5 November 2010. 
  5. ^ Jones, Nigel (2005). Architecture of England, Scotland, and Wales. England: Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 92. ISBN 0-313-31850-6. Retrieved 10 May 2008. 
  6. ^ "Charles Bage and Iron Construction". Revolutionary Players. Retrieved 10 May 2008. 
  7. ^ "Ditherington Flax Mill". Revolutionary Players. Retrieved 10 May 2008. 
  8. ^ "History of Ditherington Flax Mill". BBC Shropshire. Retrieved 10 May 2008. 
  9. ^ A. W. Skempton and H. R. Johnson, 'The First iron frames' Archiectural Review (March 1962); repr. in R. J. M. Sutherland, Structural Iron 1750–1850 (Ashgate, Aldershot 1997), 25–36.
  10. ^ Historic England. "Apprentice House of former Ditherington Flax Mill (458195)". Images of England. 
  11. ^ Historic England. "Stove House and Dye House at former Ditherington Flax Mill (458194)". Images of England. 
  12. ^ Historic England. "Flax dressing building at former Ditherington Flax Mill (458196)". Images of England. 
  13. ^ Historic England. "Flax warehouse at former Ditherington Flax Mill (458197)". Images of England. 
  14. ^ Historic England. "Stables of former Ditherington Flax Mill (458198)". Images of England. 
  15. ^ Historic England. "Workshops and offices of former Ditherington Flax Mill (458199)". Images of England. 


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