Temple Mill, Leeds

Rare Egyptian style mill crumbling after years of neglect

A former flax mill designed to look like an ancient Egyptian temple has been included on the The Victorian Society’s list of the ten most threatened buildings in England and Wales.

Temple Mill on Marshall Street is listed at Grade I, putting it in the top 2.5% of all listed buildings in the country, yet its structure is now seriously at risk following years of neglect.

Built to house part of John Marshall’s 19th Century flax empire and inspired by the ancient Egyptian Temple at Edfu, Temple Mill is now a notable Leeds landmark.

The architect, Joseph Bonomi, was an Egyptologist and used his detailed knowledge of ancient temples to influence the mill’s design, which includes beautiful lotus columns, snake motifs and hieroglyphs. When it was completed in 1843 its vast single-story weaving shed was described as the single largest room in the world.

‘The weaving shed is still an astonishing space, stretching over two acres and lit from above by sixty-five conical glass domes. But its vaulted ceiling needs repairs and three years ago one of the mill’s exterior pillars collapsed’, said Dr Ian Dungavell, Director of the The Victorian Society. ‘Parts of the building are in use by a cultural events company but a clear plan is needed for the whole site in order to secure its future’.

The Society has also uncovered evidence that the much quoted story of sheep grazing on the grass covered roof of the mill is in fact true, and the turf was laid as part of complex and innovative system of environmental control.

Temple Mill is privately owned but has suffered from years of neglect, which led in 2008 to the collapse of one of the exterior pillars.

Dr Dungavell added: ‘The pioneering design and the striking appearance of Temple Mill must be preserved.’

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