Iona Gibson’s heritage placement with Mather & Co and Historic England

Working with both Historic England and Mather & Co has been a wonderful experience. I worked on the Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings project, mainly researching about the early days of John Marshall’s mill – the world’s first iron-framed building and grandparent of skyscrapers, based in Shropshire’s central market town. I investigated Marshall’s legacy, child labour, as well as working conditions. I also studied the concept of mental health during the early 19th century, as well as issues surrounding the modern sustainability of society’s clothing habits.

The project really helped me to understand more about researching for an exhibition and appreciate what goes on behind the scenes. I was able to learn about the creative process, how the history blends with a modern audience, and the addressing and contextualisation of sensitive histories.

During my placement, I was trusted to research the areas required, whilst also receiving good guidance and support from Sarah Clarke, Managing Director at Mather & Co. Sarah was brilliant in allowing me the independence to work on the project, whilst also being there to support me and answer any questions that I had. I felt fully involved in the project and part of a team coming together to create something wonderful for Shrewsbury’s industrial heritage. It was brilliant to learn how Historic England and Mather & Co are bringing such tremendous projects together and knowing I was a part of that will remain with me throughout my career.

Since the placement, I have been offered the opportunity to carry on gaining experience as a researcher with Mather & Co, working both on the Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings project and other heritage developments. I’m excited what the future holds for me in this industry.

About the Placement

Mather & Co are consultants for the interpretation for a new visitor centre at Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings and recently hosted two work placements offering opportunities for students to get involved in research for the new displays. You can read more about Mather & Co’s involvement in the project here.

These were part of a series of placements that site owners, Historic England, are offering linked to the regeneration of the Flaxmill Maltings, which is taking place thanks to National Lottery players through the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), via its Growth Deal with Government, has provided £2 million of funding for works integral to bringing the Flaxmill Maltings back to life for a third century of use. Work placements are just one of the outputs from this part of the programme.

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

The Main Mill and Kiln at Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings will open in spring 2022, with the new visitor experience and café opening on the ground floor and the top four floors available for commercial tenants.

You can find out more about the project by visiting Historic England’s website.

Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings