Leeds Engine:Today: Holbeck

Holbeck and its Fancy Factories

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Temple Mill

Temple Mill was built between 1838 and 1843 as a further development of the John Marshall works complex, the mill itself is a single story building that covers two acres, the office block on Marshall Street has a façade based on an Egyptian temple design. This building was designed by Joseph Bonomi who was not an architect by trade but spent 1824 – 34 in Egypt making drawings of temples and pyramids. The façade of the mill offices are largely based on the Pronaos, the part leading to the sanctuary, of the Temple of Horus in Edfu, built between 257 and 237 BC.(Picture)
The mill is quite an unusual design too, the large flat roofed complex had a large open layout, once the largest single room in the world. Plenty of light was provided by the 65 conical glass domes on the roof, the roof was covered by plaster, tar, earth and grass. This may sound similar to some modern concepts for eco houses, the reason for this turfed roof being that it provides effective heat insulation. It is believed that sheep were allowed to graze on the roof of the building and it has often been said that a sheep once fell off the roof, though accounts from the time of this have not been found. Inside the roof is supported by cast iron columns, featuring the papyrus design to match those of the office façade. Temperature and humidity were controlled using a forced air heating system and a series of channels under the floor from which water was evaporated, the humid conditions were essential while handling flax.
Sadly one of the columns of the front of the building and a section of roof recently collapsed. Though with the importance of this fascinating Grade 1 listed building not forgotten work on its repair soon began. When completed the building should become an excellent art venue. The large open plan and well lit environment should mean the building is as well suited to this purpose as it was to its original use as a flax mill.
Continuing away from Leeds on Water Lane we soon come to another old mill building.

A History of the Middleton Railway Leeds, ISBN 0-9516205-5-X, Available from the Middleton Railway Shop
John Blenkinsop of Middleton, John Bushell, Old Middleton Railway publication.
The Leeds & Liverpool Canal, ISBN 1-85936-013-0
Old Ordinance Survey Maps, Holbeck & New Wortley 1906, ISBN0-85054-111-5, Available in most local books shops.
Victorian Society Walks No6, Leeds – 3 suburban walks, from 1987, copies can be found in the Leeds Civic Society shop.

Further Reading on the Internet
History section of the Holbeck Urban Village Site.

This article was produced by Kris Ward, any feedback or contributions about the Leeds engine making industry would be greatly appreciated.

Page last modified: 20 June 2021

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