Milestone marked at Friars Mill

Published on 28 September 2015

THE restoration of a fire-damaged 18th century factory in Leicester has reached a major milestone.

Friars Mill, a disused mill complex on the banks of the River Soar, is undergoing a £6.3milllion redevelopment scheme to bring it back into use as a base for local businesses.

The city council-led project will provide 15 new units for small to medium sized businesses.

The site includes Leicester’s oldest surviving factory building – the former Donisthorpe Factory – which was badly damaged by fire in 2012.

As part of the ongoing redevelopment of the site, specialist restoration builders William Anelay have had to entire factory roof, which was destroyed in the blaze.

The factory’s distinctive and fully restored cupola has now been lifted into place on the roof, marking an important milestone in the project.

A decorative ibex, handcrafted to mirror the factory’s original weathervane, will provide the finishing touch to the cupola to mark the completion of the redevelopment of Friars Mill later this year.

The factory’s new chimney, which has been refabricated in zinc, is also now in place. It features bold Friars Mill lettering, which will be illuminated once the new workspaces are open.

City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “Friars Mill is an important part of the city's industrial heritage. When the Donisthorpe Factory roof was lost to fire in 2012, we knew that the building couldn’t be allowed to fall into further disrepair so we stepped in and bought it.

“The completion of the new roof, and fitting of the beautifully recreated cupola, is an important milestone in the work to bring the building back into use.

“The contractors are doing a really wonderful job with the renovation. When complete, Friars Mill will offer really attractive new workspaces for future business to grow and flourish in.

“This project was always intended as a catalyst for the wider regeneration of this part of the city. With its new chimney in place, Friars Mill will stand as a beacon to our ambitious vision for Waterside.”

Hairy Biker David Myers was on site to lend a hand during the fitting of the cupola as part of filming for a new BBC2 heritage series, in which the restoration of Friars Mill will feature.

The Grade II-listed mill complex had stood empty and derelict since 2005. The council bought it for £550,000 following the arson attack in 2012.

Working with Levitate Architecture and Design Studio, plans were drawn up to redevelop the complex and create 2,300sqm of new, managed workspaces.

Along with the redevelopment of the main Donisthorpe Factory building, the former workers’ cottages, which face onto Soar Lane, have also been restored, with a modern extension built to the rear. These will house work units.

Bath Lane Mill has also been developed to provide work spaces and shared meeting rooms.

A new building has also been built alongside the Pump House. This will house photovoltaic panels and an air source heat pump large enough to heat the entire complex.

The restoration of Friars Mill began last September and is due to be completed by late November. A decorative ibex, which will provide a final touch to the new cupola’s weathervane, will be fitted to mark the completion of the project.

The project has been awarded up to £3.9milllion from the European Development Fund.