Facade of the Temple Works office block
|Structural system||Largest single room in the world when built|
|Main contractor||Marshall and Co.|
|Architect||Joseph Bonomi the Younger|
|Structural engineer||James Combe|
|Other designers||David Roberts|
|Engine maker||B. Hick and Sons|
|Engine type||Two cylinder beam engine|
|Valve Gear||Double ended slide valves|
|Installed horse power (ihp)||240|
|Flywheel diameter||26ft (7.9m)|
|Other Equipment||7000 Spindles|
Temple Works is a former flax mill in Holbeck, Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. It was designed by engineer James Combe a former pupil of John Rennie, David Roberts, architect Joseph Bonomi the Younger and built in the Egyptian Revival style by John Marshall between 1836 and 1840 with a 240 hp double beam engine by Benjamin Hick (B. Hick and Sons). Temple Works is the only Grade I listed building in Holbeck.
By 1842 John Marshall owned four mills in Holbeck known as Mills B to E, Mill A having been demolished in 1837. The early 1830s had been a time of great prosperity for the firm after the introduction of the wet spinning process in 1829, the transition to which took five years to complete. John Marshall's four sons all entered the business, but increasingly he relied on his son James concerning the manufacturing side. The firm's competitors in Leeds were all prospering and had built or had plans to build sizeable new mills. The firm at that time specialised in making fine yarns, principally for the French market, but this was starting to decline. Therefore, James Marshall decided upon a programme of diversification into thread and cloth manufacture. This decision to diversify required an extension to the manufacturing facility in Holbeck. James had two alternative plans, another six storey mill on the site of the demolished Mill A in Water Lane, or a single storey building extending from Mill C in Marshall Street south to the junction with Sweet Street. He compared the cost of the two mills and calculated the single storey structure would cost £24,000, about 15% cheaper than a comparable six storey building. The new building was modelled at one third the full size in the yard of Mill C. James persuaded his father, then in semi-retirement, that the single storey mill should be built. A Mr Smith had already built the first single storey cotton mill in Deanston, near Stirling, but Messrs. Marshall planned a much larger and complete specimen.
Scale model of Hick's double beam engine
Temple Works, also known as Temple Mill, comprises an office building and factory. The office building has a stone facade consisting of 18 full height windows each separated by 18 pillars with an overhanging cornice in the Egyptian style, based on the temple at Antaeopolis and Temple of Horus at Edfu. The factory building derived from the Typhonium at Dendera. There was a chimney in the style of an obelisk or 'Cleopatra's Needle', which was demolished and replaced by a brick structure in 1852 when the original cracked. Hick's engine was modelled with Egyptian details including a regulator designed by his son Benjamin in the form of a winged solar disk, and replaced the original Watt engines.
James Marshall wrote to his father John in May 1838 describing the arrangements for lighting the building using about 60 conical glass skylights 14 foot in diameter and rising 10 feet above the roof. By this means light poured into the room at all hours of day. Underground in brick vaulted cellars ran a maze of passageways, tradesmen's shops and private baths for the use of the workers (cold, free; hot, 1 penny). In one room a fan pushed steam-heated air into the factory, which was kept at a constant temperature and humidity. In 1847–50 a church, St John the Evangelist, was constructed behind Temple Mill to a gothic design of George Gilbert Scott. Other outbuildings were added, including stables.
The factory was opened in June 1840 and this was marked by a great Temperance Tea for the firm's 2,600 workers. Six months later machinery had been installed and the mill began production. The adjoining office building was completed a few years later. The new buildings did not extend as planned to Sweet Street. It was only half the size James Marshall had forecast and had only half the spindles it could house. All the extra yarn produced was turned into thread, and no cloth was ever woven, as had been planned. The reason for this is the slump in the demand for and the price of finished products in the 1840s. Everybody in the flax spinning industry expected boom to follow slump, but it never did. Leeds flax spinners lost their competitive edge due to the free trade in machinery and could not compete with those in Ireland, France and Belgium. The demand for linen was drastically reduced due to substitution with cotton. Furthermore, a creeping managerial paralysis set in within the Marshall family, virtually all of whom moved away from Leeds. It has been said that the third generation of Marshalls actually despised the business, whereas their fathers had merely neglected it. The day to day control of Temple Mill passed to the manager John Richardson who had been with the firm since the 1820s. He installed several of his friends and relations in senior positions with salaries of between £300 and £500 a year.
On 11 August 1871 six hundred operatives at the Water Lane mills staged a one-day strike for a 10% pay rise. Richardson first threatened them, then closed all the mills the following day. Stephen Marshall, one of the third generation, traced the unrest to Temple Mill, 'as bad a lot of men as we have'. He proposed the public dismissal of the foreman at Temple Mill in such a way as to ruin him. Other members of the family persuaded Stephen Marshall to re-open the mills and negotiate, but talks dragged on for days. The Leeds Mercury published an article contrasting the poverty and insecurity of a worker's life with the spending and luxury of the Marshall family. The 10% wage increase was conceded after a family meeting, but the family determined it would deal with the trouble makers at Temple Mill in the long term.
The Marshall firm continued in business longer than most of its Leeds competitors, eventually closing in 1886, although it made a loss in twenty one out of the last forty years of its existence. However, by the late 1870s Temple Mill was sub-let and ceased to be a net expense to the business. It was sold by auction in 1886 along with all the other assets of the firm.
The Marshalls' inspiration for the design of Temple Works was their interest in Egyptology. When it was built it was said that Temple Works was the biggest single room in the world. An unusual feature of the Temple Works building is that sheep used to graze on the grass-covered roof. This served the purpose of retaining humidity in the flax mill to prevent the linen thread from becoming dried out and unmanageable.
Sheep are not able to use stairs so the first hydraulic lift was devised in order to resolve the problem of moving them onto the roof; Hick was a hydraulics engineer, but it is not clear whether he was responsible for the invention, his youngest son, William Hick (1820–1844) supervised the installation of the 'Egyptian' beam engine from Leeds during 1841.
1842 General Strike
The mill was caught up in the Plug Riots of August 1842. The Leeds Annals  described the events at the mill:
“The vicinity of the new mill in Marshall Street was completely crammed with an excited mob, many of whom were armed with bludgeons, stones &c. The yard-door leading to the boilers of the new mill was strongly defended by Mr J. G. Marshall, and a number of workmen; but the mob by repeated efforts forced down the door, and rushed into the yard. They could not find the plug of the boiler, and consequently did not succeed in stopping the mill. They left the premises without having done any serious mischief, and then proceeded to the mill of Messrs. Titley, Tatham and Walker, Water Lane, which they were engaged in stopping when Prince George with the Lancers came up at full speed and formed in a line in Camp Field. The riot act was read, and two or three of the ringleaders were taken prisoners … .”
Temple Mill blue plaque 2018
A planning application dated July 2005 proposed to partly demolish, refurbish, and extend the mill to form a retail centre, offices, cafes, 75 flats and parking. On 8 December 2008 a stone pillar in the mill's facade collapsed. A slab of millstone grit fell onto the pavement in Marshall Street and the roof parapet above the pillar bowed out. English Heritage advised on a strategy for repairs; their spokesman said that the building was "probably the finest example of a carved stone elevation in the whole region."
In November 2015, Burberry announced plans to use the site for manufacturing. However, following the Brexit vote, they put the plans on hold, finally abandoning them in 2017. The building was put up for auction in 2017 with a starting price of £1. The new buyer, CEG, gave an estimate of £35 million for the restoration works in June 2019, with the building forming part of plans for regeneration of the South Bank of Leeds.
In March 2020 it was announced that the building was under consideration as the home of a planned Northern branch of the British Library. The government's 2020 budget promised £25 million towards the restoration of Temple Works to enable its use by the British Library.
In popular culture
Temple Works features in a John Betjeman BBC film, John Betjeman Discovers Leeds made in 1968 about Leeds city architecture.
In late 2009 the building was opened as an arts centre, with an initial exhibition and tour as part of Leeds Light Night on 9 October.
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