Architecture Historic photography Listed places

Workshop of the World: 5 Great New Uses for England’s Industrial Heritage

Grade I and II* industrial buildings are three times more likely to be at risk than other types of historic building of the same grade. Yet re-using industrial buildings can bring great economic benefits while providing stimulating spaces to live and work in.

To mark European Industrial and Technical Heritage Year we’ve found some of England’s best historic industrial sites that have been brought back to life in imaginative and innovative ways.

1. Paragon Mill, Manchester

Read about the Industrial heritage conference we are running in December with the HLF and Princes Regeneration Trust.

Ancoats Survey, Manchester. Partial view of Paragon Mill and Royal Mill from the west.
Ancoats Survey, Manchester. Partial view of Paragon Mill and Royal Mill from the west.

Northern mills like the Paragon were once the engine rooms which powered an empire, but the mill fell into a bad state of repair through disuse at the end of the 20th Century. A stark reminder of Manchester’s industrial past, the Mill has been saved, restored and converted into unique homes, bringing life to a once neglected area of the city.

2. The Toffee Factory, Newcastle

Toffee factory
The Toffee Factory ©Garrod Kirwood, 2011

Originally built as a slaughter house, the toffee factory churned out sticky confectionery and seaside rock for decades before the business closed and the building succumbed to decay. Trees grew out of ruined brickwork and the roof collapsed inward. Newcastle City Council took over the reins and oversaw a clever conversion into units for creative and digital businesses. The contemporary design and innovative additions to the building earned it a host of accolades including three architectural awards from The Royal Institute of British Architects in 2012. Visit the Toffee Factory Website 

3. Stanley Dock, Liverpool, Grade II*

Liverpool Dock
Titanic Hotel, Stanley Dock, Liverpool. © Historic England.

The site opened in 1848 as one of five inter-connected docks that helped to make Liverpool one of the greatest ports in the world. The site fell vacant after closing in 1980 and later became at risk. Developer, Harcourt, invested in the site, converting the grade II* listed North Warehouse into a hotel, with a conference centre in the former Rum Warehouse. The project is now stimulating further regeneration in the area: the next part of the complex to be developed is the nearby Tobacco Warehouse, said to be the largest brick building in the world when it was built.

 4. Dewar’s Lane Granary, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Grade II


The former granary building lay empty and derelict after its working life came to an end in 1985. The Berwick Preservation Trust raised over £5 million for its restoration and the Youth Hostel Association agreed to take on part of the granary for a new 57­ bed hostel. The building now houses the hostel, a bistro, a heritage interpretation space, meeting rooms, and a gallery used for major art exhibitions, and it has proved to be the catalyst for the wider regeneration of this part of the medieval town.

5.  University of the Arts, York Way, London


The Granary Building, York Way, before regeneration and after opening as a new home for the University of the Arts.

Now an inspiring home for the University of the Arts, the buildings were once a series of redundant warehouses designed to store coal, wheat, barley and potatoes for the growing 19th century city. The building is an innovative place for students to learn skills in the creative industries. The regeneration has had a major economic impact on the area, thanks to the spending power of up to 4,500 students and to visitors who come to enjoy film and theatre, exhibitions, fashion shows and concerts.

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2 comments on “Workshop of the World: 5 Great New Uses for England’s Industrial Heritage

  1. I love how these buildings are brought back into use and breath new life both into the building and the community. One of the top reasons I love watching Restoration Man is to see these types of buildings evolve. The imagination of architects amazes me sometimes. My favourite here is the Stanley Dock, Liverpool.

  2. Jill A Franklin

    ‘Five new uses’ So heartening! Thank you! A small quibble: it would have been good to mention the 21st-century architecture practice/s involved in each case!

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