In the current (November 2017) issue of our newspaper we wrote: “The future of the magnificent Grade 1 listed Temple Works in Holbeck remains in doubt following Burberry’s decision not to take ownership as part of their plans for a new factory nearby.”
This week we learned that the building’s future is in even greater uncertainty as it has been put up for sale in a property auction to be held on 7 December at Elland Road. Listed simply as Lot 87 “Grade I listed former flax mill” with no minimum or maximum guide price and no reserve price.
Commenting on the sale, Martin Hamilton, Director Leeds Civic Trust, said:
“This is considered by many – including English Heritage and Leeds City Council – to be one of the most important historical buildings in Leeds. Its architectural and historical significance are significant.
“The news that the building is to be auctioned off must therefore be received with some trepidation. We only hope that, if it is sold, the new owner will be able to bring the necessary imagination – and investment – to the table, to restore this magnificent mill, and to bring it back into use.”
Built in the 1840s as a flax mill and designed as a copy of the ancient Temple of Edfu in Egypt, Temple Works was a state-of-the-art building. The main spinning room was the largest room in the world at that time. Unfortunately it’s structure relies on cast iron rods which have degraded. The cost of making the building usable again is estimated at £20m.
It appears the current owners, understood to be the secretive Barclay Brothers, owners of the Daily Telegraph, have had enough of the delays in a permanent owner taking on the building and the associated ongoing maintenance costs. There rush to sell means that it is unlikely any community or public-private group could get organised in time for the auction.
Leeds City Council, which doesn’t own Temple Works, is keen to see it restored and brought back into use. South Leeds Life understands their strategy is to use land they do own neighbouring the site as a lever.
With development hotting up in the area, the Council’s seven acre landholding will become increasingly sought after by developers. However the Council plans only to sell the land in conjunction with a developer taking ownership and restoring Temple Works. Proceeds from the sale of the land would be recycled as a grant to support the refurbishment costs.
Temple.Works.Leeds, the project that ran cultural activities in the building between 2009 and 2016, have developed a fully costed business plan and are keen to talk to any developers interested in the site.
Writing on The Culture Vulture blog, Phil Kirby, who was involved with Temple.Works.Leeds suggested that maybe, just maybe, it might all work out fine with Channel 4 buying for their new headquarters.