Temple Works, Leeds: Industrial Folly

temple works: the big space

Yesterday I had a rare opportunity to have a look inside an amazing Grade 1 industrial building in Leeds: Temple Works is an old flax mill built between 1836 and 1840.

The exterior of the building is the first distinctive aspect. It was, somewhat unbelievably, based on the Temple of Horus in Edfu in Egypt. Seeing the lotus motifs on the exterior columns of the facade is a slightly surreal experience in the industrial heartland of Holbeck.

But it is the interior space which is the real attention grabber. When built, it was said to be the largest single room in the world. The size of four football pitches or something along those lines. I just could not begin to imagine the vastness of such a space. When I was eventually able to peer through a window into it (going inside was not possible) I was completely overwhelmed by its immensity. The roof covering it was so enormous that apparently sheep used to graze on the grass-covered roof; the grass helped to maintain humidity in the mill to prevent the linen thread from drying out.

I couldn’t help but wonder what today’s equivalent might be. If there could ever be such a thing. A week or so ago, I posted on the philanthropy of Victorian industrialists. Could the splendour of ¬†industrial workplaces such as be another aspect of that mindset; an altruistic legacy of wonderful architecture? Or was it simply driven by ego? Either way, some of those old Victorian industrialists had an extraordinary aesthetic vision.

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