Industrial evolution became historical evaluation recently, as Leicester’s oldest factory opened its doors as part of the Heritage Open Day programme. Formerly home to Donisthorpe, manufacturers of threads and worsted yarn, Friars Mill’s doors were closed for good in 2005, with dilapidation and eventually fire following. Rescued by Leicester Council, and subjected to a £7m refurbishment which was partly ERDF funded, Friars Mill reopened in April 2016 as premium managed workspace.
Centre Manager, Tom Munro, explained; ‘The vision that Leicester City Council demonstrated, in bringing this historic campus back to life, was exemplary. Visitors and tenants alike are astounded by the sympathetic marrying of original features with contemporary technology’.
Designed as follow-on space for businesses that have been created in Leicester and further afield, Friars Mill offers a range of unique yet usable workspaces which are ideal for creative, professional, and high tech businesses. Being a short walk from Leicester’s High Street and major transport links, current tenants at Friars Mill benefit from the adjacent Grand Union Canal’s tranquillity. Managed by East Midlands Chamber, Friars Mill is already home to a number of successful businesses.
Tom added; ‘Not being part of this year’s Heritage Open Day would have been a great shame, especially given the site’s provenance and fondness that people throughout Leicestershire demonstrate for it. The Open Day is our way of giving something back. I’ve shown hundreds of visitors around since beginning my role in October 2015, and believe that this iconic site provides a ‘wow’ factor to everybody who crosses the threshold’.
Two tours benefitted from the presence of former Donisthorpe staff, who were happy to share their memories of Friars Mill between the 1960s and early 2000s.
‘There isn’t a shortage of historical sites in Leicester, as the discovery of Richard III’s remains proves. It is nice that Friars Mill can add to this portfolio yet bring value to the economic landscape. During construction of the two new buildings on site, Roman artefacts and a wall were found, illustrating Friars Mill’s archaeological significance too’.