Preservationists are pushing a multi-million project to save an iconic piece of Mansfield’s industrial past, before it becomes confined to the pages of history.
Hermitage Mill was a leading cotton manufacturer for the town for 150 years, and the site is now the focus of a campaign to bring it back to life.
It has stood derelict for nearly six years, but the Hermitage Mill Trust say it is a race against time to preserve the grade II-listed structure as it continues to deteriorate.
Members of the registered charity have been working as far back as 2005 to secure its future, and have a grand vision of transforming it into a modern facility set against a strong historical background.
Eventually it could boast a heritage area, exhibition space, office units, corporate meeting and lecture rooms and retail, including a restaurant.
Trust member and conservation architect Peter Rogan said the group has a ‘robust case’ for preservation, and has the backing of Mansfield District Council which has earmarked the site for employment purposes.
Peter said: “It’s the last surviving mill on the River Maun with great heritage potential.
“We want to try and preserve the heritage on that site and retain as much of the character as we can.
“There‘s no reason why we should not be successful, this is not something that has not just come out of the blue, this has been worked on for some years.
“The mill needs a viable future, and as the last surviving mill we have to give it a chance.
“It would be brilliant to get it up and running.”
Set back against Hermitage Road, Hermitage Mill started life as a cotton-spinning factory in 1803, and by 1848 was manufacturing high-quality embroidery thread for the world-renowned company, Taylor’s of Leicester.
By 1894, hosiery manufacturers Samuel Eden & Son were leasing the mill, and eventually bought it from the Portland Trustees in 1912.
However, the mill was sold to Clumber Building Supplies in the 1950s, who in turn sold it to Buildbase.
They ceased trading in December 2008, and since then the historic building has been left derelict and fenced off, although it has failed to prevent vandals and thieves from entering the premises.
Windows have been smashed, walls daubed with graffiti and any item deemed to have scrap value has been stripped by thieves.
Yet its architectural significance has great merit, according to the trust, who say two unique wheelpits have survived intact, along with original iron column structure supports and original roof timbers.
The adjoining mill ponds offer what the trust describe as an ‘extra dimension’ to the redevelopment, and could eventually offer up a park environment for the public, and become a wildlife hotspot.
Detailed drawings have been put together in a report published by the trust, who estimate the overall cost of the scheme could fetch £7m.
However, a breakdown of finances suggests that the first phase could be completed at a cost of £2.5m.
That would include buying the site, which has been on the market since 2009, restoring the fabric and modernising the site ready for use.
It is hoped it could then open the door for attracting revenue streams at the mill.
The project hinges on securing part of the funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, with whom the trust say they have had three ‘promising’ meetings so far.
Trust member and Mansfield resident Bill Taylor, who 50 years experience in the building trade: “It’s been fairly well received already, but the Heritage Lottery Fund will not just hand over millions of pounds and hope it turns out okay.
“This project is enormous. We’ve had to go through the process of a long business plan to make sure it’s sustainable.
“It could be of real benefit to the community, Mansfield is often seen as being deprived of heritage. We’re keen to push this scheme.
“We have put together a suitable business plan, and there’s a lot of passion for it.
“It’s unique, there’s nothing in the Mansfield area comes close to what we are trying to achieve here.
“Mansfield was built on industry, and we have little to show for it.
“This would mean a lot to someone like me who has lived in Mansfield all my life.”