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Temple Works

Facade of the Temple Works office block

Temple Works is a former flax mill in Holbeck, Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. It was designed by engineer James Combe a former pupil of John Rennie,[1] David Roberts, architect Joseph Bonomi the Younger and built in the Egyptian style by John Marshall between 1836 and 1840 with a 240hp double beam engine by Benjamin Hick[2] (B. Hick and Son). Temple Works is the only Grade I listed building in Holbeck.

Temple Works, also known as Temple Mill, comprises an office block and factory, the office block based on the temple at Antaeopolis and Temple of Horus at Edfu with a chimney designed in the style of an obelisk; the factory building derived from the Typhonium at Dendera. Hick's engine was modelled with Egyptian details including a regulator in the form of a winged solar disk,[3] and replaced the original Watt engine.[2]

Marshall's inspiration for the design of Temple Works was his interest in Egyptology. When it was built it was said that Temple Works was the biggest single room in the world. An unusual feature of the Temple Works building is that sheep used to graze on the grass-covered roof. This served the purpose of retaining humidity in the flax mill to prevent the linen thread from becoming dried out and unmanageable.[4] Sheep are not able to use stairs so the first hydraulic lift was devised in order to resolve the problem of moving them onto the roof;[5] Hick was a hydraulics engineer, but it is not clear whether he was responsible for the invention.

The mill was caught up in the Plug Riots of August 1842. The Leeds Annals [6] described the events at the mill:

“The vicinity of the new mill in Marshall Street was completely crammed with an excited mob, many of whom were armed with bludgeons, stones &c. The yard-door leading to the boilers of the new mill was strongly defended by Mr J. G. Marshall, and a number of workmen; but the mob by repeated efforts forced down the door, and rushed into the yard. They could not find the plug of the boiler, and consequently did not succeed in stopping the mill. They left the premises without having done any serious mischief, and then proceeded to the mill of Messrs. Titley, Tatham and Walker, Water Lane, which they were engaged in stopping when Prince George with the Lancers came up at full speed and formed in a line in Camp Field. The riot act was read, and two or three of the ringleaders were taken prisoners … .”

Temple Works features in a John Betjeman film made in 1968 about Leeds city architecture.[7]

A planning application dated July 2005 proposed to partly demolish, refurbish, and extend the mill to form a retail centre, offices, cafes, 75 flats and parking. On 8 December 2008 a stone pillar in the mill's facade collapsed. A slab of millstone grit fell onto the pavement in Marshall Street and the roof parapet above the pillar bowed out.[8][9] English Heritage advised on a strategy for repairs; their spokesman said that the building was "probably the finest example of a carved stone elevation in the whole region."[10]

In late 2009 the building was opened as an arts centre, with an initial exhibition and tour as part of Leeds Light Night on 9 October.


  1. ^  
  2. ^ a b Graham, Stanley (2009). Steam Engine Research Resources. p. 3.  
  3. ^ Stevens Curl, James (2013). The Egyptian Revival. Routledge. p. 279.  
  4. ^ "Temple Mill, Leeds". The Victorian Society. Retrieved 27 October 2012. 
  5. ^ Cronshaw, Jon. "Temple Works: The most extreme venue in Leeds". Leeds Art Scene. Leeds Art Scene. Retrieved 19 October 2015. 
  6. ^ , Leeds 1860, page 484The Annals and History of Leeds and other places in the County of YorkMayhall,
  7. ^ Grady, Kevin (13 March 2009). "John Bejteman on the architecture of Leeds". Building Design Online. Building Design 2014. Retrieved 15 January 2015. 
  8. ^ "Pillar collapses at historic mill". BBC News. 8 December 2008. Retrieved 11 December 2008. 
  9. ^ Smith, Bruce (8 December 2008). "Historic Leeds building collapses" (with video). Yorkshire Evening Post. Retrieved 11 December 2008. 
  10. ^ Marsh, David (10 December 2008). Egyptian temple' in Leeds shored up as owners take advice"'". Yorkshire Evening Post. Retrieved 11 December 2008. 

External links

  • Double Beam Engine: Model of B. Hick and Son's 240hp double beam engine on display at the Science Museum
  • Templeworks website
  • Temple Works - The most extreme venue in Leeds

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