Bass Maltings – Sleaford – November 2012

At the turn of the 20th century, Sleaford was well placed for a malting complex on this scale. Situated in a very rural environment, it was close to extensive fields of barley, a seasonal workforce was on hand once the summer harvest had been gathered, the area was served by a plentiful water supply due to Artesian well dug at the end of the 19th century, and the railway line was in close proximity for ease of transportation. The site was purchased by Bass Ratcliff & Greeton Ltd in 1901, and building commenced to the design of Mr H A Couchman, an architect responsible for previous Bass projects. Construction spanned six years, starting with the engine house and associated buildings, and finishing with the smaller ancillary buildings such as the managers’ cottages, dining halls, and the administrative offices. Covering a geographical area of just over 13 acres, and comprising some 500,000 sq ft of floor space, the Sleaford Bass Maltings cost around £350,000 to complete. Standing against a backdrop of flat landscape, this impressive complex can be seen for many miles, its eight massive malt houses, central water tower, and tall chimney dominating the skyline. Production was under way in September 1906 and fully operational by the following year, with a capacity to produce 60,000 quarters of malt per season. Throughout the first half of the 20th century production continued at a pace but, by the end of the Second World War, had declined to such an extent that many of the buildings had become redundant. While other trades rented some of the unused space, the malt industry continued to decline until, in 1959, production finally ceased. The infrastructure had simply become out-dated and too costly to maintain. In 1973 the Sleaford Bass Maltings were purchased by a local firm, GW Padley (Property) Ltd who utilised it for chicken rearing and vegetable processing, but the chicken rearing came to end during the 1990s when approval was given for residential development of adjacent land. Considered to be of special architectural and historical interest, the Sleaford Bass Maltings were Grade II listed in 1974, only to suffer considerable damage two years later when a severe fire spread through the central area. Despite the intensity of the blaze, the structural integrity of the buildings remained intact due to the quality of the original construction, and this fact probably played a key role in saving the building from demolition when an application was made in 1982.Changing views and current policies on regeneration have given this major architectural site new hope for the future. Plans to transform the complex, and provide the community with essential housing, leisure and retail facilities, will ensure that the character of the Sleaford Bass Maltings is balanced against a sustainable development.

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