Friends urge residents to take part in census

As Census 2021 weekend approaches, we are lending our support to the campaign and urging everybody to complete your census surveys.

Our volunteers have spent the last eight years with historical census date. We’ve used them to piece together the lives of people who worked at the site when it was a working flax mill, spinning flax into linen thread.  Records of former workers don’t exist and so the census information has been the key to unlocking information about who worked there and what their lives may have been like.

We have been able to collate thousands of names of residents from the Castlefields and Ditherington areas who were working in the flax mill between 1841 and 1881. That research offered an insight into the roughly 800-strong flax mill workforce, for instance in 1861 37% of the workers were women, 39% were children under 16 and only 24% were men. The censuses also indicate the types of jobs that were held at the flax mill, including spinners, twisters, reelers, flax dressers, finishers and dyers.  This information has been vital in helping us to share the story of the Flaxmill Maltings through our tours, talks and educational activities.


Penny Ward, Friends' Trustee and volunteer and Roger Belham, Census engagement manager for Shropshire


Penny Ward, board member for the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings and lead for our census research, said:

“The census is an essential historical document, and we would urge everybody to get involved in Census 2021. We are all part of the history of Shrewsbury and this is our way to join in. Looking back after over a 100 years, it makes you truly thankful to all those who went before, who worked to make Shrewsbury, and our flax mill, the place we know and love today. The Friends volunteers have been working for years to tease the stories out of the censuses which will bring the site to life once again.”

Penny has taken the research further, and linked names from the census records to births, marriages and deaths records, as well as geographical mapping, to see how the area around the flax mill developed. We will be sharing some of the research via our Facebook page in the coming weeks to mark Census 2021.

Roger Belham, census engagement manager for Shropshire said:

“The 2021 census that takes place on 21st March will be the 22nd census since 1801. The census is conducted by the Office for National Statistics and provides a snapshot of our country, its people and their lives. It is fascinating to see what the census records tell us about the lives of the people that worked in the Flaxmill Maltings. We find it hard to believe that young children were employed in industry. What will our descendants think about us when the records of the 2021 census are released in 100 years?”

As well as contributing to the activities of the Friends, the research done will also be utilised by design team, Mather & Co, to shape the content for the new visitor attraction, due to open in spring 2022.

Alastair Godfrey, Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings project lead for Historic England said:

“The role of the Friends in researching the social history of the site has been invaluable.  In the absence of worker records from the flax mill era, their detailed work has given an insight into the lives of some of the people who lived and worked on site at this time.  Sharing this information through their outreach activities and the new visitor experience gives the community a sense of the importance of the flax mill to the town during this era.  As a flax mill this site was once the largest employer in the town, and we look forward to people returning to the Flaxmill Maltings again as we bring it back to life as a key location in the region to visit, work, live and enjoy.”

If you are interested in volunteering with us and helping with this research get in touch via [email protected].

For more information on volunteering see here: