Happy 90th Birthday Len from everyone at Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings

26 November 2020 is a special day for one Shrewsbury family. It is the day Len Grove from Harlescott celebrates his 90th birthday. Len came to Shrewsbury before his fifth birthday and worked most of his life at the Maltings. First starting work at the maltings in 1957, Len soon worked his way up to become foreman and has many happy memories of working there until it closed, which he has since shared with the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings.  It was a real family affair, with his mother Nora, his brother Earnie Grove, brother-in-law Jan Peleszok and his nephew Johnny Smallman also working there over the years.   

Recently, Len’s son Paul was in touch with the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings, as they were discussing the time the Grove family lived on site, in the Apprentice House. Paul mentioned his father’s birthday and how much it would mean to his Dad, to get a card from his former place of work. He said: "The Maltings was not only a place of work for dad, for 3 years it was also his home as he lived in one of the Apprentice Houses while saving to buy his first house. Tourists used to come from all over the world to view the historically beautiful building and it was always dad who was their ‘tour guide’ due to his knowledge of the old mill."

When the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings discussed this with Historic England, it was decided that they could do one better than that. Alan Mosley, chair of the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings, said: "We are so lucky to be able to talk to people like Len, who live locally. They lived and breathed this extraordinary site, and their memories and expertise are vital in our understanding of the site as it is brought back to life, including our development of a world-class visitor attraction. As such, we thought it fitting to fly the Union flag, to celebrate his milestone birthday."

It was briefly considered to fly the original flag, which flew from the Jubilee Tower in the Maltings days, and which was given to the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings by former head maltster Bill Preen. However, because of its delicate condition, Historic England have purchased a brand-new Union flag for the occasion.

Alastair Godfrey, project lead for Historic England, said: This is the first time that the Union flag has been flown on site since the Jubilee Tower was restored and Len’s 90th birthday feels like a very fitting first outing for it. It is so heartening to hear stories from former employees like Len and learn that so many people had such positive experiences of working at the maltings and still carry so much love and enthusiasm for it. It is a special site that carries many happy memories, and we are looking forward to the time when more happy memories can be created as we start to open in autumn 2021.”

Len will of course also receive a card for his birthday, with a few extra notes from former maltster colleagues which leave a lot to be explained: “you’re in the malt bin after dinner”? There are many more stories still to uncover.

So, if you’re wondering why the flag is flying on the newly revealed and restored Jubilee tower, now you know why. Here’s to Len’s good health, hip-hip-hurrah!

 Len on a visit to the Maltings in 2013