John Marshall (1765-1845) was the pioneer of the flax industry in the Industrial Revolution period, and Temple Mill in Leeds is his most impressive memorial. After entering his father’s modest linen business in Leeds he acquired a taste for entrepreneurship, developing flax spinning technology patented by John Kendrew and Thomas Porthouse, at first at a small mill at Adel, north of Leeds, and then at a new mill south of the city centre that was opened in 1791. In 1793 Marshall entered into partnership with Thomas and Benjamin Benyon of Shrewsbury, where, with Charles Bage, they built the iron-framed Ditherington flax mill in 1796-97, but the partnership ended in 1804. The Benyons and Marshall thereafter developed parallel businesses, each with mills in Shrewsbury and Leeds. Marshall’s mill expanded with the construction of new buildings until about 1840. The business stagnated from the 1850s and was closed by the founder’s grandsons in 1886. The buildings that remain include Mill ‘C’ of 1815-16, Mill ‘D’ of 1826 and Mill ‘E’ of 1830, all iron-framed structures on the same basic principles that were pioneered in the Ditherington mill.
Temple Mill is wholly different, a single-storey structure, modelled on the Temple of Horus at Edfu in Egype and covering 0.8 ha. Light is admitted through 65 conical glass domes on a flat roof that was once laid with grass, from which a flock of sheep obtained their food. The engineer for the building was James Combe and the architect Ignatius Bonomi, who was also responsible for the adjacent offices of 1843, also in the Egyptian style. In the years after its completion the mill attracted many visitors who marvelled at the efficient ways in which production was organised. Temple Mill has passed through various uses since 1886, and is now owned by a mail order company, but there are plans to develop the building as a cultural and retailing centre.
The earlier buildings of Marshall’s Mill were conserved and adapted to new uses in the 1980s and 90s, and more recently the nearby Round Foundry, established in the 1790s by Matthew Murray, who was responsible for much of the mechanical engineering in Marshall’s factories, has been similarly restored.