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Donisthorpe and Company Limited Factory Building Overlooking River Soar

A Grade II Listed Building in Leicester, City of Leicester

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Latitude: 52.6366 / 52°38'11"N

Longitude: -1.1446 / 1°8'40"W

OS Eastings: 457986

OS Northings: 304656

OS Grid: SK579046

Mapcode National: GBR FDJ.9R

Mapcode Global: WHDJB.DZ6M

Entry Name: Donisthorpe and Company Limited Factory Building Overlooking River Soar

Listing Date: 14 March 1975

Last Amended: 1 February 2012

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1361410

English Heritage Legacy ID: 188571

Location: Leicester, LE3

County: City of Leicester

Electoral Ward/Division: Abbey

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Leicester

Traditional County: Leicestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Leicestershire

Church of England Parish: Leicester The Holy Spirit

Church of England Diocese: Leicester

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A factory building thought to have been erected for textile manufacturing, with origins in the late C18.


MATERIALS: the mill is constructed of red brick, with a hipped roof covered in slates laid to diminishing courses.

PLAN: rectangular on plan, with a surviving added structure at the north end.

EXTERIOR: the building is of three storeys and attics, and seven bays, the central three bays being slightly advanced below an open pediment. The window openings are set beneath shallow segmental arches and are fitted with wooden cross window frames with glazing bars. The ground floor windows are tall openings and were overboarded at the time of inspection. There are no ground floor windows to its south end and part of the north end is enclosed within a later extension on the river frontage side of the building. The east front of the building has been recently fully exposed by the removal of later accretions, revealing door openings at half landing level to the upper floors and a blocked opening at ground floor level to the north end bay. The roof supports a central hexagonal cupola with a lead-covered domed roof originally surmounted by a weathervane, now removed. There are 4 small dormer windows within the front and rear roof slopes which light the attic floor At the north end of the building is an attached building with shallow full-height buttresses to the side walls and clerestory-like windows at eaves level on the west elevation. It does not appear to be shown, in its present form at least, on George Henton’s 1893 painting of the site. The building has had a large opening formed in its north gable.

INTERIOR: the mill interior has tall timber queen-post roof trusses with collars, angle struts and squat ashlar posts; an arrangement which produces an unimpeded central roof space. The roof slopes are underboarded so the purlins and the upper sections of the principal rafters are not visible. In the lower floors, bridging beams are supported by a variety of iron columns, some with bolting faces for brackets to support line shafting. There appears to be no consistent design or location pattern for the columns throughout the mill, suggesting that they were introduced incrementally in response to both increased floor loadings and the introduction of powered processes.

FIXTURES AND FITTINGS: there are no fixtures or fittings of special interest and the building has been cleared of machinery. The attached building at the north end of the mill has also been stripped of its plant and equipment.


The Donisthorpe and Company’s mill site, also known as Friar’s Mill, is thought to have been developed as a textile manufacturing site from the late C18 onwards. The first mill is believed to have been a wool spinning mill, which by 1828 had developed into a larger U-shaped complex identified on John Flower’s map of that date as ‘Stubbings Mill’. From the 1820’s, this part of Leicester developed into a centre for the worsted spinning industry. The processes housed in the early mill buildings are believed to have included wool preparation - carding and combing - and spinning, the final product being prepared for framework knitting. The main mill building is thought to date to the period 1794-1820, and whilst the initial processes contained within the building may have been hand-operated, the subsequent adaptation and enlargement of the main mill and later extensions and additions were related to powered processes. It is not certain when steam power was first used on the site, but the surviving engine house is thought to date to 1860-1880. The site’s power generation capacity was later enhanced by the construction of a replacement engine house to the south of the mill. By the late C19 the site was owned by Donisthorpes, later described as ‘suppliers of Hand Knitting Wools and Cotton Yarns to Central Europe and Scandinavia for over 100 years’ in a trade advertisement of 1938. From the mid-C20, all branches of the English textile industry were in decline, and by the end of the century, the site had been closed with many of the smaller ancillary buildings having already been demolished. All of the remaining ancillary structures were demolished in 2009.

Reasons for Listing

The former factory building of Donisthorpe and Co.in Leicester, erected in 1794-1820 with later additions, is designated for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural Interest: a mill with late-C18 origins which shows interesting incremental change for the textile industry;
* Historic Interest: an important survival on a site with early associations with a highly significant phase in the development of Leicester’s textile industry,

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