Northern Ireland news

East Belfast site that was world's largest flax tow spinning mill secures £220k lottery funding

Portview Trade Centre has been awarded a grant of £221,200 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund towards the development of a masterplan to preserve and maintain the heritage of the site . Pictured are Portview Trade Centre chairman Brendan Mackin (left) and Ralf Alwani from Urban Scale Interventions (USI)

THE future heritage of what was once the largest flax tow spinning mill in the world has been secured following lottery funding of more than £220,000.

The grant has been awarded to Portview Trade Centre on Newtownards Road, formerly the site of the Strand Spinning Mill - a key feature in east Belfast during the 1930s.

The largest of its kind in the world, it was also a centre of innovation for manufacturing and new technology, leading the way in social issues such as employment for women.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund grant will help develop plans to maintain the mill's heritage to reflect Belfast and Northern Ireland's former prominence on a global industrial stage.

It is hoped the Portview Trade Centre will be transformed into a creative social hub in the area.

Among the proposals is the creation of a physical and digital 'spinning archive’ to tell the story of Strand Spinning Mill and allow visitors to relive its golden era through the experiences of local residents, with tales and artefacts from the time.

A heritage exhibition centre, urban rooftop park for agricultural and tourism and designated artist and cultural spaces are also among ideas to be taken forward by Belfast-based Urban Scale Interventions (USI).

Brendan Mackin, chairman of Portview Trade Centre, said the funding will secure the site's heritage and "transform east Belfast into a vibrant tourism, business, education and training hub".

"The Strand Spinning Mill is steeped in Belfast’s industrial heritage and it is vital that we retain this and develop it for a modern-day audience, so we are delighted to receive this National Lottery funding," he said.

He said the site is "at a critical turning point, with its heritage at risk and in need of supporting intervention to sustain its future".

"This significant award of money from The National Lottery Heritage Fund is vitally important to help us grow the site and achieve our long-term goals.

"To do this, the centre needs to be sustainable which we believe is achievable by developing the site, bringing the buildings into full occupation and creating an innovative hub for tourism, business, education and training - while at the same time celebrating, conserving and connecting people to the rich heritage of the building’s past."

Paul Mullan from the National Lottery Heritage Fund said: "We were delighted to support this resilience project, seeking to explore the historic value and potential of the historic mill complex."

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