When it was constructed in the 1830s the Temple Works was one of the most technologically advanced buildings in the world, home to a state-of-the-art heating system, a complex network of underground tunnels and a lighting system that kept the factory illuminated around the clock.
With its striking Egyptian frontage, it has served as a flax mill, clothing factory and home to a catalogue company over the years before finally falling into disrepair and neglect in the last few decades.
There have been a number of false dawns from those seeking to breath life back into the striking building in recent years but now, one year on from becoming its owners, developers CEG have a clear plan for its future.
“There is a reason that we acquired this building,” said David Hodgson, head of strategic development for CEG.
“We see this as a nationally important building.
“A nationally important building deserves a nationally important use and future.”
A nationally important building deserves a nationally important use and future.David Hodgson, CEG
CEG purchased the building for a solitary £1 one year ago and has already invested the best part of £1.5m into the site.
“We are working on understanding this building,” Mr Hodgson told The Yorkshire Post.
“We bought it in auction conditions, we had no background information whatsoever on its structure. We were working off of things we could find on the internet.
“It has been really complicated. We have only got access within the building, we don’t own the surrounding land. We have set up a lot of laser measurements. The roof structure is 200 years old. It is carrying 170 per cent of the load it was supposed to take. The building moves with temperature and it is only held together by cast iron tie-bars which are brittle by nature.”
The building is so complex that one of CEG’s heritage consultants calls it the bumblebee, a nod to the myth that the insects should not be able to fly according to the laws of physics.
Work on the building was made more difficult by the fact that the roof was declared unsafe for people by experts, meaning that much of the surveying work has needed to be carried out by drones with video cameras attached.
CEG has estimated the cost of making the building structurally safe to be in the area of £30m-35m and is prepared to consider a number of options for its ultimate end use.
“We believe it has to be an iconic use, we all want it be nationally iconic,” said Mr Hodgson.
“Those options the technical team are working on. Once we get that we can talk sensibly to end users to see what they want. It is no secret that the V&A tweeted just after we bought it. It is that sort of iconic nature that we will be seeking to put in that building.
“We acquired it because we knew we wanted to save it and preserve it. We knew there was a very high chance of it falling into the hands of someone who did not have the same passion for the city or could see its relevance and importance to the city. We call ourselves custodians more than anything else. It is of national importance.
“What is also important is that use is inclusive as well. We want to reconnect the communities that were cut off by the M621 and feel the city centre is not for them. It needs to be an inclusive use that everyone is proud of.”
Temple Works was selected by Burburry as the home for a new coat weaving factory in 2015 before it backed away two years later. However, Mr Hodgson insisted CEG was in for the long haul.
“We are absolute desperate for people not to think we have bought this building and sat on it because that has been the history,” he said.
“We are here saying we have spent £1.5m on it.”