Collected stories as research for projections around the city in 2007

Temple Mill

sheep 7.jpg



In the heart of Holbeck Urban Village lies an extraordinary building: a direct copy of the temple to Horus at Edfu. The Temple Mills (1838 — 43) were designed by Eqyptologist and architect Joseph Bonomi Jun for John Marshall, founder of the Leeds flax industry and an entrepreneur of the industrial revolution.
Temperature and humidity are very important to the flax industry. To prevent rainwater penetrating the flat roof, the roof was covered on the outside with plaster, tar, earth and grass to insulate it and it is said that a flock of sheep grazed upon the grass. This bizarre story of sheep being kept on its turf roof is well rooted in local folklore…apparently one of them fell through a skylight killing one of the workers below! How more surreal a juxtaposition could one imagine than sheep grazing on the roof of a dark Satanic mill posing as an Egyptian Temple?
Urban myth or not, this anecdote evokes an incongruous vision that symbolises the historical tension between the urban and rural landscape. The workers who initially stoked the fires of the industrial revolution came flocking from the countryside and these low paid agrarian labourers, searching for income in the newly industrialised towns, were soon crowded into areas like Holbeck and Leeds. Those lofty sheep will have had a particular resonance for them as they trudged into work to start a gruelling 72-hour week.
Two hundred years later, digital media artist Andy Wood created a site-specific installation that you could have happened upon much like the original sheep. Comprising a video projection onto the top of the building of sheep grazing with a supporting rural-esque soundscape, it was a subtle intervention with an atmosphere of the past and a suggestion of the murky history of this grand monument to the industrial revolution.

3 Responses

  1. ruth

    hi this reported myth is ture my grandpa (keith johnson) witness this with his own eyes as a small boy , as his father and his grandfather used to work in the mill.

    December 25, 2008 at 8:31 am

  2. Sascha

    Hello there, I am doing a University ptoject on this building, and i was wondering if you could provide me with any more information? It is surprising how little information I can find about this place.

    And also, I know there is little chance, but could I have more information about the sheep incident?

    Kind regards

    January 28, 2009 at 5:19 am

  3. Hayley Jones

    I was wondering if anyone could help me. I am trying to find out who the name of the contracting company or architect company involved in the Holbeck Temple Mill project.

    I manage school work placements for local students and I would like to ask them if they would be interested in the possibility of providing work experience for a particular student who is training to be a builder but also has a strong interest in Egyptology.

    This project would be a an ideal opportunity for the student, even if for only a short time, the student would benefit immensely from observing the process and work involved in this fantastic project.

    If anyone can help with the name of the companies or people involved, I would realy appreciate it.

    Kindest regards
    Hayley 07788534027

    January 11, 2010 at 5:17 pm

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