engineer Charles Bage of the milling firm of Bennion, Bage, and Marshall, the Ditherington Flax Mill, in the Shropshire town of Shrewsbury, was the world’s first iron-framed building, the predecessor of most modern factories and even office blocks.

Ditherington was the largest flax mill of its day and one of the largest textile mills of any kind in Britain. The five-story building has conventional load-bearing masonry external walls with very large windows. Internally, it is divided into four bays by three rows of slender, cruciform-section, cast-iron columns, extending for eighteen bays on a north-south axis. Each bay measures about 10 feet (3 meters) square, and the average ceiling height is about 11 feet (3.4 meters). The columns support cast-iron beams spanned by the brick vaults that form the floor above.

The nearby warehouse and cross mill, also iron framed, were built soon after. In 1846 Professor Eaton Hodgkinson published Experimental Researches on the Strength … of Cast Iron, a definitive work that established a design methodology for cast-iron structures; together with Sir William Fairbairn he made a major contribution to the theory of nineteenth-century bridge construction. Cast iron is not fireproof; in fact, it fails structurally and rather dramatically at relatively low temperatures. Consequently, the designers of later iron-framed buildings found ways to protect the columns, often by encasing them in non-load-bearing masonry.

The Ditherington Flax Mill survives, reasonably intact. In 1886 the mill ceased operations, and the building was vacant for ten years. For another century, probably because it had large expanses of open floor space, it was converted to maltings for a brewery. It was empty again from 1987, when the brewery closed down, and has been quite badly vandalized since. In the mid-1990s proposals were put in hand for the refurbishment of all the buildings on the site, with the help of a grant from English Heritage. The project included the creation of shops, restaurants, a heritage information center, leisure facilities and offices, an art gallery, and some housing. In March 2000 Advantage West Midlands announced a £2.8 million (U.S.$4.1 million) grant for the restoration of the mill.

Further reading

Briggs, Asa. 1979. Iron Bridge to Crystal Palace: Impact and Images of the Industrial Revolution. London: Thames and Hudson.

Jones, Edgar. 1985. Industrial Architecture in Britain: 1750–1939. New York: Facts on File.

Mantoux, Paul. 1983. The Industrial Revolution in the Eighteenth Century: An Outline of the Beginnings of the Modern Factory System in England. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Dome of the Rock (Qubbat As-Sakhrah)

Jerusalem, Israel

Jerusalem is a city holy to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. At its center, the rocky outcrop known as Mount Moriah was the site of three successive Jewish temples, then a sanctuary of the Roman god Jupiter, before it was capped by the Arabic Dome of the Rock, which was for a short while Islam’s most important sacred site. During the Crusades it was commandeered as a Christian shrine before returning to Islamic hands. Today it is at the very core of bitter dispute between Palestinians and Israelis. Although sometimes referred to as the Mosque of Omar, the Dome of the Rock is in fact not a mosque. Nevertheless, as the oldest extant Islamic monument, it served as a model for architecture and other artistic endeavors across three continents for a millennium.

About 1000 b.c. King David of Israel captured the Jebusite town of Urusalim. He renamed it Jerusalem, established his capital there, and chose Mount Moriah—already held sacred as the place where Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac—as the site of a future temple. Solomon’s Temple was completed in 957 b.c., only to be destroyed by the Babylonians in 586. The Second Temple was completed by 515 and enlarged and refurbished by Herod the Great (reigned 37–34 b.c.). It was leveled by the Roman legions of Titus in a.d. 70 and has never been rebuilt. The Roman emperor Constantine (reigned a.d. 306–337) decriminalized Christianity in 313. Soon afterward his mother Helena visited Jerusalem, where, according to mythology, she identified the locations associated with Christ, generating a tradition of Christian pilgrimages that continued until the invading Persians destroyed all the churches in 614.