Bute Mills, Luton

What’s so special about this place?

One of the most iconic buildings in Luton, Bute Mills was built in 1910 as a steam flour mill. It is a rare survivor of the town’s built heritage following wholesale redevelopment of the town centre in the 1960s. Its distinctive profile can be glimpsed from the mainline train travelling to and from Luton. The large interior spaces remained from its industrial past and have been utilised as part of the design scheme.

Why was the building under threat?

Although the building had been refurbished in the 1990s as light industrial or office accommodation, it had lain empty for a number of years until it was purchased in 2013 by Youthscape. Like any unused building, it was therefore vulnerable to arson and vandalism. Without any obvious end use until the charity became involved, there was a further risk of ongoing redundancy and decay.

How was it saved?

Youthscape undertook a fundraising campaign to purchase the building once it had identified it as a suitable base. The then owner agreed to sell for a fixed price and allowed the charity sufficient time to raise the funds. The £3.2M restoration was funded by a number of charitable trusts and foundations.

How is the building used now?

In spring 2016, Bute Mills reopened as a UK centre of excellence to support the emotional and physical well-being of vulnerable young people, incorporating the provision of spaces for counselling and activities for 11-19 year-olds, together with office accommodation for the charity. Since moving to its new home Youthscape has been able to expand its drop-in work for young people from one night to five nights per week, expanding its reach from 25-30 young people to 100-150 young people per month.

How did the AHF help?

When Youthscape acquired the building, it understandably did not possess any specialist knowledge of the historic built environment. Advice was sought from the AHF about funding sources, and we were able to provide grants toward the development of the design and fit-out scheme. Early-stage grants allowed Youthscape to undertake initial design work to allow the building to be fitted out to its specialist requirements.

Project: Bute Mills, Luton, Beds

Client: Youthscape is a charity devoted to supporting the emotional and physical well-being of 11 to 19 year-olds. Its vision is to develop ground-breaking work with young people locally that can be shared with others nationally.

New use: Since Youthscape’s formation in 1993, it had grown in size considerably, now offering different outputs that could not be housed in its previous premises. It therefore identified Bute Mills as being a suitable size and location for its continued activities

Professional Team
Architects: HOK
Structural Engineers: Simpson Associates
Project Management:  Tower 8
Cost Consultant: Core Fie
M&E Consultancy: Troup Bywaters _ Anders
Main Contractor: Structure Tone

Other Project Funders
Edith Winifred Hall Charitable Trust £95,000
Maurice & Hilda Laing Trust £350,000
The Amateurs Trust £300,000
Bradbury Foundation £250,000
The Steel Charitable Trust £145,840
The Arthur Souster Charitable Trust £130,000
Garfield Weston Foundation £100,000
The Hadley Trust £100,000
The Connolly Foundation £50,000
The Clothworkers Foundations £50,000
The Beale Trust £37,800
Margaret Giffen Trust £20,000
Heritage Lottery Fund £37,500
Others £404,000
Total £2,925,140

AHF’s early support of the project in December 2013 was key in helping us to undertake initial design work and to begin to turn our vision for Bute Mills into reality. The building was in need of a total overhaul of the heating and electrical systems, and we were seeking to design a dynamic and modern lighting schema to bring the building back to life. AHF caught our vision and their support has helped us to create a design that is modern, energy efficient and preserves the incredible architectural of Bute Mills.
— Fiona Green, Project Manager, Youthscape