Monday, 1 December 2014

Saltaire, West Yorkshire


Back in 2001 I wanted to improve my travel and social life by meeting new people around the country. Many of my potential paths in this minefield didn't quite work out but I acquired a group of West Yorkshire friends that mostly met in Bradford ( ... later years migrating to Leeds) and got my name on a National Organisation e-mail list for social weekend and (further afield difficult to attend) city day events. The adventures with both sets of people took me to new destinations, highs and lows on various levels that have been documented on about 20% of my blog posts.

Doors   GJC_004916 - Version 2

On these trips to Bradford I had to travel through and stop at the traffic lights in Saltaire on many occasions, usually late on a saturday night but more often than not, very very early on a sunday morning. It may seem surprising to some but at the time I had no knowledge of what was just around the corner. I was somewhat surprised to see Saltaire on the National organisers programme of events as it didn't appear to me their routine location for a cultural day out, so as it seemed accessible, I thought I would give it a go. As fate would have it, this was three years ago and I don't recall ever seeing any of these people ever again !
Forgive me for the length of this post and duplication of material. Some of the other shots I wanted to leave out but for the purposes of the text, have had to leave them in.

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The event started with lunch in a fascinating converted old Tramshed now known as the The Hop, so that gave me plenty of opportunity to arrive early and photograph the obvious sights of the canal, church and external mill shots on a fine October morning.

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There are not many things I recommend on these blog pages as I generally leave it for the viewer to decide, but the organised village tour is a must for any visitor. After lunch we walked down to the Congregational church where the tour operators allocated to our group played the costume characters of Vicar and Church cleaner.

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We were all given a card that depicted a real life character from the past and we essentially became that person for the afternoon with an external visit to their house. The superb tour was comprehensive and lasted most of the afternoon, anyone who visits Saltaire would be advised to pre book ...

http://www.saltairevillageexperience.co.uk

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Sir Titus Salt (1803 - 1876) was a Victorian Industrialist who originally made his money from the woollen industry in Bradford. He was born into a family that moved into a farming career and developed a business for importing wool from Russia for sale but with little success. With the attitude of "If you can't beat them, join them", Titus Salt took over his fathers business in 1833 and moved into his own wool manufacturing using a newly discovered Alpaca fibre that he came across in Liverpool. Eventually he became the biggest employer in Bradford and was promoted to City Mayor in 1848.

By way of background, social and working conditions were not ideal in Victorian West Yorkshire as you may recall with the health problems that faced the Bronte family in my Haworth post, not a million miles away albeit in the countryside.
As both Mayor and Employer, Titus Salt felt an obligation to improve both the pollution from his chimneys and working / health conditions for his workforce, but as Bradford was already over populated with industry, his efforts were fruitless.

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Titus decided to purchase a large plot of land in 1850 about three or four miles to the north west next to The River Aire / Leeds - Liverpool canal and start again....

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The town of Saltaire (Titus "Salt" and The River "Aire") was born in 1851 after the completion of the Factory. His opening statement was "to do good and give his sons employment.

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A massive project was undertaken to design and build a model village to assist the social conditions for the workers.

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In the meantime, the employees were happy to travel the distance from Bradford while their rented accommodation was being built.

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Supervisors home ?? .... with garden !

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One thing that was forbidden in the newly built village was alcohol and public houses as he wanted the best from his workers. Tenants contracts would be terminated if they displayed unsuitable behaviour or mismanagement of their property thus losing their home and employment.
In addition to the housing, the infrastructure consisted of a ....

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Hospital,

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an Institute (Education and recreation facility known as Victoria Hall),

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a school, ...

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a park ...

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and last but by no means least, a church that Titus Salt financed himself. It became his final resting place on a day when 100,000 people came out to show their respect.

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Salt and Light !!
A paragraph in the Oxford Dictionary 2004 about Titus Salt states ...
" Salt's motive's in building Saltaire remain obscure. They seem to have been a mixture of sound economics, Christian duty and a desire to have effective control over his workforce. There were economic reasons for moving out of Bradford and the village did provide him with an amenable, hand picked workforce....

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... Yet Salt was deeply religious and sincerely believed that by creating an environment where people could lead healthy, virtuous, godly lives, he was doing God's work....

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.... Perhaps also, diffident and articulate as he was, the village may have been a way of demonstrating the extent of his wealth and power. Lastly, he may also have seen it as a means of establishing an industrial dynasty to match the landed estates of his Bradford contemporaries. However Saltaire provided no real solution to the relationship between employer and worker. It's small size, healthy site and comparative isolation provided an escape rather than an answer to the problems of an urban society."

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 the walk to work ...

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and make sure you don't leave by the back door !!!

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"Determination"
The centrepiece of the village seems to be Victoria square where the Institute stands opposite the school with a surprising addition of several grand Lion statues. It may come as a surprise for many to realise that these were originally intended for the base of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, London. Unfortunately the completed sculptures by Thomas Milne that were named represent War and Peace, Determination and Vigilance were shunned in favour of a larger commission from Sir Edwin Landseer.
It was thought that Sir Titus placed "War and Peace" near the school to educate and unite the social classes in his society in order to avoid the uprising of the poor against the rich, something that was quite common elsewhere at the time. Education was seen by Salt as the way that the working class could improve themselves and thus closing the gap on class distinction in Victorian times. Determination and Vigilance represented the world of work, business and all the qualities required for the woollen trade.

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"War"
 One thing about being the village architect is that Francis Lockwood has his name engraved on a centre piece wall. I wonder if he had to fight his corner for it :-)


As an aside to that, it's interesting that he may have been inspired by the thoughts of a contemporary Edward Ackroyd, but in turn the Lever Brothers (in the Port Sunlight post) followed a similar model many years later on the Wirral in Merseyside with their soap business, village and education of the workforce.

A second interesting fact that connects with something I mentioned earlier was that the inheritor of the business and village (James Roberts) donated some of his estate to preserve the Bronte's Parsonage at Haworth. This seems remarkable at a time when preservation was unheard of by at least 50 years.

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sunk ?? .... maybe not ....
The Mill eventually closed in 1986 (the decade of British industrial change !!) and was bought the following year by a Jonathan Silver, a local businessman that had just returned from travelling the world. Silver had an interest in Art and developed some of the site for his hero David Hockney to display his works.

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Awaiting a large book order :-)
In addition, subsidiary areas were used to sell related books and art supplies with other retail businesses, crafts and restaurants filling the floorspace.

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The canal is used these days for other business that in one sense seems unlikely and in another is quite obvious really .....

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"Just one Cornetto, give it to me, delicious ice cream, from ...." not quite the Grand Canal of Venice !!

Lastly with a twist of the tail, I wonder what Titus would make of the 21st century with a more unlikely trader overlooking the Salt Mill,  seen in the reflection ....

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Friday, 7 November 2014

Ironbridge and ... November, Shropshire

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Following on from the walk I did with the large party of people up The Wrekin at Wellington (previous post), the group leader abandoned plans to complete his original additional circular walk from Wellington. We were so late for lunch that the restaurant in Wellington had to let the tables go and consequently the group split into two for ease of accommodating so many people. As it looked like lunch was going to be finished by 2:30 - 3pm and dinner would be served at the usual time at The Lion Hotel in Shrewsbury, it was suggested that we stayed with the people in the cars we travelled with for some free time. The driver (Cumbrian Farmer) was open to offers, while my friend (Scarborough Sandcastle manager) and myself discussed the possibility of visiting nearby Iron Bridge for the first time. The fourth person (Knutsford pickup) was familiar to Cumbrian Farmer and was keen not to walk too much further after the mornings expedition so it was an agreed plan. Due to the nature of the Iron Bridge historic site and the fact that the Architect didn't design an adjacent tourist car park :-) we had to park a little upstream by The River Severn next to the Tourist Information and Museum of the Gorge. Setting off from the car and a quick look in the T.I. , it seemed that Cumbrian Farmer and Knutsford pickup wanted to spend more time in the museum rather than walk any further. Unaware of this information and with 1 hour of daylight left, Scarborough Sandcastle manager and myself pressed on to view the site for the very first time.

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So often in history, settlements and subsequent towns can find themselves placed next to a river for defensive or trading reasons but it doesn't take a genius to realise that the town of Ironbridge was created and developed as a result of The Iron Bridge. The worlds first cast iron bridge was built in 1779 / 80 spanning 100 ft (30m) by Abraham Darby III replacing a small ferry service the family operated. The Darby family were heavily involved with innovative manufacturing processes at the start of The Industrial Revolution and the bridge somehow became a symbol of that. It seemed a shrewd move that the builders continued with the construction of The Tontine Hotel (pictured above) directly facing the bridge. This accommodation allowed and enhanced visits from Engineers of bridges, Industrialists and early tourists to view this remarkable and unique structure.

After doing so many blog posts that include the works of Thomas Telford (Shrewsbury, Menai Bridge, Betws-y-Coed, Llangollen, Bala Lake and Tobermory), it would be nice to suggest that he was the designer of the bridge, but it was the inspiration to build a longer structure with half the weight further upstream at Buildwas. Unfortunately that bridge no longer survives due to the power of the River Severn as many local residents and Environmental Agency can testify to, as they dry out their homes regularly and plug another gap in the flood defences respectively.

Iron Bridge by night    GJC_014585

Meanwhile back in the 21st century, after observing the bridge with my friend for a short period of time, it was a mystery as to whether the others were walking slowly towards us, injured or resting in the museum. The sandcastle manager decided to retrace his steps to investigate with the inspiration at the very least of a car window observation of the bridge for the others. It was unfortunate that I didn't have time to explore all the alleys of such a place as I had to remain visible to short term car parking restrictions, however I was rewarded with the inversely proportional reduction and illumination of light.

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What seemed to turn into an age and in the lower light, there wasn't much else to photograph in a 30 - 50 metre section of street other than a difficultly lit Christmas shop window and a ... errr ... pork pie wedding cake !! ....

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http://www.eleysporkpies.co.uk/wedding-pork-pies/
( This third and final post from Shropshire is a lot shorter than usual due to reasons you'll understand that were outside my control. I haven't managed to catch up with many blogs this time so for the sake of time and an obvious publishing deadline for the remainder of the post, I'll leave you with some seasonal images for this month ... something I haven't had the opportunity of displaying before ... )

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Thoughts turned to November as this was Remembrance weekend (exactly one year ago) for those that gave their lives in military service.

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The following morning the whole group were given the option of attending the wreath laying service at the Shrewsbury Quarry war Memorial.

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Despite these occasions always being somber and respectful, the regiments of Shropshire and Shrewsbury seemed to make the event far greater than that.

On my wanderings around the town of Shrewsbury I stumbled across two pieces of artwork drawn at random on walls in unusual places ...

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Lastly before I "dash off", November seems to have become a time when voluntary "Movember" men grow a specific part of facial hair to raise awareness and sponsorship for research into mens health. It also seems to signify my sparse activities on blogger :-) ....

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" Movember man "
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