Monday, 1 December 2014

Saltaire, West Yorkshire

River Aire and Mill
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.

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.
The Old Tramshed,  Saltaire
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.

Saltaire Congregational Church
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.
Saltaire Congregational Church
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 ...

Saltaire Mill
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.

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....
Saltaire Mill & River Aire

Saltaire Mill
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. Home for 4000 workers ... wonder if they had space in the basement floors !!

A massive project was undertaken to design and build a model village to assist the social conditions for the workers. The main streets started with close family members names with more distant relatives names on the fringes of the village.

In the meantime, the employees were happy to travel the distance from Bradford while their rented accommodation was being built. There were 400 houses built and you've guessed it that the other 3500 workers had to walk the 4 miles from Bradford for their 12 hour shift.
Supervisors home ?? .... with garden !

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  ....
Saltaire Hospital,

GJC_004912_edited-1 (1)

Victoria Hall
Saltaire school, (now for local collage use)

Saltaire Congregational Church
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.

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....

... 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....

.... 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."

the walk to work ...

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

"Determination" Saltaire
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.

"War" Saltaire
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.

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.
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.

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

"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 ....

(Don't Tell Titus, Saltaire)


  1. You are setting a very high standard for others to follow.
    This is a wonderful post and story.
    The weather and town help but you haven't put a foot wrong here that I can see.

  2. Amazing tour with some fantastic photography which is so clear and powerful. I love the history that you have put into this post showing how care can provide a great and loyal workforce. Also, thanks for popping by my blog and leaving the most humbling comment I have ever received. Bless you.

    1. Thanks Chel for your input here. It was great to both research Saltaire and be part of the interactive walking tour.

  3. A fabulous set of photos and thank you for the history :-)

    1. Thanks CherryPie, I think it was worth digging into the history of Saltaire, made it a bit more interesting particularly after the guided tour.

  4. A really stunning post.....The previous commentators have said it all....!!

    1. Thanks Trevor, I was looking forward to posting this one on Saltaire.

  5. It seems to me that the world would be a better place if there were more Titus Salts around today. This was a great history lesson. I think of people like him when I watch 'North & South' with Richard Armitage. As usual, your photos are stunning. My favorite is the third, The Old Tramshed.

    1. Thanks Cranberry Morning, It's quite difficult to take in the Saltaire project, both in scale and the heart of a leading Victorian Industrialist. Titus Salt certainly knew how to get the best out of his workers albeit in a radical way.

  6. This was a beautiful post. And I have to admire a person who tried to make his world a better place.

    1. Thanks JoLynne, it was worth bringing the story of Titus Salt to everyones attention as there weren't many employers like him in the 19th century.

  7. A wonderful post. Saltaire was featured on A Bit About Britain sometime back, though not, I think, with as much affection - and certainly not as well photographed - as you have provided here. Just amazing pictures. It is certainly a stunning place - though personally the jury's still out on some of Hockney's work. You may want to check out Jenny Freckles at Saltaire Daily Photo - another great blog - she posts regularly on the area. I'm still trying to work out what the vicar was doing with the cleaner...

    1. Thanks Mike, I didn't have a lot of time inside the Mill and it was mainly for refreshments and a look around the shop. When I first started blogging I followed Jenny Freckles at Saltaire Daily Photo, but like other people they just didn't seem to get what I was about and un-followed me. Shame that I can't spend every day on my and other peoples blogs but ... hey ho ... life moves on ( ... being myself !! ).
      Yes, the vicar and the cleaner is a bit unusual, but they worked well as a team for the intro. Not sure how the other role-play characters would fit the intro in the church.

  8. Great captures and I confess that the photo I like best is the b&w with the coloured doors. Excellent idea, J!

    Saltaire is a very interesting place, I'm pleased I could visit it at least through your post. The story of Titus Salt reminded me of Hugo's Les Miserables I was reading a while ago... Sir Salt must have been a strong character.

    1. Thanks Petra, the original image of the row of houses with the three coloured doors didn't quite work out as I was shooting into the sun and the upstairs brickwork didn't look quite right in full colour. I altered it by brushing in highlighting between the windows but it still didn't work as a colour picture. I decided to use black and white with the red door but I remembered what I saw when I originally captured the scene. It was the three coloured doors in a row and it would have been a shame to omit that point.

  9. Interesting trip, informative description, J_on_tour! My favourite photo is no. 2

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    1. Happy New Year to you Traveling Hawk, I preserved the original colours of the doors in the second shot within the parameters of a black and white format.


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