Saltaire is an historic village built for his workers by the philanthropic mill owner, Sir Titus Salt, in the mid-19th century.
Salt’s Mill has been converted into an atmospheric retail and industrial complex at the heart of this village which is designated as a World Heritage Site.
- World Heritage Site
- A small, quiet, architecturally important village
- Beautiful, historic buildings
- Restored mill at its heart
- Right on the Leeds-Liverpool canal
- Permanent, free, David Hockney exhibition in the mill
- Thriving arts scene with annual Arts Festivals.
A bit of history
The industrial revolution in the 19th century pulled huge numbers of people into the mills from their traditional country life. Towns became overcrowded, slums quickly developed and living conditions deteriorated rapidly with disease and mortality levels high. Mill owners cared little for this – their focus was on production and profits.
Not all mill owners were made of the same stuff, however. Titus Salt, who owned five mills in the Bradford area disliked the degrading and chronically unhealthy conditions in the town and decided to build a large new mill 3 miles away, on the banks of the Aire.
The mill opened in 1853 and he then surrounded it with a “model village” complete with housing for the workers (all had their own outside lavatories, unheard of at the time), a school, a church, shops, alms houses, pensions, a library, meeting rooms, laundry and turkish baths.
There were no pubs, however. He would not allow ‘beershops’ in the village and so was rumoured to be tea-total (of which there is no hard evidence).
The village, originally 3 miles from Bradford, has now been absorbed into the ever expanding city conurbation.
World Heritage Site
It was given World Heritage Site status by UNESCO in 2001. The buildings are ‘listed’ and the village is a conservation area.
The mill closed in 1986 and remained empty and decaying until it was bought and renovated by 37 year old entrepreneur, Jonathan Silver in 1986.
Through the energy and drive of this Bradford-born businessman, new life was breathed into this beautiful old building. The main mill has been turned into a combined and atmospheric retail and industrial complex. Companies and shops live comfortably side by side, with the ground floor of the mill, now known as the 1853 Gallery, turned over to a permanent, free, exhibition of the works of David Hockney, a life long friend of Silver.
Other floors contain a range of shops and a popular, inexpensive cafe serving excellent quality meals, snacks, cakes and drinks.
The large building over the canal bridge has been turned into sumptuous apartments.
The terraced houses are architecturally striking and built from the light coloured stone typical of Yorkshire. Most have yards but many have small gardens. The houses are sought after and well maintained.
All the streets are named after members of Salt’s family. So there’s Caroline Street, Aida Street, Constance Street, Albert Road, etc. Given the number of streets, he obviously had a large extended family.
The Factory School
The school was designed for 750 children and as a showpiece of educational excellence. It eventually became Salts Grammar School, then Saltaire Grammar School and is now part of Shipley College.
Initially the Saltaire Club and Institute, it was constructed to provide workers with an alternative to going to the pub. It originally had a Games Room, a Library, a Reading Room, a gym, meeting Rooms and a lecture theatre.
The Village centre
Now full of bustling shops, cafes, restaurants and pubs.
Other things to see
The Congregational Church – Salt was a non-conformist church and built this magnificent church to encourage his workers to turn to God. Salt is buried in a mausoleum at the back of the church.
Roberts Park – Over the canal is the picturesque Roberts Park, originally called Salt’s Park. It’s become a little dilapidated over the years a renovation programme started in 2010 with plans to refurbish all the buildings and replant the flower beds.
Shipley Glen Tramway – Accessed by walking through the park; look out for the large green and cream shed at the side of the school. The historic Victorian Funicular Railway leads up to Shipley Glen, a beauty spot popular in Victorian times.
Travelling to Saltaire
Can be difficult as there are few car parks in the village. You may well have to rely on street parking.
The easiest method. Saltaire is on the main Leeds to Skipton & Bradford to Skipton line and trains are about every 30 minutes. Saltaire station is right in the middle of the village.