Saltaire

Saltaire is a Victorian model village within the City of Bradford Metropolitan District, West Yorkshire, England, by the River Aire and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. UNESCO has designated the village as a World Heritage Site, and it is an Anchor Point of the European Route of Industrial Heritage.

Saltaire was founded in 1851 by Sir Titus Salt, a leading industrialist in the Yorkshire woollen industry. The name of the village is a combination of the founder’s surname and the name of the river. Salt moved his business (five separate mills) from Bradford to this site near Shipley partly to provide better arrangements for his workers than could be had in Bradford and partly to site his large textile mill by the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and the railway. Salt employed the Bradford firm of Lockwood and Mawson as his architects.

A similar project had been started a few years earlier by Edward Akroyd at Copley, also in West Yorkshire. The cotton mill village of New Lanark, which is also a World Heritage site, was founded by David Dale in 1786.

Salt built neat stone houses for his workers (much better than the slums of Bradford), wash-houses with tap water, bath-houses, a hospital and an institute for recreation and education, with a library, a reading room, a concert hall, billiard room, science laboratory and a gymnasium. The village had a school for the children of the workers, almshouses, allotments, a park and a boathouse.

Sir Titus died in 1876 and was interred in the mausoleum adjacent to the Congregational church. When Sir Titus Salt’s son, likewise Sir Titus Salt, died, Saltaire was taken over by a partnership which included Sir James Roberts from Haworth who had worked at the mill since the age of twelve, and who travelled to Russia each year, speaking Russian fluently. James Roberts came to own Saltaire, but chose to invest his money heavily in Russia, losing some of his fortune in the Russian Revolution. He endowed a chair of Russian at Leeds University and bought the Brontë’s Haworth Parsonage for the nation. He is mentioned in T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. Roberts is buried at Fairlight, East Sussex.

In December 2001, Saltaire was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.This means that the government has a duty to protect the site. The buildings belonging to the model village are individually listed, with the highest level of protection given to the Congregational church (since 1972 known as the United Reformed Church) which is listed grade I. The village has survived remarkably complete, but further protection is needed as the village is blighted by traffic through the Aire Valley, an important east-west route. A bypass is proposed to relieve traffic pressure. Roberts Park, on the north side of the river, has suffered from neglect and vandalism but has been restored by Bradford Council.

Saltaire is a conservation area. Victoria Hall (originally the Saltaire Institute) is used for meetings and concerts, and houses a Victorian Reed Organ Museum. The village is served by Saltaire railway station.

The Saltaire Festival, which first took place in 2003 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the foundation of Saltaire, is held every year over eleven days in September.

Politically, Saltaire is part of the Shipley electoral ward of the City of Bradford, and part of the parliamentary constituency of Shipley, currently represented by Philip Davies of the Conservatives. From 1999 to 2005, parliamentarians from three chambers, Chris Leslie MP in the House of Commons, Lord Wallace of Saltaire in the House of Lords and Richard Corbett MEP in the European Parliament, all lived in Saltaire.

Salt’s Mill closed in February 1986, and Jonathan Silver bought it the following year and began renovating it. Today it houses a mixture of business, commerce, leisure and residential use. In the main mill building are:

  • The 1853 gallery: several large rooms given over to the works of the Bradford-born artist David Hockney: including paintings, drawings, photomontages and stage sets.
  • Industrial companies including the electronics manufacturer Pace plc.
  • Various shops. In 2006 there are shops selling books, art supplies, jewellery, outdoor wear, antiques, suits, bicycles and housewares; the last includes pieces by internationally known designers such as Alvar Aalto and Philippe Starck.
  • Restaurants and cafes.

The “New Mill”, on the other side of the canal, is divided between offices for the local National Health Service Trusts and residential flats.

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