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South elevation of Salts Mill, Saltaire, about four miles from Bradford. Lockwood & Mawson (with Lockwood as the designer), working with structural and engineering input from the engineer Sir William Fairbairn. 1850-53. Stone. Within, "tunnel vaults of hollow brick on cast-iron beams and simply decorated iron columns, lightweight roof-trusses" (Leach and Pevsner 680-81).

The mill is the focal point of the model town named after the industrialist Sir Titus Salt (1803-1876), who built it, and the River Aire that flows beside it. The part seen here is the spinning mill, where Salt's famous worsted was produced. The long south range consists of five storeys and a basement, and has large windows for extra light and ventilation. Though not ornate, it is Italianate in style and impressively symmetrical, with its two central entrance arches flanked by a pair of matching turrets capped by belvederes (see Leech and Pevsner 680). Salt was interested in ways of reducing smoke pollution, and the chimney tower was "fitted with patent fuel economisers to remove 'annoying effluvium'" (Curl 167-68). Standing in a key location alongside the railway tracks, with a warehouse stretching north from the middle block down towards the Leeds & Liverpool canal at the rear, this was the first building of the new development to be completed. Note that the allotments seen here were not originally in front of the range and tracks, but there was always provision for them — and for a rose garden too. All in all, the mill was beautifully planned for its purpose, and is also aesthetically pleasing.

As for the work that went on here, the magazine London Society ran a laudatory article on it when Salt was elevated to a baronetcy in 1869:

That manufactory, employing some four thousand hands, is in itself a spectacle not easily forgot, and would repay almost any amount of intelligent study. Those various processes which are generally distributed among different classes of manufacturers are here brought together into one vast laboratory. In one compartment are huge piles of wool brought in, freshly imported from Constantinople or South America, and we are able to trace their transit through different processes until they emerge in fabrics fit for a fair woman to wear. In one direction we see an engine-house neat and burnished as some glittering hall, and in another, on a vast floor, we see a thousand looms plying at once. The great manufactory of Saltaire is one of the highest industrial triumphs of Yorkshire. (90)

Left: The office building range facing Victoria Road (the main road down to the mill), with a bellcote above the main entrance. Right: The new mill, between the river and canal, 1865-68, with the weir in the foreground..

The office building is pleasingly proportioned as well, with two storeys, and the practical but rather grand flourish of the bellcote. It is on the opposite side of the road to the railway station, and the United Reformed Church. The new mill (now converted to offices and apartments) was built later, on the site of an earlier water-mill, to make use of the water-power here and provide another spinning facility and dyeworks — Derek Linstrum states bluntly, "The first mill was not large enough." This one has a more elaborate chimney-tower than the main building's square, tapering one; it is "based on the campanile of Sta Maria Gloriosa dei Frari at Venice .. complete with 'belfry' stage and octagonal crown" (Leach and Pevsner 681). In all, says another contemporary commentator, "the factory ...covers twelve acres," and "eighteen miles of cloth a day can be made" there (Williams 465). But, again, the project married productivity with other considerations. The grand opening of the main mill in 1853 quickly announced Salt's philosophy to the world. Over a thousand guests were invited to the banquet, which also celebrated his fiftieth birthday and his eldest son's coming-of-age. But an additional contingent of almost 2,500 workers was brought in by train from Bradford ("Saltaire").

The mill in its context (Balgarnie, facing p. 123). Here, moving towards the right from the mill, can be seen the United Reformed Church with its tower and dome; neat rows of workers' houses; and the Victoria Hall with its "truncated pyramidal roof" (Leach and Pevsner 682). On the left, with the new mill in the background, the road leads to a bridge across the River Aire with its curving weir, into the park beyond. The hills make an attractive backdrop. This was unmistakably an industrial settlement, but a planned one with clean classical lines in an ideal setting and with all the amenities possible at that time.

Related Material

Sources

Balgarnie, Rev.R. Sir Thomas Salt, Baronet: His Life and Its Lessons. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1878. Internet Archive. Web. 23 September 2011.

Curl, James Stevens. Victorian Architecture. Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1990.

Discover Saltaire: Unesco World Heritage Site. Bradford Metropolitan District Council. Leaflet available from Bradford Visitor Information Centre, City Hall, Bradford.

"The Improved Condition of the Poor." London Society. Vol. 16 (Jan. 1870): 89-91. Internet Archive. Web. 26 September 2011.

Leach, Peter, and Nikolaus Pevsner. Yorkshire West Riding, Leeds, Bradford and the North. The Buildings of England series. New Haven & London: Yale, 2009.

Linstrum, Derek. "Crisis at Saltaire." Bradford Antiquary. Vol. 3 (1987):1-10. Web. 23 September 2011.

Saltaire: Conservation Area Assessment, March 2004. Bradford Metropolitan District Council. Web. 23 September 2011.

Williams, Frederick Smeeton. The Midland Railway: Its Rise and Progress. A Narrative of Modern Enterprise. London: Strahan & Co., 1876. Internet Archive. Web. 23 September 2011.


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Last modified 2 October 2011