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Left: United Reformed Church (formerly, Congregational church), by Lockwood & Mawson. Right: Close-up of tower and dome. 1856-59. The church is in Saltaire, near Bradford, at the foot of the Yorkshire Dales. It is seen as "one of the most sumptuous of all Nonconformist churches" (Leach and Pevsner 681) and "an example of an assured Classicism far preferable than the halting and feeble Gothic found in some Nonconformist churches" (Curl 168).

When Sir Titus Salt (1803-1876) built the model industrial town of Saltaire in the countryside outside Bradford, he made provision for the spiritual as well as material needs of his workforce, setting aside land for churches of various denominations. But he himself had been brought up as a devout Congregationalist (Balgarnie 3, 17-18), and this church had pride of place. With its beautiful tree-lined approach, it stands just opposite the mill. It is a striking and memorable edifice. The six tall Corinthian columns at the semi-circular entrance portico are echoed in the engaged Corinthian columns around the tower, supporting the dome. Notice the Greek key-patterned border below these columns, the clock face (one of four), and the bell-openings with decorative iron grilles. The dentilled entablature is also echoed above. Every detail is in harmony.

Attached to the south of the main church building is the little square Salt family mausoleum with its leaded dome, largely obscured here by foliage and a lamppost, but also completely in keeping.

Left to right: (a) Interior of the church. (b) Marble bust of Sir Titus Salt, in the vestibule by the entrance, by Thomas Milnes (1813-1888), 1856. (c) Interior of the mausoleum (from Balgarnie, facing p. 312).

The church has no aisles but is lavishly decorated with more Corinthian pilasters, scrolled endings to the pews, great gilded gasoliers "by Hausberg of Liverpool" and a splendid organ which replaced an older original in about 1880 (Leach and Pevsner 681), all clearly seen in the picture on the far left. Not shown, however, is the little gallery over the west end, where the Salt family had their pew. The marble bust in the vestibule depicts Sir Titus himself as a younger, slimmer version of the industrialist and philanthropist shown in modern dress by Francis Derwent Wood some decades later. From the bust, he looks more of an idealist, a visionary whose vision has yet to be fully realised. Below the relief of the Salt coat of arms surmounted by an alpaca, Milnes has sculpted at the base of the pedestal an alpaca, an angora goat and a fleece draped over a cornucopia of harvest riches. The notice next to the bust explains that it was presented to Salt by "the workpeople in his employment as a token of their respect and esteem" on 20 September 1856. Only later would Salt become an MP for Bradford (from 1859-61) and a Baronet (in 1869). He died shortly after Saltaire was completed, and was duly laid to rest in the mausoleum here, with other family members The large presiding "Angel of the Resurrection," by John Adams-Acton (1830-1910), points at a scroll containing verses about the resurrection from 1 Corinthians xv. Above the angel is the text, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord," and below it is a dark granite memorial plaque inscribed with Salt's name and dates (see Balgarnie 312).

Many buildings in Saltaire are listed, but the church is the only one to be Grade I listed, putting it in the same elite category as the Palace of Westminster and (much closer at hand) York Minster.

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.

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


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Last modified 5 October 2011