The Village of Saltaire

Among the many historical gems located in West Yorkshire, England is Saltaire Village. Saltaire lies slightly to the North of the city centre of Bradford in the heart of the fields of heather and the moors of Bronte Country.

Saltaire got its name from Titus Salt, a successful weaver of beautiful fabrics that were used to make expensive dresses for the ladies of England. Titus moved his woolen mill from the centre of Bradford to just outside the city on the River Aire. This location along the river was important because it gave his mill access to what is now known as the Leeds-Liverpool Canal and to the railway. Along with this mill that was built in the mid-nineteenth century, Salt also built a planned, self-contained community especially for the workers in his new mill.

Another important reason behind the moving of his mills from Bradford and the building of this planned community was to provide a better place for his employees to live and work that was away from Bradford and Leeds. They were both fast becoming booming industrial cities and were already littered with mills. The area grew so rapidly during this time that Bradford was over-populated and disease-ridden. His planned Victorian village was his way of getting his people away from the “dark satanic mills” of Bradford to a place with more space and fresh air.

The mill opened in 1853 and the village around it thrived with cozy stone houses for the workers that were a vast improvement over the slums found throughout Bradford. The little town also had shops, bathhouses with running water, and a church – another rarity in Bradford. A school, a hospital, a library, a billiard room, a concert hall, and a park were all part of the little Victorian village that Salt built. Salt named the village Saltaire, combining his name with that of the river on which the village sat.

In 1869, Queen Victoria gave Salt the title of baronet and he became Sir Titus Salt. Upon his death he was given a mausoleum in the Saltaire Congregational Church across from his mill.

Saltaire Today

Today, Salt’s Mill has been made into a complex of shops and eating establishments. It also houses the “1853 Gallery”. This gallery is home to the collected works of David Hockney, who is thought to be one of greatest living artists in the world. Hockney was born and raised in Bradford and still stays closely connected to the city, although he now lives in California. One of his paintings on display here is of Salt’s Mill.

The village today has a very Bohemian atmosphere. Because of this and its connection to David Hockney, artists, writer, poets, and musicians flock here to work and to display their art. In 2003, Saltaire hosted the first Saltaire Festival to commemorate the town’s 150th anniversary. Since then, the festival has become an annual September event, providing an opportunity for artisans of every type to display and sell their work.

Besides the mill, most of the other buildings in the little village have been transformed in shops, restaurants, and pubs. With the addition of pubs to the streets of Saltaire, it is interesting to note that Sir Titus was a strong proponent against drinking. One of the more popular pubs in the village today is aptly named “Don’t Tell Titus”.

The church in which Salt was laid to rest still remains but is now the United Reformed Church. It is considered to be one of England’s most valued examples of architecture from the Victorian era. It has a number of historically and architecturally notable attributes.

In 2001, the Village of Saltaire became a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site falling under the protection of the government.