Sometimes, when something very special is literally on your doorstep, it is easy to take it for granted. This is the case with me and the wonderful village of Saltaire. It is only a five-minute drive from where I live. Saltaire, a juxtapositioning of the name of the founder and the name of the river it stands on.
Titus (named after his Grandfather, a Sheffield man) was born on 20th September, 1803 at the Old Manor House, Morley, near Leeds. He was the first child of Daniel and Grace Salt (nee Smithie). The couple had six further children.
He was educated at Dame School, Morley and later at Batley Grammar School. In 1820 he left school and started work in the woolstapling business, this involved buying wool from the farmer and selling it to the manufacturer. When his parents moved to Bradford, Titus prospered in the Wool Trade. He attended wool sales all over England, and it was whilst travelling that he was to meet, and fall in love with, Caroline Whitlam of Grimsby, daughter of a wealthy sheep farmer. They married in 1830, she was 18 and he was 27. They set up home on North Parade, Bradford. Throughout their marriage they had eleven children.
Sir Titus Salt, 1803 - 1876
By 1844 Salt was an extremely wealthy man. He now owned many mills in the Bradford district. He was always an early riser, and folk used to say 'Titus Salt makes a thousand pounds before other people get out of bed.' He experimented with other fabrics. His use of Alpaca was the foundation of his prosperity and wealth. He was even to produce some work for Queen Victoria.
Titus Salt and his family moved to Horton Lane, Bradford and then to Crow Nest, a mansion at Lightcliffe, Halifax.
Salt was a generous and God-fearing man, a staunch Congregationalist. He became Bradford's second Mayor, a Commissioner of the Peace, held the office of chief constable and was appointed Deputy Lieutenant of the County. He also became a Member of Parliament, a post he didn't enjoy much. He was active in the development of the Congregational church. He gave large amounts of his money to various charities and always gave 'One-tenth to God.' He once took 2,000 workers on a day-trip to Malham and on another occasion took them to Scarborough (his favourite place) by train.
When Titus was nearing his fiftieth birthday he thought about retiring, but thankfully he didn't. He had an idea that he had long cherished. This was to put all his works under one roof and his workpeople in an area more pleasant than Bradford. He would build an industrial settlement, in fact a Model Village.
Bradford at this time was not a nice place at all. The town was a product of the Industrial Revolution. In 1801 it had a population of just 13,000, by 1851 it had rocketed to more than 103,000. People, including Irish peasants, flocked to Bradford, the textile capital of the world.
In 1850 Bradford was described as "A town of of notorious brothels and beer shops which are haunts of the vilest characters and full of scenes of perpetual drunkenness and debauchery."
A German writer living in Bradford at the time had this to say:
"Every other factory town in England is a paradise in comparison to this hole. In Manchester the air lies like lead upon you; in Birmingham it is just as if you were sitting with your nose in a stove pipe; in Leeds you have to cough with the dust and the stink as if you had swallowed a pound of Cayenne pepper at one go - but you can still put up with all that. In Bradford, however, you think you have been lodged in no other place than with the Devil incarnate....If anyone wants to feel how a poor sinner is perhaps tormented in Purgatory, let him travel to Bradford".
It is hardly surprising that many people were dying from outbreaks of cholera. 70 per-cent of all the children born to wool-combers died before they reached the age of 15.
Titus Salt, the philanthropist, began his dream. He discussed his plans with Bradford architects, Lockwood & Mawson, A site was chosen at Shipley which had the advantages of railway, canal, river and roads. It was also situated in beautiful countryside. In September 1853, on Salt's fiftieth birthday, the mill and associated buildings were opened. Salt laid on a gargantuan feast for 3,500 workers. They consumed two tons of meat, half a ton of potatoes, 420 plum puddings and jellies as well as enormous amounts of grapes, melons, peaches, pineapples, apricots and nectarines. Many of the workers had never seen such food. There followed a concert at Bradford's St. George's Hall. It must have been a grand day!
The programme of building was thus:
- Mills opened...1853
- Baths and wash houses...1863
- Almshouses and hospital...1868
- Sunday school...1876
- Houses were being erected throughout these times
- The streets were named after the Queen and Prince Albert, members of the Salt family and the architects.
- No Public Houses or Pawn Shops were allowed.
Salt provided accommodation varying with the needs of families with a variety of houses to fit space or in relation to family income or one's status within the mill. None of the properties were 'back-to-back.' All houses had running water and a gas supply. Shops were up and running in Victoria Road by 1854. At the 1871 census there were 824 houses and a population of 4,300. Given the conditions in Bradford, it must have been a great delight for workers and their families to live and work in Saltaire.
In 1869 Titus Salt received the following letter from the Prime Minister:
I have received authority from Her Majesty to propose that by her Favour, you should receive a Baronetcy and trust it may be agreeable to you to accept such a distinction......which is my gratifying duty to place at your disposal.
I beg to remain, dear Sir, Your very faithful and obedient servant
And so he became Sir Titus Salt.
The people of Saltaire loved Sir Titus and were very proud of him. In 1869 the folk who lived in the Almshouses presented him with gold spectacles and case. In 1870 the children of the village presented him with two silver plated breakfast dishes. In 1871, in a crowded Institute he was presented with an oil portrait of himself - the result of subscriptions. After the fanfare and the applause had quietened, the screen was drawn from the painting and he was addressed. Salt was much affected, he replied simply:
"My dear friends - you need not expect a speech from me. I shall ever remember this day as the greatest day in my life. This testimonial of your friendship and kindness I accept with the greatest gratitude, I assure you and I hope it will find a place here to be viewed for generations yet to come, as an emblem of your kindness. I may now congratulate you and myself on the completion of Saltaire. I have been twenty years at work and it is now complete, and I hope it will be a satisfaction and a joy and will minister to the happiness of all my people residing here. It is my wish that it should be so. If I was eloquent or able to make a long speech I should try to do so, but my feelings would not allow me. I thank you most cordially."
Albert Terrace (Click)
On his 70th birthday in 1873 and on the 20th anniversary of the opening of his mill, Salt held a gala for his workers at his home. 4,200 people arrived by special trains, chartered from Saltaire. A huge dinner was served in the afternoon. Lots of entertainment was provided for the children. Salt said how pleased he was to see them all there and that he hoped to see them all many more times yet - "If I am spared." He was very much aware of old age and ill health that was affecting him.
Sir Titus was held in such high regard that in 1874, a monument was erected to the man, such things rarely happen when a person is still living. His last public appearance was in May 1876 at the opening of the Sunday School. The Bradford Observer reported on 27th December 1876:
"From enquires made at a late hour last night we learn that Sir Titus Salt is gradually growing weaker. He has been unable for four days to take the least nourishment. Up to yesterday he was always sensible, but during the day he had several intervals of unconsciousness between which, however, he was able to recognise those who were around him. There is no doubt that the end is very near."
Sir Titus Salt died on the 29th of December, 1876.
The funeral took place on the 5th January, 1877. It was classed as a Civic Event of First Importance. In spite of recent harsh weather conditions, it was estimated that between 100,000 and 120,000 people lined the streets between Lightcliffe and Saltaire for the funeral procession. He was interred in the Mausoleum at the Congregational Church. Because so many people wished to pay their last respects the Mausoleum was kept open until 13th January, and special trains were run from Bradford. He was lamented nationally, as well as locally. Every newspaper and journal carried an obituary praising his works. The Editor of the Bradford Observer wrote:
"Sir Titus Salt was perhaps the greatest captain of industry in England, not only because he gathered thousands under him, but also because, according to the light that was in him, he tried to care for all those thousands....he was upright in business, admirable in his private relations, he came without seeking the honour to be admittedly the best representative of the Employer Class in this part of the Country if not the whole Kingdom."
Pillar Of Salt (Click)
Sir Titus, a man truly worth his Salt.
HOME PLACES DIARY TRIVIA