4 May 1918 – 21 December 2014
Denys was, for more than 50 years, the member of the Salt family who most evidently sustained the family’s links with Saltaire. His encouragement to generations of historians, his contributions to local archives, libraries and museums, and his support of present-day activities in Saltaire were of invaluable benefit to our Saltaire community.
Sir Titus commenced building Saltaire with the opening of this Mill in 1853, stating “I hope to draw around me a population that will enjoy the beauties of this neighbourhood….”. He created a township which stands today as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in recognition of his vision and achievements. Long before the UNESCO designation in 2001, Denys sought to ensure that the history of his ancestors’ work could be told, and carefully set about preserving and documenting as much of the story as he could, encouraging others to do likewise.
Denys’ father Harold had been born, and lived his young life, at Milner Field, but as the family’s fortunes changed in the 1890s, he had moved south, eventually settling in Cheltenham with his wife (Denys’ mother), Grace. Denys’ early schooling was at Marlborough School, but this ended prematurely due to a further change in the family’s fortunes, and Denys completed his secondary education at the local college in Cheltenham. Winning a place at Oxford University, Denys succeeded in graduating, notwithstanding the intervention of the Second World War, in which he served overseas with the Army for several years in both Egypt and the Balkan states. At the end of the war, Denys served in the Allies’ peace-time administration of Austria, where his language skills were put to good use; this time was to later play a major part of Denys’ life.
Returning to England in the late 1940s, Denys subsequently joined the BBC, which became the mainstay of his professional life. Based in London, he maintained his interest in Austria and the Balkan region. Active in the London-based Anglo-Albanian Association, Denys was also an authoritative writer on the subject of Austria, being the author of “Austria (World Bibliographical Series)”, an exhaustive compendium of publications relating to Austria published by ABC-Clio Inc, 1986.
While never having lived in Saltaire, Denys’ interests in the village, and the roles played by his grandfather and great grandfather, became a major part of Denys’ adult life. He took it upon himself to study not only the history of Saltaire, but of the West Riding textile trade in general. His knowledge of the Salt family structure and history proved of great help to local historians, with Denys always putting himself at their disposal.
Denys found himself returning to Austria on visits, and it was during one of these visits that he met his future wife Eva. Eva, in turn, became Denys’ most steadfast supporter, always there quietly giving her support to all of Denys’ interests. Denys could not have played his role in Saltaire’s life without Eva, and thanks are given for her role in that.
Health issues led Denys and Eva to relocate from London to Graz, Austria in 2005, but the move didn’t break the link with the village, with Denys and Eva continuing to visit Saltaire for annual events such as the Saltaire Festival, and – despite by now moving into his 90s – with Denys maintaining extensive internet contact.
Denys was naturally drawn to the many activists in Saltaire’s community, wanting to learn from them and at the same time encouraging them. His motives were simple – he enjoyed people, and wanted to share and celebrate Saltaire’s heritage with everyone else. For someone who was never able to live here permanently, Denys’ local involvements were extensive – with Saltaire United Reformed Church; Shipley College; Salts School; the Mill; the Saltaire History Club; the Village Society; Saltaire Festival; Bradford Industrial Museum; West Yorkshire Archives; Bradford Central Library; he loved to learn of the endeavours of the Hammonds Saltaire Band, and the Friends of Roberts Park … even Don’t Tell Titus got his support!
The simple truth is that Denys was a very exceptional man. Many in Saltaire knew Denys personally as a good friend, and will recall how he conducted himself – remembering the charm, the smile, the wisdom, the knowledge, the good humour, the mischief, the enthusiasm, and his willingness to support all the endeavours that safeguarded Saltaire’s heritage and history and helped its community.
Denys was mindful that Saltaire doesn’t belong solely to those born here, or those who live here; it belongs to us all, to be celebrated equally by all, be we residents, workers, trades people, students, or visitors.
Denys’s legacy lives on, through our shared memories of him, and through the great many items of Salt family archives, photos, artefacts that he bequeathed to Saltaire Archives and other local institutions.
With thanks to Dave Shaw who knew Denys Salt and has allowed us to use this Biography.