Dorothy Sharp was a librarian and one of the founders of the Saltaire Historical Collection.
Dorothy and her husband Alan moved to West Yorkshire from the Midlands in 1983.
In January 1984, Dorothy started a 10-week temporary post as “Local History Researcher” at Saltaire library, then located in Victoria Hall. The work was part-funded by a grant from the Salt Foundation.
Her first job was to sift through the local history collection in the library to identify material that might form the basis of some information packs for schoolchildren. This resulted in the production of three information packs: the ‘Saltaire Resource Pack’, the ‘Aire Valley Transport’ pack and the booklet ‘Education in Shipley and Saltaire 1800 – 1900’.
During this time Dorothy came into contact with Julia Douglas, the Tutor Librarian at the neighbouring Shipley College.
In April 1984 Dorothy started work on a 6-month temporary contract at Shipley College, as Assistant Librarian. Her main interest in the history of Saltaire came from her membership of an evening class at Shipley College on the “History of mid-Airedale” run by Dr Gary Firth.
The Collecting begins
In 1987/8, Dorothy was involved in setting up a “Saltaire Resource Base” in Salts Mill, with the cooperation of Jonathan Silver. The idea behind this was to be able to offer a space for visiting school groups, and to provide a collection of information and artefacts for the accompanying teacher to use.
Dorothy spent some time compiling (mostly photocopied) sets of materials for the visiting groups to use and getting the necessary permissions from the copyright holders to make the copies.
Some photographs were also purchased from Dorothy Burrows, and Ian Beesley, a professional photographer who, at the time, was specialising in photographs of disused mills. Dorothy also made copies from the collection of old maps then held in Shipley Town Hall.
Dorothy came to be known locally as someone who was interested in collecting and preserving material relating to Saltaire. As a result, items were donated by local people, many connected with the Saltaire Memories Group. This resulted, for example, in the archives collection of the wooden bobbins. So, during her time at Shipley College the collection of information on Saltaire was expanded.
The development of Saltaire Resource Base in Salts Mill was important for starting to establish the College as a partner in the promotion of the history of Saltaire. Also, in building up contacts and for raising awareness within the College of the significance of its surroundings. As such, Dorothy played a valuable part in helping to create the embryonic collection that now constitutes the ‘Saltaire Collection’ in the archive room at Shipley College.
In addition to her library duties and her work on the Saltaire history material, Dorothy was also involved in the production of the booklet and the exhibition accompanying the Centenary of the Exhibition Road building in 1987.
At the time of her leaving the College for other work, Dorothy left the following: “A message to the library staff. Don’t you dare throw out any of the Saltaire junk, it’s all got a purpose, unfathomable as it may seem”.
In Dorothy’s own words:
So during my time at Shipley College the collection of information on Saltaire was expanded, mostly by making sure we had copies of anything that was available, actively seeking out additional photographs and by extracting information from publications (and people!) to make it more accessible for use by our own students and for visiting school groups.
The booklet and exhibition accompanying the Centenary of the Exhibition Road building, and the development of Saltaire Resource Base in Salts Mill, were important for starting to establish the College as a partner in the promotion of the history of Saltaire, building up contacts and for raising awareness within the College of the significance of its surroundings. I am so pleased that successors at the College and in the village managed to work out a purpose for the embryonic collection on Saltaire.
References from: ‘The Early days of the Saltaire Archive’ Dorothy Sharp (March 2017)
Ian Watson 2019
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