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Sir Titus Salt's Hospital. Attribution: Simon Cob /CC0

1868 Inventory and regulations relating to the almshouses


[Bradford Observer 5 November]

Each almshouse was furnished as follows:

In the living room there was a long table, a snap table, 3 Windsor chairs, a rocking chair, bookcase and fender. In the bedroom a large iron bedstead, straw mattress, hair mattress, washstand, two chairs and fender. Blind and blind furniture were provided throughout. In addition each almshouse was supplied with “ a large bible” and “passages of scripture” adorned the walls.

A library, consisting of several hundred books, was provided for the occupants.

In 1875 (BO 7 July 1875) it was reported that 29 of the 53 almshouse occupants had made use of the library and 300 books had been issued.


[Bradford Observer 5 November]

The regulations were extensive. In summary, the almshouses, with a maximum capacity of 60, were to be occupied by single, married or widowed men (almsmen) or women (almswomen), rent and tax free. All repairs were carried out free of charge unless such repairs resulted from occupant negligence or vandalism.

Married couples received 10s per week, single persons 7s 6d. Occupants were chosen by virtue of  “good character, destitute of property or other means sufficient for his or her support and incapacitated for labour by reason of age, disease or infirmity so as to be unable to earn his or her own living”.

Occupants were not allowed to sublet or take in lodgers without the permission of Titus Salt nor “take in washing or carry on any trade or business of any kind…nor absent themselves from the almshouse for a period exceeding 48 hours without written consent”.

Occupants could be “expelled” if any of the regulations were disobeyed or they be “guilty of insobriety or immoral or improper conduct”.

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Almshouses with commenoration of opening in 1868
Almshouses with commenoration of opening in 1868

1869 Presentation to Titus Salt by Almsmen and Almswomen

[Bradford Observer 31 July]

To express their gratitude to Titus Salt, in 1869 a meeting took place between the occupants of the  almshouses and Titus Salt and his wife in the “Large Room” of the Infirmary. The almspeople presented Titus Salt with a pair of gold spectacles and a silver mounted staff and Mrs Salt with a “very nice book”.

The Reverend David Cowan presented the gifts on behalf of the almspeople as “small tokens of the deep heartfelt gratitude for the rich provision you have so generously made for them in their poverty, infirmity and weakness”. He went on to say that the spectacles were designed to represent the fact that prior to living in the almshouses,  the almspeople couldn’t see where their future lay but “you kindly became eyes unto them and caused them to see a way of comfort and joy in their old age”.

The staff, he continued, represented bread, the staff of life and the book for Mrs Salt expressed their “gratitude for and appreciation of the provision you have made for their souls as well as their bodies”.

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The Almshouses

Mr William Henry Ellis joins medical staff

William Henry Ellis was born in 1845 in Swavensey, Cambridgeshire. His father, Robert Sage Ellis, born in  Dinapore (now known as Danapur), Bengal, a British garrison town in the 19th century, was a General Practitioner and a Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. Ellis had four sisters and two brothers, Charles who became a Surgeon and Joseph, a General Practitioner.

He went to Cambridge University and then to St Bartholomew’s Hospital and the 1861 census lists him as a “surgeon pupil” to Edward Knowles, Surgeon, Dentist and General Practitioner.  In 1866 he successfully took the diplomas of MRCS Eng. and L.S.A  On qualifying he commenced practice in Shipley joining the Sir Titus Salt’s Hospital as a  Consultant Surgeon in 1869. He stayed in Shipley until his retirement in 1910.

The 1891 census lists Ellis as living at 210 Otley Road. Other references talk of him as “Ellis of Shipley Hall”. He was married to Jane, who was born in Southern Australia and they had 7 children. The 1891 census lists Martin and Robert as Cambridge undergraduates and Robert as a medical student.

Ellis was active locally. He was Medical Officer of Health for Shipley until 1886. He served as Chair of the Governors of the Salt Trust and as a member of the Shipley School Board. He was a member of the West Riding Bench for 31 years, 10 years as Chair [British Medical Journal May 21 1921]. He was President of the Shipley Conservatives.

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1874 Dr Ellis and the controversy over “woolsorters’ disease”

[Bradford Observer 15 June and 21 December]

In the winter of 1873 there was a quick succession of deaths amongst the Saltaire “foreign wool sorters”, sorters of alpaca and mohair. “Strong stalwart men left their boards and in a few hours were corpses”.

Amongst the local medical men there was general agreement that the cause of death was the inhalation of dust from the wools being sorted causing inflammation of the lungs. However, one man disagreed, William Henry Ellis.

Ellis set about investigating the matter. As a result of his inquiry he published a pamphlet “A few Observations on the so-called Sorters’ Disease by W H Ellis, Surgeon, Shipley” (recent acadmic research suggests his was the first time in print that this wide-spread affliction was referred to by this name). Ellis concluded that there was nothing in the temperature or atmosphere of the sorting rooms which could have caused the deaths. He also suggested that sorting was “a light indoor employment” attractive to persons of “delicate health”. He concluded “Accordingly we find amongst the sorters persons presenting the signs and disposition to consumption”.

This enraged the foreign wool sorters across Bradford! They were campaigning for better pay and felt this report could sway public opinion against them.

On the 19 December 1874 a special meeting of the Woolsorters of Bradford was held in the Temperance Hall, Bradford, specifically to hear a paper read by Mr Sutcliffe Rhodes in reply to Ellis’s pamphlet and to consider the motion “as medical testimony that sorting alpaca, mohair and inferior wools is seriously injurious to health and in many cases fatal, this meeting is of the opinion that better remuneration for woolsorters’ labour is imperatively necessary”.

Rhodes’ main objections to Ellis’s paper were two-fold. First, he strongly objected to Ellis’s claim that wool sorting was a light indoor employment and that deaths of sorters were the result of their general intemperance. Woolsorting, he stated, particularly of alpaca and mohair was a difficult and arduous job, requiring 5-6 years apprenticeship. He highlighted that in 1868 Ellis had demonstrated, by examining a section of lung under a microscope from a deceased woolsorter, that dust and hair were embedded in the lung. Furthermore, in the same year, with Mr F Marsden, a Bradford surgeon, he conducted a post-mortem examination on the body of an alpaca sorter, John Haley and in their report stated that a number of textile fibres were found in the lungs resulting in inflammation.

Secondly, Rhodes challenged that Ellis had limited his inquiry to Saltaire where as a result of the 1868 deaths alterations had been made to the sorting rooms. Rhodes queried why Ellis’ investigation was carried out after hundreds of pounds had been spent to clean and ventilate the sorting rooms. “Let all honour and praise be given to the sons of that noble and illustrious benefactor Sir Titus Salt for the manner in which they had ameliorated the conditions of the foreign wool sorters” and he wished that “other employers of similar labour would speedily follow the example in that respect”. He  highlighted that prior to the alterations sorters were working in rooms where clouds of dust enveloped them and where ventilation was totally inadequate.

The meeting passed the motion  but it’s not known if the woolsorters were successful in their campaign for higher wages.

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1876 The death of Sir Titus Salt

[Shipley Times and Express 3 November]

Sir Titus Salt died in 1876. In his will and associated codicils, the almshouses and infirmary were bequeathed to his widow, Dowager Lady Salt and his son, Titus Salt Junior. Furthermore he specified that an endowment of £30,000 should be provided, the annual income from this ( amounting to approximately £1200 per annum) to be used for  “the benefit of the sick and aged poor of Saltaire and the neighbourhood”. Lady Salt and her son, as Trustees, were given power to settle a scheme for its application.

It has to be remembered that at this time there was no state support for people when they fell on hard times. Furthermore, Victorian society was obsessed with the notion of the “deserving poor”. Philanthropy was thriving but with it a concern that charity, in the broadest sense, could encourage people to depend on others to solve their problems.

Prior to his death Sir Titus had been concerned that providing free accommodation in the Almshouses could result in the poor elderly and/or their family and friends not taking responsibility for their situation and the almshouses could become a “nursery for pauperism”. However, no action had been taken to address this.

Shortly after his death Lady Salt and Titus Salt Junior decided to address his concerns and drew up a proposed code for the future management of the almshouses. They submitted this to a public meeting on 21 November 1877, attended by 40 people from the district. The background to the suggestions was that older poor people should be encouraged to live with relatives or friends where they could contribute to the household by offering childcare or doing light housework. They, in turn, would then be cared for by relatives or friends in illness and infirmity.

Furthermore, whilst to date the hospital only treated patients from Saltaire and the almshouses and income from the endowment fund benefitted that community only, in future it was agreed that the area would be widened to three miles of the Saltaire Institute. Henceforth the hospital would also receive patients from Shipley, Windhill and Baildon “without distinction and without charge”. It was also agreed that income from the almshouses would be handed over to help the educational work of the Salt Schools and the Institute.

Specific suggestions were as follows:

  1. Deserving poor people would receive a weekly allowance for a limited period subject to renewal.
  2. Subscriptions would be paid to convalescent homes in Scarborough, Buxton, Harrogate, Ilkley or Cookridge where the health and working power of the breadwinners of families would be restored after illness
  3. Two or more trained nurses would be employed to work with local working people. It was hoped that their teaching and influence would correct and improve the prevailing method of sick nursing and invalid cookery. (Two such “thoroughly trained hospital nurses” started work on 31 March 1879)
  4. Only some of the almshouses buildings would be retained as almshouses, the remainder to be let as ordinary dwelling houses and rents received would be deposited in the Salt School general fund (there was subsequently discussion on the beneficiaries of this rent). Subsequently 17 almshouses on the east side of Victoria Road were let as ordinary dwelling houses and by 1887 only 8 almshouses were occupied by pensioners the rest being occupied by rent paying tenants.

The 1871 and 1881 censuses provide a possible example of the effects on individuals of this change in policy. In 1871 Sarah Armitage is recorded as living at 36 Almshouses.  However in the 1881 census she is living with her son and his family at 2 Titus Street. Was this a forced move?

It should be noted that the provision of pensions was not restricted to those living in the almshouses. Some older people living locally with relatives or friends still received a weekly pension, so in all likelihood Sarah would still have received her weekly pension

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Sir Titus Salt in his later years
Sir Titus Salt in his later years

1881 The Samaritan Fund

[Shipley Times and Express 17 December]

The Salts also believed that efforts should be made to cure disease at its early stage and to tide over times of emergency in family life, caused by accident and illness, which if struggled through without such aide would probably mark the beginning of serious debt and adversity.

The Samaritan Fund is an example of efforts made to address such possible situations . The fund was established to raise money to be distributed to exceptionally poor hospital patients on their discharge, to tide them over until they were able to return to work.

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1887 The Royal Yorkshire Jubilee Exhibition

[Shipley Times and Express 22 June]

In 1887, to mark the Royal Yorkshire Jubilee Exhibition, Dowager Lady Salt and Titus Salt junior announced they would transfer responsibility for the management and administration of the hospital, almshouses and endowment fund to the Governors of the Salt Schools, effectively transferring responsibility from the private to the public sphere.

This was lauded in the press as another example of Titus Salt’s beneficence. However, this was not the full story.The Jubilee had been proposed as a way of defraying the cost of building what became known as the Shipley Technical Schools. Unfortunately the event made a loss of £11,000. The transfer of the almshouses to the Governors of the Schools was a means of mitigating this loss. However the income from the almshouses fell short of the interest on the mortgage debt and the debt was a burden for many years and a salutary lesson for future Trust Governors.

A Charity Deed was drawn up to establish a scheme under The Charitable Trusts Act 1858 bringing into existence the Sir Titus Salt’s Hospital Charity with an associated £30,000 Trust Fund. This deed was sealed on 10 April 1888.

The deed stated that the hospital was to be used by the Governors as a hospital and dispensary. It also specified how the income from the endowment fund should be applied, the emphasis at all times being on providing a service for the sick and aged poor in Saltaire and within a three miles radius of the hospital buildings. The interpretation of the “instructions” contained within this deed, as to how and for what the income from the endowment fund should be applied, was at the heart of the operation of the Charity, the Governors having absolute power over this.  It was to be the focus of much debate and argument over the coming years.

One of the main areas of contention was the allocation of the endowment fund income between the running and maintenance of the hospital and the allocation of pensions. To date the costs associated with the running of the hospital had taken up the bulk of this income.

At this time there was an expectation that all members of society, irrespective of their financial or social status, and businesses and organisations should contribute to the public good through donations and subscriptions.  Local papers are full of accounts of Charity bazaars, gala events and collection days exhorting people to give whatever they could.

The hospital, although receiving monies in the form of subscriptions from local businesses and organisations had had relatively little from public donations. There was a view, held by a section of the local population, that as the people of Saltaire benefitted from the services provided by the hospital, they should contribute more to its maintenance. This would then mean that more of the money from the endowment fund could be used to fund pensions and poor relief. But this view was hotly contested, opponents citing the Charity Deed as evidence that this was not Sir Titus Salt’s intention.

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Jubilee souvenir brochure

1890 The new scheme for provision of professional medical support

[Shipley Times and Express 27 December]

The new scheme for the provision of professional medical support came into being on 1 January 1891.

The principal change was that instead of a paid surgeon there would be honorary medical staff consisting of all duly qualified and registered practitioners and residing within the townships or Local Board districts of Shipley, Windhill and Baildon.

It was agreed that two medical men from this pool would be appointed in turn and take charge of the hospital for a period of 3 months at a time, taking alternate weeks for the reception cases. In the case of important surgical operations these could only take place after consultation between all members of the medical staff.  Those on the pensioners list and those who were “proper candidates” for pensions or temporary relief would be seen as outpatients.

Admissions to the hospital were to be regulated with in-patient recommendations being admitted between 2-3pm on Tuesdays only and out-patient recommendations between 1.30-2.30 on Saturdays. Accident cases to be admitted at any time. In total there were 11 clauses.

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Sir Titus Salt Hospital in the late 19th century
Sir Titus Salt Hospital in the late 19th century

1895 Governor’s report on the Hospital

[Shipley Times and Express 2 February]

There were regular reports in the local press on the Governors’ meetings of the The Titus Salt’s Charity. On 2 February 1895 the Shipley Times and Express reported on the Governors’ March 31 1894 year end report.

Cost of the Hopsital: £348 4s 8d ( 1893 – £386 10s 1 d)

Total number of inpatients: 47 (1893 – 34)

Total number of outpatients: 267 (1893 – 256)

Subscriptions and donations: £82 14s 6d (1893 – £92 16s 1 d)

Number of persons in receipt of weekly pensions of £5 and upwards: 24

Number of persons in receipt of temporary relief: 49

Total amount disbursed £790 13s6d (1893 – £854 1s 6d)

“Kind help” given to “necessitous” poor persons in temporary difficulties: £19 1s

Subscription to Ilkley Hospital: 15 Guineas

Subscription to Harrogate Bath Hospital: 5 Guineas

It was reported in the newspaper that the cost of Hospital maintenance was the lowest for 10 years and that the efficiency of the institution had been “fully kept up to its usual standard”.

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1896+ To be continued…


Research is ongoing on the history of the hospital and the almshouses. More details will be added here as the research progresses.

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