Saltaire’s Public Buildings
When Titus Salt (1803-1876) made his decision to move his worsted textile business from several mills in Bradford and build a grand new mill some distance from the over-crowded streets and foul air of the town, he had planned a huge ‘vertical’ mill designed to take in raw materials and complete all the many processes to turn this into fine cloth.
From the outset, he had also planned to provide his workers with family homes and all the amenities that would meet their spiritual, moral, educational and social needs nearby – creating the model industrial community of Saltaire. His new mill was completed and opened on 20 September 1853 (his fiftieth birthday) and work then commenced to realise his much larger plan for residences and public amenities. Within these plans were:
- Church and Chapel, for those choosing to meet their religious needs
- An Infirmary and Dispensary
- Alms Houses for the elderly and infirm
- Schools and Adult Education facilities
- An Institute. for wider education and leisure pursuits
- A large park for outdoor leisure
Some other amenities were lost (see footnote to this information)
1854 The very first ‘public space’ to meet many of these needs, whilst all the houses in the village and its public building were being completed, was in a building directly opposite the Mill – the Dining Hall – developed with the purpose of providing meals for the Mill workers BUT acting as the main social, educational and religious space for several years. Known today as ‘The Mill Building’
This Introduction to some of the amenities established by Sir Titus Salt evidences how those operating in the Dining Hall (opened in 1854) as interim measures, were to be relatively rapidly re-housed as the rest of the plan for Saltaire was realised.
Congregational Church (United Reformed Church)
From 1854 until 1859 religious services and Sunday School were held in the Dining Hall. On 27th September 1856, the dining hall was the venue for a ceremony that involved the laying of a foundation stone for a new Congregational church that was to be built just below the dining hall, opposite the mill, on a generous piece of land near to the Leeds, Liverpool canal which was completed in 1859. Known today as Saltaire United Reformed Church.
Salt was also supportive of other Christian denominations and sold some of his land in Saltaire for a Wesleyan Methodist Chapel (1866) and a primitive Methodist Church (1872), both of which were located on Saltaire Road. The original Wesleyan Chapel was demolished in 1970 and replaced by a new Methodist Church erected on the site.
In 1868 an Infirmary and Dispensary with six beds was completed and was sufficiently well equipped to perform surgical operations. As demand for its services grew it began to provide treatment for the local community as well as for mill workers. It was extended twice, and It provided over 100 years of service as a hospital before it closed in 1979. It is situated at the top of Victoria Road.
Extensive research is being done on the history of the hospital and almshouses, and the first installment is available as an interactive timeline.
In 1868 45 Almshouses were completed at the upper end of Victoria road. These were arranged in rectangle – set back from a formal and (initially enclosed) garden of Alexander Square. Occupants of the almshouses were selected by Salt in is life time and subsequently by a board of trustees. The occupants were chosen on a basis of their age and infirmity and could live there rent free and also received a small weekly pension.
The Factory school established in the dining hall was thought by important national visitors to be superior to many that had arisen in other factories and mills. At the time, the education of children was not something national or local governments provided. In 1833, the Government had passed a Factory Act to improve conditions for children working in factories (the practice of employing children was a direct consequence of the industrial revolution) and this Act required Children aged over 8 years to have a minimum of two hours education each day. The children aged 8 to 13 years of age educated in the Dining Hall were therefore known as ‘half timers’ in the mill.
Victoria Road School
New purpose-built schools were completed in 1868, on Victoria Road and the school pupils moved into a beautiful new building. The classrooms were fitted out to a high standard, with a covered outdoor area and had space for 750 pupils. Boys and girls were educated separately. Very quickly it was clear that the new schools were not big enough for the numbers of children. Titus Salt Jnr. campaigned successfully for a new school for infants and juniors at the top of Albert Road
Saltaire Institute (Victoria Hall)
The very first report of the ‘dining hall’ being used for a public event was on November 3rd, 1854 – reported as the ‘Inauguration of the Saltaire Literary Institute’, The purpose of the ‘Saltaire Literary Institute’ was to provide a library, a reading room with newspapers and periodicals and a programme of lectures. This pattern would expand and develop further in 1869 when a grand new building was erected opposite the new schools that was named the Saltaire Institute (known today as Victoria Hall).
A circular issued to Saltaire residents in 1870 announced that “the provisions of the Saltaire Institute were to be for innocent and intelligent recreation and the accommodation would house – a reading room; a library; a chess and draughts room; a smoking room; a billiard room; a bagatelle room (2 tables); a lecture hall seating 600 people; lecture theatres for 150 people; a science laboratory; a school of Art; various classrooms; a curator’s house; a gymnasium and rifle drill rooms”. The large and beautiful building formed a quadrangle with the new Salt Schools that had rapidly proved to have insufficient room for Saltaire’s children.
Saltaire Park (Roberts Park)
1871 saw the official opening of Saltaire Park, built across the river from the Mill and the model town and known today as Roberts park. The northern bank of the river was excavated to provide a wider water area for boating and bathing became popular. The park extended over 14 acres, of which a third was given to a cricket ground and bowls and croquet pitches were laid out in separate areas. The whole was landscaped and included a grand terrace and some pavilions and seating areas. The park was re-named Roberts Park in 1920 when Sir James Roberts presented it to Bradford Corporation.
Albert Road School (Saltaire Primary) and New Schools of Art and Science
Not within the original plan for public amenities in Saltaire were two additional education facilities, which remain today, these are –
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Beautiful Buildings lost to Saltaire were the Bath and Wash Houses (completed in 1863) and the Sunday School (completed in 1876).