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When Titus Salt (1803-1876) founded the industrial community of Saltaire, among the amenities that he was committed to developing were those for education. The following is a summary of where the provision of education began and how the educational amenities developed and grew.

The Dining Hall today
Notice for the earliest schools in the Dining Hall
The earliest schools in the Dining Hall

The first indication occurred on the 12 August 1854, when the Architects Lockwood and Mason (who designed Salts Mill and Saltaire) placed notice in the local press that they were seeking contractors to erect:

  • Dining hall, cooking kitchen and other offices
  • Stable buildings, a coach house, cart sheds and cottages
  • Eleven shops with dwelling houses attached

On November 3rd, 1855, the Shipley Times reported that the ‘dining hall is just being completed’ and describes it, somewhat surprisingly, as ‘a place of worship and a school room’

The ‘Factory School’ established in the dining hall was likely to be far superior to many that had arisen in other factories and mills and demonstrated that Titus Salt was ever determined to fully abide by the law. 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 in Britain and this had resulted in many thousands of young children working very long hours in workplaces where conditions were often terrible and, at times, dangerous. The main provisions of the 1833 Act were that –

  • no children under nine years of age could be employed
  • employers were required to obtain an age certificate for their child workers
  • children of 9-13 years were not to be allowed to work more than nine hours a day
  • children of 13-18 years were not to work more than 12 hours a day
  • children were not to be employed to work at night
  • factory owners were to provide a minimum of two hours schooling each day for child workers
  • four factory inspectors were appointed to enforce the law

This law stated that children could only be employed if they had a schoolmaster’s certificate that confirmed that in ‘the previous week’ they had had two hours of education each day. This was to be paid for by a deduction of a penny in the shilling from the children’s wages. Research tells us that many industrialists continued to flout the law – often setting aside a poorly equipped, dingy room within a factory to provide the compulsory two hours of education and frequently ignoring the age limits set down. Many just simply ignored the provisions of the 1833 Act.

Joseph Wright
Joseph Wright

One pupil of the factory school in the dining hall, went on to achieve great things. Joseph Wright (1855-1930) furthered his own education with only two books, the bible and Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress. After graduating from Heidelberg University, he was accepted by Oxford University, gaining an MA, PhD and DCL and becoming a renowned professor of Philology.

During the 1860s, indications of the progress of plans for additional public buildings in Saltaire were being noted and recorded by the local press and the multiple uses of the dining hall were beginning to change. By 1868 a large, new building to house the ‘factory’ or day schools was opened in between the lower and upper ends of Victoria road, for the boys and girls then attending as infants or in part time school who ‘were re-housed without fuss or ceremony’ in this new facility. There were separate entrances for girls and boys who were also taught separately. The schools could accommodate 750 pupils and their facilities were advanced, the classrooms having central heating, gas lighting and fitted cupboards. Playgrounds at the rear of the schools included covered areas for use in bad weather.

The Salt Schools Now the Salt Building
The Salt Schools Now the Salt Building

Education legislation had advanced by this time and the 1844 Factory Act required children between the ages of 8 and 13 to be employed no longer than six and a half hours per day and to receive 2 hours of education a day. Sir Titus Salt and his fifth son Titus Jnr. were ahead of their time in establishing well provisioned education, but only just. A most important new Act, the 1870 Education Act, came into being shortly after the Salt Schools on Victoria Road were in full use. This Act stands as the very first piece of legislation to deal specifically with the comprehensive need for the provision of education in Britain. It demonstrated a commitment to provision on a national scale. In 1880 a further Education Act finally made school attendance compulsory between the ages of five and ten.  A consequence for Saltaire was that the new school’s capacity was soon insufficient to meet numbers of children in those age groups. From the outset, some space had been made available in another grand structure immediately opposite the schools, named the Saltaire Institute (now known as Victoria Hall), where classrooms for art and science education had been included in the design.

The Saltaire Institute

In a newspaper article of March 1871, the first public description of the Saltaire Institute was provided. It was described as a ‘noble building designed by Messrs Lockwood and Mason in a style that was Florentine Italian’. The report notes that the institute harmonised with the new Salt Schools building, forming a quadrangle with the schools and that ‘the open space in front of each building is tastefully laid out with lawns and dwarf plantations and at the angles of the palisade which divide the gardens are four recumbent Lions (the work of Mr. T. Milne, Sculptor, London) respectively inscribed Vigilance, Determination, War and Peace.’ Within this report, a mention is made that on first floor are classrooms ‘devoted to the School of Art’ and equipped with a valuable collection of casts to assist students in their elementary and advanced studies. Classrooms and a laboratory for science classes are noted as being available in the basement. From the outset both buildings were used for education and night school facilities were also established in the Institute.

The Saltaire Institute's Gymnasium
The Institute’s Gymnasium Later Years

In addition, Titus Salt Jnr. and his wife Catherine strongly advocated education for children and were supporters of Froebel’s work on education for under-fives. A gift of land for a new school and their campaign resulted in the provision of  a new elementary school on Albert Road, Saltaire  which opened in February 1878. The Inscription for this new elementary school (still operating as a large primary school today) includes the following –

It (the new school) is two storeys high, a central hall 92ft by 36ft, rising the entire height and being lighted from the roof. Around this, sixteen classrooms, each of which is 22ft by 21ft, are ranged, eight on the ground floor and eight on the first floor, the latter being reached by two staircases (one for each sex) and a balcony, which gives an appearance of relief to the hall. Between the two staircases just mentioned are placed two teachers’ rooms. On each floor are two cloakrooms (one for boys and one for girls), provided with umbrella stands and excellently ventilated; indeed, in this respect every portion of the building is as perfect as it can possibly be made. Separate covered playgrounds are placed in the rear of the school, with lavatories near at hand. Each classroom is surrounded by ample glass lights so that the headmistress may see at a glance what is going on within, either looking from one room to another or from the central hall. It is, however, intended to have frosted the lights communicating with the several classrooms, as it is found that the attention of the children in one room is apt to be attracted by what is going on in the apartment immediately in front. But this arrangement, which enables the head mistress to see, while at her desk in the hall, what is transpiring with four classes or standards, is a feature which at once commends itself to one’s mind.”

Exhibition Building, Shipley College and home of the Collection

Not content with the provision of a new elementary school (to which the younger children were transferred from the original schools on Victoria Road), Titus Salt Jnr. also had a grand plan for new ‘technical schools for art and science’. In 1885, Titus Salt Jnr. proposed holding an Art Exhibition in Saltaire ‘which may be the means of raising a building for Science and Art and which would provide an outlet for those who desire to erect a memorial to the late Sir Titus Salt’.

The Yorkshire Royal Jubilee Exhibition went ahead between May and October 1887 and the building of the new ‘School of Art and Science’ (now named Exhibition building) was completed. The public subscriptions raised for the New School were far less than anticipated however and despite the many visitors to the Exhibition, its costs outweighed the finance raised through visitor tickets and exhibition stall charges. On November 18, 1887, Titus Salt Jnr. was due to meet the executive committee responsible for the exhibition at Salts Mill and face the facts that the new School of Art and Science building had left the Salt Schools with a large debt. At 12 noon he sent his apologies, saying he was indisposed and had returned to his home at Milner Field by 12.30. Reports state that he had some lunch, took a walk in the garden and went to rest in the smoking room but ‘was taken immediately worse, the butler called for Mrs. Salt but when she got to her husband he was unconscious and shortly afterward died’.

Titus Salt School
Titus Salt School

Long after their foundation, the Salt High Schools moved to a new site across Coach Road and are now named ‘Titus Salt School’ and the School of Art and Science eventually became a College of further Education – Shipley College – which now also occupies the prior building for the ‘High School’s and the Dining Hall for its students. The greatest debt for education provision in Saltaire is owed to the Salt family.

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