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Catherine Salt, 1846-1930

Textiles dynast,
royal host,
progressive educationalist

Catherine was born into one family of textile magnates, the Crossleys of Halifax, and married into another when Titus Salt Junior became her husband.

Read below how, alongside being a wife and mother, Catherine hosted the Prince of Wales and later his sister Princess Beatrice at her home, and how she was committed to improving education, particularly for girls.

Early life, marriage and parenthood

Catherine was born in 1846 into the Crossley family of Halifax. Her father, Joseph, was one of the trio of brothers who ran the world famous carpet manufacturing firm. She was the oldest surviving daughter in a family of six sons and three daughters who reached adulthood.

Her family finally lived in Broomfield in Halifax, a large property standing in twenty acres of grounds. No record has been found of her education, but it was probably conducted by a governess at home.

The Crossleys were close friends of Sir Titus Salt and his family. Both families were prominent members of the Congregational Church and the Liberal party. Between 1843 and 1859, and again from 1866 to 1877 the Salt family lived at Crow Nest in Lightcliffe near Halifax.

Catherine married Titus Salt Junior, the youngest son of Sir Titus Salt in 1866. They set up house in Baildon, and in 1871 moved into the large new mansion of Milner Field, built by Thomas Harris for Titus Junior.

Over the course of the marriage three sons, Gordon, 1866, Harold, 1868, and Lawrence, 1874, were born, and a daughter, Isabel, 1876.

2018.3.15.2: Catherine Salt (1880s)
2018.3.15.2: Catherine Salt (1880s)

Socialising and entertaining royalty

2018-36.7: Prince and Princess of Wales planting a tree in Saltaire Park
The Prince and Princess of Wales planting a tree in Saltaire Park, 1882. Catherine is on the right with her husband and children

Catherine was not involved in constant child-bearing, as her mother had been, and was able to take part in activities both social and charitable.

She and Titus Junior socialised with their neighbours, many of whom were mill owners in a similar position to themselves. The local press reports Catherine as singing at various soirees.

She appears to have overseen the household herself and to have been a thrifty housekeeper. However, when the Prince and Princess of Wales visited them for two nights in 1882, no expense was spared in the entertainment. Similarly there was lavish spending when Princess Beatrice, youngest daughter of Queen Victoria, visited them with her husband in 1887 to preside at the opening of the Royal Yorkshire Jubilee Exhibition in Saltaire.

Supporting education

Catherine was very seriously involved with improving secondary education for girls. She was instrumental in the foundation of Bradford Girls’ Grammar School in 1875. She was  a member of their Board of governors throughout her life.

Catherine was also on the board of the Salt Schools in Saltaire, founded by Sir Titus Salt. With her husband Titus Junior, Catherine strongly supported provision for elementary and Kindergarten education. This helped to establish a new school for primary education on Albert Road in Saltaire that opened in 1878 for over 800 children.

E1b-009a: Albert Road Board School infant class, 1910
E1b-009a: Albert Road Board School infant class, 1910

Widowhood and later life

2018.36.13: Catherine Salt in later life
2018.36.13: Catherine Salt in later life

Titus Junior died in 1887, at the age of 44. Catherine stayed at Milner Field. She continued their tradition of giving dinner parties for the local manufacturers and their wives, many of whom she counted as friends. She included figures from the local University of Leeds, and others from the professions. She also hosted a lively fancy dress ball for her daughter’s coming-out party in 1895.

From the early 1890s the Salt textiles business was experiencing financial difficulty and by 1893 Salts Mill had been sold. One of the four business men who took over was James Roberts, a wool merchant from Bradford.

Catherine sold Milner Field to Roberts in 1903, when she moved to Ben Rhydding, near Ilkley, to take up the tenancy of Denton Hall. She lived there for eight years, taking part in the social life of Ilkley and seeing her daughter, Isabel, who lived with her, taking an increasing part in the social and political life of the town.

In 1911 she moved again to the Old Rectory at Thorp Arch near Boston Spa, which first she rented, but was later bought by the family. Her last move was to Harrogate, where she died in 1930 aged eighty four.

Author: Pauline Ford, 2019

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