Skip to content
Home » Story of Saltaire » Biographies » Dorothy Sharp

Dorothy Sharp

Preserver of Saltaire's heritage

Dorothy Sharp was a local librarian and one of the founders of what would become the Saltaire Collection.

Dorothy played a key role in collecting information and items related to the heritage of Saltaire and establishing the important, contnuing collaboration with Shipley College

She was passionate about saving and promoting the history of Saltaire, perhaps summed up with her leaving message to her library colleagues: ‘Don’t you dare throw out any of the Saltaire junk, it’s all got a purpose, unfathomable as it may seem’.

Arriving in Saltaire

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 charitable 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 school children. Dorothy produced three packs: the Saltaire Resource Pack, the Aire Valley Transport pack and the booklet Education in Shipley and Saltaire 1800 – 1900.

Dorothy met Julia Douglas, the Tutor Librarian at the neighbouring Shipley College and in April 1984 she started on a 6-month temporary contract at the 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.

C3b-522: Saltaire Resource Pack 1984
C3b-522: Saltaire Resource Pack 1984

The collecting begins

D1-001b: Rules of the Saltaire Club and Institute
D1-001b: Rules of the Saltaire Club and Institute

In 1987/8, Dorothy helped set up a ‘Saltaire Resource Base’ in Salts Mill, with the cooperation of Jonathan Silver, a local entrepreneur who had recently bought and was redeveloping the Mill. The idea was to offer a space for visiting school groups with 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 local historian Dorothy Burrows and from Ian Beesley, a professional photographer who 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.

Among many other items our collection of wooden bobbins arrived at this time.

Preserving heritage

The development of Saltaire Resource Base in Salts Mill was important for establishing Shipley College as a partner in the promotion of the history of Saltaire. Dorothy also built up contacts and raised awareness within the College of the significance of its surroundings. All of these efforts means that Dorothy played an invaluable part in creating the embryonic collection that now constitutes the Saltaire Collection.

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 Building in 1987.

E2-012: On the face of it...the centenary of Shipley College
E2-012: On the face of it...the centenary of Shipley College

A parting message

E1a-019a: Education on Shipley & Saltaire 1800-1900 by Dorothy Sharp
E1a-019a: Education on Shipley & Saltaire 1800-1900 by Dorothy Sharp

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…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.

Taken from: The Early days of the Saltaire Archive by Dorothy Sharp, 2017.

You may also be interested in

Explore our Collection

Search and browse items from our Collection.

Clive Woods

Read about Clive, another local figure who was important for preserving Saltaire and its heritage.

The foundation of Saltaire

Find out how and why Saltaire was built.

More biographies

Discover the life stories of some of the people who built, worked in, lived in, and saved Saltaire.