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Saltaire's public buildings and amenities

In the mid-nineteenth century Sir Titus Salt decided 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 also planned to provide his workers with family homes and all the amenities that would meet their spiritual, educational and social needs, so creating the model industrial community of Saltaire. 

His new mill was completed in 1853 and work then commenced to on the larger plan for residences and public amenities. It took twenty years to complete them.  Thankfully most of them survive today.

Dining Hall

The first public space to open in 1854 was in a building directly opposite Salts Mill – the Dining Hall (known today as ‘The Mill Building’ and part of Shipley College). It’s main purpose was to provide meals for the mill workers but until the other public amenities were built it acted as the main social, educational and religious space for several years. 

From 1854 until 1859 religious services and a Sunday School were held in the Hall, and it also provided space for societies and meetings, including the Saltaire Literary Society.

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. The children aged 8 to 13 years of age educated in the Dining Hall were known as ‘half timers’ in the mill.

B1-032/5/12: Salts Mill Dining Hall in 1920s
B1-032/5/12: Salts Mill Dining Hall in 1920s

Congregational Church (United Reformed Church)

C2b-146: Saltaire Congregational Church 1874
C2b-146: Saltaire Congregational Church 1874

On 27 September 1856, the Dining Hall was the venue for a ceremony that involved the laying of a foundation stone for a new Congregational church (Titus Salt was a committed Congregationalist). The church was built just below the hall, opposite Salts Mill, on a generous piece of land near to the Leeds to Liverpool canal.

The ornate building was completed in 1859. Today it is the Saltaire United Reformed Church and is a Grade I listed building, the only one in Saltaire. It contains the Salt Family mausoleum.

Methodist Chapel

Titus 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 located on Saltaire Road. 

The original Wesleyan Chapel was demolished in 1970 and replaced by a new Methodist Church erected on the site.

C2b-112a-d: Original Saltaire Methodist Chapel
C2b-112a-d: Original Saltaire Methodist Chapel

Sir Titus Salt's Hospital

C2b-190: Sir Titus Salt's Hospital with two storeys (late 19th century)
C2b-190: Sir Titus Salt's Hospital with two storeys (late 19th century)

In 1868 an Infirmary and Dispensary with six beds was completed at the top of Victoria Road to serve workers from Salts Mill. It 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 and was converted into residences.

Extensive research is being done on the history of the hospital and almshouses and you can view some of this in our hopsital timeline.


In 1868 forty five almshouses were completed at the upper end of Victoria road. These were arranged in a rectangle set back from a formal and (initially enclosed) garden named Alexander Square. 

Occupants of the almshouses were selected by Sir Titus Salt in his 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. They also received a small weekly pension.

C2b-147f: Almshouses around Alexandra Square
C2b-147f: Almshouses around Alexandra Square

Victoria Road School

E1b-115: Salt Schools on Victoria Road Saltaire 1874
E1b-115: Salt Schools on Victoria Road Saltaire 1874

New purpose-built schools were completed in 1868, on Victoria Road. The Factory 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 Junior campaigned successfully for a new school for infants and juniors at the top of Albert Road. More on this below. The Vicotria Road buildings became the home of the new Salt High Schools for older children, one each for girls and boys.

Today it is still in use for educational purposes as part of Shipley College.

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. In 1869 these activities moved into a purpose-built grand new building, 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”.

C2b-172 Photograph of Victoria Hall taken from the Salts School
C2b-172 Photograph of Victoria Hall taken from the Salts School

Saltaire Park (Roberts Park)

D3-083: Roberts Park promenade in the early 20th century
D3-083: Roberts Park promenade in the early 20th century

1871 saw the official opening of Saltaire Park, built across the river from Salts Mill and the model village.

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. Bowls and croquet pitches were laid out in separate areas.

The park was landscaped and included a grand terrace and some pavilions and seating areas. In 1920 Sir James Roberts, the recenty retired owner of Saltaire, renamed the park after his recently deceased son Bertram Roberts and gave the park to Bradford Corporation for public use.

Albert Road School (Saltaire Primary) and New School of Art and Science

Not within the original plan for public amenities in Saltaire were two additional education facilities, which remain today.

Albert Road School – now known as Saltaire Primary School – was opened in 1878 to provide elementary education. It  was campaigned for by Titus Salt Junior and his wife Catherine.

The School of Art and Science was built on the new Exhibition Road and was completed in 1887. It became the Technical School and is now part of Shipley College and is known as the Exhibition Building.

Our educational timeline gives some more detail on all of the Saltaire schools.

E2b-026b: Technical College (Exhibition Road Building) in about 1919
E2b-026b: Technical College (Exhibition Road Building) in about 1919

Lost building: Bath and wash houses

C3b-046.2: Drawings for the Bath and Wash house
C3b-046.2: Drawings for the Bath and Wash house

Bath and wash houses were opened on Caroline Street in 1863. They had 24 individual baths, steam-driven washing machines, other machines for rinsing, and two plunge pools. 

The facilities did not prove popular with the Saltaire residents, perhaps because of their charges. They were converted into housing in the late nineteenth century but ultimately were demolished in the 1930s. The space is now a public garden area.

Lost Building: Sunday School

The Congregational Sunday School was the last building constructed in Titus Salt’s lifetime, built on the corner of Caroline Street and Victoria Road. Originally intended as the site of a hotel, the Congregational Sunday School was opened in May 1876 by Sir Titus Salt’s grandson Harold Salt.

It was large and well equipped, even having a form of early central heating.

The building ceased being an active Sunday school in the mid twentieth century and fell into disrepair. Sadly, it was demolished in the early 1970s. The site is now a car park.

C2b-111: Saltaire Congregational Sunday School
C2b-111: Saltaire Congregational Sunday School

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