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Salts Mill workers and managers

Personal histories: workers and managers

The Saltaire collection has a number of personal histories that tell the stories of people’s working lives  at Salts Mill. A few recount how they came to work in Saltaire following displacement from their home country or in the search for work after World War Two.

Below are a few summaries of stories recorded by Collection volunteers. They record faithfully the words of the individuals but place alongside those words, the historical national and global context for the life events recorded.

Contact us if you would like to view the full stories.

The memories of Frank Senior: his life in Saltaire and work in Salts Mill between 1918 and 1983

Frank started work at Salts Mill in 1933 in the mill basement, moved to work in the gatehouse, checking visitors to the mill and hoping for an apprenticeship.

After various changes of department, attendance at night school 5 nights each week and service during World War Two in the RAF, Frank became head of the ‘Costing Department’ in Salts Mill – calculating the costs of each type of cloth produced for the sales work force.

He lived through several changes in management of the mill and the advances of new technology – retiring from work there in 1983, just a few years prior to the end of textile production.

C3a-081_002: Frank Senior as a nineteen year old worker in Salts Mill
C3a-081_002: Frank Senior as a nineteen year old worker in Salts Mill

An extraordinay journey to work: the story of Feliks Czenkusz, 1920 to 2013

C3a-080: Feliks Czenkusz in a cadet uniform
C3a-080: Feliks Czenkusz in a cadet uniform

Feliks was born in Poland in 1920. He was a Polish Junior Cadet when Germany invaded Poland in 1939, and was based many miles from home at Wilno near the Russian Border. The cadets wore military uniform and were likely to be a target for the German invaders. Feliks fled to Lithuania where he was held with others in a camp for a short time until Russian troops began to move these men to various camps across Eastern Europe.

Things changed dramatically when Germany declared war on  Russia. Feliks was moved several times. He eventually arrived in Persia and came under British Army command. He fought with the British and was among the forces who fought their way through Italy – it was the Polish force that took Monte Casino from the German Troops. As War came to an end, Polish army personnel were left stranded and arguments about their future occurred in the British Parliament.

Ultimately Feliks was accepted into England and was to find work at Salts Mill where he remained until he retired. He married and had children. Feliks remained ever-grateful to the British Government for allowing him and his family to have a decent life. Although he was able to visit Poland again after Stalin’s regime ended, he did now want to return there to live.

The life and work of (Mohammed) Aziz,1929-

Mohammed Aziz (who prefers to be known as Aziz) was born in 1929 in the village of Chattroh, Mirpur, Azad Kashmir. Aziz completed his education in 1952 and went to Karachi where he found work in the postal service. 

Aziz’s father Ghulab Khan was a merchant seaman who in the early 1950s  decided to leave his job as a merchant seaman to and live and work in England. He found work in the textile industry in Bradford and sent for Aziz to come to find similar work.

At that time the British Nationality Act of 1948 gave all Commonwealth citizens free entry into Britain. Aziz travelled from Karachi and made his way to Bradford.

After meeting and falling in love with an English woman, Aziz left his textile and moved to the South of England. Aziz returned and began work in Dawson’s Mill, Thornton, as a worsted textile spinner. Aziz had the job of ‘ticking off’ the output of other workers, checking the number of hours worked and the weight of the yarn each worker had completed. Aziz’s wage was £7 each week and an extra 10 shillings (50 pence) for the work he oversaw.

Aziz worked in a number of other textile mills in Bradford before being accepted at Salts Mill as a spinning overlooker. At this point other white overlookers objected to his appointment, but the manager stood firm and Aziz became the first Asian overlooker at Salts.

In 1982 Aziz founded and directed the AK Action Bureau in Bradford to conduct local immigration advice work. He became a fully licensed Immigration Advisor in 1990 and continued this work, outside his paid employment until aged 90 years.

2023.2: The life and work of Mohammed Aziz
2023.2: The life and work of Mohammed Aziz

Donald Hanson: an extraordinary life, 1925 -2018

B1-479_001: Donald Hanson, last Managing Director of Salts Mill
B1-479_001: Donald Hanson, last Managing Director of Salts Mill

Donald was born in 1925, in Slaithwaite near Huddersfield, to a family who had many connections with Salts Mill and Saltaire from the 1850’s onward. Donald’s father, however, worked at Globe Mills in Slaithwaite and Donald was able to get an apprenticeship there.

During World War Two he was called up and served in the Royal Navy. He returned to Globe after the war and his ‘after work’ studies at a Technical College resulted in his qualifying as an Associate of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries and Administrators. Globe Mills were part of the Illingworth, Morris Textile Group and Donald was soon spotted as being a highly talented ‘wool man’.

He quickly rose through the ranks and came to know the majority shareholders – the Ostrer brothers – of Illingworth, Morris very well. He was made a director of the company and after spells at senior management level at Salts Mill and elsewhere, in 1980 he was appointed as Chair of the Board and Joint Chief executive of the company (whose headquarters had been Salts Mill from 1958).

Extraordinary drama was to follow after the heir to the Ostrer brothers shares in the company – Pamela Mason, a Hollywood chat show hostess – became increasingly hostile to the ‘Yorkshire Directors’. The drama was the subject of much global news and ended in some very surprising outcomes.

If you would like to view the full stories of Frank, Feliks, Aziz or Donald (and many others) please contact us.

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