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Personal histories: residents of Saltaire

The Saltaire Collection contains several personal accounts of working and living in Saltaire from the late nineteenth century through the twentieth century.

Although the historical accuracy of some of the accounts can be questioned, they are true to how people perceived their time in Saltaire when living there at the time they occurred. They provide a fascinating personal insight into the story of Saltaire.

Three extracts of such accounts are below. To view the full stories please contact us.

Clara Barraclough, born 1894

Clara writes:

One day in June 1894, my family removed from West Bowling to Saltaire, six months previously my father (a textile worker) had obtained a post at Salt’s Mill, with the same wage, but being paid for all holidays and sickness, which was a great boon to a family of six. It made life much easier for him too, for during that six months it had been necessary for him to leave home before 5am every morning, in order to catch the 5.30 train from Bradford Forster Square stations and so arrive at the Mill for the 6am start. The day we removed, there was a dispute at the Mill, and all the workpeople were out in the streets and the Clerk of Works (Mr. Baker) was escorted from his home in Albert Road down to the mill by a policeman. Whatever the dispute it was soon settled, and things were back to normal next day.

We were allotted a house in Shirley Street (rent 4/- per week) which had a living room, kitchen, two bedrooms and a coal cellar, and of course our own flagged back yard and toilet. All the houses had coal fires in the living room and some had small fireplaces in the bedroom for use in sickness or severe weather. Cooking was done by a coal oven in the living room, the kitchen being used mainly for washing and washing up, etc. In addition to the coal oven, the living room range included a side pan (a type of water container which held about five or six gallons and was heated by fire). In the kitchen, water was heated by a set-pot, this consisted of a large galvanised or iron tub enclosed in a brick surround and heated by a fire underneath.

The white clothes were boiled in the set pot and were stirred around with a thybel (a large stick with a thick end). Coal was delivered loose, a tonne at a time was tipped on to the pavement and had to be shoveled down a chute into the cellar. There was a good choice of coals in those days, ‘nuts’ were small in size and burnt quickly, giving off a fierce heat, suitable for heating the oven, whilst ‘cobs’ were larger, burnt longer and were more suitable for heating the living room. Different qualities and prices were available from the different collieries, ‘Haigh Moor Best’ was our favourite brand together with Pope and Pearson’s ‘washed nuts’, none costing more than 1/- per cwt.”

C3a-075a: Clara Barraclough's account of living in Saltaire from 1894
C3a-075a: Clara Barraclough's account of living in Saltaire from 1894

Jack Hogg, 1922-2015

C3b-355: Description of a Tippler Toilet
C3b-355: Description of a Tippler Toilet

Jack was born in 1922 and was told that his great grandfather had originally lived in the area but had moved to Richmond, North Yorkshire, where his father and his father’s brothers and sisters were born. His father’s family came back to live in Saltaire when his father was a boy. The family lived in Upper George Street and Jack describes how the kitchen was fitted out with a gas stove and a large sink with (cold) running water. Jack was fascinated by the dry closet toilets in the village that had to be emptied manually by the ‘night soil’ men using a horse and cart.

Before long, sewers were laid in the village and an innovation was installed in each house – the ‘Tipler Toilet’. This was a simple system involving a 10-inch diameter shaft that had a seat at the top end and was connected to the sewer at the base of the shaft. All waste water drained into the shaft and when an optimum weight was reached, the lid tipped over and emptied the shaft which was a bit of a shock for anyone sitting on the seat when it happened.

B1-032.3.7: Nip comber in middle of photograph driven by overhead belts in combing shed in Salts Mill
B1-032.3.7: Nip comber in middle of photograph driven by overhead belts in combing shed in Salts Mill

Jack’s mother and Auntie were weavers at Salts Mill and when Jack’s father married his mother, they were allocated a house at 18 Helen Street. Most of Jack’s close family worked in the Mill. His grandfather was a lift and hoist operator and other family members worked in different areas. His mother and Aunt were responsible for two standard looms, arranged in a ‘gate’ position and driven by large belts from overhead shafting. Jack recalls the noise being ‘shattering’ and that the only communication possible was through lip reading.

A poignant memory for Jack was the outbreak of both Diphtheria and Scarlet Fever in his childhood. In the late 1920’s he was confirmed as being infectious and taken to Morton Banks Isolation Hospital for seven weeks in the ‘Fever Van’. He was aged 7 years, but his parents could only visit once a week on a Saturday and visits were only allowed outside the building, where his parents could only shout greetings to him through a sealed window.

Jack’s memories include those of his school days, ‘wash days’ at home, the cobbled back alleys, the places of worship and the many other amenities in Saltaire.

Audrey May Tattam (nee Lee)

Audrey was born on May 6, 1926 in the Norman Rae Nursing Home at the top of Kirkgate, Shipley – a stones throw from her family home. She was carried home by her father, John Charles (Charlie) Lee to their house at 11, Albert Road Saltaire. It was the year of the miners striking and coal shortages and a national strike, when mass unemployment allowed some employers to lower wages.

Audrey’s memories of her childhood include recalling the common practice in Saltaire residences of taking lodgers and of an unusual visitor who stayed with her family. The visitor was Learie Constantine who played cricket for the West Indies (and later went on to be a distinguished politician, High Commissioner for Trinidad and Tobago, and campaigner for racial equality) and was visiting to consider whether to play cricket with either the Saltaire Cricket Club or at Windhill Shipley Cricket Club – in the event he was offered better terms by Windhill. Audrey’s father was a proficient cricketer and captained Saltaire for some years.

Of her school memories, one described was the practice of learning proverbs and sayings that ‘taught wisdom’, proverbs such as ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’ and ‘a stitch in time saves nine’. After starting school, Audrey could explore the village and remembers playing safely in Saltaire’s streets because horses, carts and bicycles were the only traffic.

She recalls that Saltaire’s children, both at home and at school, were taught to be good, obedient, honest and hardworking to deserve living in Saltaire and that the children were eager to conform to Sir Titus Salt’s high standards.

Audrey’s recorded memories include her fascination with the street names, the Lions on their pedestals on Victoria Road, borrowing books from the Institute’s library, her brother’s visit to Salts Hospital when a cut required stitches and a royal visit in the 1930’s.

C3a-083c: Audrey Tattam's account of living in Saltaire
C3a-083c: Audrey Tattam's account of living in Saltaire

To view the full stories of Clara, Jack and Audrey (and many others) please contact us.

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