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18 June 2014
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Saltaire: A successful industrial township

Of 161 deaths recorded in East Bradford in 1844, the average age at death was 14 years 2 months. Such conditions were to be shortly followed, in 1849, by an outbreak of cholera, killing 420, and infecting many more.

Sir Titus Salt
Sir Titus Salt
© Bradford Libraries, Archives and Information Services.
A radically different approach was needed to house, educate and provide for the workers and their families. A few of Bradford’s industrial and civic leaders had the will to respond to the situation. Outstanding among such leaders was Titus Salt, mayor of Bradford at the time of the cholera outbreak. Salt had five separate mills in Bradford in the late 1840’s, employing more than 2,000 workers. His fortunes were based on the processing of alpaca wool. He had successfully recognised the potential of this unwanted fibre as early as 1836, and the high quality worsted cloth it yielded was to prove ideal for the Victorian fashion markets of the time.

Salt was born in nearby Morley in 1803, into a family that had strong nonconformist beliefs. In fact the very house in which Salt was born – the Old Manor House – had a place in nonconformist heritage, being the home in 1663, of Captain Oates, one of the leaders of the Farnley Wood Plot of that year. Salt’s social values clearly stemmed from his congregational faith, and are evident in his response to the social and industrial predicaments facing Bradford in the mid-19th Century.

Words: Dave Shaw

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