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Wesleyan Chapel
Wesleyan Chapel

© Courtesy of West Yorkshire Archives
Saltaire: A successful industrial township

Public buildings were concentrated down the main thoroughfare, their grand architecture setting a memorably attractive tone to the town, even in the present day.
River Aire
The mill weir across the River Aire
© Saltaire Living History Porject
These buildings - the Congregational Church, the Saltaire Club and Institute, the schools, the (now demolished) Sunday Schools were all magnificently appointed, and largely paid for by Salt – a measure of his philanthropy. Outdoor recreational facilities were among the last to be provided, in the form of the well-landscaped Saltaire Park lying on the north side of the River Aire. It is easy to be cynical of Salt’s motives in these ventures, but such cynicism is difficult to sustain when one recognizes the resources that were being put into the educational facilities in particular, catering for both the adults and the children of Saltaire. The Institute and the schools were far in advance of the typical provisions of the day.

A landmark in social planning

Today Saltaire can be seen in its fuller historical context as a model industrial community. It was a landmark in the evolution of social planning that can be traced from New Lanark in 1800 through to Britain’s New Towns of the 1950 and 1960s, via Bourneville and the Garden City movement. Fortunately nearly all the buildings remain intact.

Click here to enter the Saltaire picture gallery.

Salt’s Mill continued its textile manufacturing for more than 130 years, although the family interest in the business ceased within 16 years of its founder’s death in 1876. When the mill finally ended production in 1987, it had provided a livelihood for five generations of textile workers, and left a heritage whose importance is now increasingly recognised. In 2001 Saltaire was designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, which should help safeguard the township’s architecture. Its social heritage is as important as that of its buildings. The challenge now is to record and safeguard that social heritage.

The recording of Saltaire's heritage is the subject of the Saltaire Living History Project.

Words: Dave Shaw

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