Leeds & West Yorkshire

New exhibition captures Salts Mill 30 years on

Woman working at a thread spinning machine Image copyright Ian Beesley
Image caption Ian Beelsey took this photo of a woman working at at thread spinning machine three decades ago

A photographer who captured a textile mill as it closed down has returned to the site 30 years later to document its transformation.

Photographer Ian Beesley took photos of the Grade II*-listed Salts Mill in Saltaire, near Bradford, as it was shutting its doors in 1986.

The mill was bought a year later and is now an arts and cultural centre.

Mr Beesley returned to record its current state for a new exhibition marking 30 years since it reopened.

The exhibition in the roof space of Salts Mill features up to 70 black and white photographs, both old and new, of the activities in and around the building.

Image copyright Ian Beesley
Image caption Mr Beesley was commissioned by the then National Museum of Photography in Bradford to take official photos of the mill before it closed in 1986

Among the archive photographs showcasing the history of the property are workers using the mill's last loom and a woman working at a thread-spinning machine.

A window cleaner who worked at the site for 27 years and a group of long-serving security guards were among those who were photographed by Mr Beesley during a photo shoot in July.

The photographs are accompanied by new poems from Barnsley poet Ian McMillan.

Image copyright Ian Beesley
Image caption The weaving loom has been replaced with a canteen used by a technology company
Image copyright Ian Beesley
Image caption Another room used by the company has been turned into a production line

Zoe Silver, of Salts Mill, said: "[This] is a big year for us. It's 30 years since my late father, Jonathan Silver, got the keys to the mill and began to breathe art, love and life into this incredible building.

"Ian has photographed people working at the cutting edge of technology at international businesses like Arris and Radio Design who have premises in the mill, as well as capturing some of the people who make Salts tick - like Paul our window cleaner and Dave, our resident builder."

Image copyright Ian Beesley
Image caption Window cleaner Paul Heaton has worked at Salts Mill for 27 years

Window cleaner Paul Heaton said: "I told [Mr Silver] that he'd bought a white elephant.

"A couple of years later, when the place was booming, he reminded me about it and I said 'well that's why you're a millionaire and I'm just a window cleaner'."

Image copyright Ian Beesley

Salts Mill

  • Built near Bradford by Victorian philanthropist Sir Titus Salt in the 1850s
  • He also established the village of Saltaire, providing housing and other amenities including a park, school, library and leisure facilities for the 3,000-strong workers at his woollen mill
  • Some of the streets in the village are named after his children and family
  • In 2001, Saltaire became a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was described by the organisation as "an outstanding and well preserved example of a mid-19th century industrial town"
  • The Grade II*-listed mill is surrounded by countryside and is the starting point of a walking trail through the Yorkshire Dales

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