Sir Titus Salt 1803 - 76

Timeline 1803  Timeline 1876

Salts Mill

Titus Salt was born in 1803 in Morley near Leeds, West Yorkshire. The son of Daniel Salt, a woolstapler, Titus joined the family firm after serving two years in a Wakefield business. He was the firm's wool buyer and, in 1836 he found some bales of alpaca wool in Liverpool.  He decided to experiment with it and found that it made a soft and lustrous cloth. The discovery made Salt a very rich man who eventually owned five mills around Bradford.

Sir Titus SaltIn 1848 Salt was elected Mayor of Bradford and a year later had to deal with a cholera outbreak in the city. The  resultant deaths were among the reasons that he decided to move his workers out of the city.  He was already concerned about the smoke and grime from Bradford's mill chimneys and had fitted smoke burners in all his own factories. As Mayor he tried to persuade other mill owners to do the same but they were reluctant to reduce their profits.

He bought a plot of land three miles from Bradford on the banks of the River
titus street Aire and alongside the Leeds Liverpool Canal and began work on a new mill and surrounding village.  He called the new settlement Saltaire, and set out to provide his staff with the best working and living conditions that he could. He named streets to commemorate significant figures of the time - there is a Victoria Street and an Albert Terrace - but was not beyond calling attention to his own achievements. The picture (right) shows a house on the corner of Titus Street!

alpacaAt the time of its construction Salt's Saltaire Mill
(above left) was the largest and most advanced in Europe.  In a bid to cut noise from the machinery he had all of the driving mechanisms constructed below ground. His concern for his workers continued in their homes. Each one had piped  water and gas was laid on for heating and lighting.  Unlike in nearby cities of Leeds and Bradford, Saltaire houses each had their own outside lavatories. The source of his famous cloths, the alpaca, appears on the front of one of the old municipal buildings, now part of Shipley College. (see left)

belwarpIn 1851 Salt exhibited his wares at the Great Exhibition. One of his key products was Belwarp cloth. (The warp is the vertical network of fibres strung on the loom for the weft to be woven through. Bel means beautiful.) It was advertised as being sunproof and seaproof  and was available in a variety of "serges and coatings".

Salt's Mill closed in 1986 during the collapse of the UK textile industry and within a year it was bought by former Bradford Grammar School student Jonathan Silver, a friend of the artist David Hockney.  He turned it into an arts centre and retail outlet and it now houses a collection of Hockney's works and a range of specialist shops and restaurants.