Wednesday, 9 September 2009
Saltaire's Factory Schools
It's a bit remiss of me not to have posted a photo of Saltaire's schools as yet. That's mainly because I haven't yet taken a picture that I've been pleased with. It's a tricky subject; the frontage faces east so it gets the morning light but the trees (presumably once a very attractive feature) are these days so huge that they overshadow the building. On a dull day, they take all the light. When it's sunny, they make very deep shadows, as you can see. The answer, clearly, is to wait until winter for that special photo! But in the meantime this important building deserves an airing.
The 1844 Factory Act, which applied to textile mills, said that children from 8 to 13 could not be employed for more than six and a half hours a day (why the half, one wonders?). It had also been stipulated that they should receive education each day. In Saltaire, the children were initially taught in the Dining Hall, but purpose-built schools were opened in 1868, one for boys and one for girls, taking upwards of 700 children. I don't know whether it's fact or myth but I've heard that those children who worked in the mill came to school (after their shift at the mill - try that on today's kids!) through a tunnel, built from Salts Mill up to the schools. The schools were of advanced design, having central heating, gas lights and lots of cupboards, plus a large playground at the rear.
They are in a prominent position on Victoria Road, opposite the Victoria Hall, though that was completed a little later. Set back from the road in landscaped gardens, the area forms a square, a small green oasis in the pattern of the village.
The building was initially for elementary education and later became Salt's High Schools. It now forms part of Shipley College, our local FE college, along with other buildings in the village like the Dining Hall.