One of the exhibitions currently in Saltaire's Salts Mill (Gallery 2) is a series of fourteen mural paintings made in the 1950s by the Leeds artist Henry Carr RA (1894 -1970). These were commissioned by the directors of Salts Mill to depict the individual stages of textile production, from sheep shearing through to the finished product. Henry Carr made a series of visits to the mill from 1957 to 1959, preparing drawings. The finished paintings were displayed in the mill when it was a working business. When the mill closed in the 1980s the paintings were consigned to a backroom and all but forgotten. They have recently been retrieved and expertly restored and, now on public display, they provide a colourful narrative of the mill's original purpose.
They are bright and graphic works, well worth seeing. One of them in particular has resonance for me. It shows women sitting at huge frames "burling and mending" the lengths of cloth - that is, visually inspecting and feeling the cloth for knots and imperfections, pulling them out and invisibly sewing the cloth so that it looked and felt perfect.
It reminds me of when I was first a student at Bradford University in the early 1970s. I rented a room high in the attic of a house in Bradford. From my window I could look down into a room in the building across the road where workers sat with huge rolls of cloth. Not being from this area, I was rather puzzled - until a fellow student, Bradford born and bred, explained that the workers were highly skilled burlers and menders in the textile industry, which in those days still survived as a major business in the area.