Sunday, 4 August 2013
The family Silver
I happened to call in Salts Mill on my way home from work the other day to buy a greetings card. They sell a wonderful selection. (Of course, I came out with a book too. That always happens!) Anyway, unusually, I entered by the recently improved car park entrance. I was delighted to find that immediately on entering you now go through a small gallery dedicated to the late Jonathan Silver, the entrepreneur who, in 1987, saved the mill buildings from dereliction after the textile business foundered. His contribution to Saltaire is arguably nearly as great as that of Sir Titus Salt himself, and yet he was a humble man and until now has had little in the way of memorial and barely a mention around Saltaire itself.
I've recounted the story before: how the mill closed in 1986 and appeared to be slowly sinking into decay. Along came Jonathan, a local businessman, just 37 years old at the time. He had run several businesses (antiques, furniture, art and men's clothing) and had some experience of regenerating Dean Clough Mills in Halifax. He negotiated to buy Salts Mill, with a huge vision to turn it into a vibrant mixture of gallery and retail space and new commercial ventures. 25 years on, that vision has been handsomely realised, though sadly Jonathan himself did not live to see its complete fruition. He died of cancer in 1997. The enterprise has continued to be carefully nurtured by his family. His widow Maggie, brother Robin and more recently his daughter Zoe are all involved, together with a talented team who have ensured that Jonathan's vision for a thriving cultural, retail and commercial centre continues to develop and bring life to the old mill, to Saltaire and to the local area. (See here for an article written by Zoe Silver and here for an obituary written by the artist David Hockney, Jonathan's friend, whose artworks now fill the mill's galleries.)