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Saturday, 31 October 2009

A kind of freedom...

I keep coming back to this photo as being one of my favourites......not necessarily one of my best photos or the most creative of images, but still a favourite. I like the sense of the movement of the boat through the water. I also like the way the winter trees are just beginning to show green. As we are headed in the opposite direction right now, with the leaves falling, it's good to remember that new growth comes in its time. Many times I've thought I would like to hop onto this boat and chug off on a gentle adventure. "Nutmeg" is a familiar sight along this part of the Leeds-Liverpool canal - you can hire it (her?) for a holiday from Snaygill Boats. This boat even has a bath on board!!

I also include this today to wish my friend a long and happy retirement: hope you'll enjoy a kind of freedom...

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Saltaire's twin towers

I thought I'd include a monochrome shot, for a change. This is one of the twin towers on the southern frontage of Salts Mill. (For a fuller view of the frontage, see my post of 19 June). I love the extravagance of this building! This is a textile mill, built in the dark ages of the Industrial Revolution, not a palace or a cathedral...and yet Titus Salt who commissioned it and the architects Lockwood and Mawson who designed it, decided to make it a beautiful building as well as a functional one. The design is Italianate, inspired by some of the great classical buildings of Rome, Venice and Florence.

I recently enjoyed the Channel 4 TV series "Kevin McCloud's Grand Tour"
, which explored how Britain's architecture was influenced and shaped by ideas brought back by young men (such as Inigo Jones) making 'The Grand Tour' and studying the buildings designed by great architects like Palladio. Whilst the link with Saltaire is indirect, I think it's there.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Autumn colour

I just loved the colours in this particular spot. The autumn colours seem especially rich this year... or is it that I'm in an appreciative mood? The photo is taken from the drive of Saltaire URC, just in front of the church, looking down towards the Leeds-Liverpool canal. The building just seen on the right is the Stables. And in the background are the woods that skirt Shipley Glen.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Saltaire church

I posted a picture of the outside of the church - Saltaire Congregational Church (now known as Saltaire URC) - on July 3, but it is worth another look. I'm always fascinated by how different things appear in different lights and seasons. We are so fortunate in the UK to have such varied seasons. We all moan about the cold and the rain, but in truth that's the lifeblood of the country. I often imagine it would be lovely to wake up and know, without even looking outside, that it was going to be a warm, dry day - every day. But in reality I love the changing seasons and the natural rhythm that gives to the year. Although the evenings are dark and the days getting shorter, autumn is a lovely time...gentle light, misty mornings and all the wonderful fruitfulness of nature.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Detail, Saltaire URC

The Salt Family Mausoleum, shown yesterday, is in a little annexe off the nave of (what is now) Saltaire United Reformed Church, formerly the Congregational Church. I posted a photo of the interior of the church itself on 22 June, and the photo above shows some of the decorative detail of the ceiling. It is very ornate, but very attractive, I think.

The photograph below is of one of the two elaborate Victorian chandeliers, which are made of glass and ormolu (gilded brass). I used to think they were totally OTT for a church, but as time goes on I have come to rather like them.

I'm a bit annoyed with myself that this photo is not precisely symmetrical. I lay on the floor to take it and obviously was not quite positioned under the centre of the light. I've been back many times to try it again, but I have never found the lighting conditions to be as good as they were on this occasion. It doesn't work when the lights are on, and often the interior of the church is a little too dark for this kind of photography. That will teach me that I have to be less self-conscious as a photographer - but it was hard not to be, with tourists stepping over my body as I lay in the aisle!

[PS: Grateful thanks to my friend Sixstars in New Zealand for his hints on how to get two photos interwoven with text on a blog post, which I hadn't been able to do before. The trick is to download the photos first and type second. Isn't the blogger community wonderful, that someone right the other side of the world can help in an instant?]

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Exterior of Mausoleum

Yesterday I showed the inside of the Salt Family Mausoleum attached to Saltaire URC. Today's photo shows the outside. You can see how it's tacked onto the church as an afterthought. The church was completed in 1859 but Sir Titus must have had second thoughts and had the Mausoleum added in 1861.

He had already lost two of his children, Whitlam and Mary, by then. Whitlam died of measles aged 4 and Mary died only five weeks later, aged 2, of 'congestion of the brain' (would that be meningitis?). They were initially buried in Lightcliffe, where the family were at that time living. By 1860, the Salts were living at Methley Hall in Leeds and Fanny was seriously ill. It was at that point that Sir Titus must have resolved to have the Mausoleum built, perhaps feeling that he did not want his children buried in different locations. In fact Fanny died before the vault was completed and was laid in a temporary vault in Saltaire church until the Mausoleum was finished. The other two children's bodies were exhumed and moved to Saltaire.

The remains of Sir Titus himself, his wife Lady Caroline, his son Edward's first wife Mary Jane,
Titus Jnr and the cremated remains of Catherine, widow of Titus Jnr were all later laid to rest in the Mausoleum.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

The Salt Family Mausoleum

It must be remembered that the Victorians took their dying very seriously. It was, sadly, a frequent occurrence: many children, even in well-to-do homes - failed to thrive, diseases like TB were rife and common childhood illnesses like measles could not be effectively treated. One in every three babies failed to reach their first birthday and the average life expectancy was 40.

Aristocratic funerals were a major sight, involving elaborate hearses, horses with black feather plumes and long processions of mourners. Sir Titus Salt died in December 1876 and was laid to rest
on 5 January 1877 in the Mausoleum he had added to the church in Saltaire. The hearse left the family home, then Crow Nest near Halifax, escorted by mounted police and there was a large funeral procession from Bradford Town Hall, with a military band. The cortege was followed by representatives of clubs and groups with which Sir Titus had been involved and the procession was watched by over 100,000 spectators along the route. In Saltaire, the Mill was silent and the whole village gathered to mourn 'the father' of their community. After the funeral the church was kept open for several days and special trains were run from Bradford to Saltaire so that people could pay their last respects.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Fanny Street

This photograph is taken looking east along Albert Terrace, Saltaire at its junction with Fanny Street. Albert Terrace runs alongside the railway line and has Salts Mill at its far end (you can see the mill chimney). Still surfaced with its original cobbles, it is one of the most photographed streets in Saltaire and in many ways, embodies the spirit of the village. The far end nearest the mill is the more familiar view (see my very first post for 17 June). This end of the street is much quieter and has a very villagey and charming feel to it.

Fanny Street was named after Sir Titus Salt's second daughter (1841-1861), who sadly died of a lung disease, at the family home of Methley Hall, just before her 20th birthday. One of Salt's biographer's, Rev.R.Balgarnie wrote (in typically Victorian melodramatic fashion): '[Fanny had] such a spirit of gentleness, calm resignation and simple reliance on the merits of Christ that it seemed...she was fast ripening for the better land. When the time of her departure came it was very sudden but she was ready. On a summer evening in August 1861 she was seized with alarming symptoms in the library, from which she was unable to be removed. There on a couch she lingered, till her gentle spirit returned 'unto God who gave it.' Fanny was interred in the family mausoleum in the church in Saltaire.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Number 68

Talking of perfect things, this may be the most perfect door in the whole of Saltaire... well, certainly one of the smartest. It belongs to one of the houses at the top end of Victoria Road. Since that is the main thoroughfare into Saltaire - the way most people arrive into the village - I think it's very good that someone has taken the trouble to make the outside of their house so attractive to the eye.

I don't know if the door is the original design for the house. It's not like the four-panelled door I featured on June 27, but then the house doesn't have the characteristic round arched entrance like so many in the village. A lot of the houses in this part of Saltaire do have these vertically-panelled doors, and it is a Victorian design, so maybe it is orginal. The little white sign at the top of the door says "Chat lunatique"!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Perfect tree

Is this the perfect tree? I think it has an amazing shape. It is quite natural - no-one trims it; it just grows every year in this very contained way, like a tree from a child's picture book. I'm pretty sure it's a type of rowan or mountain ash, though it's not quite like the usual variety. It has white blossom in spring, red berries in the autumn, then it changes to lovely autumnal shades before it loses its leaves. Against the backdrop of Saltaire's famous Salts Mill, I think it's rather special.

There's a Scottish song that goes : 'Oh Rowan tree, oh rowan tree, Thou'lt aye be dear to me.' Very apt. Apparently the rowan tree has a lot of folklore attached to it - it used to be thought that it protected against witchcraft. (Maybe it does - I haven't noticed many witches in Saltaire!)

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Bin Alley

In a small and compact village like Saltaire, it's hard to hide things. I imagine that must have been even more the case in Victorian times. The 1871 census suggests there were on average five people living in every house. I don't know what services were provided then - there would no doubt have been lamplighters to light the gas street lamps. Did they have people who emptied the dustbins? I suppose there would have been much less waste thrown away - certainly not so much packaging and no plastics of course. Nowadays, the smaller terraces in Saltaire have special compact wheelie bins for rubbish and 'blue bags' for waste paper recycling. I'm in two minds as to whether all the rows of dustbins detract from or add something to the back alleyways. They are a fact of life, and can't easily be hidden.

(I think this photo looks better if you click on it to make it a bit bigger.)

Monday, 19 October 2009

Stainforth church

Here's another photo I took on Saturday. It shows the little church of St Peter in Stainforth. Compared with some of the Dales churches it is not very old; it's Victorian, built in 1842. But it stands happily in its churchyard in an attractive spot in the village.

Sunday, 18 October 2009


I can't believe what a beautiful, dry and mild autumn we're having in England. I went out yesterday with some good friends for a most wonderful walk. We travelled up into the Yorkshire Dales to Stainforth in Ribblesdale (about 30 miles north-west of Saltaire). Someone had told us we might see salmon leaping up the waterfalls called Stainforth Force - but we didn't. Nevertheless we had a lovely walk, up onto the hills and then down to the river. The trees are beautiful right now and, though there was cloud cover and only fitful sunshine, the light was good, the air was fresh and the company very congenial.

My photograph shows a stretch of the River Ribble with the limestone cliffs of Stainforth Scar in the background. Click on it to make it bigger - then you can tell that the white blobs are sheep!

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Green door

Continuing with yesterday's theme, here's another hint of the 1930s: the front door of a house in Saltaire, showing clearly the leaded glass. This was a popular feature in houses in towns and in the new 'suburban estates' that were springing up all over Britain. A lot of the houses actually built in the 1930s were semi-detached - but many of the new owner-occupiers of Saltaire's Victorian cottages were not averse to copying the features of more modern properties.

Incidentally, if you compare this photo with the one I posted on Wednesday, you can also see the difference in the stone work. This house has had its stone cleaned. The houses in the Little and Large photo still show the blackened stone, characteristic of so many older properties in British cities -
the accumulated grime of 150 years of pollution.

Friday, 16 October 2009

1930s Saltaire

Sir Titus Salt, who created Saltaire, died in 1876 and his eldest son died in 1887. The Salt textile business declined and it entered receivership in 1892. In 1893 the company was taken over by four Bradford businessmen and again thrived, becoming Salts (Saltaire) Ltd. But by 1929 it was again struggling and a major change occurred. The village's housing stock, up to that point owned by the company, was sold in 1933 to a Bradford estate agent, Mr Fred Gresswell. Salts Ltd used the capital raised to shore up the business and at the same time was freed from the responsibility of managing and maintaining the housing. The tenants were offered the chance to buy their own homes (though it was not the best timing, in the middle of the worldwide economic Depression) and were given 'financial facilities' to undertake home improvements. By this time, out of the 2000 or so workers at the mill only about 450 still lived within the village, a major shift from earlier days.

Clearly many of the occupiers did manage to buy their homes, and looking round Saltaire today, you can see the legacy of those times.
The new private owners must have wished to make their mark on their homes. Many of the houses still have the 'leaded lights' - lead strips and decorative stained glass in the windows and doors - that were so popular around that time.

Thursday, 15 October 2009


I said yesterday that in the past people were able to alter Saltaire's houses, in ways that the present residents cannot because the planning regulations are much stricter. Today's photograph shows, I think, why those regulations were needed. With apologies to the homeowners, I do find it hard to understand why someone would go to these lengths to alter this little cottage - not only changing the doors and windows but completely altering the window shape. I suppose it was to stamp their own individual style on their property...but in my view it was a rather misguided effort. Unfortunately if anyone wanted to restore it to something like the original, they would have a substantial rebuilding job on their hands!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Little and large

Saltaire was designed 150 years ago by the architects Lockwood and Mawson, commissioned by Titus Salt, the mill owner, around his new mill. The village was planned as an entity, although it took 15 years or so to build. One of the things that pleases me is the way that the architects avoided complete uniformity. Although it is designed on a grid pattern, the oldest residential streets run north to south, and the later ones higher up the hill run east to west, dissected by longer thoroughfares. Within the rows of houses, there are different sized properties, so that you get this small two-storey cottage adjoining one of the larger three-storey houses. It makes for a varied roofline and a much more interesting environment.

You can see from this photo how some of the houses in the village (the larger one in this case) have either retained the original windows and doors or, more likely, reproduced the originals. This is now mandatory under the planning regulations for conservation areas like Saltaire. But in times past, when the planning regulations were not so strict, people could put in any windows and doors, so there are huge variations, some quite nice and some quite horrid!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

The Salts sign

This red sign on the side of Salts Mill is to Saltaire what the white Hollywood sign is to Los Angeles! Nothing less than an urban icon...And even if you gave me enough money to afford to live in Beverley Hills, I'd still choose to live round here. I get real pleasure from walking round 'my' village on a lovely sunny day, and I especially enjoy exploring on misty mornings or when there's snow on the ground, when everything looks transformed. When I've been away, my route home from the rail station passes the red sign - and it says "I'm home" to me. Is there a better feeling?

Monday, 12 October 2009

Another Saltaire lion

Here's another small detail I noticed, passing a doorway in Saltaire village one day - a lion's head door-knocker. I think it was a house in Shirley Street, but I can't now be sure of that. By the way, Shirley was a man, not a woman! In keeping with Titus Salt's tradition of using family names, this street was named after his grandson, Shirley Harris (1857-1920), who was William Henry's son. He would have been only four when the street was given his name - I wonder if he was taken along it and told about it being called after him?

I think the lion looks a bit worried - maybe he wants to roar and can't...Or maybe it's the thought of the big lions on Victoria Road (see June 20) which are reputed to roam round Saltaire at dead of night. Talking of which, the Saltaire Calendar for 2010 shows these lions getting into all kinds of unusual places!

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Gone fishing

This is the more conventional version of yesterday's sphere. I've posted photos before of this view of Saltaire, looking along the Leeds-Liverpool canal towards Salts Mill and the New Mill. It is one of my favourite locations, and it's interesting how different it can look depending on the light and the weather.

There are often fishermen along this stretch. I've never actually seen anyone catch anything, but I am told there are fish in the canal, some quite large. Fishing always looks to me like a good excuse to sit and do nothing...but I guess there is quite a lot of skill and experience involved. It's the maggots that put me off! Most of the fishermen have huge tubs of writhing maggots, which they use as bait. Anyway, I think this is a very pleasant spot for sitting and doing nothing!

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Saltaire sphere

Been having so much fun with a new technique for creating amazing circles. This is Saltaire, down by the New Mill. It reminds me of one of those spherical glass paperweights.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Victoria Road

This photograph is taken right in the heart of Saltaire, opposite the parade of shops and just above Salts Mill. To the right of the railings is Victoria Road, to the left some allotment gardens that were established by Titus Salt for the benefit of his tenants and continue to thrive today. You can glimpse the Victoria Hall through the trees. The trees - presumably planted in Victorian times and probably at least 150 years old - are enormous now.

As I walked past, there were some children poking sticks though the railings into the gardens. At first I couldn't see what they were doing, but then I realised they were trying to reach conkers that had fallen into the gardens. One of the big trees is a horse chestnut, and the high winds over the weekend had blown all the conkers (chestnuts) down. I don't know if it's an exclusively British pastime or not, but since time immemorial children have strung the hard, shiny, brown conkers onto strings and had contests where they try to hit each other's conker so hard that the conker smashes. The one whose conker remains intact the longest wins. Great fun! But even if you don't play games with them, there is something so beautiful about the round, polished, velvety-smooth nut. One of the simple pleasures of autumn.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Rock climbing bikes

Coming back from my weekend walk I came down through Shipley Glen. As I paused to enjoy an ice-cream from the van that is nearly always parked there, I noticed there was some kind of event taking place. I went over to investigate and discovered it was a bike trials. I couldn't figure out quite what was going on, but there were several young lads on cycles (special ones with quite small wheels... and no seat!). They were doing what I can only describe as rock climbing on their bikes... leaping from rock to rock, jumping up onto rocks and all sorts of other fearless manoeuvres. It looked as though they needed an incredible amount of strength in their legs and a keen sense of balance and ability to twist and turn the bike in mid-air. Quite amazing. The pictures don't really do it justice actually. It was a bit like watching youngsters skate-boarding, except that instead of a board they had a bike and instead of an artificial park they were using the rocks on the edge of the moor. I was told that each bike costs around £2000 - not a cheap hobby, then!

There doesn't seem to be much on the internet about trials riding but I did find this site.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Trig point

At the weekend I climbed up to the trig point on the top of Baildon Moor. It's an exhilarating climb, especially when it's as windy as it was on Sunday. It's not that high really (282m above sea level) but it still makes a good afternoon's walk. From the top you can see across the moors - my photo is looking towards Ilkley Moor - and look right across to the city of Leeds, as well as over to Bradford and down to Saltaire at the foot of the hill. You can also watch planes taking off and landing at Leeds-Bradford airport, a few miles away.

Trig points (triangulation stations) were a tool for surveying the UK, in the days before aerial photography and electronic positioning aids (GPS) were available. There are over 5000 of them across Britain. A trig point is usually a concrete post, set on a high point such as a hill, with a metal disc in the top into which you can slot a theodolite. The trig point is at an accurately surveyed and documented position and (on a clear day) has at least two other trig points in view, so the whole country is divided into triangles. They are mostly redundant now, except as a goal for hill-walkers to aim for. After the exertion of the climb there's quite a thrill in reaching the trig point! (And then eating your sandwiches or getting out your thermos flask for a well-earned cup of tea!)

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Canalside mooring peg

I have walked past these mooring pegs on the towpath of the Leed-Liverpoool canal many, many times without really seeing them. (Fell over one once, in fact!) You can see a boat moored up to them in my post of August 31. But then one day I noticed the pattern each one makes. To the naked eye they are fairly dull - shades of greys and black - but when I put the image into Photoshop and just slightly adjusted it, suddenly all these lovely subtle colours appeared.

Monday, 5 October 2009


Before the summer disappears, let's catch a few more of those sunny, lush, green images. This is one of my favourite views, taken from the canal towpath in Saltaire, looking up at the Victoria Road bridge and across to the Stables and the church tower. I often walk home from work this way...(soon won't be able to, as it will be too dark for several months)....and I always think how lovely it is and how fortunate I am to live here. Something about this little bit brings to mind some of the most beautiful places in England - the Backs in Cambridge for example. It's not that it really looks like Cambridge, but there is a certain something about it that jogs my memory.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Red tree

It's blowing an absolute gale here in Saltaire today (Saturday as I write this), which is a pity for two reasons - one, my friend's daughter is getting married and she'll have a job to keep her wedding veil from going stratospheric! And secondly it will blow down all the leaves, which are just beginning to look really stunning in their autumn colours. I pass this one every morning on my way to work. It's a rowan tree (mountain ash) and has blossom and then berries, and very pretty leaves - everything a good tree needs.

The building in the background is called Victoria Mills. It's about a quarter mile further down the valley from Salts Mill, and was built only about 20 years later. It too was a textile mill that had to close down a few years ago. A company called Newmason Properties have redeveloped the old mill buildings into apartments and also built several new apartment blocks, to make a housing complex of about 400 dwellings with gardens, sports facilities, a bar and restaurant.... and a very ugly multi-storey car park! I visited one of the show-flats and they are pretty stunning - high ceilings, open plan design and finished to a high standard, with some of the stone walls left unplastered and the original cast-iron columns still in place, to remind you of the building's origins. It's rather exciting to see the old buildings being used like that - though I have to say I'm glad that Salts Mill itself was not developed as flats. It seems much better as it is. (Part of the New Mill in Saltaire has been converted into apartments.)

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Peeping through...

Wherever you are in Saltaire you catch glimpses of the mill chimneys or the church tower - always with the glorious backdrop of Shipley Glen and the moors behind. I especially like this vista, looking down George Street, from somewhere around the rear of the school. The ornate tower of Saltaire United Reformed Church just peeks through the foliage at this time of year. Shortly it will begin to be dressed in its autumn colours - the leaves are just beginning to turn gold.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Dot Jewellery - robbed!

Since Victorian times, Victoria Road in Saltaire has been the main parade of shops in the village. The frontages are little changed, though the shops sell fewer everyday necessities and more luxury items these days. Dot Jewellery is a relative newcomer to Saltaire. The owner, John Bradley, designs and makes bespoke jewellery, so that you can buy a piece unique to you. The designs are contemporary and unusual - the perfect 'statement piece'.

On the day the Saltaire Festival began, the jewellery shop was attacked by two men armed with a scimitar and an axe. The shopkeeper bravely fought them off, and thankfully I don't think he was badly injured. Some of the display cases were smashed, but I don't know how much the robbers managed to steal. I haven't heard either whether the police have managed to track down the robbers, though I know they found the getaway car abandoned a few streets away. It's quite a shock when something like that happens round here, as normally Saltaire is a very peaceful and friendly little community.

(Apologies that this post is late. My internet connection went wrong.... wow, that really does raise my heart-rate! Anyway, with a little advice from the man in the Apple store, I've sorted it - hurray!)

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Oak-framed Barn

East Riddlesden Hall also boasts this magnificent oak-framed barn, which is thought to be a medieval tithe barn used for storing the tithes - the tenth of a farm's produce that had to be given to the church. It's a hugely impressive structure, long and high, just like the nave of a church, with the only light coming through a few slits in the walls and through the enormous arched doors. I think there's something very beautiful about old wooden-framed buildings, how they are worked with such respect for the timbers. I don't think they used glue, screws or nails, just wooden pegs to secure the frame. The barn is now used to display some old carts and agricultural implements.