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Sunday, 31 January 2010

Simply Saltaire exhibition

Are there any other artists and photographers who would like to donate work to this selling exhibition? I'm intending to put in a couple of photos, as it's in a good cause - all proceeds will go towards creating an Education Centre within Saltaire URC. The donations of artwork have to be submitted to the church in late February/early March. Further details can be found on the Saltaire Village Society's website - follow this link.

The lovely image on the poster is by a professional, York-based photographer called John Potter. He has some stunning images on his website. (I can't decide whether seeing images like that inspires me or makes me want to give up!)

Saturday, 30 January 2010


This lamp, which provides some illumination for the steps leading down to Salts Mill, is of a different design from the other street lights and lamps in Saltaire. It is rather elegant, with its long slender arched neck. I suspect it is of a different period and has probably always been an electric light, whereas many of the other street lights were converted from gas lamps. The first street in the UK to be lit by incandescent electric light was Mosley Street in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in February 1879 - but I imagine this Saltaire light dates perhaps from the 1920s or 30s (I don't know for sure).

Whilst we're on the subject of lamps, did you know that there is still a Victorian street lamp in London that is powered by sewer gas? I don't think the Saltaire lights were like this but it's a neat idea for our own eco-conscious times, perhaps?

You can get a sense from this photo of the solid, dark bulk of the mill buildings as the night draws in. I always fancy that the mill sits 'on guard' over its village through the night.

Friday, 29 January 2010

'Welcome to Saltaire'

Snapped on a sunny day in the summer, this Saltaire garden is a riot of colour and even in the depths of winter it has some interest. The elderly man who lives here is obviously a keen gardener and seems to take a real pride in keeping it neat and full of colour, whatever the time of year. There is a beautiful mauve wisteria that blooms in early summer.

The house is one of the larger village houses. Situated on the corner of Exhibition Road and the main Saltaire Road, it effectively sits at one of the corners of the village. It would have been the first house people saw when approaching Saltaire on the turnpike road from Leeds. As such, it needed to make an impact. With its bay window - a relatively unusual feature in Saltaire - it looks substantial and attractive, a good advert for Titus Salt's 'model' village.

Nowadays you don't really notice the house in quite the same way, since residential and commercial development has spread much further down the road. (And with the fire station right opposite, many folks will be looking at the fire engines as they go past!) But the red flowers do catch your eye.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Light show

After several days' worth of photographs taken within Salts Mill, I though it appropriate to post one of the outside. This is the famous south frontage (see also 19 June and 19 November) taken on the night recently when I went out experimenting with my tripod. I am not at all sure why the sky on one photo was purple whereas the sky on this one is orange...well, I know the orange glow is the result of all the sodium glare of lights from the nearby cities, but why didn't that colour the sky on the other one? (Neither photo is computer-manipulated). Perhaps it has to do with the fact that this was taken a bit later..? Anyway, it's quite interesting to have a light show to enliven an evening's amble round the village. And I think you will agree that the Mill looks very handsome in these conditions. You can clearly see, from all the lighted windows, the floors that house the main galleries and shops.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Dentist's chair

This dentist's chair is another quirky object to be found in the 1853 Gallery on the ground floor of Salts Mill, Saltaire. Unlike the dressing table I featured yesterday, this perhaps is original to the Mill (although not Victorian!). In the 20th century, particularly after WWII when there were many displaced Eastern Europeans coming here in search of work, Salts of Saltaire provided a good healthcare package to its workers, including access to medical facilities on site. This probably included dentistry - I can't otherwise see why a dentist's chair would be on display among the priceless Hockney artworks... Even so, I'm glad to live in more modern times. I hate going to the dentist, so the thought of this primitive drill is rather horrific. If you want a glimpse into Victorian dentistry, try this link or take a look at this photograph of a Victorian dentist's surgery reconstructed at the Beamish Museum near Durham.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010


One of the lovely things about the public/retail spaces in Salts Mill, as I've said before, is the way old and interesting items are scattered through the retail spaces. It softens the brute commercialism and makes it a place to wander and explore as well as to shop...not a museum, not just a shop, not simply a gallery but a mix of all three. It means that every time you visit you can find something you've never noticed before. For example, this antique masquerading as a bookshelf.... it looks like an old dressing-table and, as such, is probably not original to the mill or connected with the Salts family (though who knows? Maybe Lady Caroline Salt brushed her hair in front of this mirror?) Nevertheless it's an interesting piece, a much nicer place to display cookery books than the average bookshop shelf.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Bookshop, Salts Mill

(Best viewed large)
Here's a picture of my second home - the bookshop in Salts Mill, Saltaire.
As well as books, it sells a good selection of cards, posters and prints. As you can see, it's massive, occupying half of one of the huge galleries on the second floor of the West Mill. It retains clear traces of its industrial past - the stone floor, cast iron columns, metal pulley and huge windows. (The quality of light was important to the cloth-manufacturing processes in the mill.) And it's enhanced by all the artwork on the walls; many are Hockney prints but some are the work of other artists.

Because the shop is so spacious, it has the advantage of being able to display a lot of books on tables rather than shelves, so that you can see the covers. I think that's an important factor in attracting people to pick up a book. It also has a lovely atmosphere - it can be quite a busy place, especially at weekends, so it has a satisfying buzz about it, but it's also a space made for quiet browsing. When bookshops are closing down all over the place (Borders in Leeds being a recent casualty of the recession), I count it a privilege to live so close to such an attractive store.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Bright lights

There was a brief hint of sunshine yesterday, hooray! I ventured out with my camera, but I couldn't find much inspiration outside. As soon as I went out, the sun went in (as it does!) and the ensuing chilly greyness sent me scurrying into the warmth and brightness of Salts Mill. As always, I eventually found my way into the book shop. And, as always, I returned with a couple of new books. One of them is a newly published volume of writing by a woman called Ann Moss... I shall tell you more about her one day. I felt justified in buying it because the proceeds are going to the restoration fund for the church in Saltaire.

And to further justify my visit, I took a few photos inside. This row of lights in primary colours is a wonderful antidote to grey winter.

For those interested in Salts Mill, there is a wonderfully evocative piece of writing on this blog by a freelance travel writer, Abigail King. She gives a good summary of the Mill's history.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Alhambra reflections

Almost next door to The Sir Titus Salt pub I featured yesterday, in the centre of Bradford, is what I consider to be one of the most interesting buildings in Bradford - The Alhambra Theatre. Built in 1914 at a cost of £20,000, the name comes from the Arabic "Kal-El-At-Ambra" meaning red-domed castle.

It was the brainchild of Francis Laidler, an impresario who became famous for producing pantomime. Conceived as a Variety Theatre, a 'Palace of Pleasure' for the whole family (moving on from the earlier, earthier Music Hall style of show) the Alhambra eventually became (still is) one of the premier venues for pantomime in the UK. (Pantomime is a particular form of musical comedy theatre with slapstick, audience participation, traditional storylines and a host of in-jokes and sexual innuendo. There is always a "dame" - a man dressed as a woman, and the "principal boy" is always an attractive young woman, playing the male romantic lead.)

The theatre was enlarged and restored in 1986 - one of the good decisions Bradford Council took, despite its reputation for razing Bradford's finest old buildings to the ground! It is now able to host the biggest shows, direct from London's West End. An evening at the Alhambra is always a treat; the inside of the building is magnificently restored and the auditorium itself is stunning. (Click on the Alhambra link above to see photos on its website.)

My photo shows the theatre reflected in the former city police HQ opposite - another building which will shortly be demolished, to make way for a new park and lake in the city centre (!).

Friday, 22 January 2010

The Sir Titus Salt

I have written before on this blog about Sir Titus Salt's antipathy to alcohol. Although not a teetotaller, he was well aware of the damage that drink can do to individuals, families and communities and he made sure that there were no public houses in his village of Saltaire. That was true until relatively recently. I don't imagine he'd be thrilled therefore to find his name attached to this pub. It's not in Saltaire - in fact it's in the centre of Bradford up near the University, and is popular with students.

I have never been into the building in its present incarnation. I was however a frequent visitor many years ago. When I was at university in Bradford (I won't tell you how long ago!) this was a public baths, the Windsor Baths - swimming pool, slipper baths and a wonderful Turkish bath. You can see above the door it says Men's Bath. There was a separate entrance for women. My friends and I spent many a relaxed and happy time here, gently steaming ourselves pink, squeaky clean and sleepy. It was lovely, when we all lived in fairly grim bedsits with not very nice bathing facilities. The Baths were very old-fashioned with beautiful old tiles (Victorian of course). But they obviously didn't pay their way. It was long before spas became fashionable (again) and the Council chose to close the baths many years ago. If you want a similar experience now you have to travel all the way to Harrogate, to the famed Spa baths there. (Which I wholeheartedly recommend.)

Here's a little known fact: the 1983 film "The Dresser", starring Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay, was partially filmed at the Windsor Baths, as well as in several other well-known locations in this area.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Dusk in Saltaire

I rarely take any 'serious' night shots (mainly because I can never be bothered with all the hassle of a tripod - I'm a photographer that likes to travel light.) But I've been doing an evening class in photography for a few months and that encouraged me out one evening with my camera and my tripod. I took this picture of Salts Mill from the cobbled street called Albert Terrace (see also 17 December).

Saltaire may be a showpiece World Heritage Site but it is first and foremost a living community and not a theme park
(thank goodness). So, although I would have preferred this photo without the vehicles, I have to accept the intrusions of modern life. The Victorian village wasn't designed with car ownership in mind and there is nowhere for residents to park except on the streets. Maybe I'll venture out again one night and see if I can catch the street scene at a rare car-free moment.

By the way, I spotted the sun-medallion in yesterday's blogpost in a garden on Albert Road.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Where's the sun?

Saltaire has looked, broadly speaking, much the same for about 150 years. Not much has changed in terms of the buildings and the layout of the village. But of course the details are constantly changing. The inhabitants have changed - we no longer look inward to the local mill at the heart of our lives, but outward to Leeds and Bradford or even further afield for our workplaces and much of our recreation. The use of some of the buildings has changed (most importantly, of course, Salts Mill itself). The surroundings have changed - from what was once literally a stand-alone village to a city suburb, swallowed up in urban development.

All the time things are gradually shifting and changing. It is one of my pleasures in living here to notice the small changes as I explore the village and go about my daily life. I also like to spot things I hadn't noticed before - like this sun-medallion for instance. I rather like the expression on his face - boredom? What am I doing hanging on this wall? Resignation? It's a bit like the expression on my face as I plod on through the winter. I look forward to seeing the sun smiling properly again!

I wonder if any of the local readers of this blog know where this little ray of sunshine (or is it a sunflower?) is? I'll tell you tomorrow.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010


This is a close-up of the stonework on the canal side of Salts Mill, Saltaire. Even here, away from the more public facades, you can see the quality of the design and masonry work and the attractively warm colour of the local stone used. The Mill, and indeed the whole of Saltaire, is the work of the Bradford architects Lockwood and Mawson, whom Titus Salt commissioned to bring his vision for his business and model village into reality. The architectural style is Italianate, notable for its symmetry and classical features (as Alan noted in his comment yesterday, this extends throughout the whole village.) The masonry of the mill itself is the work of several different firms of masons - Messrs Fearnley & Wainwright, Messrs Moulson of Bradford and Messrs Hogg and Redford of Leeds.

Monday, 18 January 2010

George Street, Saltaire

George Street in Saltaire is one of the longest streets in the village. It stretches south to north, with the main Bradford to Keighley road at the top end (just behind me as I took this photo.) A little way down it is bisected by Saltaire Road, which was the old turnpike to Leeds. Right at the bottom, George Street ends by the railway line, opening onto Albert Terrace, with Saltaire's URC church across the railway. (You can see the church tower).

I have taken several photos along George Street. Have a look at 25 June and 16 July - and for a street plan of Saltaire village look at 23 June. Because it grew in length as the village expanded up the hillside, the oldest houses, dating back to 1854, are at the bottom, in the heart of the village, whereas the houses in this photo were built around 1868.

The street was named after Sir Titus Salt's second son, George (1833-1913), who worked at the mill before marrying and retiring to London in the mid 1880s.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Not so chipper!

Whilst some buildings in Saltaire, as in yesterday's picture, have been lovingly and imaginatively renovated, others have not been so lucky. I don't know how long this fish and chip shop on Titus Street has been closed down, but not a lot appears to have been done to give it a new lease of life. Being a fish and chip shop was in itself a second life for this building, which was some other kind of retail store when the village was first built. You can see that the stonework under the window infills the original shop window. Despite its run-down air, there is something about the colours - tan and blue - that I think make it look quite attractive.

If you're in Saltaire and want the traditional Yorkshire 'fast food' of battered fish and chips, you now have to walk right up to the main Bradford Road. It's worth the walk, as the quality of the fish and chips sold at Webster's Salts Fisheries Takeaway is good. But by the time I've walked home they're a bit on the cool side and a zap in the microwave does nothing for the crispy batter. Better to eat them in the street from the paper! There used to be another 'chippy' on the main parade of shops in Victoria Road, where the bar 'Don't tell Titus' is now, but it closed a few years ago.

Oh dear, all this thinking about fish and chips is making me hungry...

Saturday, 16 January 2010

An architect's vision

In amongst the Victoria Road shops in Saltaire are the offices of Rance, Booth and Smith Architects. The partnership was formed in 1982 and undertakes a variety of work including projects for major public clients such as Bradford Council, the health service and Bradford University. I quite often stop by their window to look at the displays and read about their recent work. They seem to be doing some innovative work in terms of sustainable building and their website says they have now launched an environmental service: RBS Sustainable. One of the nice things is that, along with other local businesses, they involve themselves in community matters such as the Saltaire Festival. They also recently completed restoration and conservation work in Saltaire's church.

I am impressed - even excited - by what I have seen of their work. They produced plans for a rebuild of the small educational centre right opposite my house - and it was stunning. Sadly, the Council in the end went with a lower cost, less radical renovation but it's still a vast improvement on what was there. I also visited the school conversion (to homes) they designed in Haworth and it was amazing.

Their own offices in Saltaire are interesting. They have retained the external appearance of the building but inside they have cut away some of the floor to open up a light-well into the basement, and put in a glass wall. (See their website under 'Commercial' for a full description). As my photo shows, it looks especially attractive at night, when the lighting really brings out the colour of the exposed brickwork.

Friday, 15 January 2010


After living in a monochrome world for several weeks now, I find I'm craving a bit of colour. It's hard to believe that I took this picture only a few weeks ago, just at the end of the street where I live. Nature's colours are hard to beat.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

From the canal bridge

Well the snow wins today, as its back again! It was sheet ice yesterday - quite a challenge to get to work - and then it snowed again. Boo!

This picture was taken last week at one of my favourite spots, looking west along the Leeds-Liverpool canal towards Salts Mill (see its chimney in the far distance).
(Isn't it great when someone in a red jacket walks into shot at just the right time?) I really like seeing how the scene changes with the light, the weather and the seasons. To compare, see my posts of 9 December and 26 November.

The black shed contraption on the left is where they used to load goods from the mill onto canal boats. That mill is derelict and becoming steadily more overgrown with weeds and even trees sprouting through the brickwork. It has been 'for sale' for years but I can't see anyone wanting to buy it. It's a rather ugly red-brick building with none of the charm of the older stone-built Victorian mills and it is in a very dilapidated condition.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010


I've seen lots of photos of massive icicles on other people's blogs. I haven't had any on the gutters, but this one hanging from my washing line had me confused at first. Then I realised it had formed close to the wall under the outlet for my condensing central heating boiler - and somehow slid down the line!

The snow is gradually clearing away and everywhere is starting to look dirty and gritty. We are all truly sick of it, I think. But while it's still around, I can't decide what to post on my blog - more authentic "now" pictures ...or some cheerful and colourful shots taken in better weather. I think the cold is seeping into my brain and causing a mild paralysis of thought!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The site of Milner Field

This gatehouse - South Lodge - and its counterpart, the North Lodge are virtually all that remains of Titus Salt Jnr's home of Milner Field. Sir Titus Salt bought the land, about a mile outside Saltaire, in 1869 for £21000. There was a manor house already there, but this was demolished and in 1873 Titus Jnr built the house known as Milner Field - an imposing neo-Gothic building, full of the most modern of Victorian conveniences.

The house was eventually sold when the fortunes of the Salt empire began to crumble in the 1890s, some time after Titus Jnr's premature death in 1887. Strangely, all the subsequent owners suffered unusual misfortunes - lavishly described by Bill Bryson in Chapter 17 of his wonderfully funny book, "Notes from Small Island": "Before long the house developed a reputation as a place where you could reliably expect to come a cropper. People moved in and abruptly moved out again, with ashen faces and terrible wounds."

The house eventually lay empty for twenty years and was demolished in the 1950s. Now, all that remains
are a few overgrown ruins, including (I am told) the remains of the mosaic conservatory floor. As Bill Bryson concludes: "What would old Titus Senior think if you brought him back and showed him that the family fortune was spent and his busy factory was now full of stylish chrome housewares and wooftah paintings of naked male swimmers with glistening buttocks?".
What indeed....

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Still standing

Snowy winters come and go but the Salts Mill complex in Saltaire has stood, through good times and bad, for over 150 years, in the Aire valley north of the city of Bradford. This photo gives a good idea of the sheer size of the mill. The main chimney on the left is 250ft (76.2m) high. To the right of it is the oldest part of Salts Mill, a six-storey building and huge 'sheds' that housed all the processes for storing, scouring, combing, spinning and weaving the wools used to produce the fine worsted and alpaca cloth Salts was famous for.

The Leeds-Liverpool canal runs behind the line of trees, providing a transport route for the mill. It cuts through the gap in the buildings (see my picture on 2 January). The New Mill, on the right, was built in 1868 as an extra spinning mill and was extended in the early 1900s.

This view is really of the back of the mills. The village of Saltaire, its church and other important public buildings lie behind and to the left of the mill complex. You can just glimpse the snow-covered roofs of some of the houses.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Snow blossom

What with the snow and being hemmed in at work from before dawn until after dusk, there are precious few opportunities for taking photographs at the moment. I'm making the best of what is around. This willow tree is in the carpark at work. Covered in snow, it looks as though it is in full foliage or perhaps even blossom.

You can just see Salts Mill in the background. In this weather, it certainly makes life easier that my home, work, friends and most necessary things are situated within a mile radius. I'm so glad that I don't have the anxiety and frustration of a long commute each day. But I do wish they'd find a teensy bit of grit for the pavements!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Saltaire New Mill

Saltaire New Mill, glimpsed through the trees. Not much to say about this one except that I thought it was an unusual view of the Mill.

And it's still snowing...

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

More of the white stuff...

Ha! Thought we were rid of the white stuff but it came back with a vengeance to the Saltaire area yesterday. This was the scene on my walk to work. Luckily I don't have to go far, and it's actually easier walking in fresh deep snow than when it gets all packed down and icy. Of course the whole area grinds to a halt - "worst weather for 30 years..etc etc." - and all the schools close. I don't have school-age kids but if I did I'd be really cross at the way the schools seem to shut down as soon as we have an inch or two of snow. It must be a headache for parents trying to sort out childcare at short notice - and offices don't close. Most of my colleagues got into work, even those from outlying areas. So why do the schools close?

It was rather frustrating to be cooped up in an (admittedly warm) office - I wanted to be out there with my camera! Had to content myself with a few early morning shots when it was still rather dark, and then a quick walk round the carpark at lunchtime. But, sorry folks, it looks as though you're going to get another dose of snow pictures!

That's not Salts Mill at the bottom of the road, by the way. It's another old mill complex called Victoria Mills, now turned into a large residential development - see my post of 4 October.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Lamp, Salts Mill

This lamp is on an outside wall on one of the passages running through the Salts Mill complex in Saltaire. It is of a similar design to the original street lamps in the village. It was most probably originally a gas lamp, now converted to electric.... though the electrics look pretty antiquated too! I was tempted to 'tidy' the photo up a bit, but I decided the coil of wire and all the messy bits are part of the interest and charm, even if they do detract from the lovely shape of the lamp.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Saltaire winter scene

(This picture is definitely better viewed large.)

Although I like to get the best possible photograph in camera, I still enjoy seeing what I can do on the computer. There's photography and then there's Photoshop - almost like two separate hobbbies. In this case I thought a bit of artistic treatment (on what was originally rather a dull photo) might be fun. The result is not a very natural picture but I quite like it nevertheless. It would be improved with a bit more foreground interest, but there was nothing around. The horse was more interested in the hay over the far side of the field than in providing me with some subject matter.

It's taken from the bridge over the railway line, looking east towards Saltaire which can be seen on the right. The snow-covered canal winds its way through the middle and, to the left of that, you can see the white cricket pavilion belonging to Salts Sports Club. The village in the background is Baildon.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Saltaire URC

It's been a small tradition for me the past few years to have a walk from Saltaire along the canal on New Year's Day - a way of thinking about how things change and how things stay the same. We had another dusting of snow on New Year's Eve, not a lot but enough to make what was already slippery absolutely lethal. With the result that I did an ungraceful slide on to my bum on the towpath. Nothing broken, but my wrist is sore! Luckily my camera stayed safe and I had already taken a few photos by that stage.

The ducks are perturbed that the canal is mostly snowed over, but photographically it lightens things up. I like the graphic quality that the winter light brings to the church. When the trees are skeletal, you can really appreciate the unusual (Italianate Palladian) design of this wonderful Victorian building, designed by the architects of Saltaire, Messrs Lockwood and Mawson and opened in 1859.

Saturday, 2 January 2010


I came out of work early on New Year's Eve (to get ready for partying!) and took the longer walk home, along the canal, just for a change. I don't normally go that way in winter. It's still very cold. I can't remember a winter for ages when a cold snap has lasted so long; most of the past few winters have been really mild. The canal is iced over in places, the ducks all scrabbling around in the bits where the water runs free. This scene, where the Leeds-Liverpool canal passes between Salts Mill and the New Mill, is one I have taken so many images of. It looks different again with the ice. See 6 August for a summer version of the same stretch of canal.

Friday, 1 January 2010

"Water Mill"

Hello 2010! A new year and a chance to reaffirm my challenge to myself to post a photo a day of Saltaire (and sometimes beyond) on my blog for a year. Over half-way through now, and I'm enjoying this more than I ever imagined I would. I didn't expect to meet so many lovely (and talented) people through the blog for one thing - both other bloggers and also local people who share my affection for Saltaire. There are some wonderful photographers online, and people who always make me laugh and I even have a beautiful garden to spend time in now (though it is halfway across the world). So thank you to everyone for your work, and for visiting my blog too.

I've shown you most of the 'important' bits of Saltaire now, and the challenge is to keep on finding new angles and interesting stories. I notice so much more now, as I live my life in this lovely place. I am enjoying sharing it with you - and if even one person is attracted to visit Saltaire, that would be gratifying.

Here is a 'different' view of Salts Mill, Saltaire, reflected in the Leeds-Liverpool canal which runs alongside. Completed in 1853, this huge mill was commissioned by Titus Salt to house his textile manufacturing business. It sits within a well-preserved Victorian village, purpose-built for the mill's workforce. Saltaire is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Please browse through the other photographs on my blog to discover more about this fascinating piece of England's industrial heritage. [And please click the links to discover some of my favourite blogger friends.]