10 reasons to visit Saltaire
PUBLISHED: 00:00 10 March 2014 | UPDATED: 14:20 13 April 2016
The model village in West Yorkshire is recognised nationally and internationally, deservedly so.
When it opened in 1853 the mill was the biggest factory in the world, where 3,000 workers toiled away at the looms turning out 30,000yds of cloth every day. But, unlike today’s industrialists, men like Salt did not throw up drably-functional tin sheds. His mill and the surrounding buildings were all modelled on Italian Renaissance designs, elaborately carved and decorated and surrounded over the coming years by houses for the workers, a school, the Victoria Hall, a library, a gymnasium and even a hospital. A heritage trail links some of the most remarkable buildings.
By the 1980s the once-mighty British textile industry had all but died and Salt’s Mill faced demolition until it was rescued by Jonathan Silver, an entrepreneur with drive and vision to match even Titus Salt. He forged the modern Saltaire, partly modelled on Halifax’s Dean Clough complex, with arts, industry and tourism as the three pillars of its revival.
Jonathan Silver knew his project needed a centrepiece and persuaded Bradford-born David Hockney - the two had first met as boys in Silver’s father’s Wimpy Bar - to provide a permanent collection of his work for visitors to see in the 1853 Gallery, named after the year the mill opened. It is still one of the largest collections of his work anywhere in the world and is regularly refreshed with new infusions of the artist’s recent creations. But Hockney is far from the only artistic attraction. The main mill has other galleries with constantly changing exhibitions. Smaller shows are held in surrounding buildings, often displaying the work of artists who have gravitated to the village.
United Reform Church
There’s no shortage of impressive buildings in Saltaire but the United Reform Church is without doubt the most astonishing. It has been called the Cathedral of Congregationalism and described as one of the country’s most precious Victorian architectural gems. Built with Salt’s own money, like everything else in the village it was modelled on Italian design. The imposing entrance is beneath a portico supported by stone columns and topped with a tower and cupola. The ornate interior is lit by ormolu and cut glass chandeliers that were so heavy extra roof beams were needed to support them.
The church is open to visitors on Sunday afternoons throughout the year and during the summer it is open every afternoon.
Titus Salt was a philanthropist with a paternalistic interest in the welfare of his workers but he was also a hard-headed Victorian businessman. His choice of a greenfield site on the Aire was not entirely based on fresh air for the mill hands. There were sound business reasons too. Land in the then rural Aire Valley was much cheaper than in booming Bradford but he knew he needed good communications too so the mill is planted firmly between the railway and the Leeds-Liverpool canal, ensuring ease of access to raw materials and to the market for his finished cloth.
Today the canal is a leisure waterway for boat enthusiasts and pleasure trips and provides a traffic-free access for walkers and cyclists along its tow path. There is a pleasant circular walk of a little over five miles up the canal to Bingley, returning via the Aire while in the other direction the Aire has a Sculpture Trail along its banks. Details from the Visitor Information Centre 01274 437942 or visitbradford.com
If walking isn't your thing, enjoy a relaxing 30-minute cruise on on the Titus narrowboat along the historic Leeds-Liverpool Canal.
There’s no need to book, just pop down to the bottom of Victoria Road, just a minute’s walk from both the mill and railway station, hand over a rather modest £4 and jump aboard.
Saltaire Trip Boat runs cruises seven days a week from 11am until the end of September.
If you’re feeling flush, you can also hire the boat for a private party for up to 12 friends for £80 an hour.
Shipley Glen Tramway
The Victorian tramway runs almost from Roberts Park in Saltaire for a quarter of a mile through woods to the rocks of Shipley Glen. Opened in 1895, it is the oldest working cable tramway in the country and operates on Sunday afternoons throughout the year plus Saturday afternoons in the summer.
01274 589010 or glentramway.co.uk
If it’s a nice day, you’ve packed a picnic (please note: pork pies are not optional) and you’re looking for a nice place to park yourself, why not head to the green, green grass of the recently restored Roberts Park.
Lottery funding and partnership grants have brought the 14-acre park, originally known as Saltaire Park when it opened in 1871, up to Green Flag standard.
As well as the perfect picnic spot, it now boasts a great skate park, a beautiful bandstand (concerts are staged throughout the summer months), a cricket pitch, well-stocked flower beds and lovely walks.
The rules of the park, which date back 145 years, state there’s no alcohol, gambling or profane language allowed. So, you’d better leave grandad at home.
Food and Drink
Do tell all your friends about Don’t Tell Titus, the newly refurbished bar-restaurant-lounge offering good food in a great atmosphere just a quick trot from Salt’s Mill in Victoria Road. It offers a range of restaurant favourites as well as more unusual dishes like Punjabi mezze, venison and foie gras terrine and a selection of Titus tapas.
If it’s afternoon tea you’re after, run (don’t walk) to Jeanette’s Cakery in Bingley Road, which was featured on Britain’s Best Bakery. It specialises in 1940s and 50s-inspired patisserie, meaning they’re made from scratch every day without preservatives, stabilisers or other modern jiggery-pokery.
Saltaire’s Victoria Hall is home to Yorkshire’s finest Wurlitzer cinema organ, which is played at a regular series of monthly events and can be hired for private functions.
The Mighty Wurlitzer (well, what else are they going to call it?) is owned by The Cinema Organ Society, whose members give it a whirl – wurl? – several times a month, raising a smile from visitors as they rise up majestically to the stage.
Small groups can arrange to take a tour of the organ and its innards, getting a close-up view of the pipes, cymbals and mechanisms that make this mighty beast roar.
If a peek in your wardrobe is like a trip back in a time machine, then a visit to Saltaire Vintage Home & Fashion Fair at Victoria Hall is definitely in your future.
With more than 40 stalls of vintage loveliness, including original 1940s’ tea dresses, 1950s’ prom gowns, jewellery, furniture, vinyl, toys, books, kitchenalia and collectables from the 1920s-80s, it has everything you could possibly want. It even has its own tea room and emporium (and we know how much you love a good emporium).
Visit roseandbrownvintage.co.uk for details