Titus Salt and Saltaire
On Saturday 3rd August a talk was given by Maria Gott whose ebullient delivery on the story of Titus Salt, soon had her audience interested, amused and often laughing out loud.
Titus Salt was a manufacturer, politician and philanthropist. He became an extremely wealthy man who was an MP and Mayor of Bradford. Born of congregational parents in Morley, Leeds in 1803 he followed his father into business but not as a farmer but into the textile industry His interest in using materials other than sheep’s wool was ignited when on a visit to Liverpool docks to inspect some imported samples that he came across some alpaca wool from Peru. No one had processed this wool before but Titus recognizing the excellent quality of this sample set to and eventually invented a machine that could do just that.
He first set up his factory in Bradford but was soon on the lookout for a more suitable site away from the polluted air of that town which he found near Shipley on the banks of the river Aire.
As his wealth increased from the sale of fashionable clothes made from alpaca wool his factory was extended and he began to build a village to house his workers. Streets were named first from members of the royal family and then after his children. A church was built plus a school and an adult institute. He built a mansion twelve miles away at Crow’s Nest near Halifax from which he commuted by railway that he financed, to his factory.
Such was his fame and wealth that the great and the good came to visit his ‘town’ of Saltaire ranging from Emperor Napoleon of France to Florence Nightingale.
Titus was particularly keen on hygiene and had a reservoir constructed to supply clean water to his worker’s house. He was a big believer on recycling waste to the extent that men’s urine was collected in barrels and transported to leather works in Leeds. The men who collected and transported this liquid were known as ‘piss takers.’
Human faeces was collected and mixed with lanolin taken from fleeces, dried and molded into briquettes that were used for fuel. The men who processed the mixture were known as ‘shit stirrers’. Neither terms were regarded as derogatory in the middle of the nineteenth century.
However some of the measures that Titus initiated were not always met with approval by many of his employees. These included a ban on hanging out washing to dry so he introduced wash houses with machines that worked on centrifugal force. He didn’t like animals kept near the houses so he had set aside an area of land for allotments where animals could also be kept. None the less he was often disliked for his rigid discipline, high rents and poor pay. It was only when he died in 1876 and his son took over that better relations began to develop.
Maria Gott’s obvious enthusiasm for her subject was infectious and I am sure that many in attendance will look forward to part two of the Saltaire story next year when Maria will continue from Titus Salt’s death up to the present time when Saltaire was created a World Heritage site in 2001.
Next meeting is 7an>
A great deal of interest was shown by members by the number of questions asked and comments made by those in attendance of almost one hundred people.
The next meeting is March 2nd when Mike Gildersleve will talk on ‘ In Search of my Mother. Enquiries to Ron Pullan 01924 373310 or email@example.com