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Wakefield & District Family History Society

                            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 sheeps 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 Crows 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 workers house. He was a big believer on recycling waste to the extent that mens 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 didnt 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 Gotts 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 Salts 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

                       Wakefield & District Family History Society
 On Saturday December 1st entertainment was provided by Hautbois a talented musical duo, otherwise known as Ric and Helen Heavisides. They use music as a vehicle for teaching historical entertainment and have appeared in films, TV, radio, concerts and schools. Using a variety of musical instruments and with a Victorian Christmas theme, Ric and Helen divided their act in two with the first half given over to musical hall favourites from the 1890s. These included Daisy Daisy give me your answer do this was performed first in America which had a reference to the wearing of bloomers or trousers useful when riding a bike. Other songs included Boy in the Gallery with the tradition of men in the audience waving a handkerchief; Two lovely black eyes which had a political reference at a time when Irish Home Rule was being fought over in Parliament; My Old Dutch which was a lament to the injustice of married couples being separated on entering the workhouse when they had become too old to work. The old dutch [ or duchess ] was the wife and cockney rhyming slang has it that it was a reference the Duchess of Fife! All were invited to singalong with Ric and Helen.
 After a short interval in which mince pies, Christmas cake and hot drinks were enjoyed the second half of the show commenced with an invitation to join in with Christmas carols. Ric explained the origin of caroling when in Tudor times dancing in a circle was popular and that the word originated from old French. The singing of carols became popular in Victorian times. Such singing of carols or wassailing had originated in the Middle Ages when during the festivities held in mid winter people would greet each other with We are hale or we are well.
 A thoroughly enjoyable time was spent and the audience, suitably imbued with Christmas spirit, gave Hautbois well deserved applause.
There will be no meeting in January. On February 2nd Alan Stewart Kaye will give a talk on Those who serve. Enquiries to Ron Pullan 01924 373310 or

Perspectives on 1914-18War Resistors
Wakefield & District Family History Society

On Saturday 3rd November we had Cyril Pearce as our guest speaker. His topic was ‘ Perspectives on 1914-18 War Resistors. His interest took him into an area that has had little research done. These Resistors who refused to participate in the War not only included men of military age but of groups of people of all ages.
Cyril’s interest was initially sparked by a study of labour movements in the West Riding. Being from Huddersfield his research started in that town and one man, Wilfred Whiteley, who was a conscientious objector and was granted exemption by a military tribunal in 1916 because of his job. Arthur Gardiner had an interest in labour and trade union movements was also a c.o. and when a tribunal was held in the town hall in 1916 it was to a packed audience .He was court martialled and spent time on work schemes in various prisons. Other c.o. could be drafted into ambulance units or work relief organisations for refugees or become non combatants and be used to carry out manual jobs related to the war effort such as working on the land. There were also certain occupations that were exempted such as mining and the steel works. But was there something special about Huddersfield?
Both men were members of the Socialist Sunday School which was associated with the Independent Labour Party. This movement was widespread in the West Riding textile areas. Many members of branches of the British Socialist Party became c.o.
Women’s groups also joined in with these anti-war movements as did many members of various religious groups such as Quakers.
In Cyril Pearce’s book ‘Comrades in Conscience,’ the question had been asked if Huddersfield was special. Research showed that there was many ‘Huddersfields’ and that there more than sixteen thousand c.o. were recorded throughout Britain. Cyril’s database showed the largest conurbations had the highest number with Birmingham topping the list with over 600 while Leeds had 227 and Huddersfield with over 100. But using an index based on the number of c.o. per 1000 head of population and study of rural areas such as Letchworth in Herefordshire and Settle in Yorkshire and smaller towns such as Nelson in Lancashire, suggested that numbers of c.o. were not confined to industrial areas. Letchworth was ‘New Town’ in 1910 while Nelson was a hotbed of red revolution and Settle had a strong Quaker movement.
Cyril hopes to further his research by mapping more of Britain that may highlight more areas that had a strong anti-war movement. He also hopes that Leeds University will eventually make a database available to the public.
A fascinating topic that had those present wanting to know more judging by the number of questions asked at the end.
Next meeting is December 1st when there will be ‘ Music in a Historical context. A re-enactment of Victorian Christmas.’ by Ric and Helen Heavisides.
All enquiries to Ron Pullan 01924 373310.

Research Morning

                       Wakefield & District Family History Society


On Saturday 6th October the Society held its Research Morning. The use of laptops, microfiche readers, publications and help desks were well used by a steady stream of visitors. Further help and interest was provided by representatives from the West Yorkshire Archive Services who were there to inform on Family and House Histories.

Christine Ellis had displays of 18th century  accessories such as fans, shawls, contents of  a lady’s reticule and a collection of gentleman’s shoe buckles. Ian Laidlow had a wonderful display of old coins and military medals dating from the 19th century to the present. There was Madeline Kenworthy’s display of  celebratory greetings cards from the past as well as the present. Last but not least was Tony Banks’ extensive collection of mining memorabilia.

The next meeting is November 3rd when our guest speaker will be Cyril Pearce. His chosen topic ’ Perspectives on the 1914-1928 War Resistors.’

Enquiries to Ron Pullan 01924 373310 or

Titanic and the Yorkshire Connection

                   Wakefield & District Family History Society


On Saturday the 1st September Sheila Dixon gave a talk on The Titanic and the Yorkshire Connection. She reminded us that 2012 is the year that commemorates the centenary of the sinking of what was then the biggest ship ever built.

It is well known that the ship was built at the Harland & Wollf shipyard in Belfast however what is not as well known is that Edmund James Harland was born in Scarborough on the east coast of Yorkshire.

The owners of the White Star shipping company were aware of the lucrative transatlantic routes to the United States from Europe and were determined to increase their share of it. A decision was made to build the biggest and most luxurious liner and not to compete on speed.

Sheila demonstrated with the aid of photographic slides that showed not only the building of the Titanic and her sister ships the Olympic but also some of the sumptuous

accommodation enjoyed by first class passengers, while second class passengers also had more than satisfactory accommodation and how the third class had  rather confined berths.

Sheila then proceeded to demonstrate how she went about her research. Of the 2200 people on board about 30 had a link with Yorkshire. However records such as passenger lists were often incomplete or had not survived or were found to be inaccurate. Survivors accounts helped as did articles from newspapers. Three people with links to Yorkshire were chosen. One such was Thomas Roussel David Byles from Leeds. He came from a religious background, his father being a Congregational minister but Thomas chose to became a Roman Catholic priest. At the age of 42 he had bought a second class ticket in order to sail to New York and officiate at his brothers wedding.

It was reported that he often ministered to 3rd class passengers and was seen to help people board life boats in order to escape the stricken ship. Unfortunately he did not survive.

George Alfred Hogg aged 29 came from Hull. He was a seaman who had the position of Lookout which meant he had to take shifts in the crows nest. However on the night that the Titanic struck the iceberg he was not on lookout duty but asleep in his cabin. On awaking he was put in charge of a lifeboat and he therefore managed to survive.

Charles William Hogg aged 43 no relation, was a bedroom steward from York. He   did not survive.

Sheilas talk was well received and was she able to demonstrate how fascinating her research had proved to be but also how difficult it had been. She hopes to have a book published in the near future when her research is complete.

The next meeting is 6th October when we have our Research Morning. This enables visitors to access the Societys resources and speak to our experts.

All enquiries to Ron Pullan 01924 373310

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