As some of you may know I live in a small market town in West Yorkshire, that is really no more than a large village, where the Pennine Moors rise steeply above us and mill chimneys are dotted around the landscape. Like many similar places that you may be familiar with such as Holmfirth (Last of the Summer Wine country), Hebden Bridge and Halifax these places expanded from nothing more than small hamlets during the Industrial Revolution with the building of the ‘dark satanic’ mills for the woollen, cotton and silk industry.
Titus Salt was one of the many people of this era, often influenced by a religious faith, who not only built mills and factories but also provided decent housing for their workers. Titus Salt went one step further and created a whole village namely Saltaire which is near the city of Bradford.
When we first married we lived in an old 4 storey terrace of similar mill worker’s houses over the other side of our village and they are now quite rightly listed. There is a small park called the ‘People’s pleasure grounds’ accessed by the bridge over the stream at the bottom of the gardens – all part of the provision for the mill workers.
I mention all this because yesterday we braved the weather to visit Saltaire Village, we hadn’t been for some years, it is now a world heritage site and I desperately wanted to see the Living Advent windows. Every year 24 of the houses take part and a window is illuminated with a festive scene with one scene being ‘opened’ daily in sequence from 1st of December until 24th December and then remaining to view until 5th January.
As you can see from the first few photos the mill is enormous and no longer used for textiles but houses an Art Gallery including a collection of David Hockney paintings, a large restaurant and three floors of books, homewares, furniture and clothing. The homewares section has display cabinets of design classics – crockery, cutlery and glasses that most people will remember from the different eras that are now very much collectible.
The china, dishes, pots and pans on sale are all selected for their design and quality and although some items are very expensive some are much more affordable (especially at the moment whilst certain items are much reduced). I was in absolute heaven – I could easily have come home with almost everything in the shop but decided that I would make a mental note of anything that I felt might be useful or just plain beautiful to have and plan another trip there another day.
Before going in the mill we had a wander around the streets – there is a stretch of shops along the main road down to the mill with craft shops, restaurants and cafes – beyond this is the tight network of terraced housing built on a grid system and all the streets are named after his wife, sons and daughters, Caroline, William Henry, George, Amelia, Edward, Fanny, Herbert, Whitlam, Mary, Helen and Ada.
Some houses had larger gardens, some smaller and some of them open straight onto the pavement – I expect this represented your standing in life and the importance of the work you did at the mill. Every house was looking very festive and I particularly loved some of the wonderful colour combinations.
What would have been little corner shops and general stores are to be found at the end of many of the streets. This one has been turned into a Bridal shop and we also discovered the local Spa.
It was so bitterly cold and wet but we walked up and down the streets with me snapping away every time we came upon another Advent window. As it was only mid afternoon the first few were not yet illuminated but I wanted to capture as many of them as I could. But scroll further down and you will see they come alive after dark when we went out again after the lights had been switched on.
Even the ordinary stained glass in the windows and doors of these houses look extremely festive.
And lastly we came upon Victoria Hall, originally named Saltaire Institute, such a grand building for a village I thought it deserved a photo before we came home – apparently it cost £25,000 when it was built between 1867 and 1871 and contained a main hall seating 800, a lecture room, two art rooms, a laboratory, a gymnasium, a library of 8,500 books and a reading room.
It is currently used as a venue for weddings and conferences.