The Catholic Parish of
Saint John Henry Newman

 Covering most of East Leeds

Love One Another.

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Most of us will have heard of Titus Salt the Victorian mill owner, who built a village outside Bradford, especially to house his own workforce and he called it Saltaire. So what caused him to leave his native Bradford, the city where he made his fortune and was created mayor?

Titus Salt was born in 1803 at a time of great change in Bradford. Although the city, famous for its wool production was very wealthy and was the greatest producer of textiles in the world at that time, the wealth all lay in the hands of a small group of influential people. At that time there were over 200 factory chimneys in the city, all belching out black sulphurous smoke into the atmosphere and the conditions for the working class people were dire indeed. Life expectancy in the city at this time was as low as 20 years and outbreaks of cholera and typhoid were common occurrences among the poor and Bradford soon gained the reputation of being the most polluted city in England.

Over the years, Titus Salt made a fortune through the many mills he owned and was made the city’s mayor in 1849, by which time he had become one of the richest men in Yorkshire. Unusually, for a rich man he also had a conscience and the living conditions endured by the workers caused him great distress. During his tenure as mayor he tried to persuade the city council to bring in laws forcing the mill owners to reduce their pollution levels, but was always out voted by their influential friends on the council.

This attitude caused Salt to leave his beloved Bradford and create his own community just three miles away on the banks of the river Aire. Thus was born Saltaire, where he created one of the largest and most modern mills in Europe. Salt believed that supplying good housing would give him healthy and loyal workers for his mill, so he built 775 houses, a large park for the workers leisure time, a library to help improve their education and a church to help their spiritual well being. The houses he built for his
workers had “luxury items” unheard of for working people, each house had its own toilet and fresh running water which was piped from his own reservoir. This village which he built around his mill showed a remarkable feat of social awareness for this time.

When Titus Salt died in 1876, his civic funeral was attended by over 10,000 people and he was buried in the family mausoleum in the Saltaire Congregational Church. After his death, his family were amazed to find that the vast legacy that they were expecting to inherit did not exist, as during his lifetime he had donated over ½ a million pounds to his various charities. But this mill owner had left behind a much greater gift for his family to enjoy, his love, concern and compassion for his fellow man.

“Our grace and joy do not take away from others; instead, they will bring hope to many people”

Published Fri 13th Sep 2013 12:10:50

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