Jill’s Jaunts – Saltaire part 2

In part 1 I did a very brief history on the West Yorkshire village of Saltaire, and Salts Mill which employed the workers for whom the village was designed.

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It is a place I’d passed on the road through Shipley, usually going on to Keighley on the bus (though not often) and had wanted to stop and have a squint about for long enough. As my birthday this year fell on Good Friday, I was not in work and so planned a trip up there with friends, who drove. It only took us an hour from where we live in Slaithwaite, five miles west of Huddersfield, which, like Saltaire, is a former textile village now turned touristy.

Being a bank holiday, the car park was free, and we piled out and into the first tearoom we found, across the road on Victoria Street, for a much-needed coffee. There was a larger bit downstairs but it was shut off for Easter so the main cafe was small and somewhat cramped, but very nice. Folk must have thought the three of us were a bit puddled at the oohs and ahhs of my opening some of the smaller birthday presents I’d brought along.

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After we’d supped up*, we pottered round the shops a bit, and found the Saltaire Vintage Shop which is just our cup of tea. Some of the stuff was a bit too pricey for us, but I did notice two hardback Enid Blyton books for my collection, for just £2 each. Job’s a good ‘un, as we say up here.

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Undeterred by sporadic droplets of rain, I scooted off to have a look at the canal which runs parallel to the River Aire. Further down the canal at Bingley are the famous Five Rise Locks, but that was not a trip for today. Instead I walked along down the back of the mill.

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Inside the vast building which is Salts Mill are a large bookshop, a gallery of work by the Bradford-born artist David Hockney, various other retail units and a large dining room. Somewhere along the way I became separated from my friends and was instructed by phone to meet them at the antique shop. When I found said antique shop, and hunted around for some ten minutes, I realised I was actually in a homeware shop (which had a few vintage-y items displayed within, which in my defence kind of threw me). When I did finally get to where I needed to be, Carlton Antiques was a lot bigger than I thought, and rammed to the rafters** with cool, but overpriced stuff.

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And talking of overpriced, we made the executive decision to return to the little cafe we’d squeezed into earlier, rather than eat in the mill. I had a bacon teacake, it was totally worth it!

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Saltaire is a very quaint little place which still does have a slightly old-fashioned feel when you look at the streets and buildings, and ignore the obvious signs of tourism. It’s well designed and self-contained, at least it would have been for the mill workers and the community back in the day. The streets have names like Ada Street and Charlotte Street, and contain terraced houses of a slightly more unusual design, with pretty windows and decorative lintels and stonework. There are also a number of almshouses in the village.

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Salts Mill was designed by architects Lockwood and Mawson in the Italianate style. It’s six storeys (72 feet) high and 545 feet long, grade II listed and was intended to be as comfortable as possible, and a bit grander than most mills. In it’s heyday Salts Mill produced an annual output of around 5.5 thousand miles of fabric. That’s a lot of material!

And finally, a few words about Salts Mill’s chimney. It is currently 68 metres high. It was bigger, but a decorative campanile was removed for Health and Safety reasons. It is a freestanding chimney, tapering up from a square base with only slit recesses towards the top. In architect’s lingo, lower down it has ‘rusticated quoins and a cornice on large square brackets’. Ok, I’ll take their word for it.

The other two chimneys in the background I also took pictures of to use elsewhere, as we were going home to have a birthday tea of meat and potatoes with dumplings, and apple crumble and custard.

And for those of you from elsewhere in the world to Northern England:

*’Supped up’ means having finished your drink.

**’rammed to the rafters’  has the same meaning as the other common expression ‘stuffed to the gunnels’ which describes somewhere very full of items.

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