The town of Saltaire just north of Bradford in Yorkshire was founded by philanthropist and mill owner Titus Salt.
Salt had mills in the city of Bradford but decided to build a large new textile mill, known as Salts Mill and create an entire model village on the banks of the River Aire, near Shipley.
This allowed him to provide much improved accommodation for his workers away from the slums of the city.
The name Saltaire derived from his name and the name of the local river, the River Aire.
Salt created a village of stone houses for his workers with running water, bath houses and even a hospital and an institute for recreation and education.
The village also had a school for the workers children, allotments for the families to grow fresh vegetables, almshouses and a park.
In December 2001, Saltaire was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
So what now…rather than just be a preserved relic of past Victorian ideals, Salts has a vibrant new life.
The mill is home to art by way of permanent exhibitions of Yorkshire artist David Hockney’s work, a truly amazing book shop and some other specialised retailers.
This is no ordinary bookshop..on the ground floor of the mill it has a cathedral like feel, grandeur and ambience.
On the higher floor, a more esoteric style where presentation and space is the emphasis.
Every window provides a backdrop of Salts vision..rather than a shopping mall, retail park or mundane high street.
I can’t think of many bookshops adorned with fresh lillies!
Everywhere in the building there is evidence of both Hockney and the original purpose of the building and this just adds to the magic of the place.
Salts mill draws the crowds for its history, the books, the art and even the restaurant and tea shop.
I visit regularly – its a great place on a winter sunday, a rainy summers day or whenever the mood draws you.
If you are visiting West Yorkshire it’s a “must do” visit. A great example of getting preservation just right.
Salts is very alive with many one off events and opportunities to embrace books, music and art in a wonderful setting…oh and yes it’s completely free other than special events.
Sure you have to buy books if you want to take them home..but otherwise it’s there to enjoy!
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