Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.

SEPTEMBER 20th

On this day in history in 1803, was born Titus Salt.

Salt was an industrialist who attempted to control pollution with a patent 'smoke burner', and created the first new town, the model village of Saltaire.

Salt was born in Morley, Yorkshire, on 20th September 1803, the son of a woollen manufacturer who was prosperous enough to send the young Titus to the prestigious Heath Grammar School. Salt learned the wool trade in Wakefield, before joining his father’s business in Bradford and, at the age of 30, took over the running of the firm. Within 20 years, Salt had expanded the business to make it the largest in Bradford.

Salt became concerned about environmental pollution, one of the scourges of the Industrial Revolution. Dickens, writing about this time, in Hard Times, describes an imaginary but typical industrial city of Coketown as ‘a town of red brick, or of a brick that would have been red if the smoke and ashes had allowed it. It was a town of tall chimneys, out of which interminable serpents of smoke trailed themselves for ever and ever.’

Salt attempted to cure the problem with an ingenious device known as the ‘Rodda Smoke Burner’, but with only a limited degree of success. In exasperation at the enormity of the task, he decided to build his own model town, where the factory chimneys were designed to reduce pollution and the streets and houses were built to provide a comfortable environment for the workers of the mills.

Salt built the town of Saltaire combining in the title his own name and the nearby river Aire. The centrepiece was Salt Mill, designed to be environmentally friendly, which was surrounded by rows of modest but comfortable terraced cottages for his employees. Salt endowed a public library, leisure facilities, a laboratory, a gymnasium and an ornamental Italianate style Congregational church for the edification of his workers. However, Salt would not allow a public house within the confines of his town for fear that the profligate workers would spend all their wages on ale and be too hung over to appear for the morning shift at the mill.

Saltaire’s squat terraced houses still stand, together with Salt Mill, and the Congregational (now United Reformed) Church, and all the other public buildings. The area has now been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and all the original constructions are listed buildings. Salt died on 29th December 1876 and is buried in a grandiose mausoleum under the Congregational Church. [Victoria Road, Saltaire, Yorkshire BD18 3LA]  There is now a pub in Saltaire, which is ironically named Don’t Tell Titus. [6 Victoria Road, Saltaire Yorkshire BD18 3LA]

Recommended reading.

Holroyd, Abraham. Saltaire and Its Founder (Paperback)
Styles, A. Titus Salt and Saltaire (Paperback)

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