Salt's Mill

Year:1853

Duration:2 years

Cost:£100,000 (£11.7m today)

Country: Bradford, UK

What did this project achieve?

Build an industrial building that considers the well-being of the people working there

Sir Titus Salt was a Bradford industrialist who made his fortune spinning and weaving the soft wool from alpacas.

Salt came from a religious family and was interested in the well-being of his workers. At the time, cloth mills were often gloomy and unpleasant places to work, and workers lived in slum conditions. Instead, Sir Titus wanted his Salt’s Mill to provide ‘ventilation, convenience and general comfort’ for his workers.

Salt also wanted his new factory to be impressive. He rejected architects Lockwood & Mawson’s initial design, saying it was ‘not half large enough’.

When Salt’s Mill opened in 1853, it was the largest building in the world by floorspace and contained the single largest room in the world.

Salt ploughed some of the profits from Salt’s Mill into building Saltaire – a village for his workers to live in.

Saltaire was built in the Italian style and took 20 years to complete. Every house in the village had sanitation and gas supply. There was also a hospital, school, park and church, as well as public baths and wash houses.

Salt’s Mill closed in 1986. The site was successfully redeveloped as a shopping and recreation centre. The building is Grade II listed.

Saltaire was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 2001.

Difference the project has made

Salt’s Mill provided a brighter, cleaner, more modern environment for workers. It became an example of good practice for other industrialists.

Saltaire village also became a model of how to treat workers at a time when many suffered from poor health and low life expectancy.

How the work was done

Salt’s Mill was built of stone over a brick and cast iron internal framework. The structure was intended to minimise the risk of fire.

Engineers put drive shafts and other machinery – including 10 boilers - under the floor to reduce the risk of industrial injury.

As the mill was so big, the weight of the floor slabs was enormous. Architects used large columns to spread the load.

The mill was fitted with two beam engines – a type of steam engine – each generating 1,250 horsepower. The beam engines provided energy to run the mill’s 1,200 looms.

Water came from a vast subterranean reservoir fed by rainwater. The water drove the beam engines and underground boilers.

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The layout and architecture of Saltaire admirably reflects mid-19th century philanthropic paternalism, as well as the important role played by the textile industry in economic and social development.

UNESCO

Fascinating facts

3,000 people worked at Salt’s Mill. They turned out 18 miles of worsted (a fine woollen yarn) every day.

Titus Salt was the first employer in Bradford to introduce a (shorter) 10-hour working day.

Charles Dickens wrote an article about Salt called ‘The Great Yorkshire Llama’.

People who made it happen

  • Original idea: Sir Titus Salt, industrialist
  • Architects: Lockwood & Mawson

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