Some 35 Members and Guests of the Alderson Family History Society met on the morning of Thursday, 4th April, 2019 in the Espresso Coffee Bar at Salt’s Mill in Saltaire, where organiser Richard Alderson Scott gave us a warm welcome and introduction. He explained that the first day would concentrate on the background to the construction and creation of the village of Saltaire, the life and times of the man behind the venture, Sir Titus Salt, and an indication of the lifestyle experienced by the Mill workforce, including some Alderson families. We were shown a video of the history of Saltaire and the life of Sir Titus Salt. He was the son of David Salt, an established Yorkshire businessman who was described as a ‘drysalter’ (a dealer in certain chemical products such as dyes, preservatives and cleaning agents, all of which were in high demand in the textile business), and a ‘gentleman’ farmer.
Construction of the new Mill commenced in 1851, and he gave the development the name of ‘Saltaire’, (not being a modest man), combining his surname with the name of the River which was, up until that point in time, the principal feature of the area.
On his 50th Birthday in 1853 he held a grand opening ceremony at Saltaire Mills, and when the complex was completed it was the largest industrial building in the world, by total floor area. Having built the new Mill, Titus set about providing for his workforce. He built a ‘model village’ adjacent to the Mill, with good quality housing (including sanitation)!, bath houses, an Institute, almshouses and Churches. He owned all the housing outright, with rent being payable from the workforce via a deduction from wages, and similar fees were payable for using the community facilities
After lunch, we gathered at the Church where we were introduced to our tour guides for the afternoon, ‘Ellin Dooley’ and ‘Pollie Toothill’. Both ladies appeared in character and in period costume whilst depicting the genuine previous inhabitants of the village. Whereas during the morning presentations we had heard much about the Philanthropy and ‘good deeds’ of Sir Titus, during the afternoon we experienced an excellent tour and talk unveiling the opposing point of view, from the perspective of his workers. Richard Scott provided us with a description of the family who lived and worked in Saltaire.
Salts Mill and the village of Saltaire are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We retired to the excellent Oakwood Hall Hotel at Bingley, where we enjoyed a sumptuous 3 course evening meal in a private dining room, which provided the opportunity for us to catch up with friends, old and new.
The following morning, we rendezvoused in bright but chilly weather at Bingley Five Rise Locks, just a short walk from the Hotel. This is a staircase lock system on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. The Five Rise is the steepest set of locks in the UK with a gradient of about 1:5 and a rise of 18.03 metres over a distance of 98 metres. The intermediate and bottom gates are the tallest in the country. To this day, the locks are overseen by a full time lock keeper. Richard Scott described a family of Aldersons who had spent generations living and working on the local waterways
Our knowledgeable tour guide explained how the Canals and Rivers Trust (formerly British Waterways Board), are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the entire system, including canals, locks, pounds, tow paths and water supply. The Spring meeting concluded with many members enjoying lunch in the Lock Side Cafe, with thanks being offered to our organiser Richard Scott for what was a hugely successful and enjoyable event.