Titus Salt

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Sir Titus Salt

Sir Titus Salt, 1st Baronet (20 September 1803 in Morley – 29 December 1876 in Lightcliffe), was a manufacturer, politician and philanthropist in Bradford, West Riding of Yorkshire, England, who is best known for having built Salt's Mill, a large textile mill, together with the attached village of Saltaire.


Salt's father, Daniel, was a drysalter and then a farmer and sent Titus to a school in Batley,[1] identified in some sources as Batley Grammar School,[2] and then to another near Wakefield, named in some sources as Heath School.[3] His mother, Grace, was the daughter of Isaac Smithies, of The Manor House, Morley. The Salt family lived at Manor Farm (now The Manor, a pub) in Crofton, near Wakefield, between 1813 and 1819.

After working for two years as a wool-stapler in Wakefield, he became his father's partner in the business of Daniel Salt and Son. The company used Russian Donskoi wool, which was widely used in the woollens trade but not in worsted cloth. Titus visited the spinners in Bradford trying to interest them in using the wool for worsted manufacture, with no success so he set up as a spinner and manufacturer.[3]

In 1836, Salt came upon some bales of Alpaca wool in a warehouse in Liverpool and, after taking some samples away to experiment, came back and bought the consignment. Though he was not the first in England to work with the fibre, he was the creator of the lustrous and subsequently fashionable cloth called 'alpaca'.[3] (The discovery was described by Charles Dickens in a slightly fictionalised form in Household Words).

Bust of Titus Salt (not then a baronet) presented to him by his workforce in 1856 and now in Saltaire United Reformed Church.
Titus Salt's statue in Roberts Park

In 1833 he took over his father's business and within twenty years had expanded it to be the largest employer in Bradford. In 1848, Salt became mayor of Bradford. Smoke and pollution emanated from mills and factory chimneys, and Salt tried unsuccessfully to clean up the pollution using a device called the Rodda Smoke Burner.

In 1848, by now the senior Alderman of Bradford, Salt became Liberal MP although he lost the seat two years later. Around 1850, he decided to build a mill large enough to consolidate his textile manufacture in one place, but he "did not like to be a party to increasing that already over-crowded borough"[4] and bought land three miles from the town in Shipley next to the River Aire, the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and the Midland Railway and began building in 1851. He opened Saltaire Mills (now known as Salt's Mill) with a grand banquet on his 50th birthday, 20 September 1853 and set about building houses, bathhouses, an institute, hospital, almshouses and churches that make up the model village of Saltaire.

He built the congregational church, which is now Saltaire United Reformed Church, at his own expense in 1858–59 and donated the land on which the Wesleyan chapel was built by public subscription in 1866–68. He forbade 'beershops' in Saltaire,[3] but the common supposition that he was teetotal himself is untrue.[1] He was a county JP and also a Deputy Lord Lieutenant.

Salt was a private man and left no written statement of his purposes in creating Saltaire, but he told Lord Harewood at the opening that he had built the place "to do good and to give his sons employment".[5] In David James's assessment:

"Salt's motives in building Saltaire remain obscure. They seem to have been a mixture of sound economics, Christian duty, and a desire to have effective control over his workforce. There were economic reasons for moving out of Bradford, and the village did provide him with an amenable, handpicked workforce. Yet Salt was deeply religious and sincerely believed that, by creating an environment where people could lead healthy, virtuous, godly lives, he was doing God's work. Perhaps, also, diffident and inarticulate as he was, the village may have been a way of demonstrating the extent of his wealth and power. Lastly, he may also have seen it as a means of establishing an industrial dynasty to match the landed estates of his Bradford contemporaries. However, Saltaire provided no real solution to the relationship between employer and worker. Its small size, healthy site, and comparative isolation provided an escape rather than an answer to the problems of urban industrial society".[6]

Salt was Chief Constable of Bradford before its incorporation as a borough in 1847 and afterwards a senior alderman. He was the second mayor in office from 1848 to 1849 and was later Deputy Lieutenant for the West Riding of Yorkshire. In 1857, he was President of the Bradford Chamber of Commerce, and served as Liberal Member of Parliament for Bradford from 1859 until he retired through ill health on 1 February 1861.[3] On 30 October 1869, he was created a Baronet, of Saltaire and Crow Nest in the County of York.[7]

Death and legacy[edit]

He died at Crow Nest,[8] Lightcliffe, near Halifax in 1876 and was buried at Saltaire Congregational Church. "Estimates vary, but the number of people lining the route [of the funeral] probably exceeded 100,000."[9]

He married Caroline, daughter of George Whitlam, of Great Grimsby, on 21 August 1830, and had five sons and three daughters.

  • Sir William Henry Salt, 2nd baronet (11 December 1831 – 1892), married in 1854 Emma Dove Octaviana Harris (d1904), only child of John Dove Harris and Emma Shirley of Knighton, Leicester
  • George Salt (22 April 1833 – 8 May 1913) married in 1875, Jennie Louisa Fresco of Florence
  • Edward Salt of Bathampton House (3 April 1837 – 24 October 1903) married firstly in 1861, Mary Jane Susan, eldest daughter of Samuel Elgood, of Leicester; and secondly, married in 1871, Sarah Amelie, elder daughter of William Rouse, of Burley House, York
  • Herbert Salt (17 April 1840 – 21 July 1912) married firstly, in 1889, Elizabeth, daughter of John Douglas Ferrell; and married secondly, in 1899, Margaret, widow of Christopher Robert de Lacey
  • Titus Salt DL JP (28 August 1843 – 19 November 1887) married in 1866, Catherine, eldest surviving daughter of Joseph Crossley of Broomfield, Halifax, niece of Sir Francis Crossley, 1st Bt.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Balgarnie, Robert (2003) [1877]. Barlo and Shaw (ed.). Sir Titus Salt, Baronet: His life and its lessons. Saltaire: Nemine Juvante. p. 93, footnote. It is sometimes assumed the Salt was teetotal, but this (an account of dinner with his architect and engineer) suggests otherwise. His holdings of wine and liquor were sufficiently large that they are addressed in his will
  2. ^ James, David. "Salt, Sir Titus, first baronet (1803–1876)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. Retrieved 23 May 2008. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ a b c d e Holroyd, Abraham (2000) [1873]. Saltaire and its Founder. ISBN 0-9538601-0-8.
  4. ^ From Titus Salt's speech and the opening banquet, 20 September 1853. (from Holroyd)
  5. ^ Introduction (2000) by Derek Bryant to Piroisms reprint of Holroyd, op. cit.
  6. ^ David James, ‘Salt, Sir Titus, first baronet (1803–1876)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/24565.
  7. ^ Burke's Peerage & Baronetage (106th ed.) (Salt of Saltaire)
  8. ^ Our History, Crow Nest Park, crownestgolf.co.uk Salt bought the Crow Nest property in 1867 for 26500£.
  9. ^ Greenhalf, Jim (1998). Salt & Silver: A Story of Hope. Bradford Libraries. ISBN 0-907734-52-9.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Thomas Perronet Thompson and
Henry Wickham Wickham
Member of Parliament for Bradford
With: Henry Wickham Wickham
Succeeded by
William Edward Forster and
Henry Wickham Wickham
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baronet
(of Saltaire)
Succeeded by
William Henry Salt