Sir Titus Salt
What follows is but a brief description of a truly remarkable
man and his outstanding contribution to Victorian England.
I am so moved by what Sir Titus achieved that I have spent
three years researching and compiling a comprehensive history
of his life and involvement with alpaca fibre. A more
detailed account is presented separately.
Adrian G Stewart
coffee rooms, London
In 1834 Titus noticed some unwanted bales of what turned
out to be Alpaca wool at a Liverpool warehouse. He experimented
with it over a number of months, and found it wove wonderful
lustrous cloth - highly suitable for making expensive dresses
for wealthy ladies. His father advised him "to have nothing
to do with the nasty stuff." Even Titus's long standing
friend John Hammond would not join him in the enterprise.
Titus met John at Garraways coffee rooms in London to discuss
the proposal, at the end of their meeting Titus had made up
his mind and said to John " Well, John, I am going into
this alpaca affair right and left, and I'll either make myself
a man or a mouse."
With the manufacture of this alpaca wool, Titus became one
of the richest men in the West Riding of Yorkshire by the
age of 40. The qualities of alpaca wool were known in England
long before this date; for Mr William Walton in a work published
in 1811, pointed out that the staple of wool from the llama
tribe is of extraordinary length, and of a soft and glossy
nature. Still this does not detract in the least from the
merits of the first introducer and adapter. The amount of
or quantity of alpaca wool imported from 1836, when Titus
made his first purchase, to 1840, averaged 560,800 lbs. per
annum. In 1852, the annual import had reached 2,186,480 lbs
in weight. Assuming a clip of 5lbs. per animal that equates
to over 437,000 alpacas. During that same time the price had
risen from 10d per lb. in 1836, to 2s. 6d. per lb. in 1852.
(10d = 8 cents, 2s.6d. = about 23 cents).
By 1850 he had served a year as Mayor of Bradford, and had
exhibited his alpaca and some mixed fabrics at 'The Great
Exhibition' in Crystal Palace, London. He was a man of action
rather than words, so scarcely any records exist of his speaking
mill workers, late 1800's
His mill staff were grateful that he was aware of their poverty
and needs, and that he was a good employer, so were probably
not surprised that he planned to build a new mill on the outskirts
of the town, where the air would be fresh, and working conditions
He chose a site adjoining the Leeds Liverpool canal, the
River Aire and the newly made railway station, so he had ideal
transport facilities for his trading.
Mill shortly after completion
It was a massive mill, he chose innovative architects, and
agreed to their suggestion of Italianate style. There was
space, light and warmth in his new mill. The location was
superb, in a green and pleasant area. the Mill opened in 1853
on Titus Salts 50th birthday.
He then created an entire village of houses, park, school,
library, recreation and learning institute and outdoor sport
facilities. The streets were named after his children and
family. He called this village 'Saltaire'. In 1869 he was
created a baronet by Queen Victoria, thus becoming Sir Titus
In 1876 the last building in Saltaire was completed, and
later that year Sir Titus Salt died at his home.
Bradford gave him a civic funeral, watched by 100,000 people,
including children from the many orphanages he established.
Sir Titus and his family are buried in the mausoleum at
Saltaire Congregational Church.
painting of Salts Mill by David Hockney. Part of the mill
is now a David Hockney gallery.