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Sir Titus Salt

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

Garraways Coffee House

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 or writing.

Mill workers

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 more pleasant.

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.

Salt's Mill
Much, much more about Sir Titus Salt

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.

Times Obituary for Sir Titus Salt

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 Salt.

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.

Hockney painting of Salts Mill