Saltaire Village, World Heritage Site
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Saltaire Village World Heritage Site
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Added: 21 April 2008

Series 3 Episode 3
Matthew Corbett explores the waterways of Northern England

Local historian and tour guide, Roger Clarke, appeared last week on Locks and Quays, a television programme, screened on ITV and produced by Centini. The series charts the progress made by Matthew Corbett (ex Sooty and Sweep puppeteer) along the canals of England. In the third programme of this series, Matthew's trip along the Leeds to Liverpool canal ended in Saltaire where he met Roger Clarke to find out about Saltaire's past and how the village is fairing today.


Series 3, Episode 3: Matthew visits Kirkstall Abbey and Saltaire on the Leeds Liverpool Canal. This programme features a discussion with Saltaire local historian and tour guide, Roger Clarke.

Produced by Centini Ltd.

Broadcast date: ITV, Thursday 17 April 2008 at 7.30 pm.

If you missed the programme, you can watch on-line by following this link >>

The transcript of the interview between Matthew Corbett and Roger Clarke appears below.

Matthew Corbett speaks to Roger Clarke

Mathew Corbett: The fascinating story of Saltaire was hatched by the revolutionary mind of industrialist, Sir Titus Salt who supplied the thousands of mills workers who earned him his wealth with a hospital, a school, and this, their very own village. Standing next to the canal which carried their work from coast to coast. So where did he get the idea from to build this huge mill and an entire community?

Roger Clarke: There were lots of lots of examples for him to follow around.  He knew about New Lanark in Scotland for example with Robert Owen and his model village there.

There are model villages in Halifax that he knew about that pre-date Saltaire.  So the idea of having a model utopian village was not an unusual one to him. But also he wanted to escape the cholera in Bradford, he wanted to escape from the higher rates in Bradford that were just being imposed – there were lots and lots of reasons why he decided on this.

Matthew Corbett: So you mentioned dates – what is the date of this?

Roger Clarke: The mill was opened in 1853, just two years after Titus Salt commissioned his architects to provide the initial plans for him.

Matthew Corbett: We’re standing on the bank of the Leeds to Liverpool canal.  So chicken and egg situation - was it the canal first or the mill first?

Roger Clarke: Absolutely, the canal was here first. In 1777 this canal was already built. Titus didn’t have to provide any of the infrastructure here.  We’ve got the canal here.  Next to it we’ve got the River Aire which provided water for his boilers and for washing his raw materials and then further up the road, Victoria Road we’ve got a railway – and the railway was built by 1848 – it was already in place.  He didn’t have any of the infrastructure to pay for – he just got on with building his mill.

Matthew Corbett: And what did he manufacture?

Roger Clarke: He manufactured alpaca worsted.  Now in Lancashire it’s cotton they produced.  In the rest of Yorkshire it’s wool. Here’s it’s a mixture – it’s a mixed cloth.  The alpaca and the coal were all off-loaded from the canal into this building here – all the processes of production were all under one roof – very much different from what it was in Bradford where there were mills for spinning, mills for weaving and they had to transport the material between the mills each time.  Here, everything's under one roof.

Matthew Corbett: That’s always a commercial success, I presume?

Roger Clarke: Absolutely.  Eighteen miles of cloth every single day was produced in this mill making Titus Salt huge amounts of profit.

Matthew Corbett: And he was a very shrewd cookie, because he made this community for everybody, didn’t he? A village.

Roger Clarke: He did. He was very shrewd because it makes a lot of economic sense when you think about it – not only to have an integrated mill but to have a workforce you can absolutely rely on. They’re  healthy, they’re well fed, and they’re available on-site and they’re committed to your enterprise. They’re a compliant workforce. Just what you want.

Matthew Corbett: What were the halcyon days?  How long was it successful for before it fell into decline?

Roger Clarke: Well, the decline came in about 1987.  Illingworth Morris had taken over from a number of consortia that had run the mill until then and Illingworth Morris hived off part of the production to their subsidiaries, so it began to go down hill and gradually it wound down until there was no production at all here.

Matthew Corbett: But this is a new era.  The place is reborn is that not correct?

Roger Clarke: Absolutely true.  Yes.  It’s wonderful to be in Saltaire now.

Matthew Corbett: How did that come about?

Roger Clarke: There are two main reasons. One of them was that the railway was reopened. It was closed in the Beeching era in the 60s and then it was reopened again in the 80s. That was a wonderful thing for the village – it brought people back in here.  And the second factor was Jonathan Silver.  Jonathan and Maggie Silver took over this mill – bought it in 1987 and within months, Jonathan’s creativity and his energy had opened up the 1853 gallery and opened up a restaurant here. He was a real workaholic, just like titus Salt; the two personalities as charismatic as one another, both with that same sort of energy and vision for the future. Unfortunately, Jonathan has died too early in his 40s – but his wife, Maggie, and his brother, Robin, continue to run the Mill behind us.

Matthew Corbett: And to sum up Roger – what is the legacy that  Sir Titus Salt has left behind?

Roger Clarke: He’s left us this wonderful village that is more or less exactly as it was when he died.  It’s changed very, very little. But he’s also left us a legacy of being concerned about the environment and being concerned for each other as well. If you’re concerned about the environment you get healthier workers. You also get workers who look after each other.  Just as he looked after them, they cared for each other too.

Matthew Corbett: Fantastic.  You’ve looked after me.  Thank you very much indeed.

View the programme on-line >>


Added: 21 April 2008



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