Salts Mill Diner, Saltaire, West Yorkshire

The days of the paternalistic approach to looking after your workers has, apparently, long gone. To be fair, for many employers in the industrial and post-industrial period, it had as much to do with keeping your workers in their place improving their lot. The vision of workplace, leisure and housing being provided by one man (always a man in those days) or organisation to cater for their workers throughout their life has gone. Cadbury at Bournville, through to ICI on Teesside, ensured their workforce was properly housed and, in the case of the many Quaker benefactors, that their spiritual needs too. And no pubs! So at Saltaire…

Titus Salt was a man with a vision of an industrial utopia, and when he built Salts Mill and the surrounding village of Saltaire, he was bringing that vision to life. The mill was built to emulate a palazzo of the Italian Renaissance. Salt believed this was a time when social and cultural advancement were a direct consequence of the commercial ability of textile barons.

When Salts Mill opened in 1853, it was the biggest factory in the world. 3000 workers toiled away at 1200 looms, producing 30,000 yards of cloth every single day. In a twenty five year building spree, Salt also built housing, a church, schools and almshouses for his work force. (And no pubs).

Model towns and villages were a demonstration of the esteem in which the workforce was held. Loyal and hard-working workers were treated with great respect, relatively high wages and good working conditions; Cadbury also pioneered pension schemes, joint works committees and a full staff medical service.

Eventually in 1986 Salts mill closed – succumbing to world pricing pressure as other countries were able to undercut the costs of British production – there was a lot of that happening. The mill was sold the following year to Jonathan Silver. A Grade II* Listed Building and World Heritage site, it now provides a home for a large collection of works by David Hockney, as well as a range of shops [“The Home” is just a wonderful treasure trove] and Salts Mill Diner. Note no apostrophe – just like Bettys. The Diner is open all day for breakfast and lunch; the napkins and menu were sketched out by David H. A rather novel twist on the more formal – and expensive – restaurants in London Galleries. Yorkshire – just good value.

Restaurant Salts Diner

…glorious bookshops

…lots of Hockneys

…we’re saving up for this one

…and some by Simon Palmer. Who?

..conducive to silent study

History of the original working mill

…and the houses Titus Salt built for his workers. Very bijou now

but the bins don’t help


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