West Mill, Saltaire

West Mill, Saltaire

I was disappointed when I arrived in Shipley by way of Ilkley Moor. I thought the centre of this industrial Yorkshire town had been altered unsympathetically by 1960s redevelopment. Few of the Victorian buildings remain. The slums were replaced with low-rise modern retail outlets. A central square serves as an outdoor market and an underground indoor market is situated beneath a tall,  market hall tower which is a landmark for many miles around. I thought it was a block of flats when I noticed it.  A second phase of clearance in 1966 saw the construction of an Asda supermarket (now the main building in the town centre), a library which had a small section on local history, a swimming pool and a health centre. By 1970 2,900 slum houses had been demolished.

Railway Line beside West Mill, Saltaire

Railway Line beside West Mill, Saltaire

I saw from the map that Saltaire was nearby and when I got my bearings I soon saw the large former mill buildings not too far distant, on the other side of a railway line. This was a gem in industrial architecture. The township built by Sir Titus Salt alongside the River Aire is now a UNESCO world heritage site. Part of the Salt’s Mill complex contains retail outlets and another section of it is devoted to commercial use. There are some nice restaurants inside. I thought Belfast’s old mills were big but Salt’s building has a frontage that is 545 ft long, with six storeys rising 72 ft. At one stage in the 1800s some 4000 people worked here. The weaving shed of the mill housed 1200 looms, producing 30,000 yards of alpaca and other cloths daily.

Shop in former Salt's Mill

Shop in former Salt’s Mill


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