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Sir Titus SaltSir Titus Salt

Sir Titus Salt was a successful 19th Century businessman who helped improve conditions for his workers, building a model factory and village. Influenced by his Congregationalist faith he brought a social conscience to capitalism at a time when many industrial workers lived in abject poverty.

Titus Salt was educated at Morley, Batley and Wakefield before learning the wool trade at the age of 17. He was a spirited and determined worker. He soon became a driving force behind the family's wool business.

He married aged 27 and then took a business gamble by investing in a new type of wool - Donskoi wool grown by sheep on the banks of the Russian river Don. He also experimented with a new Alpaca wool from Peru. It was this new wool fibre which helped the Salt business take off, helping Titus Salt becoming one of Bradford's most successful businessmen.

With over 200 factory chimneys continually churning out black, sulphurous smoke, Bradford gained the reputation of being the most polluted town in England. Salt was one of the few employers in the town who showed any concern for this problem. After much experimentation, he discovered that a burner that produced very little pollution. In 1842 he arranged for these burners to be used in all his factories. When he realised other factory owners and the council were unwilling to take action over the pollution, he decided to move from Bradford.

In 1853, he opened a new super large mill in Saltaire, near Shipley. It was about 3 miles from Bradford and Titus Salt hoped that the cleaner Aire Valley would help insulate his workers from the Cholera epidemics which were common around the centre of Bradford. In addition to the huge mill in Saltaire, over the next 20 years, he built 823 houses, shops, hospital, school, chapels, recreation facilities and churches for his workers. Fresh water was piped into each home from Saltaire's own 500,000 gallon reservoir. Gas was also laid on to provide lighting and heating. Unlike the people of Bradford, every family in Saltaire had its own outside lavatory. To encourage people to keep themselves clean, Salt also arranged for public baths and wash-houses to be built. 

He was a great philanthropist of the age, helping his workers have unprecedented living standards for the time. When he died in 1876, although he had been an extremely rich man, his family was horrified that his fortune was gone. It has been estimated that during his life he had given away over £500,000 to good causes.

Bradford gave him a civic funeral, watched by 100,000 people. 

Geoff Knott, 11/04/2016

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