By Peter Russell

A must-see when visiting West Yorkshire is Sir Titus Salt's utopian-inspired town, Saltaire.

Saltaire is a complete, and well-preserved industrial village of the second half of the 19th century. Its textile mills, public buildings and workers' housing are built in a harmonious style of high architectural standards, and the urban plan survives intact, giving a vivid impression of Victorian philanthropic paternalism. It is listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.

Sir Titus, a built the textile mills surrounded by houses, schools, libraries and sporting and facilities for his workers. He believed happy workers were more productive. The only noticeable omission is pubs. Sir Titus was a tea-totaller, so there was no room for a public house in his town.

Ironically,  the nearest pub was high up on the vale of the valley.  The owner of that pub built an inclinator to make the trip comfortable for Saltaire types, much to Sir Titus' chagrin.  At its peak, it was the busiest cable car in Europe. Funny that!!!

Sir Titus built an amazing church, influenced by materials he had seen in the Vatican City, marble and stone abound. Some of the marble is faux because of the cost, but it is incredibly realistic.

He also put some lions in the town outside the library. The Lions were "blanks made for the purposes of modelling the lions in Trafalgar Square". But they had been rejected by London planners because they were made with full tackle between their legs!!! So he was able to buy them cheaply.

The architectural and engineering quality of the complete ensemble, comprising the exceptionally large and unified Salt's Mill buildings and the New Mill; the hierarchical employees' housing, the Dining Room, Congregational Church, Almshouses, Hospital, School, Institute, and Roberts Park, make it outstanding by comparison with other complexes of this type.

Saltaire provided the model for similar developments, both in the United Kingdom and elsewhere including in the USA and at Crespi d'Adda in Italy. The town planning and social welfare ideas manifested in Saltaire were influential in the 19th-century garden city movement in the United Kingdom and ultimately internationally.

Saltaire testifies to the pride and power of basic industries such as textiles for the economy of Great Britain and the world in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

The easiest way to reach Saltaire is by train from Leeds, taking 23 minutes.  There are 96 services a day from Leeds, so just turn up at Leeds station wait a few minutes.

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