Walk 155: Saltaire & Salts Mill

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 2.73 miles (4.4km)

Time to walk: Entirely up to you. We also visited Salts Mill, with its Hockney exhibition plus various others. You may also want to chill in the park, or beside the river or canal. This walk takes in the ‘sculpture trail’ so is ideal for kids too

Difficulty: Easy & all on hard surfaces. Please be aware that Salts Mill has many floors with lots of steps. There’s also steps up from the Mill to the main road, some of which are worn & uneven, caused by thousands of workers footsteps, but that’s history

Parking: Free parking at Salts Mill, although be aware of closing times

Public toilets: Salts Mill

Map of the route:

We visited Salts Mill & Saltaire as part of a short break in this area of Yorkshire in June 2021. Saltaire is a Victorian Model Village in Shipley. Salts Mill & the associated residential district is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site

Saltaire was built in 1851 by Sir Titus Salt, a leading industrialist in the Yorkshire woollen industry. The name of the village is a combination of the founder’s surname & that of the river. Salt moved his business (five separate mills) from Bradford to this site to arrange his workers & to site his large textile mill by the Leeds & Liverpool Canal & the railway

Salt built neat stone houses for his workers, wash-houses with tap water, bath-houses, a hospital & an institute for recreation & education, with a library, a reading room, a concert hall, billiard room, science laboratory & a gymnasium. The village had a school for the children of the workers, almshouses, allotments, a park & a boathouse. We’ll get a good view of these on this walk

Sir Titus died in 1876 & was interred in the mausoleum adjacent to the Congregational church. When Sir Titus Salt’s son, Titus Salt Junior, died, Saltaire was taken over by a partnership

Salts Mill closed as a textile mill in 1986

Let’s Walk!

1. This walk starts in Salts Mill itself which is free to explore. It’s a huge building which lends itself perfectly to being an art gallery, shopping centre, & restaurant complex…

The mill has many paintings by the local artist, David Hockney on display, including this huge painting of the mill & village in the entrance hall

The display covers several floors &, when you visit don’t miss out on the incredible roof space

2. Coming out of the Mill, walk up the steps of the railway bridge to Victoria Road. Look at how worn the steps are from the thousands of feet that must have walked over them at the beginning & end of each shift. The view down the line to the Mill shows the chimney as well…

3. Facing the mill, turn right down Victoria Road past the railway station…

The size of the buildings are just immense

4. On the left’s Saltaire United Reform Church. When Titus Salt commenced the design & construction of his model village a Congregational church was the first public building commissioned. Salt donated the land & paid for the cost of the church himself

The church was designed in the Italianate Classical style…

Since 1972 the church has been known as Saltaire United Reformed Church. The ceiling of the church was badly damaged & partially collapsed due to being affected by Storm Dennis in February 2020

5. Walk around the church & you’ll find it’s a lot bigger than what it appears from the front. On the south side of the nave is the Salt family mausoleum where Sir Titus Salt was buried after his death in 1876…

6. Come back out of the churchyard & continue down to the end of Victoria Road…

…crossing the Leeds Liverpool canal

7. Turn left down the ramp towards the canal & then right across the bridge over the River Aire. Now we know where the town got its name from…a combination of the names of Titus Salt & the River Aire

Across the other side of the river’s Roberts Park which was built by Salt to provide leisure facilities for the people of the village, & also to keep their minds off alcohol, as public houses were banned. These days those restrictions have been relaxed & there’s ‘The Boat’ on the left bank…

8. Walk around to the right to get a great view of the weir & factory. Note also the specially built fish runs as salmon have returned to the Aire…press ‘Play’ on the video below

Walk back over the bridge & turn left along the canal. Notice the Octopus on the corner post. This is the start of the Aire Sculpture Trail, which I built into this walk…

9. Pass under the bridge…

The second sculpture, the Pirate Ship’s on the left…

10. I love walking along canals as they pass through industrial areas & this is no different as it runs alongside the Mill

Look out for Salt Pot Slug…

11. Just past the slug walk down the narrow steps on the left & continue along the enclosed alley…

Here you’ll find the tortoises…

12. As the alley bears left there’s another sculpture on the corner…

…known as Fish & Drawers

13. After turning left, the path now follows the River Aire more closely, which is a good job as there’s another fish!

There’s some rather lovely properties on the other side of the river

The views are rather splendid, especially if you’re Cat Bath!

14. Just keep following the narrow path. This really is lovely riverside walking…

Against the railings is Bird

15. The Aire is simply beautiful along this path…

…& even the frog agrees!

16. With the river on one side, the path now has flats on the other as it starts to enter a more built up area

Where else would you find a snowman, a dog & an alpaca?

17. Normally this path would continue until the Baildon Bridge, which you’d then cross & come back along the canal. This wasn’t possible for us so we turned right & then right again to head up to the roundabout…

Bear left to the bridge…

18. Walk down & turn right under the bridge along the tow path…

Soon you’ll see the bridge & factory you passed by at the start of this section…

19. Retrace your steps back up to Victoria Road once more, passing the station & crossing the railway bridge…

…& turning right down the side of the railway along the cobbled Albert Terrace…

20. This is where we now really start to go back in time, entering the old village. Look up the narrow street on the left with all the back yards…

Take the next left up William Henry Street…you’ll see as you go round that the streets have either male or female names. William Henry is a lovely street & you’ll notice the different sizes of houses…

The different size of houses reflect the different status of the people who lived in them. For example, The three storey houses originally provided shared accommodation for single workers. The ones with the front gardens were for the “foremen’ of the workers

21. Turn right onto Caroline Street. Note here that the house have no front gardens & the front doors open directly onto the street. These were obviously the residencies of the lower paid workers

Everything in the village was built for efficiency. In particular note the grid systems & the wonderful alleys, although not the best for collecting rubbish bins!

22. On the right’s an area that was once the Baths & Wash House…

Titus didn’t like the idea of washing hanging across the narrow streets as it wasn’t good for the image. There were 24 baths for use by the people & also a Turkish bath. The people could also bring their laundry to the Wash Houses where there were the newest washing machines of the day, powered by three steam engines

The Baths & Wash Houses were demolished in the late 1930’s & today it’s been turned over to a community garden

23. Continue to the junction & turn left up Albert Road…

The houses on the right are modern which shows that this was where the “village’ limits were &, where they now stand, was then fields. The ones on the left however are quite magnificent. They were home to the more esteemed people, such as executives, teachers & the church minister

24. Continue up to the top of Albert Road…

…where on the left’s a reminder just how important the place you’re walking around is

25. Turn left & walk along the more modern looking Bingley Road

Just after the zebra crossing turn left into the village once more, down the attractive Victoria Road…

26. On the left’s Alexandra Square, with it’s open green space & rather lovely almshouses. There were originally 45 of them, but today just 41 remain…

Across Victoria Road’s the building that used to be the village’s hospital, which was originally two stories high & had nine beds. It was subsequently extended to three floors & seventeen beds. A further extension increased this by another 30

27. Carry straight on down the hill…

…passing two of the village’s most impressive buildings. On the left’s the old school, which was designed to take 750 children, with boys and girls segregated in the two principal rooms and infants in the smaller central room

…& on the right, with its impressive lions, the Institute, which acted as a social club & an educational institute, with the advantages of a public house without its evils…

Notice how both of these buildings are set back, giving the impression of forming a square, named after Queen Victoria

28. Continue straight ahead to arrive back at the railway bridge once more…

Have a look over the wall on the right beside the railway. Here’s the allotments that Titus installed to help people produce their own food for the village

So that’s it & what a wonderful place stroll around & so well preserved, with an amazing history

If you’re in the area…

Go Walk!