Not much trouble at mill

Muthena Paul Alkazraji visits a Victorian village where a worker's life was pleasant

You could battle your way along Oxford Street to see the modest assembly of the latest David Hockney exhibition - or you could glide on the waterbus along the glassy black Leeds and Liverpool Canal from Shipley for a much more substantial serving of West Yorkshire's favourite son. David Hockney's artistic pied a terre in Britain is at the heart of the village of Saltaire. Conceived by Victorian textile entreprenuer Sir Titus Salt, this "model village" was built on the banks of the River Aire to house workers at his worsted mill. Today, the terraced streets and community architecture remain almost entirely as he envisaged, and are a suitable shrine to Britain's most celebrated contemporary artist.

Salt's apparent impetus came from a ready, healthy workforce and a genuine social concern. Thick smoke, overcrowding and violence characterised working- class life in the textile trade. "If anyone wants to feel how a poor sinner is tormented in purgatory," wrote George Weerth, a resident German poet, "let him travel to Bradford."

A minute's walk from the waterbus stop is the imposing mill complex. It originally employed 3,000 people on 1,200 looms producing 30,000 yards of cloth a day. Salt's speciality was not, as one might expect so close to the moors, in weaving the wool of sheep so much as of alpaca, a strange- looking South American animal of the camel family. The West Mill is now home to a number of modish interior furnishing stores, and its vast, naturally lit workrooms also house three galleries of paintings, drawings, and photo- collages by Hockney.

The 22 streets of Saltaire's workers' housing, from the strictly functional to those with Renaissance-style embellishment, make an absorbing place to meander. Along the back alleys, elderly residents lean over gates, coloured plastic pegs spin around a rigging of washing lines, and outside piping is painted with pride. The houses represented a vast improvement in living conditions for the original wool-combers, and one can still settle here in modest cosiness.

With the exception of the wash-house (including Turkish bath), almost all of Saltaire's Italianate public buildings still remain. There were no public houses built in the original village: Sir Titus was a supporter of the Temperance Movement. He was not, however, so zealous as to prevent residents from keeping the odd barrel of beer in their cellars; he kept a private stash of the devil's brew himself. Those in search of liquid refreshment can visit Saltaire's Victorian boathouse, with its terrace on the River Aire. It is now The Boathouse free house.

The Institute on Victoria Road, a community centre built to take the place of the offending pub, originally provided an art school, library, lecture theatre, gym and billiards room for the workers' use. For the last 10 years, it has been home to The Victorian Reed Organ and Harmonium Museum: a private collection gathered on a shoe-string by an ex-teacher Phil Fluke. It contains an array of instruments, from ship's organs lined with arsenic (to prevent tropical insects eating through mechanisms) to portable harmoniums that were strapped to the rumps of itinerant preachers' horses. The collector's enthusiasm is boundless. "Look at this," he says as I prepare to leave. "I discovered it in that parlour model; it had caused havoc." In his hand is a box containing a mouse skeleton wrapped in a shroud of nibbled organ velvet.

Five minutes walk across Roberts Park is the Shipley Glen tramway. This narrow-gauge, cable-hauled railway, trundles up to open moorland and the glen's famous rock formations.

Down at the United Reformed Church, Sir Titus is interred in a mausoleum under the watchful gaze of a marble guardian angel. Mr Hilton Broomhead, chairman of the church's trustees, gives me his own obituary of the textile magnate and his village. "In those days, it must have been like Utopia compared with life in the cities. A lot of people say, 'Well, he made a lot of money', but it's what he did with it that counts n "

The 1853 Gallery, housing David Hockney's works, is at Salt's Mill (01274 531163) - open 10am-6pm daily; entrance is free. Saltaire Tourist Information 01274 774993.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried