Build a smart new museum and someone will complain that it lacks soul. Convert an old industrial site to a cultural facility and it immediately becomes a cool place.
Salt’s Mill was the thriving hub of Bradford’s booming textile industry in the 19th century. Now it’s an art centre, boasting the world’s largest permanent collection of work by Bradford-born and Yorkshire-resident David Hockney.
Thanks to what is turning out to be an inspired home exchange, Mevrouw T and I are spending the Easter break in Saltaire, West Yorkshire.
Saltaire village is World Heritage-listed. UNESCO splashes honours around pretty liberally these days, so we weren’t expecting anything too special. We were very pleasantly surprised.
Industrialist and philanthropist (isn’t it nice when these two go together?) Sir Titus Salt established the mill in 1853 and around it built a church, hospital and homes for his workers. He wasn’t the only one to do this, but Saltaire is apparently one of the best preserved of these ideal villages.
Inevitably, there was eventually ‘trouble at mill’ as the British textile trade foundered. Salt’s Mill closed in the 1980s, until it was rescued by another visionary local businessman, Jonathan Silver.
He bought the building in 1986, and opened it as a complex of museums, shops and cafes. Excellent decision!
Making the ordinary extraordinary is Hockney’s thing too. By heightening the colour he turns nondescript locations in the Yorkshire landscape into magical places.
Entry to Salt’s Mill is free. Exiting via the gift shop is not likely to be quite so cheap!