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Stephen Beecroft shares his memories of Salts Mill

Research by Roger Clarke

Forward by Roger Clarke: Stephen Beecroft first contacted me on 29 May 2007. Orginally from Guiseley, Stephen worked at Salts Mill from 1964 to 1966, before emigrating to Canada to carry on working in the textile industry. Stephen shares his memories of Salts Mill. The names and detail Stephen gives are very important - we have very few detailed records of personnel at the Mill, but there are still people living here today who have been around since the 1920's and 30's.  Bill Smith from plumbing, Eric Smith from the gatehouse and fire brigade, and more.

Stephen now lives in Elliot Lake, Ontario Canada. He would like to hear from former employees of the mill. Email Stephen:

Thank you for contacting the website, Stephen. You contribution is much appreciated. Roger

I worked at Salts (although in those days it was Salts (Saltaire) Ltd. in the manufacturing department under Leslie Gomersall in the 1960s. I was responsible for scheduling the warps and making sure the weft yarn was ready when the warps were finished. Those were the days when Sulzer looms were being installed and things looked bright for Saltaire Mills. Geoffrey Pepper and Russell Viney were running the manufacturing section of the mills. Clifford Thompson was weaving manager. Charles Bentley was head designer. Lots of other names flit through my 70-year-old brain - I would be most interested in learning from or about former employees of a mill that I once thought was as indestructible as Thomas Armstrong's Crowthers of Bankdam.

I lived in Guiseley and then Yeadon, up the hill from Saltaire. I will never forget when I was asked to attend an interview there and I walked along the road beside that magnificent stone building with the name Salts (Saltaire) Ltd. in giant gold letters. I seriously wondered how such a wonderful mill could make use of me, despite my experience in the wool textile industry. I was in my 20s.

I didn't work at Salt's for long - from 1964 to 1966 - and I have my letter of reference written in 1967 when I accepted a similar job at a textile mill in Canada. The list of directors on the letter head was as follows: Chairman: M. Ostrer. Directors: W.H.Garnett, E.V.Giles JP, E.G.Ingham FCA, G.R.McKay,H. Moore, H.G.Pepper DSO TD, D.F.M.Rennie, J. Sweeting, C.D.L. Verity and R.S.Viney. There was no managing director in those days, but I think Russell Viney snared that title. Morris Ostrer was the Illingworth Morris connection and he was based in London. The other directors were in-house at Saltaire Mills. I dealt with Colin Verity, Geoffrey Pepper, Bert Moore and Russell Viney on a regular basis. They were Manufacturing Dept. directors., I also dealt with Rennie, who was a Yarn Dept. director.

My main function was arranging the supply of warps from the Warping Dept.

When I went to work each day I entered by the front doors to the office block where a uniformed commissionaire sat at his desk at the bottom of the stairs. I mounted the impressive staircase, past the bust of Sir Titus, and turned right. On my left were the toilets and on my right was a long office occupied by the Manufacturing Dept. Manager Leslie Gomersall sat at a desk with his back to a wall containing a weaving production schedule. I, as his assistant, sat at a desk facing him. Behind me were desks belonging to Alice Maudsley (who lived in the village, I think), Pauline ----- the typist, Aurora ---- a sort of general factotum, Norman ----- (who looked after the dress goods division) and Jack Clayton, his assistant.

From the window by my desk we sometimes watched them loading bales of wool onto the Uddingston wagon.

If I had turned left at the top of the staircase, I would have passed the office belonging to Derek Baker and E.J.J (Julius) Shannon then Cliff ---- and the Yarn Department offices.

Other people in the mills: Jack Blezard, warping foreman. His wife was a warper. The manager was Mr. Scott assisted by Ronald Seager (?) There were Knowles and Hattersley warping machine and Benninger for the Sultzer beams.

I have in my possession a reprint from The Wool Record headlined "Large Scale Reorganization completed at Saltaire Mills" which is interesting. Seemingly the early processes had been handed over to Woolcombers, another part of the the Illingworth Morris Group. I couldn't find a date but it does say this was written by Charles M. Bottomley 120 years after Sir Titus opened the mill in 1853. By that time I was in Canada. The Wool Record piece was printed in the form of a booklet, obviously financed by the machinery manufacturers, etc., who advertise therein. It is written by Charles M. Bottomley, has 20 pages and is published by Textile Business Press Ltd. and printed by Whatmough's, both of Bradford. The cover is gold-coloured with a beautiful full-colour picture of Saltaire and Salt's logo. It really comprises an interview with Rusell S. Viney about the drastic restructuring of plant and processes in Saltaire Mills. I guess the mills didn't last much longer.

I also have a book about Jonathan Silver who bought the mill and transformed it. [Salt & Silver; A Story of Hope by Jim Greenhalf, published by Bradford Libraries. Prince's Way, Bradford BD1 1NN (ISBN 0-9-07734-50-2) published 1997.] I gather from the internet that Silver passed on at an early age.

When I have time I'll gladly jot down some more memories. I used to write for the newspapers, etc., so I guess I am accustomed to recording things. Also, I am a great believer in preserving our heritage and history.

And true to his word - here are some more of Stephen's memories

----- Original Message ----
From: stephen beecroft
To: roger clarke
Sent: Tuesday, 12 June, 2007 9:40:22 PM
Subject: Saltaire village and mills

Dear Roger,

Some more memories:

Carl Woolley, Uddingston manager; his son later went to work at Saltaire.

Cross Roads and Damens Mills. Do they still exist? We used them quite regularly when they joined the Salts family.I believe they were taken over when Salts bought John Wright (Ingrow) Ltd.

I always understood the six-storey spinning shed was modelled on the architecture of Osborne House, Queen Victoria's Isle of Wight retreat.

Herbert Lightowler – yarn warehouse, gammy leg.

Fred xxxx, manager of the MRT weaving shed.

John Pepper, salesman and son of Geoffrey Pepper.

Martin Priest, salesman covering Canada.

We bought one yarn from John Mitton & Sons, Cleckheaton – I’m trying to remember what it was. It was used in ladies’ dress cloths. 2% spun silk strikes a bell. If I’m right after 40 years, that’s not too bad. Can anybody correct me? It was one of ourmost popular wool-acrylic dress cloths (an N range number rather than D). I think Mitton’s mill was acquired in the early 1950s

I used to get the bus to Shipley and then enter the mill by the back way. I always marvelled at the 250-foot chimney. By the time I arrived the original twin steam-driven beam engines had been replaced by steam turbines and generators, powered by 12 Lancashire boilers.

I used to wave to Norm Fazackerley who scheduled transport. My boss Leslie Gomersall always called him the Minister of Transport! The lorries were green with "SALTS (SALTAIRE) LTD, Spinners and Manufacturers" on the sides.

Mr. Rennie, a yarn dept. director, came with his company W.M.Rennie & Co., Stanningley. I think that was acquired in the early 1950s.

When I worked at Salt’s the company already belonged to Illingworth, Morris & Co. I don’t know that that made much difference to our poroduction, except later (when I was living in Canada) Woolcombers was taken over by Salt’s and, I believe, many of the processes preparatory to warping were transfered to the Wooldcombers mills. The first processes were wool sorting and scouring, carding and combing, drawing and spinning, twisting, reeling and winding. Then came warping, where I got involved, and of course weaving and finishing, etc.


Stephen J. Beecroft

Elliot Lake, ON.,

Copyright Stephen J. Beecroft, 2007






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