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Roger Clarke’s Saltaire people

John Holroyd of Saltaire, West YorkshireExamples of work by John Holroyd are all around us: on advertising for many of the Village businesses and on tourist items in the local gift shops. The son of a teacher of woodwork, metalwork and technical drawing, (Tom Holroyd, who died in1976, taught at Salts Grammar School during the 1960s and early 70s), it is not surprising that John’s work is meticulous in its detail and of the highest professional standard.

His wide portfolio includes drawings of flat pack furniture, commissioned by Schreiber, and a machine for putting the fillings into biscuits; the nuts and bolts of making a living in the competitive world of the freelance artist. Fortunately, John’s tutor at Batley Art College encouraged him to be “less tight” in his work, and John took him at his word.

The house, just outside the Village boundary, where he has lived since 1965, is an Aladdin’s cave of watercolour and oil paintings, models, maps – and an incongruous collection of items which he has acquired on his travels. These include a harmonium salvaged from Girlington Baptist Chapel and reconstructed on his living room floor; parts of the overhead wiring from Bradford’s trolley bus system suspended from an attic ceiling; and a collection of railway lamps which are housed on his landing.

Always a keen train spotter, John was once a booking clerk at Stanley and Methley South stations, (responsible for regular shipments of rhubarb to Covent Garden) and is now Chair of the West Riding branch of the Railway Correspondence and Travel Society. Many of his larger paintings are of engines and he has an extensive model railway layout in his attic which he’s proud to show off to anyone who’s interested. Steamships, tugboats and paddle steamers also feature in his paintings and models, but John’s real passion is photography. Over the course of his 66 years he has accumulated 51,000 colour slides which he puts to good use in slide presentations to interested groups all over the country. He has travelled widely – by train where he can – and the programme of slide shows on offer reflect this. Last year he gave shows to 83 audiences, which must fill up his diary considerably. He is also President of the West Riding Inter-club – a group of twelve camera clubs, including Bingley where he is a member.

John does not need to advertise his skills. The word is already out that here is a man with traditional skills with a pencil and brush who is creative and original in his work. He has a gentle, affable and intelligent humour which makes him very easy to talk with, and he his totally enthusiastic about everything in his life; like continuing his father’s artistic legacy by drawing the superb Italianate architecture which too many of us may take for granted in the Village today.

Some of you may remember John’s father, Tom, who taught at Salts Grammar School during the 1960’s and early 1970’s.  He was there when it was located in the old Factory School, Victoria Hall and the Exhibition Road premises – and he transferred with his students when they went into the present building in 1963. You might also remember his habit of seeking permission from local Estate Agents to visit houses which went on to the market in Saltaire, taking measurements of their interiors, reproducing the plans to his own satisfaction, and setting them as technical drawing challenges for his students. Sadly. Tom died in 1976, but John continues with his artistic legacy and loves to draw the superb Italianate architecture which we all take for granted in the Village today.


JOHN HOLROYD is the guest of the Shipley Retired Men’s Forum on February 7th, when he will give a talk on his experience of South African railways. See below.

Speakers this month: 7th February: John Holroyd
South African Steam Safari Part Two
21st February: Gill Lindsay  
New Zealand – Since We’re So Close
Tel. 01274 591745

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