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Over the past 6 months, this column has featured the early years of Jonathan and Maggie Silver’s re-development of Salts Mill. This month, with the help of John Collins, we look back at the situation which existed immediately before they bought the Mill.

John was the General Manager of the Estates Division of  Illingworth Morris and worked at Salts Mill from 1975 to 1986.  He was involved in looking at possible alternative uses for the building before the Silvers expressed an interest. At the time it closed, there were three businesses operating in the Mill: Salts of Saltaire (who controlled the weaving section), Salts Spinning Co. and Illingworth Morris Head Office, which later relocated to Cumberland House in Bradford.
The buildings at the Eastern end of the Mill were occupied by a number of firms who were tenants of the Mill owners, including (remarkably) a fellmonger who dealt in hides and skins.

There were also two  museums in the Mill at this time, run by Mr Albert Bowtell and Stanley King.  One was in the lecture theatre beneath the combing dept. where a few old machines could be displayed.  The second was upstairs, and displayed old photographs, crockery and other artefacts, some donated by the Salt family.

John did his best to rescue some of the records from the Mill, and they went to the Industrial Museum and the West Yorkshire Archive in Bradford (several lorry loads he says), but many were destroyed before he could reach them. John is now retired, but is still very interested in Salts and Saltaire, as well as his involvement as a trustee of The Black Dyke Band, and he was delighted to be present at the recent  performance by the Band in Salts Mill in March, 2007.

Roger Clarke


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