Saltaire Village, World Heritage Site




The Saltaire Sentinel
Saltaire Village World Heritage Site
Saltaire Sentinel
Back button | Home | Saltaire Sentinel index | October 2007


January, 1878, was the date of the first Conversazione. This was a 3 day, glittering social occasion, with much eating and dancing. It began on a Thursday evening with the grand opening, which all the top Society figures from the West Riding, and especially the Bradford area, attended. 

This was an expensive and sumptuous meal, and dancing to the best bands.  Friday was a special dance which more Villagers attended.  Saturday afternoon was a Children’s Party.   But the most popular was Saturday night, with cheaper prices which more Villagers could afford. It was so popular that it was held every year (apart from the War Years, and other times of national emergency) until 1964, spanning almost a century. Victoria Hall was always the venue.  The front doors were blocked off to provide more space inside, and access was via the Lockwood Street entrance.  The interior was decorated in the most expensive and sumptuous manner, with exotic plants from the Salts family conservatories, and all manner of expensive fabrics and curtains.  There were ribbons and bunting, flags and flowers, mirrors, Chinese lanterns, and a scent fountain to freshen the air.  The best dance bands were hired, and other entertainment included ventriloquists, solo singers, actors performing a farce, memento readers, choirs, a conjuror, and all manner of the latest scientific inventions including the telephone and microscopes.

Food included boars head, lobster, pâté and potted meats, exotic desserts, and both temperance and alcoholic drinks. For most of the Villagers, Saturday was the best day.  The children’s party had masks, balloons, prizes and presents.  The evening dance had all the latest popular tunes and dances, as well as pies and beer to suit the working man and woman’s taste.  

This was the social event of the year, and all proceeds went to local charities.  Its demise seems to have been linked with the increase in TV ownership, and the increase in popular entertainment at home.  The wind down of the Mill had also begun, and perhaps there was less community spirit with fewer workers on site. Whatever the reason, the 1965 event was cancelled at the last minute because of lack of support, and it has never been held again.
It was Frank and Ilma Senior who  first encouraged my interest in the Conversazione.

Roger Clarke, 2007  



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