Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

From story
Saltaire - Victorian Model Town, Then and Now
This resource is licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Video 3: Improving Living Conditions for Victorian Mill Workers

When Sir Titus was building this village, he wanted to build homes for his workers that would provide them with better living conditions than they had had where they lived previously a few miles away in the heavily polluted city of Bradford.

The conditions for mill workers in Bradford in my day were dreadful. The houses were tiny and overcrowded. Families had to share toilets with their neighbours and all of the waste was thrown into the nearest river.

Oh, the smell was awful! They didn’t call it ‘River Stink’ for nothing! I wasn’t going to let that happen in my new village.

Building started in 1854. Each home was built with its own outside toilet and plumbing. The houses had separate living rooms, which was unique for the time. Rooms were well-ventilated with fresh, clean water piped into the houses from Salt’s reservoir.

You see, I needed strong, fit workers. It was important to me that they were healthy and happy. Also, dirty water made people ill, which meant they couldn't work in my Mill. I like what they've done with it now – I've heard they've even got their own bathroom. They're watching a magic box in there! I also built this, a public bath for my workers to keep clean. You didn't have your own bath inside in my day. A warm bath would cost you sixpence – that's £1.80 in your money today. Imagine coming here on a chilly Winter's day to have a bath!”

Every street in the village was named after members of Sir Titus’s family.

That’s right, I wanted to leave a lasting mark on the streets of Saltaire. I gave my wife, Caroline,  her own street…all of my children had a street named after them, and so did our Queen – the long serving Queen Victoria. I didn’t want to leave out her husband Albert, so I gave him a street as well.

The majority of the houses are still standing today, just as Sir Titus intended. They still house the workers of Saltaire, but not so many people work in the factory. Where do they all work today?