Saltaire – Salts Mill

I had a little visit to Salts Mill in Saltaire a few weeks ago, a building which was originally constructed by Sir Titus Salt in 1853. Salt wanted to create a modern village for his workers and what he built is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The mill building today is a combination of art gallery, antiques emporium, bookshops and other random stuff. The building remained in use as a mill until 1986, but the sheer amount of floor space and the falling price of imports meant that it became unviable as a business.

I have to be honest and comment that I thought this was a deathly boring place, but I’m perhaps not the target audience as I wasn’t intending to spend a lot of money on artwork. The building was fascinating and this could make for a museum that was world class, but there’s nearly nothing here about the actual structure itself. Anything of interest in terms of what was once in the mill is down the road in Bradford’s rather excellent Industrial Museum.

I’m sure that this sort of thing has a big audience, but I found nothing to engage me at all. I accept that’s not the mill’s fault…

Signage around the mill was poor and confusing, not helped by certain sections being shut such as the 1853 Gallery which was probably potentially the best bit of the building. The cafe arrangement was all over the place with more confused signage and people muttering about being lost or not knowing where to queue. I would go as far, as I’m in a critical mood, to say that the signage was inept, which is evident from the sheer number of reviews where different visitors are finding different things. One person said that there was a marvellous 45 minute video introduction covering the site’s history, and I’d note that would have very much been useful to me and others, as the theme of there being nothing about the building’s heritage is a common one. I have a slight suspicion that there is actually more at this site than a fair few number of visitors, including myself, have managed to locate.

Another floor, this time selling books.

It’s fair to say that I didn’t manage to find anything to me of interest at the site (and I’m struggling to recall a time that I’ve thought that about any site such as this), rather disappointing as I was hoping for some interesting art exhibition or information about the building. I think I managed to spend about 15 minutes at the site, and that involved lingering around a bit to try and lengthen the experience. But, it was all free of charge and the reviews of the site suggest that many people do get a lot out of the site. There are a fair few reviews of people who like me didn’t share the love of the place, but I’m glad that the building has survived as it’s an important part of the region’s heritage.

I’ll leave this in agreeing with a review posted a couple of weeks ago which gave 1/5 and said:

“Absolutely nothing to give a nod to the sites history and a seriously missed opportunity. Having studied Salt and his impact on society we took a drive to Salts Mill. There was a Hockney exhibition and a glorified Waterstones.”

And the Hockney exhibition was shut when I was there…..