|Image taken from this blog post....|
My friend and fellow blogger, Janice, wrote recently about Saltaire Village. She discovered it about 30 years ago and it is obviously a very special place for her. Her piece was so evocative and well-written that it brought my own memories of this place flooding back. I wrote briefly about it in one of my early posts, when we were still living in England. Saltaire was a place I had to visit before we moved away.
My earliest connection with Saltaire was as a little girl when I would go every Saturday morning to Victoria Hall to Saltaire Ladies Gymnastics Club, which, in its heyday in the 40s, had representatives in the Olympic Squad. When I went, it was run by a funny little lady called Carrie Pollard - who it turns out was the founder member of the club and one of those Olympic gymnasts herself - a fact I have only just found out! She was good, very strict and we had to work really hard. I eventually made it onto the 'top mat' by pure fluke as we had to demonstrate we could do all the moves necessary - and on the day I was tested, I did my one and only successful handstand-into-crab without collapsing immediately. I never did it again and I'm not likely to try either! There must have been about 60 or 70 young girls, all with different skill levels, all pushing themselves and their various ligaments and joints to the extremes. The friend I went with was much better than me and particularly fearless on the parallel bars. What few people saw were the awful bruises she had on her hip bones.
|A most impressive building|
I stopped going when my music interests developed and I preferred to play in an orchestra on a Saturday morning - and glad to say, my friend also stopped gymnastics and joined the orchestra - though I also noticed that playing the violin gave her a nasty bruise under her chin too. Perhaps she bruised easily - maybe it demonstrated her determination at all things!
But my involvement with Saltaire didn't end there. No, a little later, I was part of a Symphonic Band made up of students from all the schools in Bradford and rehearsals were held on Fridays at Victoria Hall in Saltaire. I loved playing in that Band and we played during the Queen's Silver Jubilee year, 1977, during which time the Lord Mayor of Bradford was Tom, David Hockney's brother.
|The rather overgrown tramway. |
Last year saw record visitors so perhaps
it looks a little better now...
After a period of living in London and Surrey (though we called it Middlesex) I eventually returned to Yorkshire. We very nearly bought a house in Saltaire - it was actually my first choice - but the houses there, although made from good, solid, millstone grit, were nearly all terraced and without gardens and the thing I'd promised myself when we moved back north was a dog - a Border Collie, no less. I needed a garden and we eventually settled on a lovely end Victorian terrace in Farsley, between Leeds and Bradford. (My wonderful, never to be replaced, dog was Bodley - a Border Collie cross of incredible intelligence and character. Sorry Darwin...)
Soon after settling, I began making chocolates and attended many a craft fair held at... Victoria Hall in Saltaire! This was around 1985. The mill closed in 1986 and just a year later, Jonathan Silver bought it and began his amazing transformation of the place. Janice may have discovered Saltaire, but I must have been one of the first through the doors of the new mill complex to enjoy the overwhelming scent of lilies, which were delivered in in their hundreds every week. I adore the smell of lilies and so strong is the memory of the scent of Salts Mill that I can conjure it up almost at will and be transported back to looking at David Hockney's paintings, browsing through the books and postcards - and on the subject of David Hockney, did I ever mention that my mum went to college with him? (I doubt he'll remember her though!) On my 30th birthday one of my celebrations was meeting up with lots and lots of friends for breakfast at Salts Diner. It was excellent - the scrambled eggs with salmon was my favourite!
In 1995, I entered a brief period of being footloose and fancy free and lived on the ground floor of a big Victorian house with enormous fireplaces, high ceilings and generously proportioned rooms. It was a perfect party house and I had rather a lot of parties in the year that followed. It was also situated just five minutes away from Saltaire, which had, by this time sprouted some wonderful clothes and shoe shops as I remember. And I bought rather a lot of nice clothes and shoes...the excuse being that my ex, in a ridiculous cliche, cut up all the clothes (and shoes) I didn't immediately take out of the house with me when I left. He dumped them in three black bin liners on my parents' driveway. I could never ever replace some of the fantastic shoes I had...though I tried quite hard to.
Almost every Sunday would see me at Salts Mill and Saltaire either with friends or alone. There was a gorgeous fabric company, called Skopos, that had a mill shop there. I don't know what's happened to them since but at the time, they made wonderful fabrics, furniture, sofas and chairs. It must have been New Year's Day in 1996 when I staggered in there with a whopping hangover from my party the night before; slumped on a huge cream sofa and when someone came over to see if I needed any help... I said I wanted to buy the sofa - partly because the thought of moving was too painful - but within a short space of time, I'd handed over a deposit and committed myself to it. It cost me an arm and a leg but for years, it was my pride and joy. It was big enough to seat about five people and had feather-filled cushions and was almost as wide as a single bed from front to back. My excellent sister bought if from me when Cesar and I moved to Spain (the first time) and it has served her family well too. And it's still going strong in the student home of my niece and I get a glimpse of it now and again on her Facebook photos. It could have come from anywhere, but it didn't - it came from Saltaire.
Of course I've been back - on two out of the three times I've been home since we moved out to Spain. We had planned to go this time but as we had so little time with family and friends, we gave it a miss. Shame.
It could have been left to fall down, it could have been made into offices - there are some there - it could have become a museum. But it's become something new and alive in its own right - and last year, celebrated its 25th Anniversary. Sadly, Jonathan Silver died young - just 10 years after he opened Salts Mill. During those 10 years, he was always there - mainly on the ground floor where the Hockney pictures were exhibited - working as a shop assistant selling postcards, books and artist's materials. His brother, Robin, ran one of the upstairs areas that was filled with the most amazingly wonderful things for the home and he and Jonathan's widow, Maggie, have maintained and developed the momentum created by Jonathan. Don't assume I'm on first name terms with any of them, but my regular presence in those early days was recognised and acknowledged and even when I didn't visit much when the children were very young, on my last visit in 2010, the manager of the Diner greeted me again as if it was just days since he'd last seen me. Attention of this sort feels very personal because indeed, the place is so huge and there are so many visitors, that to notice any individual is quite a feat!
My children will still wax lyrical about the milkshakes they had in the Diner and we would lose Mateo for hours in the vast bookshop. I loved the smell, the space, the echoing, talking walls, the light and the worn floors. I loved the art, the music, the attention to detail found in Salts Mill. And of Saltaire itself, it epitomises all the good things I love about Yorkshire - Victorian architecture, stone-built, straight-rowed houses, cricket pitches and big parks, Methodist and Congregational chapels, wonderful food and antique shops, gift shops and charity shops, tea shops and toy shops...is holds an important place in my memories.
(I know this happens to old people because they've told me...but I worry that I've already reached that phase in my life where I can't remember what I just did, but these old memories are as fresh as ever.)
Saltaire - a real memory lane - thank you, Janice, for tripping it for me!