To understand this strange obsession we need to understand Sir Titus Salt, Bart. Here’s an introduction from guest blogger Charles Dickens (TL:DR Salt buys alpaca wool, make cloth, gets rich):
One day — we won’t care what day it was, or even what week, or month, though things of far less national importance have been chronicled to the very half minute — one day, a plain business-looking young man, with an intelligent face and a quiet, reserved manner, was walking alone through those same warehouses at Liverpool, when his eye fell upon some of the superannuated horse-hair projecting from one of the ugly dirty bales; some lady rat, more delicate than her neighbours, had found it rather coarser than usual, and had persuaded her lord and master to eject the portion from her resting-place. Our friend took it up, looked at it, felt it, smelt it, rubbed it, pulled it about; in fact, he did all but taste it, and he would have done that if it had suited his purpose, for he was “Yorkshire.” Having held it up to the light, and held it away from the light, and held it in all sorts of positions, and done all sorts of cruelties to it, as though it had been his most deadly enemy and he was feeling quite vindictive; he placed a handful or two in his pocket and walked calmly away, evidently intending to put the stuff to some excruciating private tortures at home.
What particular experiments he tried with this fibrous substance, I am not exactly in a position to relate, nor does it much signify; but the sequel was, that the same quiet business-looking man was seen to enter the office of C. W. and F. Foozle and Co., and ask for the head of the firm. When he asked that portion of the house if he would accept of eightpence per pound for the entire contents of the three hundred and odd frowsy, dusty bags of nondescript wool, the authority interrogated felt so confounded, that he could not have told if he were the head or the tail of the firm. At first he fancied our friend had come for the express purpose of quizzing him; then that he was an escaped lunatic, and thought seriously of calling for the police; but eventually it ended in his making over to him the bill of lading for the goods in consideration of the price offered.
It was quite an event in the little dark office of C. W. and F. Foozle and Co., which had its supply of light (of a very inferior quality) from the grim old church-yard. All the establishment stole a peep at the buyer of the “South American stuff.” The chief clerk had the curiosity to speak to him and hear him reply. The cashier touched his coat-tails; the book-keeper, a thin man in spectacles, examined his hat and gloves; the porter openly grinned at him. When the quiet purchaser had departed, C. W. and F. Foozle and Co. shut themselves up, and gave all their clerks a holiday.
But if the sellers had cause for rejoicing, not less so had the buyer. Reader, those three hundred and odd bales of queer-looking South American stuff contained “Alpaca Wool,” at that date entirely unknown to manufacturers, and which it would still have been but for the fortunate enterprise of one intelligent, courageous man. That bold manufacturer was Mr. Titus Salt, in those days a mere beginner, with a very few thousands to aid him in his upward career, but at present one of the wealthiest amongst the wealthy men of Bradford in Yorkshire. His fortune has been altogether built up by the aid of this same “Alpaca,” to the manufacture of which he has for the last dozen years devoted the whole of his time and energies.
Salt started his manufacturing of alpaca cloth (actually a silk or cotton warp and alpaca weft) in Bradford, but in the mid 19th century that city was horribly polluted both from industrial and human effluents, and life expectancy may have been as low as eighteen years. Salt was disgusted by this, and tried to get environmental protection laws passed, but the Screw The Workers lobby was too strong. He gave up on Bradford, and built his own model town of Saltaire a few miles away. What looks today like grimy rows of terraced housing…
… was a haven of luxury compared with the slums of Bradford. The houses had two or more bedrooms, and running water, and gas for lighting and cooking, and luxury of luxuries, every house had its own toilet. Conditions in the great mill were better than Bradford as well.
High chimneys took the smoke from the steam engine away from the houses, and the work day as as little as ten hours.
Everything a community needs, except of course pubs, bookies, and brothels, because Sir Titus did not hold with his workers quaffing the demon drink, gambling, or fornicating. So of course, today one of the bars is called
This morning we moved the boat closer to Saltaire and walked over to the mill, which among other things now houses the largest permanent collection of works by David Hockney, who was born in Bradford. There are two huge galleries devoted to his work, plus other stuff scattered around the building.
One thing I like about Hockney is that his entire life he has been experimenting with different styles and technologies. I was amused to see that in one immense work constructed of 144 faxed pages he had doxed himself, revealing his fax number from the late eighties.
He made his name while he was living in Southern California. These days, however, Hockney had been returning to his Yorkshire roots, particularly in the springtime. One gallery is devoted to large prints of his iPad sketches of the countryside, one made on each day of 2011 from Jan 1st to May 31st.
The mill, was a confusing mix of galleries, museums, gift shops, and cafes, sometimes sharing the same space. For instance, the logo on the menu of the Salt Diner is credited to “David Hockney (felt tip on paper napkin)”.
After lunch we walked through the park, admired strange decorations on the bandstand…
… and found ourselves chugging up Shipley Glen Tramway, a funicular railway that has been operating since 1895.
A little walking from the top let to some good views, and a nature center with a pretty little pond in the garden.
Do the really have to have a sign saying Danger, Unfenced Pond? Couldn’t they just let a few kids get their feet wet as a warning to the others?
Back down the hill to the park, where I tried to explain the rules of cricket to Paula.
It was complicated by the fact that the digital scoreboard was not working, and the analog scoreboard was going backwards. It made, “Who’s winning?” which is rarely a cut and dried question in cricket, into an impossible conundrum.