21st March, 2019 will be remembered as the time Todmorden U3A was hit once again by the benign storytelling tornado that is Maria Glot, historical raconteur extraordinaire.
Her primary subject was what happened to Saltaire and Salt’s Mill after the death of Titus Snr; her secondary subject – or parallel plotline – was the ‘The Curse of Milner Field’, a story intricately linked with the fates of several owners and managers of Salt’s Mill.
Titus Salt Jnr built himself a magnificent Xanadu of a mansion in Shipley Glen in 1869 which he called Milner Field after the manor house he had demolished. But he died young of a heart attack in 1887.
Shortly after, a downturn in the wool trade resulted in a near collapse of the business which passed eventually into the ownership of James Roberts who made a killing on uniforms for the army in the Boer War and again in 1917 when he sold redundant blue-grey serge to the newly-formed Royal Flying Corps.
But moving into Milner Field did Roberts no good: three sons all died young, the remaining one was badly injured during World War One, and his daughter’s lover was shot by her jealous husband.
Roberts sold the mill to Edward Gates whose wife died a few weeks after they moved into Milner Field. Gates himself died from blood poisoning following an injury to a big toe.
Gates’ successor, Arthur Hollins, apparently hiccoughed to death and his wife predeceased him, dying of blood poisoning. (Or was it a gall bladder infection and pneumonia respectively!)
At this point, the house became unsellable, and Salt’s Mill’s next owner, Sir Henry Whitehead, chose to live in Harrogate. The house fell into disrepair, survived dynamiting and was finally demolished. Today it lies in ruins. And is haunted – Maria told us with great authority! – by a thwarted 18th century lover, who cursed the house and then hanged herself.
Salt’s Mill itself survived until 1986 when it closed because large lorries could not access it. It was bought by Jonathan Silver in 1987 and redeveloped into a technology, business and retail hub, the David Hockney 1853 gallery, a museum, and dining venue.
Maria has been involved with Salt’s Mill and Saltaire for many years and is proud to have been part of the team that achieved World Heritage Status for Saltaire in 2001. Her deep love for the place and its people is evident in her talks, and we have been privileged to listen to her twice.
U3A Todmorden’s next members’ meeting will be on Thursday, April 18th, 2018 in the Central Methodist Church Hall in Todmorden at 1.45. Our guest speaker will be Tony Waltham, and his topic ‘Volcanoes of Italy’.