Tuesday, August 8, 2023


1982 or 3 and I was embarking on family life, although still a volunteer teacher and the only white face in a community of 1000 souls.

There were no alphabet books with an African theme to my knowledge. I was toying with the idea of a dual language picture book. It didn't go much further than this. I've always been much better at starting projects than completing them.

Shona and English, for those who don't recognise the mother tongue of most Zimbabweans. I was just thinking aloud about the concept here, doodling in my pocket notebook, much as I type these notes into my phone right now.

Filling out an idle moment with hopes, dreams and memories of this fleeting life. This one is for my daughter Wendy and for her cousins Cathy and Kundai, who stayed with us as young girls.



Titus Salt was a man of business in the Yorkshire mould. "Salt preserves" and his family dealt in the business of preservatives, chemicals of various kinds. Yorkshire was of course sheep rearing country and no doubt they supplied chemicals for treatment of fleeces.

At some point his father moved sideways into the wool business itself. As the industrial revolution took off there was a voracious appetite for more raw wool. Father and son explored new sources of fibre including Russia and South America.

Titus cut his teeth as a middle man, buying and selling, but frustrated by lack of vision among his clients, decided to set up his own factory. He chose a location some distance from the grime and congestion of Bradford, but with excellent transport links.

Here he built Salts Mill, and the model village of Saltaire. Specialising in Alpaca, a luxury cloth made with wool that others rejected. Setting standards for treating his workforce with respect. Working class housing with a hint of italianate style and all the mod cons of the 1850s.

It's an interesting story and a worthy topic for a BIM pencil study.


Fred Slag was a name we found on a gravestone somewhere on the outskirts of Sheffield. Was Etty his wife or his sister? Did they die in childhood as so many others? Can't remember.

But the names appealed. A stage name perhaps, or a character in some graphic novel that I could write. Partly modelled on Noddy Holder of the Slade. Briefly one of my favourite bands as I leaned in to my northern working class roots.

Now I've brought them back again as something closer to their original selves. Simple Yorkshire folk from the Victorian era. Characters to breathe some life into my BIM pencil studies of terraced housing.


Saltaire, the monument that Titus built to Victorian philanthropy. I'm not sure there are any deep secrets here. Ordered design with a hint of classical detail. A variety of house types, arranged sensibly with the slightly larger ones as bookends.

It must have been a hard life by our standards. Long working hours, washing clothes by hand, heating and cooking with coal. Bring in a new bucket from the shed, clean out the grate each morning, constant tending with poker, fireguard and scuttle. The pot calling the kettle black through a thick coating of soot.

I'm just old enough to remember the yearly visits of the chimney sweep. Covering all the furniture with sheets while he fed his brush up with its cane extensions, screwed in one by one.

Don't knock gas. It's a good clean fuel to help with the complex energy transition process that started during my teenage years and will continue until my grandchildren are old and grey like me. Hurry up and go slow. More haste less speed.

No shortage of ancient wisdom condensed into little nuggets. How did I get onto this? 🤣🤣🤣

Blame the BIM pencil.



Work in progress.

The corner block as originally built had two homes in an interlocking arrangement. The wings were cut back in modern times to create a single unit plan.

Along the street front the height drops to two floors, with a cellar (not yet modelled) Four houses at one level, then taking up the street slope at another 3 story unit, which also projects forward.

Simple "palace front" devices to give some extra gravitas to the main streets. It's very effective, and the more I study Saltaire, the more I see what a significant achievement it was 170 years ago.

So glad I was able to do all that data gathering back in 2007. Is it really that long? My how time slips away!


No comments:

Post a Comment

I've been getting a lot of spam so had to tighten up comments permissions. Sorry for any inconvenience. I do like to hear from real people