A Song of Saltaire expresses the optimism, romanticism and high moral tone of utopian socialism in the Victorian age.
Sir Titus Salt was a textile mill owner and one of the largest employers in Bradford. Industrial expansion had caused Bradford to grow massively in the first half of the 19th century. Industry also produced high levels of pollution which caused serious health problems in the local population. Unlike most industrialists Salt was concerned about this damage to health.
In 1848 Salt became mayor of Bradford, and attempted persuade the council to force local factory owners to take measures against the damage they were causing to local health. The council was unwilling to take action and Salt decided to leave Bradford.
In 1850 he announced plans to build a model industrial community called Saltaire at a nearby beauty spot. Saltaire was built in twenty years. Its textile mill was the largest and most modern in Europe. Measures were taken to reduce noise, dust and dirt from the factory floor. Non polluting smoke burners were used to protect the air quality in the neighbourhood.
The workers were provided with housing, a park, church, school, hospital, library and a range of shops for the workers. Homes were supplied with fresh water and gas and each had an outside toilet. Public baths and wash-houses were built to ensure good sanitation levels.
There are scarcely ever any arrears of rent. Infant mortality is very low compared with that in Bradford, from which place the majority of the hands have come. Illegitimate births are rare. The tone and sense of self-respect of the work-people is much greater than that of factory hands generally. Their wages are not high, but they enable them to secure more of the comforts and decencies of life than they could elsewhere.
(James Hole, The Homes of the Working Classes, with suggestions for their improvement , 1866, by permission of the British Library Board, shelfmark: 8276.f.16)