Eating, reading, shopping, ambling round galleries and looking at lovely stuff in a wonderful environment adds up to the perfect day out for me.
It’s why I love Salts Mill in Saltaire. It offers all the above and every aspect is outstanding, from the food and the books to the Hockneys and the best homeware shop in Yorkshire.
At its heart is an inspirational story and two extraordinary men. Built in 1853 by textile magnate and philanthropist, Sir Titus Salt, it was a model mill that cared for its workers. By 1987 the enormous building was semi-derelict. It was rescued by Jonathan Silver, who turned the vast edifice into a diverse, multi-functional space that is home to businesses, shops, eateries, the Hockney Gallery and exhibition space. It employs 1,500 people.
Jonathan passed away in 1997 but his family and the mill’s board of directors continue his work and uphold the highest standards, while welcoming visitors from all over the world. Entry is free. www.saltsmill.org.uk
The Gorgeous Guide
I usually start on the ground floor at the 1853 Gallery, which is home to one of the largest collections of David Hockney’s art. He was a great friend of Jonathan Silver’s and this personal connection has resonance. His wonderful paintings and prints dominate the walls and reflect his earlier days in L.A. onwards to his recent work in the Yorkshire Wolds. Tables are dotted round the floor space and are filled with art and design books, postcards and notebooks along with paint, brushes and other tools of the artist’s trade. It’s both stimulating and relaxing, as you slow your pace and shuffle round, stopping, staring and starting again.
Next we head for the second floor and its many delights. We always use the back stairs and so first up is Salts Book and Poster Shop. This is a large and well edited collection of books and magazines aand there’s an excellent children’s section.
If you love reading you’ll find it very difficult to tear yourselves away, but by this time you’ll be in need of refreshment. You’ve got three choices. We adore Salts Diner, which is next to the book shop. The service is fantastic, as is the food and drink, which is why it is always busy. If there is a queue you could try the nearby Espresso Bar for coffee, tea and cakes or pop upstairs to the third floor and Cafe Opera, which has a good menu, including lovely homemade hummus and some excellent fish dishes.
Refuelled, we take in whatever exhibitions there are on offer on the third and second floors. These include one dedicated to the history of Saltaire. The rest change regularly and are always interesting. When we visited Gallery 2, there was a collection of paintings by Henry Marvell Carr entitled “The Textile Process”, which show mill workers busy spinning and weaving.
Next, we get down to some shopping. There’s everything from an antiques shop, a bike shop, early music shop and Zeba, a great rug and fabric retailer. My favourites include Trek and Trail, an outdoors shop that sells high quality gear, including Brasher walking boots. I also love Kath Libbert’s jewellery shop, which is full of exciting pieces by designer makers.
Finally, having saved the best till last, I head to The Home. This fabulous homeware store is run by Jonathan Silver’s brother Robin and his wife Patricia. They have a passion for good design and their knowledge on the subject is second to none. Their store stocks everything from high-end classics by luminaries like Charles and Ray Eames and Mies Van Der Rohe to cookware, gifts and greetings cards. They all have one thing in common – they have passed the “good design” test.
New in is the latest range by G Plan, which are remakes of their mid-century designs. Centre stage is the Sixty Two chair, which the staff refer to as “the super villain chair” thanks to its starring role as Blofeld’s seat in the Bond film “You Only Live Twice”. It costs £1,445 and is made in England. Next to this are the ’58 armchair and sofa.
“They were first made in 1958 and they are still made in Britain in exactly the same way with the same springs. Only the inside has changed slightly to make sure they adhere to modern safety standards,” says Robin, a great raconteur, who really does know what he’s talking about. www.thehomeonline.co.uk