Saltaire United Reformed Church is truly one of the nation’s most precious Victorian architectural gems. The church, built by Sir Titus Salt in 1859 near Bradford, West Yorkshire, is a unique example of Italianate religious architecture. It boasts many architecturally and historically important features and has been described as a classic “Cathedral of Congregationalism”.
This Grade 1 Listed Building (in the same category as Hampton Court Palace and Salisbury Cathedral) lies in the valley of the River Aire, at the foot of the Pennine Moors and at the entrance to the Yorkshire Dales. Paid for out of his own pocket by Sir Titus Salt, it is a focal point of the “model” village, Saltaire, that he built for the workers at his huge mill to ensure their spiritual needs were catered for.
Sir Titus commissioned architects Lockwood and Mawson to design the building, as they had designed a number of other important Italianate buildings in Bradford City centre. The entrance is up six steps under a portico supported by six unfluted Corinthian columns and topped by a fretted tower with cupola. Fittingly, the Mausoleum built onto the church contains the remains of Sir Titus Salt himself.
Inside are hollow Corinthian columns with beautiful Scagliola exteriors, an Italian technique implemented by Mr. Dolan of Manchester. Two ornate chandeliers of ormolu and cut glass hang from the ceiling, of such great weight that additional roof trusses had to be inserted to support them. Originally lit by gas, they were made by Hausburg of Liverpool.
The existing organ, built by Peter Conacher and Co. of Huddersfield, was installed in 1890, rebuilt at the end of the Second World War, and again in 1991 by Michael Fletcher, a local organ builder, now the church organist, the cost being raised by church members.
To preserve Saltaire United Reformed Church as both a living church and a priceless piece of our heritage, an ongoing programme of renovation has to be maintained. In 1999, a stage of the renovation, costing £540,000 was completed.
Only by visiting Saltaire United Reformed Church can you fully appreciate its architectural splendours and the reason why it provides such a welcoming centre for worship and praise which reaches out across religious boundaries.
The Church has a strong congregation and members keep the building open throughout the summer months in the afternoons for tourists to visit. It remains open on Sunday afternoons during the whole year. Tea, coffee, biscuits and cakes are on sale when the building is open on Sundays. A small shop and exhibition displays old prints from the history of the church and Saltaire. Postcards and guides and other items are available for sale. Parties can be accommodated at other times by special arrangement. Why not start your group visit with coffee at the church followed by a tour of Saltaire?