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Bowtell Collection

The textile industry in photos, documents and objects

Albert Bowtell worked in the accounts department of Salts Mill for 28 years up to its end as a textile mill in 1985. He was very interested in the history of the textiles business and gave illustrated, entertaining talks on the story of Saltaire.

Albert sadly died in 2003 but in 2007 his widow Joyce kindly donated his extensive archive of photographs, original documents, Salts-company objects and newscuttings. Together, these provide an important insight into the textile industry and Salts Mill.

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Textile industry photographs

The highlight, perhaps, of Albert's collection are over 50 original company photographs of the working mill from the early twentieth century. There are images of most of the stages of textile production, from wool sorting, through scouring, combing, spinning and weaving up to mending, dyeing and finishing. But there are also other photographs of supporting facilities including engineers' workshops and the turbines that powered the Mill.

In sharp contrast to the activity of the earlier images, the collection also contains colour photographs taken as textile production ceased at Salts Mill in the mid-1980s and rooms were being cleared out.

There are also some photographs of the exterior of Salts Mill, some with workers, mainly from the early twentieth century.

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Textile industry documents

The Bowtell Collection contains a small but wide-ranging set of business documents. In 1923 the textile operation was floated on the stock exchange and became Salts (Saltaire) Limited. We have several directors reports giving the financial status of the company between 1931 and 1935. For comparison, there are similar reports from the 1960s when Salts (Saltaire) Limited was part of the textiles empire of Illingworth, Morris and Company.

There is a miscellany of branded company paperwork, including compliments slips, notepaper, alpaca designs, company cheques, and staff notifications. Advertising materials include company brochures, large-scale posters, and branded Christmas Cards for sending to customers.

View all textile industry documents in the Bowtell Collection

Textile industry objects

There is also a wide range of textile-related objects in the Bowtell Collection. They include different types of advertising and public-relations items, given away to cusotmers, including branded key rings, clothes brushes, and ash trays.

More directly involved in textile production are items such as a sample of Saltaire-branded cloth, burling irons used in the mending process, and a magnificent Fowler 'Textile calculator', complete with its instructions.

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History of Salts Mill and Saltaire

Albert had a real interest in the history of Salts Mill and Saltaire. He gave illustrated talks to the public, and the Collection has a set of slides that he used, covering everything from alpacas through cloth production in the mill to the homes of the Salt family.

We have a wide range of newspaper cuttings with articles on Sir Titus Salt, royal visits, and schools in the village. Unsurprisingly, many concern Salts Mill including its decline and refurbishment, and the very public dispute between the majority share-controller Pamela Mason and the 'Yorkshire Directors' that raged in the late 1970s and early 1980s (The Collection also contains officially-issued documents from the directors concerning this).

And there is a small but quite stunning set of objects from the Royal Yorkshire Jubilee Exhibition of 1887.

View all general history items in the Bowtell Collection

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