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Roberts Family Collection

Items from the time of Sir James Roberts

James Roberts was one of four Bradford businessmen who bought the failing textile business from the Salt family in 1893. Within ten years, Roberts was the sole owner. Under his leadership, the business and Saltaire thrived and met the huge challenges of the First World War.

Thanks to the present-day Roberts family, the Collection has access to a rich archive of photographs, letters, newscuttings, diaries and business documents that provide views of James Roberts as a textile magnate, family man, and great philanthropist.

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The Roberts Family Collection

James Roberts was born in1848 into humble circumstances in Oakworth, West Yorkshire. He went on to become an exceptionally successful textile businessman, trading very profitably with Russia during the late nineteenth century. In 1893 he was one of four Bradford businessmen who purchased Sir Titus Salt, Bart. Sons and Co. Limited from the Salt family, which included the village of Saltaire as well as the textile business. From 1902 Sir James was the sole owner and guided the development of the business and Saltaire until 1918 when he sold the business to another group of 'wool men'.

Throughout these years, Sir James was a proud family man, although he suffered repeated family tragedies. He was a generous philanthropist donating money for a wide range of causes, including a Barnado's Home, a new cricket pavillion for Saltaire, a Chair of Russian at the University of Leeds, and the purchase of Haworth Parsonage, home of the literary Brontë sisters, for the Brontë Society. With typical humility, in 1903 Sir James commissioned a statue not of himself but of Sir Titus Salt to be placed in Saltaire Park. In 1920 he donated the park to the council for public use in perpetuity, renaming it as Roberts Park in commemoration of (again not himself) his beloved deceased son Bertram.

Sir James's personal archive is held by the present-day Roberts family. The family have very kindly allowed many items from this private collection to be copied by the Saltaire Collection to be made available to researchers and the public. We are very grateful to the Roberts family for permitting this access.

Read a brief biography of Sir James

Sir James Roberts documents

We have copies of several important sets of documents that give a great insight into the business and personal life of Sir James Roberts.

His Letter book contains many copies of letters sent by Sir James during the period 1914-1917 during World War One, a period of great personal and business challenges.

A book of Newspaper cuttings for the period 1905-1918 provides a view of what was important to Sir James during much of the time when he was sole owner of Salts Mill and Saltaire. The cuttings cover business, social, political and philanthropic activities featuring Sir James and other members of his family.

The Baker letters are a set of correspondence with James Baker who acted as a local business agent following Sir James's sale of the textile business and Saltaire in 1918. Sir James moved to Sussex after his retirement but for several years retained extensive land and financial interests in the Saltaire area.

The Collection also has copies of several business, financial and legal documents covering matters of real estate dealings, tax records, investments and family matters.

On a more personal note, we have a copy of the first installment of a diary kept by Sir James on a trip to Australia.

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The Roberts family

As a personal archive, the Roberts Family Collection contains many items related to individual members of the family and their activities.

There are a large number of family photographs, inlcuding: studio portraits of Sir James and his children at various stages of their lives; the wedding of Sir James's son Bertram in 1903; and group photographs of family members in various locations.

We have copies of some family-related documents, including birth and wedding certificates.

View all family-related items in the Roberts Family Collection

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H2-066: Sir James Roberts
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