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Titus Salt

Sir Titus Salt is undoubtedly the founder of the modern alpaca industry. Alpacas had faded into the background of history after the Spanish invasion of South America. Then, in 1834 the Englishman named Titus Salt noticed some bales of alpaca fleece at a Liverpool warehouse. Salt was already involved in the textile industry, owning four textile mills.

Salt experimented with the alpaca fleece and found that it wove an exquisite cloth, one highly suitable for making expensive dresses for the English upper class. With the the manufacture of this alpaca cloth he became one of the richest men in Yorkshire.


Salt and his alpaca played an important role at this stage of the Industrial Revolution.  Conditions for the working class were terrible, and those working in British textile mills were subject to unsafe working conditions and low wages.

Salt had taken over his father's business and in time turned it into the largest employer in Bradford. In 1848 Salt became mayor of Bradford. The smoke and pollution emanating from local mills was a horror to behold, and Salt tried unsuccessfully to get this pollution cleaned up by passing laws requiring the use of the Rodda Smoke Burner - perhaps one of the earliest efforts at environmental legislation.

Other factory owners resisted fiercely, and Salt decided to build an entirely new mill and company town. 

The result was Saltaire, built on the banks of the River Aire in 1850. This new facility provided much better living and working conditions for Salt's employees.  The town still exists today, and is listed as a World Heritage site.

In 1869 Salt was created a baronet by Queen Victoria. He died in 1876. Salt, and his alpacas, played on important role in changing the working conditions of 19th century England. He supported the move to reduce working hours and was the first employer in the Bradford area to introduce the ten hour day. However, Salt held conservative views on some issues. He refused, for instance, permission for his workers to join trade unions.

Salt has been called "The Great Paternalist". A much-loved individual, it is said 100,000 people attended his funeral. He is buried at Saltaire Congregational Church.

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"A short fat man passed in pursuit of her - an elderly man in a black alpaca jacket that billowed..."

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