What was the original purpose of Victoria Hall?
Adult education was an area of significant interest for Titus Salt. In 1869 he commissioned the magnificent Saltaire Club and Institute (now known as Victoria Hall) to inspire learning throughout his workers’ lives.
Designed by Lockwood. & Mawson, the building rivals the Church as an iconic structure. It was completed in 1871 at a cost of £25,000 (£1.3 million today). It is flanked by streets named after its designers.
The building contained recreational rooms for billiards, chess and draughts. The main hall with its original balconies on three sides could seat 800. A library, art studios, classrooms and a gymnasium were also part of the design. There was even a drill room and firing range for the 39th West Riding Volunteers.
Titus intended to supply the ‘advantages of the public house without its evils’. Democratically run and inexpensive to join, the Saltaire Institute became a meeting place for numerous clubs and societies. It was the venue of choice for concerts, theatrical performances, political rallies and grand events such as the annual conversazione.
Held in trust by the Salt Foundation, Victoria Hall was leased for decades to Shipley Urban District Council and then Bradford Council. It held the main library for Shipley, and kitchens preparing meals for many schools. The gymnasium was well-used for gymnastics and other sports training.
Victoria Hall is managed now by Shipley College on behalf of the Salt Foundation. In its long history the building has survived many transitions and never closed. With a small staff it hosts a wide variety of social and educational activities. Its colourful, spacious rooms are popular choices for civil weddings.