Imagined utopias: the history and future of Britain’s model towns

My article on Saltaire, Victorian philanthropists and utopian villages, for the New Statesman…. 

The most illicit alcoholic drink to be enjoyed in West Yorkshire is that taken in Don’t Tell Titus, the bar named in honour of the industrial philanthropist Titus Salt, who established the model village of Saltaire in 1851. It’s a playful nod to this Bradford suburb’s beginnings as a Victorian utopia constructed by Salt for his workers along a staunchly puritanical philosophy. Abstinence here was key.

   Saltaire forms the centre piece in writer Jacqueline Yallop’s new book Dreamstreets: A Journey Through Britain’s Village Utopias, which studies a handful of the 400 model settlements built by the wealthy in close proximity to mines, factories and mills, including Nenthead, Port Sunlight and Portmeirion.

   “Saltaire conjures up very clearly the model of the mid-century mill town,” Yallop tells me from Aberystwyth, where she is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing. “It’s certainly the most ‘Victorian’ of the model villages in its form and conception. As I mention in the book, it strikes you as a kind of stalwart Victorian gent, very well turned out and impeccably mannered. Salt himself talked very little about his vision, however, so it’s difficult to know how far it realises his intentions – or indeed what his intentions were.”

Read the full piece here. 

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