The Saltaire Institute was built between 1867-71 at a cost of £18,366, and was officially opened on the 21st November 1872. Designed by Lockwood and Mawson and built by John Barrie of Scarborough, the building was opened by Titus Salt Jr. It functioned as a social club and an educational institute, with the advantages of a public house without its evils – for innocent and intelligent recreation. Titus Jr. stated it had been furnished at "my father’s expense."
It was managed by a committee of 8 people appointed by firm (Salts), and 8 appointed by Saltaire Literary Institute. The Institute was free from any political bias and its objective was to provide the greatest good to the greatest number.
Titus Salt Jr “No one should seek membership with the selfish object of promoting alone his own pleasure or advantage without due regard to the wishes of others.” The building is to furnish the means of advancement in what is GOOD, NOBLE, and VIRTUOUS.”
The Institute (now known as Victoria Hall) is a symmetrical T-plan building of two storeys and a basement. It is constructed of ashlar rock-faced stone, with a Welsh slate roof. The front façade has a central bay that breaks forward with an elaborate square tower and pyramidal ashlar roof. The central portal has a tympanum, with a cartouche bearing the Salt coat of arms, flanked by carved figures by Thomas Milnes of ‘Art’ and ‘Science’.
The first floor round-arched windows have carved head keystones. The entrance hall has a large, stone dog leg staircase with turned balusters. The main hall has an elaborately plastered, coffered roof. Outside, on the front corners of the property, two sculpted lions representing ‘War’ and ‘Peace’, also designed byThomas Milnes, sit on large square bases. They sit opposite a matching pair in front of the school, which represent ‘Determination’ and ‘Vigilance’.
The main entrance is on the west side of the building, via stone steps. In the foyer, there's a clock, constructed by George Salt who presented it to the Institute and is still in situ in working order. On this (ground) floor, to the left was the Reading Room with daily newspapers and current literature. This room is now known as the Fluke Room after Phil and Pam Fluke. The room on the right functioned as the the library with an adjoining classroom. Ahead was the lecture/concert hall with a stage with a capacity for 800 people. It had a balcony, which has since been dismantled.
On the first floor at the front the 2 rooms were for the School of Art for elementary and advanced students. There was a Billiard Room with 4 tables and a Committee Room.
On the lower ground floor: a lecture room for 200 people was dedicated to science with a connecting laboratory with apparatus. There were rooms for chess and draughts, a bagatelle room and a smoking room.
The 39th West Riding Rifle Volunteers, who were established in 1859 practised their drills in the drill room and gymnasium. They had an armoury where they stored their Snider rifles. In the gymnasium there were trapeze, horizontal bars and hurdles – everything necessary for “muscular development”.
There was space for the curator to live.
To access and participate in the Institute, there was a quarterly subscription, with fees from 2s 6d per quarter. It was open to all.
Salt was made a Baronet in 1869 and was therefore entitled to an official coat of arms. The Institute bears the official coat of arms which includes the palm of a hand.
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