Monday, 6 August 2012

Milner Field Revisited

The South Lodge

The later managing directors of Salts Mill, Saltaire, married ladies whose families were more minor members of the peerage.

Eva Siggs had many siblings and she was one of the youngest members of her family, living at 98 Acre Lane, Lambeth, Greater London.  She was born in 1874.  In 1900, she married Ernest Henry Gates.  Their son, Ernest Everard Gates was born in 1903. 

In later life, Eva Gates suffered ill health; her sister, Laura, also mentioned in the peerage along with her father George, died somewhat prematurely in 1921.  Eva died around October 1923, presumably at the Milner Field home in Bingley.  

Ernest Gates met with an accident, injuring his foot and after going in to a private nursing home in Eldon Place, Bradford, he died on April 1, 1925.  His Will was proved later that year, when his son and successor, Ernest Everard Gates had moved back to Norfolk.

Ernest Gates’ family had an ancestral coat of arms and his family home was Old Buckenham Hall, Attleborough, Norfolk.  The residence later became a school which was destroyed by fire in 1952.

There is a rather crude ‘spoof’ Facebook page in existence suggesting that Eva Gates haunts Milner Field as she used to sit in the conservatory and would often request the gardeners to place bets on horse races for her, or so some say.

A book written some time ago about Hollins and Viyella, the latter a mixed fabric and later a brand-name also associated with a company called Courtaulds, mentions the family bearing the name formerly referred to.

Why would Eva Gates or indeed Annie Hollins haunt the ruins of Milner Field?  Well, it is difficult to say.  Perhaps they hoped for more from their physical life than it would ultimately offer either, or perhaps their illnesses made more of a dent in the ether.

The most obvious culprit for the destruction of anyone who later lived at Milner Field would be Titus Salt Junior.  He overspent and ruined himself, entertained royalty and funding his mining activities in America with the Dayton Coal and Iron Company.  

Yet he put on a splendid Jubilee Exhibition which lost him a lot of money and it is very sad because you can see the human side of him and his efforts in this marvellous attempt to create an amazing exhibition.  The problem was that, perhaps from a marketing perspective, Saltaire was too small, the exhibition should have been held in Shipley or Bradford.  Shortly after the exhibition closed, in November 1887, Titus Junior was found dead in the billiard room at Milner Field aged only 44.  

James Roberts is the dark horse; later Sir James Roberts, he was created a baronet by the same person who had been entertained by Titus Junior, the former Prince of Wales, King Edward VII.  Mr Roberts was a man from supposedly humble beginnings in Haworth, working his way up and looking for opportunities to take over both Salts Mill and as many of the directors’ residences as he could.  After wrestling The Knoll, in Baildon, from fallen Salts director Charles Stead, he then set his sights on Milner Field.

Sir James did suffer family tragedies whilst living at Milner Field, but he and his wife came through personally unscathed, owning both Strathallan Castle in Scotland and Fairlight Hall.  Both lived to reach a decent age.  He also bought the Bronte parsonage in Haworth and presented it to the local council, to be used as a museum. 

James Roberts was the man that the Salt brothers, Titus and Edward, should have kept the closest eye on.  Anyone who looks in to the situation closely can see that James Roberts waited on the misfortune of others, namely Titus and Edward Salt and even Charles Stead, in order to take what they had and keep it for himself.  Like Julius Caesar or Octavian, the Roman Emperors of classical times, he humiliated the Salts and Stead, building his own empire at Salts Mill. Some would call him the perfect businessman. 

As far as hauntings go, we have a lot of disgruntled persons both incarnate and discarnate, roaming around.  Then perhaps we forget to mention that Catherine Salt as a member of the Halifax-based Crossley carpet family, even in late Victorian and Edwardian times, would have expected a be shown a good deal of respect.  As a woman and lone parent, upon the death of her husband, she apparently had to mortgage Milner Field to her brother.  Upon vacating the property, James Roberts assumed residence.

Mrs Catherine Salt would have experienced an acute loss of status following the death of her husband and she would still have been young enough to marry again, but would not have been seen as a wealthy enough prospect by suitors within her social circle.  She may therefore have become both justifiably bitter and disillusioned to see others in her husband’s place at Salts Mill. It must have hurt her.

Who goes (there), you decide!