Jonathan Silver was a successful local entrepreneur with interests in menswear, antiques and art. In 1987 he succeeded in buying Salts Mill at Saltaire from the then current owner Illingworth Morris. The spectacular cloth factory created by Sir Titus Salt in 1853 spanned 17 acres but all production had ceased and the building lay empty.
Having the idea of creating an art gallery at Salts Mill he persuaded family acquaintance David Hockney to lend some pictures to establish the 1853 Gallery. Building on the initial positive public response, Salts Mill has subsequently grown to accommodate further galleries, a book shop, diner, independent retailers, exhibition areas and extensive workspace accommodating a wide range of tenant businesses.
Silver had previously partnered with Ernest Hall in the regeneration of Dean Clough mill in Halifax which became the blue print for Salts mill. Silver had created and run a very successful bar called Crossleys and gained valuable experience including the marketing and letting of space at Dean Clough. The business relationship became strained by the two partners’ differing styles and approaches. Hall bought out Silver’s share of the business in 1984 although they continued to remain firm friends.
Silver was an enigmatic, energetic and often difficult-to-work-with visionary who had a gift for making things happen. He felt a strong personal responsibility to finish what he had started and to honour what Titus Salt had previously created. Jonathan Silver died of cancer in 1997 at the age of just 47. Salts Mill continues to be operated by members of the Silver family.