Introduction to Salt

Brine is the source for salt, a form of saline water found naturally in the geological deposits underlying Middlewich. At certain locations the brine breaks out at the surface and can be collected for salt-making, and this was how the earliest brine was found.
During the medieval period, brine pits were dug and the brine was pulled out by bucket and sent along pipes or wooden conduits to the salt-houses or “Wych-houses”. The brine was stored in “ships”, long wooden troughs, or in barrels at the salt-houses, and was boiled in lead vats (or “leads”) over open hearths. The people who undertook the boiling processes were known as “wallers” and often the salt-making area was referred to as the “walling-lands”.


Last working of the common pan at Murgatroyd's

Technological innovation in post medieval times included the move from “leads” to iron “pans”, and after the canal was constructed, the use of narrow boats to ship the salt, rather than pack-horse or wagon, as used previously.
By the late 19th century deep shafts were sunk to find new sources of brine and pumps were used to lift the brine into the saltworks.
The growth of chemical industries created a whole range of new uses for salt and during the 19th and 20th centuries Middlewich became a centre of alkali and caustic soda production, as well as many other salt-related activities.

Salt works changed ownership over the decades, sometimes operating with more than one producer at the same works; at other times closing down for a period before reopening. It is therefore a complicated process to locate specific salt-works and ownership at certain times and when a variety of sources are consulted, sometimes contradictory information is provided. The names and locations contained in the project research are therefore the best interpretation possible from the sources.

Please click here to open the Salt Timeline 


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