A Salty Business in Cheshire - Lion Salt Works, Marston
In the small village of Marston, in Cheshire, there is a reminder of the areas (salty) industrial past, the Lion Salt Works.I really enjoyed my visit to this little gem. I had never heard of it before but while visiting my mum and dad, over towards Manchester, they suggested a visit. Why not! I love history, so a visit to an old industrial site and museum was right up my street.
The first thing that struck me on arrival was the large red brick chimney, rising into the sky above the lower buildings - I do love a chimney. It reminded me a lot of the chimney at a site nearer to my home (and where I worked for a time), Stott Park Bobbin Mill.
Passing by the chimney we entered the lovely little shop and cafe to pay then enter the site.
The salt works is a mix of a recently renovated museum and more run down parts of the original works. The museum really helped to bring the site to life with excellent displays and videos telling the story of salt production in the area from as early as the Roman period. The remaining works, constructed in 1894, are fascinating to see, if a little battered and tattered - but what would you expect after decades of heavy use.
The large salt pans (as seen in the above picture) would have been filled with salt brine, water filled with dissolved salt pumped from beneath the ground, and heated from large fires below the metal pan. The water would boil and start to evaporate leaving behind the salt. Men would stand on either side of the pan, usually topless as it was so warm in these buildings, scraping the salt to the sides with large wooden scrappers. A labour intensive job for sure.
Following this the salt would be scooped out and packed into wooden containers to dry. Once dry the salt forms a large block which is removed from the container and later packed up in branded paper ready for sale.
It's interesting to note that due to the heavy drilling and extraction of the salt from the local ground many sink holes appeared in the near by fields - many of which can still be seen today, filled with water. Some of these sink holes even appeared in towns and villages, causing homes and buildings to collapse. This became such a problem that there was even a pneumatic lift created to help push building back up should they move due to unstable ground.
It was great to find out more about how this everyday commodity was/is processed. You tend not to think about the work that goes into something as simple as having salt on the table but there is often a big process behind such everyday things. I would highly recommend a visit to this wonderful site.