Narrowboat Tacet

Silent Movement - Our gap year travelling the inland waterways

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Northwich - a Salty Tale

Northwich and its surrounding areas have since Roman times been used for salt extraction from brine wells. Salt was very important in Roman society, with soldiers being paid in salt.  Their salarium became our word salary and also gave us the expression "being worth their salt".

Salt was brought up out of the ground from brine wells, where the brine was heated in large lead pans causing the water to evaporate leaving the salt crystals behind. These were then formed into blocks of salt and lumps could be cut off for use or ground into finer grains.

The salt beds at Northwich were re-discovered when a local family were digging for coal.  They found rock salt instead and started mining it. They dug out the salt leaving columns of the rock salt to support the ground above.

During the 19th century it became uneconomical to mine for the salt. Instead hot water was pumped through the mines, which dissolved the salt  then the brine could be pumped out and the salt extracted again by heating it. This however led to many parts of the town being affected by subsidence.

This is why so many of the buildings are timber framed in the 'tudor style' as it meant if the ground subsided they could be propped back up and made secure again.
More recently houses have been built on a steel frame for the same reason.

steel salt pan outside the salt museum

the former workhouse now the salt museum

Winsford Flash, lake resulting from subsidence
house built on steel girder
Salt works alongside the River Weaver
extracting rock salt
rock salt mountain - ready for icy roads

Northwich town's Coat of Arms has the Latin inscription Sal est Vita meaning Salt is Life.

Mark 9:50
“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”

Colossians 4:6
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

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