Sunday 19 June 2011


The building pictured here early in 1974 fronted onto the canal towpath a short distance away from the Big Lock and Silk Works, heading in the direction of Northwich. The original slide description says: 'Old salt works building next to canal off Croxton Lane (former tannery)'. I can't recall now where the information about the use of the building as a tannery came from in 1974, though, as we'll see, more recent research seems to have borne this out. There was certainly also a salt works on this site, and for information on this we've turned to a very valuable resource - the 'Tales of Wych And Water' book produced for the Middlewich Canal & Salt Town Project.(Middlewich Vision 2009).*
This fascinating book features a series of Ordnance Survey maps showing how the various salt and chemical works in Middlewich came and went over the years, and this Croxton Lane site seems to have been the home to works of varying size and importance over the years: On the 1874 map it is not shown, but by 1898 a large works - the 'Croxton Dairy and Domestic Salt Works 1892' has appeared. By 1909 just a small part of this works is shown as being in salt production (labelled 'Croxton Works'), but the buildings are still there, so this, presumably, is when the tannery occupied most of the site. This would make sense, as the tannery process uses a lot of salt. By 1939 most of the buildings have gone, but the small salt works is still there, now billed as 'Croxton Bank Salt Works'. A magnifying glass tells us that, in one corner of the now largely cleared site is a small building, very close to the canal towpath, and this must be the building shown in our photograph taken all those years later. So more properly this building could be said to have once been part of a salt works, and once part of a tannery.
Salt warehouses were of unusual construction, in that they were built 'inside out' with the wooden supports and battens on the outside and what would be regarded as the 'wall' of the building on the inside. This meant that when salt was shovelled into them and exerted pressure on the walls,the supports and battens would prevent the whole building bursting open. As we've noted before, salt works buildings were not made to last and were usually of tarred wood, with felt roofs on a brick base. Salt laden steam and direct contact with salt itself ensured that they were mostly temporary buildings.

* Salt Town Productions was involved with the 'Tales of Wych & Water' project and produced an audio CD, also called 'Tales Of Wych & Water', featuring the recollections of people who worked in the open pan salt works and on the canals which served them. We hope to be able to make these recordings available on Youtube shortly.

1 comment:

  1. On Facebook, Colin Derek Appleton said:
    Very interesting indeed, the building shown in the pic was used as a lump salt processing works where large lumps of salt were cut down and packaged and during the war as an amunition packing works, my grandmother did both jobs !!!!


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