Sunday 20 November 2011


Photo: Cliff Astles
Cliff Astles was prompted to post this excellent shot on the Middlewich Town Council Facebook group after seeing our vintage shot of the ICI lime beds which shows the then relatively new British Salt works on the horizon.
British Salt (known to some Middlewichians, particularly those who work there, as, simply,'Salt') was built in 1969, replacing various open pan works and vacuum plants, both in Middlewich and elsewhere. The plant is capable of producing 800.000 tonnes of salt per year. British Salt is the UK's leading supplier of  dried vacuum salt and produces over half of all the pure white salt used in Britain.
Cliff's skill as a photographer has made the works look rather glamorous in the above evening shot. In the cold light of day, particularly when approached from Sandbach along Booth Lane, the works looks, shall we say, more utilitarian than photogenic. Seen from the back lanes on the eastern side of the railway line, it seems to loom over the beautiful Cheshire countryside like a brooding presence.
But then, it was built to make salt, not to look beautiful.
Photo: Cliff Astles
Here's a daytime shot of the works, also by Cliff, showing its grim, workaday reality. The wear and tear of 42 years of continuous salt production is also beginning to become evident, and several sections of the outer cladding of the factory have recently been replaced. It was ever thus with salt works; corrosion from the salt is a self-evident and recurring problem.

When the works was being planned at the end of the sixties Middlewich UDC's planning committee were reassured about the appearance of the tall metal chimney stack (since replaced by the more modern structure seen in the pictures above) when the builders offered to paint it in two colours: green up to horizon level and sky blue above the horizon. Thus, went the theory, the chimney would blend chameleon-like into the landscape and become completely invisible as it melted into the lush green vegetation at ground level and the perpetually blue skies above Middlewich.
Where, precisely, 'horizon level' was, and is, is a moot point.
We're pleased to be able to bring you this picture by Cliff and will be featuring many more of his photos of Middlewich buildings, people and events in the months and years ahead.


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