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Thursday, 15 May 2008

Cheshire Salt I

The fortunes of Cheshire’s ‘wich’ towns were of course, built on salt. A couple of weekends ago, I went to a salt-making demonstration at the Lion Saltworks Trust, and it was very interesting indeed to watch the process in action. The basic technique of ‘walling’ - obtaining salt by boiling large, open pans of brine - changed very little over the centuries, from the Roman occupation right through to comparatively recent times.

I had a go at raking the salt to the sides of the pan on a replica Roman hearth. It’s surprisingly difficult just to move quite a smallish amount around the pan, so it must’ve been very hard work for the lumpmen raking the salt in the large-sized industrial pans.
The Romans used lead pans, and apparently it isn’t recommended nowadays to use salt made in this way, even though the amount of lead contamination would be incredibly tiny. There was also a stainless steel pan of Cheshire brine on the go, and I took a turn at scooping out the salt into a pot.
My pot of Cheshire salt has been drying out for a while now, and hopefully all will be revealed soon.

Images © Sue and Nigel Wilkes

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