Staffordshire Working Lives
Declarations by salt workers 1
Declarations by salt workers 2

Declarations by salt workers, 1820s.

(© Staffordshire Record Office: D1798 HM41/2/14)

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Salt-panning: statements of processes and profitability

Declarations by salt workers, 1820s (D1798 HM41/2/14).

Rather than direct mining, salt was obtained in Staffordshire by pumping liquid from brine-carrying marlstone and then evaporating the brine to leave behind salt crystals. Staffordshire was known for producing a good white variety. The large amount of fuel required to heat the liquid was a major factor in the financial viability of any salt-works. Salt-works were located near Weston upon Trent. This was very close to the Trent and Mersey Canal which gave the location an advantage for transporting the salt.

Both of these salt workers had many years of experience working in different salt-works. They were directly responsible for the process of heating the giant salt pans, and knew the quantities of fuel required as well as the costs. Salt water boils above 100 o C unless processed at low pressure. So, salt workers had to endure great heat and moisture from the evaporation process, as they stood on the edge of the huge pans scooping out the drying salt.

The depositions made here relate to a legal case that took place between 1824 and 1828, relating to the salt-works at Shirleywich near Weston which had been leased by Mr Moore from the Ferrers family. But the salt workers are in fact giving information to compare profitability with their own newer works up the road at Weston which was using a cheaper coal. The background to this dispute involved rivalry over a new patented method for heating the brine by steam and an attempt to create a monopoly, by exploiting the significant drop in prices that followed the removal of salt duty.


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