This website is one of the products of an exciting project started by Middlewich Town Council under the Middlewich Vision programme. The idea was to celebrate the canal and salt tradition of this historic town; the project included the design of a trail linking the town to its canal network with interpretation boards to explain the history of the area. Research into the salt industry and canals, as well as gypsies and canal families at Middlewich, resulted in information which was used for interpretation, as well as for exhibitions, a trail leaflet and booklet. It has also led to a report and archive that is available for schools and for study by anyone who wishes to explore further.
This website serves as a summary of the two aspects that has made Middlewich the place it is today. The main focus for past communities at Middlewich was dominated by salt production. Salt was always important as a means to preserve food, as well as having a large number of other economic benefits, the uses that salt was put to by the people of Middlewich developed over the centuries into a highly sophisticated chemical industry.
The social conditions that the salt-workers lived and worked under changed much more slowly; it was hard physical work in very hot and dry conditions.
By the late 20th century many house-hold brand names produced and packaged their food in Middlewich, such as Cerebos, Saxa and Bisto. Transporting salt was difficult as it was a bulky product and the roads until modern times were not good. In 1776 the Trent and Mersey Canal was brought to Middlewich and this at last gave the town a direct means to transport Middlewich salt to the Staffordshire potteries in one direction, and to the Mersey in the other. From the Mersey, Middlewich salt was exported all around the world, and different types of salt had to be manufactured and refined at Middlewich for all their diverse markets. This even included making salt money, called Lagos salt, for Nigeria. In 1833 the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal, and Britain’s shortest canal, the Wardle Canal, opened up fresh routes to the west and Wales.
The introduction of the railway in the 1860s led to a gradual change from waterborne transport to rail freight, with the salt manufacturers having their own wagons blazoned with their names: Seddon’s, Murgatroyds and Cerebos were the most famous. Many of the families that owned and worked in the salt industry, and those who travelled the canals, live on today in the modern town.