The demolition of Brenntag situated in Elworth, just outside of Middlewich brings to an end an historic and innovative site. Opened in 1949 as the new Murgatroyd’s Salt and Chemical Co. Ltd, the 18 acre site produced Vacuum Salt, Chlorine, Caustic Soda, Hydrogen, Hydrochloric Acid and Sodium Hypochlorite.

The site of the original Murgatroyd’s, an open pan works at Middlewich, has long gone. All that remains is the original brine shaft and pump house, the last monument not only of open pan salt?working but of the chemical industry in Middlewich. Murgatroyd’s Brine Pumps are the only intact, in-situ, wild brine pumps in the UK and the only above-ground remains of Murgatroyd’s Salt & Chemical Works. They represent the culmination of over two thousand years of Salt making in Middlewich and the first stages of an emerging Chemical Industry.

The shaft was hand dug in 1889, one of the last in Cheshire to be excavated by this method as borehole technology took over. The Gantry is of the same date and was used to put the first pumps, then steam driven, into place and was used thereafter to maintain the pump rods going down into the 274ft shaft. This shaft was the first to find the brine stream that fed the salt works in the town and helped to identify the geological fault line through the town. The discovery of the brine stream was also highly significant because of its very high quality and, as a result, other companies realised the potential that Middlewich offered in natural resources and moved into the area. This led to economic growth and the expansion of jobs. The surviving electric pumps replaced the former steam driven pumps. The first of the present two pumps manufactured by John Thom was installed in 1932, and worked in combination with the steam pump until, in 1953, a major renovation meant the steam pump and boiler house were demolished and a second John Thom pump placed into the pump house as we know it today. There is also a1960s submersible pump in the shaft which was installed when additional brine was required to supply not only the adjacent salt pans next door but also the Chemical Works three miles away. The Open Pans were to disappear from the Cheshire skyline from the 1940’s onwards; Murgatroyd’s was one of the last to close in Middlewich in 1966. The brine pumpssupplied brine to the new Chemical works from 1949 until 1977 when by law ‘wild brine’ pumping was banned and the company turned to the controlled method. The owners of the Chemical Works at this time, B.P. Chemicals, was advised that the pumps were the last of their kind and so took the decision to preserve the pumps as a monument to those who worked in Cheshire’s Salt Industry and so that future generations could understand the role of salt-making and in particular the significance of brine in Cheshire. The site later became a scheduled monument – Historic England list entry number 1020122. Middlewich Heritage Trust now runs the monument and holds an extensive collection of drawings, photographs, film, documents, artefacts and oral archives relating to the Murgatroyd Company.

To view the full article please go to Murgatroyd’s Brine Pump  – Scheduled Ancient Monument Number 34588

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