MURGATROYD’S BRINE PUMP MIDDLEWICH CHESHIRE

Murgatroyd’s Brine Pumps, Brooks Lane. Historic England list entry number 1020122.

Murgatroyd’s Brine Pumps are an ‘at risk’ scheduled monument on an historic industrial site. They are the only intact pumps over an original hand-dug shaft left in Britain. The site has national significance as one of the few remains of Cheshire’s large salt industry and local significance as the first discovery of rock salt in Middlewich in 1889. It also, for the first time, tapped the brine stream that had been feeding the town for thousands of years.

This project will repair and preserve unique elements of national importance including the 19th Century gantry, shaft and early 20th Century pumps by recruiting a team of professionals, retired engineers and volunteers. This creates a community project which will turn the site into a sustainable education and visitor resource, creating opportunities for volunteers to learn new skills, share existing skills and knowledge.

We have a comprehensive technical and social archive of Murgatroyd’s from 1889 to its closure in 1977. Volunteers will help to make the archive accessible to the wider public by digitising it and placing it online.

The surrounding land, adjacent to Sanderson’s brook, lends itself to future development as an environmental resource for educational study.

Murgatroyd’s Brine Pumps are the last remaining part of Murgatroyd’s Salt and Chemical Works (1889-2010). They have a story to tell of open pan salt making in Cheshire and the first developments of the new and emerging Chemical Industry.

The pumps are the only complete and in-situ ‘wild brine’ pumps left in the UK with an original hand-dug timber-lined shaft and gantry, both dated 1889. The assets are housed in an early 20th century brick building on a site that is of geological and geographical interest. Its national importance is acknowledged by its designation as a scheduled monument (SM 34588). The brine pumps have considerable communal value. The Manchester engineer George Murgatroyd’s discovery of rock salt and the brine stream, gave employment and a renewal of the town’s prosperity in the Victorian era and beyond. Many residents have strong family connections to the site and an interest in the project as evidenced by the public consultation exercises in 2011 and 2015 and attendances at site visits in 2016 and 2017.

For the built heritage part of the project, volunteers, each working under a mentor and provided with relevant training, will be able to get involved in the conservation of the gantry, repairs to the well head and work on the two rare John Thom pumps from Manchester. Because of their rarity and historical design, the pumps are of great significance to experts.

As an educational and interpretive resource, the land surrounding the pump house forms an important part of the overall project. Overall the site is in poor condition with the risk of loss of historic fabric as identified by its ‘at risk’ status. The project is not concerned with built heritage only.

We also have the ‘George Twigg Archive’ covering Murgatroyd’s over the 19th to the 21st centuries, amounting to over 3,000 documents, maps, drawings, photographs, oral interviews, film, artefacts etc. At present these are all catalogued but not yet accessible to the wider public. The archive will be digitised and published online, where it will make a significant contribution to the national archive for researchers into Britain’s industrial past. It will enable members of the public to research family history and will enable teachers to access information on local history.

Overall the site has great historical value and marks the changes and developments in the salt and chemical industries for the last 129 years.

This project is devised as a ‘community restoration project’ with its own set of outcomes, enabling people to engage with the heritage of Murgatroyd’s and to be able to gain new skills, build knowledge and share experiences.

Completion of both projects will ensure that the gantry, shaft, brine pumps, building and landscape work will be in full conservation repair and taken off the ‘at risk’ register.

The projects will deliver volunteer opportunities, will increase our volunteer capacity and increase knowledge in our salt and chemical heritage. Our archival heritage will be accessible and open for all to explore.

A short film showing the John Thom firm boring for brine at Brooks Lane using a diamond drill, possibly filmed around 1951/2. From interviews it seems that they had some trouble putting in the borehole for the No 5 pump.
The voices are Jack Ashley (the pump man) and George Twigg (Head Chemist) with one of the plant managers, Mr McDermott on site.

Jack Ashley and George Twigg in conversation. The first part of the film shows Tom Lightfoot in control adjusting pressures. The second part shows Reg Cartledge working his shift as a lumpman. Jack and George discuss the difficulties of the lumpman’s job as we watch Reg making it look so easy.

The first part of this film shows J R Thomas, the Salt Plant Manager, at the construction of the Elworth factory which was designed by Sloan & Lloyd Barnes and constructed by A Monk and sons. The construction took place between 1947 – 1952, this film looks at the site being constructed.
The film than moves back to Brooks Lane to show a new borehole being sunk to provide brine for the factory.
We then return to the factory to witness the first salt production and the various other products being produced and, finally, returns to Brooks Lane for film of salt being produced by the traditional open pan system.
The film was transferred to CD from original cine film, taken by one of the members of staff. Many employees of the site were given copies as a memento and David Hough kindly donated his copy to the Trust.

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