One of the things that Jit and I really enjoy is a different museum and the Lion Salt Works, Salt Museum in Northwich, Cheshire really ticked the box. Although it might sound a bit odd, it is definitely one well worth a visit. Particularly as they have received funding which has given them a fantastic face lift. And besides, who knew how important Northwich was in the salt industry? Not me, that’s for sure!
We are generally up for visiting any and all museums and when I stumbled upon the Salt Museum, I didn’t really know much about it. I just grabbed the postcode, stuck it into the phone and off we went on our adventure. When we arrived we were pleasantly surprised by how modern the building looked. Set into green space with parking, nature garden and play area around it. We were also impressed by the inventive way to welcome you in while keeping the integrity of the building itself – and allowing for a floor to roof window for the cafe.
As you enter the museum, you are welcomed by the gift shop, the cafe and then the welcome desk. You also get to see the awards cabinet, which gives you a good idea as to the quality of the experience – not everyone gets such high accolade from the award bodies.
There is a charge to get into the museum, but at £6.50 each (for adults) we didn’t really mind. Especially as it was a damp day and we were looking for something different. The lovely lady at the till also warned us that some of the areas are rather cold as they are housed in the original building, so we were pleased to have brought our coats, scarves and gloves with us. You can never be too prepared, we always say!
To the museum
We followed the doors through to the museum and found in the dimly lit space some amazing artifacts and a great deal of information to go with it.
The exhibition was really well laid out and easy to follow. A good blend of reading, video, audio and artifacts. To be honest, I never really knew about the extent to which Northwich and Cheshire were involved in the salt industry so that was eye-opening in itself. To see original salt pans was incredible too, as if you have ever lived by or been to the coast you will know how corrosive salt is.
The Pan House
Thankful for the warning about coats and gloves we realised just how cold it was as we walked over into the Pan House. This is the area where they processed the salt ready for forming into blocks. The interpretation created by the museum was brilliant! It had models of men doing the work, liquid ice for the steam and projections on the ceiling to accompany the narration. It really did build the feeling of being part of the process. The only thing that was a slight challenge was reading the additional information in the dim lights, but we managed when the projection would shine over the boards.
From here we were led into another pan room where you could see the damage that the salt did during the processing. The heat and salt corroded even the thickest of metal over time. Once the salt was processed, it was formed into blocks for transporting – this is what the wooden tubs are for.
The science bit
After exploring the processing areas we wandered our way through to the more sciencey bit where we also got to see more of the plant machinery – of which I stood in awe of and collected many a photograph. The size of the pieces and the fact that they would have been built and transported by hand just blows my mind! We really do take for granted the transport and ability we have to build things.
They also look that little bit frightening with their unsheathed blades and mechanical moving parts. Kind of like the ‘Tripods‘ if you remember them from the 80s? But these are obviously smaller and more likely to cut your head off than shave it!
And to our delight there was one of the few diagrams that pretty much everyone around our age (ahem, 30 something) remembers from Geography in school; the water cycle. That and the Ox Bow lake (although that wasn’t featured here)
Sights and sounds of the area
This part of the museum also shared information about the renovation, environment and local wildlife giving the wider area a bit more context, especially with the redevelopment of the area since the industry ceased. It was interesting to read the journey of the salt works and the amount of work that had to go into the renovations to bring it to such a high standard.
As you can see from the photos (other than it being rather cold!) there is a good variety of learning methods from audio, to hands on and reading too. I think it was well-balanced as neither of us came out feeling overwhelmed by any of the information.
As we came to the end of our Lion Salt Works experience, we wandered around the outside to take in the out buildings and machinery as well as enjoy what was left of the light (it was in February that we visited, so still getting dark early)
Just before we headed home we took a final blimp around the gift shop where to my surprise I was able to buy marbles! It might sound like a strange thing to be pleased about, but I had been on the lookout for a long time for some really large ones to slow down Tikka’s (my fat kitty) eating. You just never know where you will find these things! Anyway, with our purchase in hand and our receipt for discount at another Cheshire museum, we headed back to the car for a tea and snack before home.
The Lion Salt Works
I have to say that the Lion Salt Works exceeded my expectations! I was surprised to learn so much about salt processing, the role of Cheshire in the worldwide supply of salt and how the men (and women) worked in the factory.
I reckon that we will revisit sometime next winter when the days are damper and darker. I thoroughly recommend that you check it out too if you’re around Cheshire way (or fancy a drive from Manchester) as you will learn a lot and have fun doing it too.
It really is amazing what you learn about an area you have grown up in. I’m now on the lookout to learn more unusual things about the area too.
Hunting the different
Have you been to the Lion Salt Works? Do you enjoy different museums or can you recommend any to me?
I’d love to know what you thought and to also add some new places to visit to my list,
so pop your thoughts in the comments below 🙂
Lion Salt Works
Features: Free Parking, Paid Entry, Gift Shop, Museum, Cafe, Play Area, Picnic Area, Nature Garden.