This website is now an archive of the restoration and should only be used as a resource. Please visit the Lion Salt Works website for the most up-to-date information.

Welcome to the Lion Salt Works blog

The Lion Salt Works is a historic brine salt making site that is being restored and transformed into a unique heritage attraction. Led by Cheshire West and Chester Council, this £8million project will see the site reborn as a fascinating destination for tourists, day visitors and families and a valued resource for local communities, businesses and heritage interest groups.

Located in the village of Marston, close to the town of Northwich, the site lies adjacent to the Trent and Mersey Canal and is close to the historic Anderton Boat Lift. A substantial part of the site is a Scheduled Monument.

Restoration work has now started on the site, with an expected opening in spring 2015. The Lion Salt Works is currently closed to the public.

Friday, 9 November 2012

A History of the Lion Salt Works

In a new part of the Lion Salt Works blogs we will look at the history, processes and people of the Lion Salt Works and salt industry in Cheshire in our in depth history guides. This will bring together historical reports and the latest research where possible. The blogs will also try to explain the different buildings and processes at the Lion Salt Works in the easy …How to … guides.

Rock salt was first exploited in Marston in 1781, when John Gilbert the elder, notable engineer and factor to the Duke of Bridgewater, purchased the Symme Fields for £2,000. He developed the Marston Mine, to the west of the later Lion Salt Works site, by sinking a 300ft deep shaft, and installing a Boulton and Watt engine to wind rock salt and pump brine. In 1821 John Gilbert the younger sold the Symme Fields to John Buckley, tenant farmer at Marston Hall Farm.

In 1856 John Thompson Senior (1790-1867) and John Thompson Junior (1821-1899) obtained from John Buckley a 50 year lease for the Outlet Field (part of Symme Fields), where they constructed the Alliance Salt Works. This was served by a canal arm linked to the Trent and Mersey Canal, and a siding on the Marston Branch of the Cheshire Midland Railway. In 1874 Jabez Thompson was in possession of the works. In 1877 a number of houses were constructed on Ollershaw Lane, probably to accommodate workers at the Lion Salt Works. These included the current buildings of the Red Lion Inn. In 1888, the Thompson family sold the Alliance Salt Works to the Salt Union. The Alliance Salt Works closed around 1900 and the site passed from the Salt Union into the ownership of Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), who retained the salt rights.

The Lion Salt Works in 1898 (Ordnance Survey)
In 1894, following disagreement with the Salt Union over the roles of Thompson family members, John Junior and his son, Henry Ingram Thompson, constructed a new salt works in the coal yard of the Red Lion Hotel, and the works became known as the ‘Lion Salt Works’. Initially the Lion Salt works adopted the buildings of the Red Lion Hotel. The new company quickly built a series of pan and stove houses between the hotel and the canal, that include Pan 2, Stove House 2, the Link Building and a former building in the Pan House Garden (Pan 1). A brine shaft was sunk in the yard of the hotel and a brine tank was built that still stands today.

The Lion Salt Works in 1910 (Ordnance Survey)
When John Thompson Junior died in 1899, Henry Ingram Thompson took over the salt business, and an inventory of the salt works was created in that year, valuing the Lion Salt Works at £6,600. The inventory included a new pan and stove house (Pan and Stove House 3), as well as a number of common pans that have now been demolished. The small single-storey ‘manager’s office’ was built separate to the site. In 1901 Henry Ingram Thompson erected a new salt store by the canal on the west side of Ollershaw Lane, this became known as the ‘Coronation Warehouse’.

It was about this time that two former cottages along Ollershaw Lane were extended to the rear and turned into the Red Lion Inn, a direct replacement of the former Red Lion Hotel.

The Lion Salt Work in the 1910s,
note the curved roof of the Coronation Salt Store
In the 1950s the common pans described above were demolished and replaced by Pan and Stove House 4. The old brine shaft was abandoned and filled with cinders. A new shaft was built and served by a reclaimed steam engine and a nodding-donkey pump, still visible on site today.

Pan House 3 from Ollershaw Lane in the 1960s,
note the old style  of hipped roof
and the  now dismantled chimney
In the early 1960s, Alan Thompson and Henry Lloyd Thompson purchased land from ICI, on the Alliance Works site, in order to erect Pan House 5, which received planning consent in 1965. At about the same time, a new borehole was drilled to the east of the original brine shaft, and an electrical submersible pump installed. The existing engine house was rebuilt in c.1980; and Pan No.1 became unsafe during the early 1980s, and was therefore demolished.

In June 1986, the outbreak of the Nigerian civil war precipitated the closure of the works, as the main market was located in West Africa, and the site was purchased by Vale Royal Borough Council. The Red Lion Inn was leased to Macclesfield and Vale Royal Groundwork Trust, and converted to offices and exhibition space. The lease to the whole site was transferred to the Lion Salt Works Trust.

The Salt Wagons served the site via a separate branch line


  1. The wagons in the photo above. When was the photograph taken? Do we know who made the wagons? Were they used to bring in coal or transport away the salt? How long would these wagons have carried the owners name?