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.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

How to...Build a Pan House

The pan house was the area where the salt was produced in the open pan. They contained the stove and the ferrous metal pan.


The pan houses were predominantly made of wooden timber. The timber did not react to the salt steam and would not decompose. The timbers become impregnated with salt over time.

The side walls of the pan houses consisted of a low brick ‘sill’ wall with a wooden wall above of long vertical timbers clad in horizontal planks.

The fronts of the pans were originally open with a wooden cover over the stoves known as a ‘caboose’. This allowed an open-air area for the men to feed the stoves with coal. The pans were altered in the 1970s and are now closed in.

The roofs are now plain pitched roofs but originally had sloped hipped roofs. They were covered with corrugated asbestos, but originally they would have been felted. They were supported by wooden trusses. They were open at the apex to allow steam to escape from the pans below. The sides were covered to allow the workers some protection from the weather.


The pans were large ferrous metal structures c. 15m in length by c. 8m wide and the sides were about 0.5m high. They were made of a large number of smaller metal plates welded and riveted together. They stood on large brick stoves 2m high.

Brine was fed into the pans via a series of ferrous metal pipes. These ran from the brine tank underground and emerged in the pan houses. The pipes turned and then passed into the top of the pan. The pipes were fed by gravity, the brine tank was at a higher level than the pans. A series of taps allowed the control of the brine to different areas of the site.

When the boil was finished the excess brine would be drained from the corner of the pan via a hole known as the ‘Cotter Hole’. The brine drained directly into the ditches that ran down the side of the stove (see below).

Along the front of the pan were several metal brackets and a series of planks known as dodging planks designed to allow access to clean the pan.

Along the side of the pan were a series of metal racks known as ‘salt dogs’ designed to hold the tubs as they were filled. This allowed the brine to drain back into the pan.


The stoves were built of brick and fueled by coal and later oil. The coal was fed into the front of the pan via hatches by hand. See Pan House 3.

The stoves were originally fueled by coal (See Pan House 3). Coal was fed into the stove via small metal hatches. The fires were set at the front of the stove on metal grates.


Coal was brought to the site by small wagons on an individual train track. These tracks ran along the front of the pans and allowed coal to be stored adjacent to the stoves (see transport). Coal was stored behind the wooden barricades, a series of horizontal planks set on side.

Oil and the Oil Tank

In the 1970s the stoves were converted to oil. The oil was stored in the large oil tank adjacent to Pan House 4. The oil was fed into the pans via a compressor in the lean-to structure. The oil was fed into the pans by rubberised pipes and valves set in the front of the stoves. This was lit and hot jets of burning oil fired the pans.

The Hurdles

Down either side of the pan was a wooden walkway called the ‘hurdles’. It was from here the lumpmen drew the salt from the boiling pan. This was done with a large skimmer. The salt was skimmed and turned into the salt tubs, before drying on the pan and being turned out on the hurdle walkway. As the pillars of salt dried, excess brine drained through the wooden hurdles to the brick lined ditch below. These can be seen along the side of Pan House 3.
The hurdles led directly into the stove houses via two doorways. The blocks would be wheeled into the stove houses on salt barrows.

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