Middlewich Town Council last week announced the start of the Murgatroyd’s Brine Pump Emergency Repairs Project. Thanks to just over £90,000 of funding from Historic England with further contributions from Cheshire East Council and Middlewich Town Council, this historic scheduled monument has a more secure future.
The funding from Historic England will pay for urgent repairs to the monument including; removal of asbestos debris, to make the structure and gantry safe and secure; replace the roof and remove asbestos sheeting. This work is essential to the monument’s survival.
The repairs programme is vital; Murgatroyd’s Brine Pumps are the only surviving ‘Wild’ brine pumps left in the UK. The pumps, shaft, well head and gantry are all elements of highly significant heritage merit. The site is also part of a wider story of salt-making and the chemical revolution
The shaft, hand dug in 1889, was one of the last in Cheshire to be sunk this way before 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 rock salt and the Brine Stream that fed the Salt Works in the Town. This had significant impact, as the brine stream was of fantastic quality and helped to identify the geological fault line through the town.
Hopefully, this will be first phase of a full restoration of the brine-pumps, gantry and building. Follow the progress of the restoration through Middlewich Heritage Trust’s Blog. The Trust aims to preserve the pumps for the community and as an educational resource.
Wild brine occurs when salt dissolves naturally in underground spring water and wild brine pumping is distinct from other extraction methods such as controlled pumping and direct mining. The brine stream that Murgatroyd had discovered was a particularly abundant source of very high quality brine, such that Murgatroyd’s expanded substantially to become one of Middlewich’s most important employers. The open pan salt works closed in 1966 although the brine pump continued to operate until 1977 when it came into the ownership of Congleton Borough Council.
The number one brine pump represents the beginning of Murgatroyd’s Salt Works and the expansion of the town’s industry into chemicals.The brine pump site is also the last remaining part of Murgatroyd’s works which had a very significant impact on the fortunes of Middlewich and its inhabitants.The hand-dug shaft, in-situ electric pumps and 1890 gantry remain as the only surviving example of a once widespread technology.
If you’d like to volunteer to help Middlewich Heritage Trust on this project contact Kerry Fletcher on 01606 833 434 or email