INDUSTRIAL SOUTHWOLD
Salt Making
 
9 -11 Victoria Street, Southwold, Suffolk IP18 6HZ - Tel: 01502 726097 email
 
 
 
 
 
Wind Pump at the Salt Works
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The salt works, down between Ferry Road and the Common, was founded in 1660 by Charter of King Charles I. It was a potentially important boost to local employment after Southwold's economy had been all but destroyed by the great fire. Salt was an increasingly vital commodity for the fishing industry which was beginning to boom.

wind pump at the salt works
 
Painting 'The Old Salt Mill' by J.R.K. Duff
 

The wind pump was augmented when required by a manually driven pump which you can see being operated on the left of the photo. The pump was not demolished until the mid 1930s. P1029.2

The watercolour was painted by J.R.K Duff in 1895 and may be seen in the Museum gallery. Click on the painting to see more of the Museum Gallery.

Click to enlarge the pictures

 

The technology was quite basic. At high spring tides the seawater was allowed to flood into the creek off the River Blyth and left to evaporate and concentrate, after which the enriched brine was stored in a well.

From the well, the brine was channelled over Ferry Road driven by a wind pump, supplemented by a small hand pump, to enter a succession of coal-fired iron evaporating pans. Here the brine was dried at varying temperatures to produce crystalline salt of differing grain size. Finally, to improve the quality of the end-product, the sea salt was blended with mined salt. In the early days, this solid salt had to be imported but, in 1670, big deposits were found in Cheshire. It was a mixed blessing for the Southwold salt industry because it also represented a huge competitive threat.

At the peak of its production, the works had more than 1000 tons of crude salt in stock. It was, though, always a labour-intensive, low-profit business and the Salt Tax, imposed in 1702, didn't help the viability of the venture.

There was a welcome return to relative prosperity with the establishment in Southwold of the Free British Fishery in 1770 and the Salt Tax was finally repealed in 1825. But by that time the fishing industry was in decline and the local salt business seemed destined to close.

Commercial production was discontinued in 1893 but, enterprisingly, the works staved off complete closure until very nearly the end of the century by exploiting the emerging tourist industry and offering health-giving 'brine therapy' in a thatched bath house powered by a small windmill.

  Brine Therapy Bath House

The bath house was added in the early 19th century. P1495

Click to enlarge

 
 

Use the links below to explore the history of Southwold’s other industries.

Brewing
Hosiery and bedding manufacture
Iron founding
Milling
Public Utilities (Gas, water, electricity)
Rope making
Salt manufacture
Shops and Trades

 
 
Trade Mark of the Salt Works
SALT FEELS THE PINCH
 
   

Southwold's salt tax office.

From a drawing by Hamlet Watling in the Museum Gallery.

Click to enlarge

     
   
 

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Southwold Museum & Historical Society, 9 -11 Victoria Street, Southwold, Suffolk IP18 6HZ
Tel: 01502 726097 email

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