Page last updated at 15:54 GMT, Thursday, 21 January 2010
The history of salt production at Droitwich Spa

Roman soldier
The Romans came to Droitwich to get salt, which was part of a soldier's pay

The natural brine at Droitwich is ten times saltier than sea water - only the waters of the Dead Sea are as concentrated.

There is archaeological evidence that the salt deposits were being exploited by man as far back as the Iron Age, and possibly before.

The water from natural brine springs was fed into man-made pits, lined to stop contamination.

The salt was probably extracted by evaporation.

Romans

The Roman came to Droitwich specifically to get the salt (which they used to pay their soldiers.)

They called their settlement, which included a substantial fort, Salinae" - meaning "Salt Works".

The Romans stayed in Droitwich for 400 years.

Doomsday Book

The Anglo-Saxons continued to exploit the brine springs in the area, calling their settlement "Saltwich".

They had furnaces to evaporate the salt on the banks of the River Salwarpe.

The importance of Droitwich, and the wealth its salt deposits created, is indicated in the Doomsday Book - which gives the town a higher value than Worcester or Newcastle.

According to this record Droitwich was producing 1000 tons of salt a year.

The Salt King

In the 19th century John Corbett, the son of a black country barge owner, transformed the exploitation of the brine at Droitwich into an industrial operation - making a fortune in process.

He became known as The Salt King.

Deep wells were sunk direct into the underground brine stream, and the brine was pumped out.

When the brine was pumped out too quickly, it could cause large scale subsidence on the surface.

Droitwich canal
The canals in Droitwich are being restored to link with the River Severn

Evaporation to get the salt was carried out in several factories, using large iron pans, heated by furnaces.

At their peak, these factories were producing 120,000 tons of salt a year.

Two canals were built, to link Droitwich to the River Severn, and to the Worcester to Birmingham canal.

Corbett also developed the famous brine baths, turning Droitwich into one of the most popular Spa towns in the country.

Commercial production of salt stopped in 1922.




SEE ALSO
Chateau Impney - a brief history
02 Dec 09 |  People & Places
Spa town's brine baths stay shut
30 Sep 09 |  Hereford/Worcs

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