Eighteenth Century Salt Making – Open Pan Salt Technology

The 17th century had seen what could have been the most significant change of Cheshire salt making technology for 1500 years. This was the conversion from lead to iron pans following the introduction of coal in place of wood to heat the pans.
A current debate is whether lead pans were introduced by the Roman Army on its arrival in the first century or whether lead pans were already used by Celtic saltmakers. Of especial interest is the discovery that the lead pans used by Cheshire salt makers in the 17th century were essentially the same size as the lead pans used in Roman times.

According to 17th century Nantwich records, the standard Cheshire salthouse of six lead pans was first replaced by six iron pans of the same size but this soon changed to four four-foot square iron pans and then to a single iron pan. By the end of the century single iron pans were gradually increasing in size. Typically a six-lead unit had been about 6ft by 9ft in total area and William Jackson in his 1669 communication to the Royal society shows a Nantwich unit of four iron pans each 4ft square. Iron pans were of rivetted wrought iron plate.

In that same year at Northwich a new saltworks was erected by Earl Thomas Rivers which had three large iron pans, each with hothouse and hothouse loft above large enough to store large tonnages of dry salt.