My character Thomas Radwinter is investigating salt production in the small seaside town where he lives… he goes to the local museum –
I realised that salt was important for preserving food, and cooking, and wasn’t surprised that it was import for medical purposes, but I didn’t realise it was used in industrial processes such as tanning. I did remember from the dim and distant history lessons at school that Roman soldiers were paid in salt and that was the origin of the word salary.
There was a 1930’s article which was easy to read which I fastened on as I wouldn’t have time to do more than skim the main points.
In the summer of 1934, my colleague Elijah Handcome and I explored the remains of the early seventeenth century salt works in Easthope Bay; we knew the approximate site having identified a bucket pot, but the exact location proved elusive. We revealed some ancient walls which we uncovered when the tide allowed, and found evidence of some industrial burning; however we could uncover no exact evidence of salt production here on this site.
Maybe place names are not evidence, but we felt sure that these offered us a clue, and the local public house the Saltern Inn was a key, and a splendid place to retire to for a luncheon of home cooked ham and pickled onions as big as your fist.
The following year we explored the old salt working site in Strand; the Boroughlee site was in use from probably the 1720’s until the 1850’s and gave its name to Salty Wharf and the Saltmills Tannery.
We found records of the iron pans still complete until the turn of the century; winter storms had undermined the area and the pans had split and partially collapsed during the inundation four years previously. The Town Council had the remains removed as part of the promenade improvements scheme.
Hmmm, so from this Elijah and… I looked for the name of the author – Benjamin Magick (must be a relative, my grandmother’s maternal line were Magicks – John is actually John Magick Radwinter!) didn’t find much about Easthope, and not much more about Strand.
I would have to investigate further, if I ever had the time… I quickly read another old crinkly record about the pans… I imagined them to be like a large tub, say washing basket size, but no, good grief, they are five meters by five meters – that’s over sixteen foot! I had also imagined them to be round, but no, they were rectangular, plates of iron riveted together. As far as I can understand it without any pictures, there were four separate quarter pieces, with extra plating across the centre.
Gosh it was a huge thing! All gone now, all but disappeared after the promenade improvements in Strand in the 1930’s, then subsequent work and a sea wall and road widening etc…
There was also a map, not drawn to scale and apparently a copy of another one, which showed that there was like a yard, with buildings of some sort around it right by the sea and this was where the salt works were. Some jottings on the side explained (as I interpreted the squiggles) that the sea water was pumped through a pipe to the pan sheds and then fires were lit underneath the pans to evaporate the water – well of course they had fires! In hot countries they might be able to make salt by evaporation using the sun, but not in jolly old England!
© Lois Elsden
I hope this, the sixth book in my Radwinter series will be published in the spring of 2018… if you want to read the other Radwinter books, or my other paperbacks and ebooks, here is a link: