Salt pans…

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:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden

Case study… but not quite

I haven’t given much thought to the list of 73  recently… In case you’ve missed me chuntering on about it, the 73 is a list of suggestions of different sorts of blogs which can be written. A friend found it shared it, and it became a sort of challenge between us to try and write one of each of the suggestions.

I am on number 7 – ‘Case Studies‘… hmmm… what or who can I wrote about… a case study…

  • a process or record of research into the development of a particular person, group, or situation over a period of time
  • a particular instance of something used or analysed in order to illustrate a thesis or principle

I suppose I could write a case-study of my fictional Radwinter family, but I have written so much about them here already – and also to describe the process which created them would take far long – and the end product would be far too long!! I could write a case-study of how I came to create my books for reluctant readers – but I’ve been writing about them and how they came to be over the last few days.

My working life before my writing life was teaching, but it all seems a rather long time ago – in fact it wasn’t, but things have changed so significantly (for me – and probably for teaching too!) that I’m not sure I could write very much of interest.

In my latest novel I have been doing a lot of research on two very different subjects, the salt industry – focusing on sea salt rather than rock salt, and the zeppelin raids of the first world war. However, my research is very superficial as I just want to include a few details into a couple of the narrative threads.  The salt making is part of a story-line about the history of my fictional town of Easthope and how the archaeology of the nineteenth century salt works has a bearing on a one character. The zeppelins is part of a family history which is being traced… and here is an extract – Thomas Radwinter is telling the story:

I looked through the collection of news reports I had about the zeppelin attack. There were quite a few in the local newspapers, but one I’d not properly looked at, told me very much more than I already knew, about Anatole saving the young sisters from the burning hotel. It seemed that it wasn’t a bomb which had been dropped but a tracking flare.

Rescue from burning building

A sensational rescue from a burning hotel was effected in Great Yarmouth last evening, when two young girls, who were half choked with smoke, were led down a back stairs from the top story of Gentzer’s Hotel near Blacksmith’s Lane. The empty hotel had received a direct hit from an incendiary device and the flames spread rapidly. When the firemen arrived the old building was well alight. It took until morning before the flames were all extinguished.

I was intrigued that the writer used the word ‘sensational’ – I would have thought that was a more modern expression… anyway…

Plucky Rescue From Burning Building
by the gallant act of Anthony Finch

Two young sisters were rescued from death by burning near Yarmouth, early yesterday evening.
Finch was on his way from work, when he saw the zeppelin above but had no notion of what it was. Although filled with terror as fire rained down, when he noticed Gentaer’s old hotel was ablaze, he rushed in. The older girl, Irene had called from the window and Finch found her and the little girl, Mary. The bedroom furniture was on fire but he smothered the flames with an old curtain and despite only having one arm, carried little Mary out of the burning building.
Then, the child having been taken by Mrs Dotes a farmer’s wife, Finch ran back into the house, where he found Irene collapsed on a landing. He succeeded in carrying her down the stairs where the fire men met him.
Both sisters are in hospital unharmed but suffering from the inhalation of smoke.

So that was it, that was why Anatole was not a soldier – he only had one arm!

So this is research, but it’s not a case study! I must think some more about how to do number 7 of the list of 73!

Here is a link to my Radwinter stories:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-5-Book-Series/dp/B072HTG366/ref=sr_1_16?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1508971464&sr=1-16&keywords=lois+elsden

 

 

Salt

Salt, or sodium chloride is a mineral which we need to survive, and for most people in the modern western world our diet has more than enough – in fact sometimes too much salt! It’s not just that we add it to food we cook and food we eat, it is present in a lot of food which we buy, sometimes in surprising amounts in surprising food. We might expect it in savoury foods, but it’s also in a lot of sweet foods, and also in products we might not consider as food – toothpaste, medicines and pain killers.

But where does salt come from? Salt mines and the sea… I have been researching salt production from sea water because it features in my next novel, possibly called ‘Saltpans’ – which gives a big idea! From Roman times, if not even earlier, people obtained salt from the sea; in hot countries sea water was held in vast shallow lagoons which would evaporate leaving crystals of salt – it has been done for millennia and it is still done today. However, in our cooler climes, it was necessary to evaporate the water from the sea with human intervention. Sea water was contained in bucket pots, and some evaporation would occur, but then the salty liquid was pumped – sometimes using windmills, into salt pans, vast five meter square iron containers, the saltpans, which were heated, sometimes by coal, sometimes by wood, sometimes by charcoal to evaporate the remaining liquid. This as you can imagine put the pans under some stress as the salt was corrosive.

So salt is used in and on food, as a flavouring and as a preservative, but it has many other uses:

  • tanning
  • medicine
  • chemical production
  • the chlor-alkali industry
  • the soda industry
  • gas and oil exploration and drilling
  • textiles and dying
  • processing metals
  • paper manufacture
  • white rubber manufacture
  • soil additive
  • de-icer for roads
  • salting food
  • in the food industry in many, many ways
  • fire fighting
  • household cleaner
  • windows and prisms
  • … and no doubt much, much more!

It is an amazing product, and it’s no wonder the Romans used it in part payment of their soldiers. I will be sharing more on salt, as I learn more – and I hope to give you peeps into my new book, and what my character Thomas Radwinter discovers about salt production in his little town.

Here is a link to my other books featuring Thomas: