Wednesday, 16 December 2015

MURGATROYD'S BRINE PUMPS - The last of their kind

Despite the recent poor weather, work has continued on the building.

Old boarding has been removed as has the asbestos sheeting apart from that under the tank which needs to be done separately. The windows and doors have all been uncovered and another doorway, which will be preserved, has been uncovered. The original frames are being retained so far as possible and new framework to receive the doors and windows will be inserted where necessary. Boarding has been reinstated until the final installation of doors and windows is carried out. The main priority is keeping everything watertight, dealing with the purlins, and renovating the gable ends and wall plates where required.

A work programme for replacing some timbers and steel work on the gantry has been issued. The work that is needed to renovate the water tank has been priced and agreed and will start in the new year. 

If there are any of you out there who are interested in volunteering your time next year we'd love to hear from you

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

MURGATROYD'S BRINE PUMPS - The last of their kind

As the weeks roll on at the Murgatroyd's Brine Pumps site, despite the high winds the monument is still upright! Asbestos has been removed and a temporary roof has been put in place to shield the pumps from the weather pending a further engineer's report on how to proceed with the gantry and water tank.

A new conservation officer covering Middlewich, Katherine Bailey, visited the site this week for the first time. We welcome Katherine to our group, and with her experience from Staffordshire of the coal industry, it will be great to get a wider point of view on our project.

There is some extra support and offers of volunteer help coming through now, so we are thinking of having a volunteers' afternoon at some point during January – March. The date is dependent upon the weather for a site visit and the point reached  in the programme for the project.

If there are any of you out there who arte interested in volunteering your time next year we'd love to hear from you

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

MURGATROYD'S BRINE PUMPS - The last of their kind

The scaffold is up inside and outside the building and the asbestos is largely disposed of. So the first stages of the scheme are complete and, for the first time since the 1970’s, we take our first look at the gantry and the top of the water tank.

The close inspection results in a mixture of awe and trepidation!

The Brine Pumps site is in worse condition than anticipated. It looks as though the emergency repairs, supported by Historic England, are happening just in time to save the site. Another year and we could have lost the last intact brine pumps site in the UK. The project will be more complicated than anticipated but the rewards of saving the site outweigh the amount of work involved.

The Engineers report points out that

“The timbers and steel to parts of the gantry and quite badly decayed with imminent failure likely of some timbers”

“We were originally intending to protect the tank to prevent further decay but in reality there is not much left to protect and some components need to be dismantled for safety”.

Losing the water tank is disappointing, but the metal has corroded up to 20mm in places, so it is already too late to save it. However the components can be used as a template to make a new tank as part of a revised project.

The priority now is to stabilise the gantry and the engineers are putting plans in place to repair the wooden elements where possible, working from the top down and cutting and replacing some of the metal work.

This project is being carried by the project's contractors Bullen Conservation, Appleyard and Trew, Ramboll, and with project management from Buttress who have done a fantastic job so far with such a challenging site.

If you would like to be involved with this project, please email

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Work begins on the former Murgatroyd’s Brine Pumps - the last of their kind

Murgatroyd’s brine pumps in Middlewich have significant heritage merit when assessed against the conservation principles of ‘evidential’, ‘historical’, ‘aesthetic’ and ‘communal’ values developed by Historic England, formerly English Heritage. This organisation has a ‘notable and long record of protecting our industrial heritage’. In brief, the Brine pumps' site represents an historical record of the last of its kind. The shaft was the last to be sunk by the traditional method – dug out by hand and timber lined – and is now the only surviving wild brine extraction shaft. The aesthetic value of the site is the timber head-gantry, which may evoke nostalgia for a lost industrial heritage, perhaps enhanced by the derelict nature of the site and sense of wilderness that this brings.

Like many other industrial heritage sites, Murgatroyd’s is on the Historic England, ‘heritage at risk’ register - list entry 1020122. It has been designated as a scheduled Monument because of its national importance and, thanks in large part to Historic England, the repairs project is now under way.

Finally, after six years of hard work, the deteriorating asbestos sheeting is being removed from the building. The method of using cement sheeting containing asbestos was wide-spread throughout industry; it was a cheap and effective way of managing work spaces and, in this case, of keeping the brine pumps dry. The cement sheeting has deteriorated to the point where it needs to be safely disposed of. By the second week of November the scaffolding will be erected and the major portion of this removal can proceed.

Already the landscape around the monument has changed as vegetation has been removed and the building once again emerges. Next week the team will be able to get up close to the gantry, roof and brine holding tank for the first time since the 1970’s.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

MURGATROYD'S BRINE PUMPS - The last of their kind

Revealing Murgatroyd’s

We are delighted to announce the start of the Murgatroyd’s Brine Pump Emergency Repairs Project.
Thanks to just over £90,000 of funding from Historic England, with further contributions from Cheshire East Council and Middlewich Town Council, this historic scheduled monument has a more secure future.
The funding will pay for urgent repairs to the monument
to make the structure and gantry safe and secure; including removal of asbestos sheeting, replacement of the roof and removal of asbestos debris. This work is essential for the monument’s survival.

Watch this blog as the scheme progresses........

If you would like to be involved with this project, please email

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

MURGATROYD'S BRINE PUMPS - The last of their kind

 (Image modified from 'point cloud' model)

The Trust's first priority is the preservation and renovation of Murgatroyd's Brine Pumps. 
Middlewich has a history of salt production dating back at least to the iron age and coming forward via Roman salt working, the medieval period, and the industrial revolution into the 20th century. 
Archeological artefacts are displayed in the town's library but the evidence on the ground for iron age, Roman, and medieval salt production is now buried beneath 20th century development. 
The only above ground evidence of this most important of the town's industries is Murgatroyd's brine pumps, a listed ancient monument, and the only known pumps in the UK which are sited on their original brine shaft. 
More detail about the pumps can be found at
The pumps have been in the possession of the Cheshire East Council and its predecessor authority for many years through which time, for lack of funds because of the other demands on local government resources, their  condition has deteriorated. 
With the active agreement of Cheshire East Council, the Trust will take possession of the pumps when current remedial works, funded in the main by Historic England, are complete.The trust will then seek to raise funds to restore the pumps to make them accessible to the public in their own right and also as part of the wider canal and salt history in Middlewich and in the adjoining salt towns. 
To do this, the Trust will need help, both financial and non-financial, so if you would like to help, please contact us at

MIDDLEWICH HERITAGE TRUST - Registered Charity No. 1161871

The Trust ( a charitable company – No 9441581) has been formed to preserve and promote the heritage of Middlewich (including buildings, artefacts and archives) as a resource for the benefit of the residents of Cheshire East, of Cheshire West and Chester, and of the wider public.