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.