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.

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