Tracing Lytham's history back to the salt mines!
A fascinating insight into part of Lytham's lesser known
“salty” past has been brought to light by a local historian.
Retired County Fire Brigade Officer, Mr Roy Singleton of Myra Road,
Lytham, has delved into the record books to discover a long-lost and
forgotten local industry - "salt-making.
Born and bred on the Fylde Coast Roy, aged 71, first
became alerted to Lytham’s links with salt when secretary of the Lions Club
Housing Association. With an allotment on Mythop Road and a
growing interest in the surrounding land, Roy wondered why the area was
called Saltcotes. Then began weeks of research, gleaning snippets of
information from local folk and the county records office in Preston as well
as learning the art of early salt making from Hampshire County Council.
Salt in the Middle Ages was a vital ingredient of everyday life, needed
most importantly to preserve meat when fresh supplies were not available.
Being in short supply, each area had to provide its own salt
until Cheshire salt was discovered in the 17th century. The first hint of a
salt-making industry in Lytham comes during the reign of King John when
in 1201 he gave permission for the foundation of Lytham priory, naming
one of the boundaries “Suartesalte” - suarte being a corruption of the old
English word sweart meaning “dark in colour". Records are also in
existance of a small building for the refining of salt “at a place
called Saltcotes near the Lytham pool” in the 1780’s.
Delving still deeper Roy unearthed an account of producing
“salt from sea water in Amounderness" 1. - the Fylde Coast’s ancient name. Men
known as “wellers” dropped sand into wooden troughs, perforated
with holes and lined with peat and straw. Sea water,
already partly evaporated, was then poured over the sand and the sieved
brine would then drip into barrels. The used sand was then cast onto a mound
known as a “saltcoat hill”. The salt-makers cottages called, not
surprisingly, “salt houses” usually held up up four boiling pans
where the salt was extracted from the brine. The fuel used
to heat the pans was peat - once plentiful in the Lytham area.
After the scum was removed from the final wet salt, the solids
were put into a wicker basket to dry. The drips from the baskets were usually
thrown away but their richness in magnesium was appreciated in some area and in
Hampshire became “Epsom Salts".
As for the men themselves who toiled at the Lytham
saltcoats, records belonging to the Clifton family mention payments
in the early 1500s “to John Crokan of Lethm for salt" and "to
John Fysher at Lethom for salt." Men who paid rent at Saltcotes in 1589 were
John Saltus, (later changed to Salthouse), John Crookhall, and William
Waltche. These three families were still paying rent in 1662, eight
years before the discovery of Cheshire salt spelt the decline of sea
salt making on the Fylde.
But although no surface clues remain as to the location of
Lytham’s ancient saltworks, Roy has used 18th and 19th century
maps to place it either side of Liggard Brook near Lorne Street.
“The Coat Hill and Nearer Coat .Hill fields together with the Coat
Hill Pasture were on the edge of the marsh leading to the sandbanks,” said
Roy. “It must be significant that the largest bank is still called Salter‘s bank to
this day”. The records also show John Salthouse as a
“smith” - probably the occupant of Saltcotes blacksmith which
stood on the site now occupied by Mythop Road garden centre.
Lytham St Annes Express 15 May 1986
1. Taylor, R. (1975) 'The coastal salt industry at
Amounderness', Trans. Lanes, and Ches. Antiq. Soc, 78, 14-21
(Taylor, R; Coastal salt
industry of Amounderness)