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Murgatroyd's Brine Pump

Middlewich, Cheshire

Please note that this webpage reflects the position as at October 2011.

In October 2010, Heritage Works was commissioned by Middlewich Town Council to undertake a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) for Murgatroyd's Brine Pump Number 1. The pump was designated as a Scheduled Monument in 2001, reflecting its importance as an example of a hand dug shaft for wild brine extraction. It is also the last remaining part of Murgatroyd's Salt Works which developed to work an abundant source of very high quality brine between 1889 and 1977.

Aerial view of Deane Road Cemetery

View of existing pumphouse with gantry

Download Conservation Management Plan Executive Summary [PDF 1.14Mb]

What is a Conservation Management Plan?

This CMP has been prepared by a team of consultants led by Heritage Works in order to progress a conservation programme for the brine pump. Although Middlewich Town Council does not own the site, the brine pump has the potential to contribute to the Council's regeneration and heritage objectives and there is a strong desire to ensure that it is developed in a way that achieves maximum benefit, both in terms of heritage, and also in response to wider aspirations for the town. Other stakeholders include English Heritage, which has statutory responsibilities for scheduled monuments and funded the CMP, and Cheshire East Council, which currently owns the site and is responsible for its maintenance.

Stakeholders were of the view that it was important to include options for development of the site within the scope of work although these are not typically included in a CMP. Consequently, the resulting study is a hybrid of an options appraisal study and a CMP.

Background

George Lomas Murgatroyd began his first salt operation on the site that would become Murgatroyd's Salt Works in 1889. Wild brine occurs when salt dissolves naturally in underground spring water and wild brine pumping is distinct from other extraction methods such as controlled pumping and direct mining. The brine stream that Murgatroyd had discovered was a particularly abundant source of very high quality brine, such that Murgatroyd's expanded substantially to become one of Middlewich's most important employers. The open pan salt works closed in 1966 although the brine pump continued to operate until 1977 when it came into the ownership of Congleton Borough Council. The site is now owned by Cheshire East Council.

Why is the brine pump important?

  • The number one brine pump represents the beginning of Murgatroyd's Salt Works and the expansion of the town's industry into chemicals.
  • The brine pump site is also the last remaining part of Murgatroyd's works which had a very significant impact on the fortunes of Middlewich and its inhabitants.
  • The hand-dug shaft, in-situ electric pumps and 1890 gantry remain as the only surviving example of a once widespread technology.

The most important parts of the site in archaeological terms are the well head, three internal brine pumps, the brine shaft and the timber head gantry. The building itself is of lesser significance because it is not original, but is still part of the Scheduled Monument.

Current Condition

The site is within the Brooks Lane Industrial Estate and is not currently accessible to visitors. It can only be reached across land owned by another party and this is by arrangement only. The condition of the pump house building is poor and the building is not weatherproof and would require extensive repair if it were to perform the function of housing and protecting the shaft and machinery effectively. None of the machinery is in working order but the internal pumps are quite well preserved. There are also two external pump motors that have been exposed to the elements and are corroded. The condition of the shaft itself is unknown but it is assumed to be good due to the preserving quality of salt.

The Brief

The brief required that the study "identify opportunities for varying levels of development [for the brine pump site] as an educational resource and visitor attraction". A range of different information sources were used when developing the potential options. This included the surveys of small industrial museums carried out through the study but it was also important to take account of other factors such as the masterplan for Middlewich and the location of other salt attractions nearby. Members of the study steering group (including representatives from Middlewich Town Council, English Heritage and Cheshire East Council) were involved throughout to help make sure that the options developed through the study were realistic and would meet the needs of those with an interest in the site.

Some of the main considerations were:

  • The brine pump's Scheduled Monument status (meaning that the existing building must be protected);
  • Protection of buried (as well as standing) archaeological remains;
  • The current condition of the building and machinery (including the presence of asbestos);
  • The need to be realistic about visitor numbers given the site's size, location and target audiences;
  • The type and amount of interpretation of the brine pump that should be offered on-site and what could be provided elsewhere;
  • The nature and scale of visitor facilities to be provided on site; and
  • The need for future management and maintenance.

Development Options

The study explored a range of options from "mothballing" to the creation of a significant visitor centre. The study steering committee shortlisted a number of options, including a mothballing option, options for conservation repair with or without external shelter for visitors and outside equipment, and a new building to house the machinery and accommodate visitors. During the study English Heritage were clear that a new building would not secure Scheduled Monument Consent and a shortlist of deliverable options were put forward for public consultation. The study also gave indicative costs for the development, management and maintenance for each shortlisted option, and made an assessment of potential funding opportunities.

Development Option 1

This option sets out minimal external works to the site in order to improve site security and provide safe access for accompanied visitors

Middlewich Brine Pump, Development Option 1
Key:
  1. Ground clearance to accessible araes with gravel finish
  2. Earth and debris mound treatment
  3. Boundary treatment
  4. Overall site clearance

Development Option 2

This option proposes a more comprehensive design approach to the site. The aim is to create a destination and evocative setting for visitors to the brine pump using robust industrial and historic materials. Works will include ground re-modelling, new gravel surfacing for level access to all external areas, robust seating, native planting, habitat development and extensive woodland management.

Middlewich Brine Pump, Development Option 2
Key:
  1. Entrance space with seating features
  2. South and West boundary treatment
  3. Riverbank management
  4. Woodland/copse management
  5. Walkway and seating space
  6. Native shrub and wildflower planting to the edge of the entrance space

Viewing Options

The pumphouse is very crowded with machinery inside and is too small to accommodate visitors. instead it is proposed to create openings in the north wall to enable views inside. A canopy will provide some protection form the elements as well as defining a gathering area for groups. Glass 'exhibition cases' are to be provided to protect the external pump machinery.

Option C01

Simple steel structure that sits away from the main building, with a turf roof. The canopy combines an industrial aesthetic with native lime-loving planting.

Middlewich Brine Pump, Option C01

Option C02

Simple canopy shelter, continuing the line of the pitched roof of the pump house and fixed to the masonry of the building. Roof finish made of raised seam metal panels, with etched glass areas.

Middlewich Brine Pump, Option C01

Consultation

The options were presented for public consultation over the weekend of 18 & 19 June 2011. Exhibition boards and a leaflet were prepared to illustrate the proposed options and visitors had the chance to discuss the findings of the report and indicated their preferences.

What's next?

The Conservation Management Plan has been based on a very robust set of surveys and assessments and provides a strong basis for future development of the bring pump site. This is a significant heritage asset and there is clear public support for conserving the brine pump and for developing it as a visitor attraction and educational resource. The main areas for action are as follows:

  1. Disseminate information regarding the significance of the site;
  2. Resolve remaining ownership and access issues;
  3. Develop a business plan;
  4. Progress Heritage Lottery Fund application;
  5. Pursue and secure match funding;
  6. Investigate revenue support opportunities;
  7. Undertake consultation and partnership development; and
  8. Recruit volunteers for appropriate restoration work and to give guided tours

Middlewich Town Council plan to submit a stage 1 Heritage Lottery Fund application in December 2011. This would cover most of the development costs with match funding coming from other grant-giving bodies. Establishing a management organisation for the brine pump that has charitabel stastus may allow access to a greater range of funding sources than if management is carried out by the public sector. Revenue funding sources will most likely come from: income generated by operation of the facility, grant awards and, possibly, mainstream public sector funding.

The Design Team

The consultant team comprised Heritage Works as the study lead, together with Oxford Archaeology North, who have provided archaeological assessments of the building and undertaken an assessment of significance for each individual element of the site. Gifford undertook structural and mechanical surveys and Cass Associates produced design options for the site, management and maintenance schedules for each option and have also produced graphic material for the public consultation. Appleyard & Trew (quantity surveyors) provided construction and maintenance and management costs for each option. Ken Moth, architect, provided conservation advice throughout the study.

Brine Pump, 1899

Interior

Crocodile clamp

Existing pumphouse is in poor condition

Condition of brickwork

Laser image

View of pumphouse

Pump machinery

Consultation event

Consultation event

Consultation event

Consultation event

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