...a brief history of Winsford
Winsford's history begins with the 2000 year old Cheshire salt industry. The rock salt deposits were discovered in 1844 whilst local prospectors were searching for coal, which was needed to heat brine-filled pans to make salt.
When it was first opened the mine was known as Meadow Bank Mine and had just two shafts. These shafts were 4 feet square and were lined with timber and puddle clay. It might seem ludicrous to us today but materials used for mining and the miners themselves were lowered into the mine in buckets! The excavated rock salt came up this way too.
Mining in the dark ages
In the early days of mining it must have been pretty dark and unpleasant down the mine. Before power tools and electricity the miners used tallow candles to light the way and worked with picks, shovels and black powder explosives to excavate the salt. It was then moved to the surface in barrels.
The original miners used the room and pillar method of mining, which is where they leave large pillars of salt intact to hold up the mine's roof. On average the rooms were 8 metres high and 20 metres wide. This effective method is still used today.
The end of one era - and the start of another
In the late 1800s the salt market had reached over capacity and become chaotic. The Salt Union was formed in 1888 to overcome this problem and bring order to the market - but it wasn't enough to save the Winsford mine. It closed in 1892 due to competition from the Northwich salt mines.
However the Winsford mine got its second chance when the last of the Northwich mines flooded in 1928. It re-opened soon after to begin a new era full of promise. This time things were different - they had technology on their side.