History of the museum

Red Lion InnSalt-making in Cheshire dates back over 2000 years, when the salt towns of Cheshire were first established by the Romans. Originally salt was extracted from the ground by a series of natural brine pits. In the 17th century the first of a series of mines were begun in the Northwich region but were exhausted around 1850. The exhaustion of the mined rock salt supplies resulted in a change to wild brine pumping. The brine was pumped out of the ground to supply the salt works based at the surface. By the late-19th century brine shafts and traditional open pan salt works dominated the area around Northwich, many controlled by the monopolistic Salt Union.

In 1856 John Thompson Senior (1790-1867) and John Thompson Junior (1821-1899) constructed the Alliance Salt Works on the eastern side of the Lion Salt Works site. The Thompson family sold the Alliance Salt Works to the Salt Union and it closed around 1900.

In 1894, Henry Ingram Thompson, constructed a new salt works that became known as the ‘Lion Salt Works’. The new company quickly built a series of pan and stove houses. The salt works ran on the site for almost 100 years.  The outbreak of the Nigerian Civil War (1967 – 1970) saw the loss of a major market in West Africa and the eventual closure of the works in June 1986.