Cleveland Salt Company – Middlesbrough

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Cleveland Salt Company – Vulcan Street

In 1859 a borehole was started at Bolkow and Vaughans’ Middlesbrough Ironworks in search of a clean water supply for use in their boilers, instead of dirty water from the Tees. By 1862 at a depth of 1200ft a bed of rock salt was discovered that was almost 100ft thick.

The Cleveland Salt Company was formed in 1887 to exploit this resource for the fledgling chemical industry, Carl Bolckow nephew of Henry was one of the first board members, fresh water was pumped down into the salt bed which it dissolved, brine was then pumped out and evaporated in large pans to drive off the water and extract the salt.

The six original pans were initially fired by waste hot gas from the Middlesbrough Ironworks blast furnaces, this was expanded to thirteen pans in 1889. In 1920 the blast furnaces were blown out and the pans had to be converted to run on coal.
A total of four wells existed in the companies’ lifetime, The original No.1 was abandoned in 1893 due to a roof fall, No.2 and No.3 from 1888 and 1893 respectively operated until around 1938 when they started to become choked. So No.4 which had been an incomplete well started in 1896 was re-started, but was not completed until 1941 due to drilling problems and the outbreak of the Second World War.
In 1945 and 1946 there were roof falls in the remaining No.4 well after which the evaporation pans were never restarted. The company wound up in 1947 having produced 879,972 ton of salt in 59 years.
Making a few calculations that suggests a volume of over 400,000 cubic meters, or 165 Olympic Swimming Pools. It’s an interesting thought that there must now remain a huge water-filled void under the area, most likely under the river and Transporter Bridge !
Today all that remains is the impressive red brick boundary wall on Vulcan Street dating from 1887. This became a listed building in 1988, however it’s not totally original as it was rebuilt from other interesting sections of the original building by the Cleveland Community Task Force, Middlesbrough Council and the Davy Corporation in 1982.

18 thoughts on “Cleveland Salt Company – Middlesbrough

  1. Around 1885 my Grt Grandfather James Stanway and his family, travelled from Natwich in Cheshire to Middlesbrough to take up employment with the Cleveland Salt Company. As I understand it he worked at the Vulcan Street Works, along with my Grandad, Walter Stanway. Both of them worked at the Lion Salt Works near Natwich as Saltboilers before coming to Middlesbrough. Later they both worked at the Brinefields, over the river in Port Clarence, along with my father. I have tried to find who holds the employees records forThe Celeveland Salt Works to confirm the dates that they were employed, without success. Any help would be appreciated.

    • my great grandfather, William McDean, also moved from Winsford Cheshire to Cleveland at this time, he was also a saltboiler and lived in Haverton Hill. I would also be very interested to know anything about the employees of these saltworks if you have found any information since you wrote your question.

  2. When I was a student at the Poly (now University) I used to live on Breckon Hill Road, just off Marton Road. At the end of our road was a road called Saltwells Road, does this imply that there was some associated works in that area linked to the above?

    • I lived on Saltwells Road 1987-8. The site of the wells is a business park now. It seemed a very long way from the town centre and the Poly, underlined by being able to see North Ormesby clock from the back of the house. The name intrigued me so I’m pleased to finally find more about it.

  3. We used to play around the reservoirs on the West side of Saltwells Rd during WW2while we lived in Croydon Rd. The houses next to them are still there

    • Strange, my mother’s family the Goodwins moved from N.Ormesby to No 38(?) Croydon Rd during the early part of WWII. She died very young 60yrs ago, so I’ve little info of her time living there..

  4. Hi Chris
    A few years ago I was told that it had emerged that B&V had drilled a number of wells in the area searching for an extension to the Durham coalfield. This information was commercially sensitive so they claimed that they were drilling for water.

  5. Chris any ideas how large the chambers underneath the brine wells located at south bank iron works in 1920 were thoughts suggestions of likely sizes of excavated chambers would be really helpful

    • Figures for output from South Bank are 243,470 tons in 38 years.

      Back of a cigarette packet calculations assuming no loss.
      243,470 tons is 220,872 metric tonnes.
      Density of salt is 2.170tonnes/meter cube.
      So 110,784 cubic meters.

  6. I believe that my great grandfather, Francis Pallister, was the Secretary of the Cleveland Salt Company at some point, probably sometime within the 1900-1930 timeframe. Much of that side of the family hails from Middlesbrough. Grandpa used to take my mum to watch Wilf Mannion play at Ayresome Park, after the war.

    • David, sat in front of a poor copy of a family tree, from Ray Pallister, filling in old connections. My dad Colin Marshall was the nephew of Walter pallister, who married into our Marshall family with wife Winifred (Winnie). My dad passed in March this year and we are still building up the history. Can you contact me? David

  7. Interesting details. My great,great grandfather was also a salt boiler. My sister discovered this when researching the family history:
    HEATLEY Thomas of 35 Clarence Street, Haverton Hill, County Durham, salt boiler, died 16th August 1893. Administration (with will) London 27th October to Ann Heatley, widow. Effects £81.10.3d.

  8. My Great Grandfather left Northwich to travel to Middlesbrough 1887 to work in the Salt Works in Middlesbrough. I would be grateful for any information in respect to his employment, position etc, His name was James Stanway born 1852 Shrewsbury. I have tried to locate this Companies employment records without success any information would be appreciated.

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