Tracing the threads: revealing Cheshire’s commercial past
Cheshire’s location and natural resources have helped create a fascinating commercial history. Salt, silk and soap are especially important, with lots of surprising links across the Museums of Cheshire.
Salt production in Cheshire dates back to the Romans, and its story is told at the Lion Salt Works, home of the country’s last open-pan salt making site. Exhibits reveal the impact of salt on mid-Cheshire’s people, economy and landscape. Weaver Hall Museum, housed in a former workhouse, also tells the story of rock salt mining, using film, models and artefacts from the Winsford salt mine.
The science of salt is explored at Catalyst, the interactive science centre and museum. Visitors here also learn about another important Cheshire industry, soap. However, the venue most closely associated with this industry is Port Sunlight. Industrialist and ‘Soap King’ William Hesketh Lever founded this beautiful garden village in 1888 to house his soap factory workers. Its museum explains how Lever developed both the village and his business, and reveals the lives of the people who lived and worked there.
Many people associate China rather than Cheshire with silk, yet Macclesfield was the centre of a world-renowned silk industry. The town’s Silk Museum and Paradise Mill use its internationally significant collection of silk textiles and machinery to explore the industry from the cocoon to the loom. Its beautifully preserved working silk mill, dating from 1860, gives an authentic glimpse of life in 1930s Macclesfield. The nearby Old Sunday School, which was funded by the proceeds from the local silk industry, completes the picture, telling the story of the day-to-day lives of the families who attended.