Tyne and Wear HER(4489): South Shields, Salt Pans - Details
South Shields, Salt Pans
The medieval salt pans (HER ref. 946) were located at "West Pans" near to St Hilda's chapel and it is likely that this area continued to be the focus of the industry in the post-medieval period, with the number of pans increasing. However, other areas of South Shields may also have been involved. Indeed, there is a record in 1618 of damages against a salt manufacturer for the destruction of grass on the great pasture of Westoe. Further evidence for the scale of the industry is provided by the fact that Icelandic and Greenland fishing fleets came to load up with salt at Shields. In 1539 there were 9 salt pans but by 1663 the accounts of the chapel wardens included an assessment of 121 salt pans. In 1635 Sir William Brereton describes South Shields as having "more salt works and more salt pans made than in any part of England". By 1693 there were 143 pans, seven near Mill Dam. In 1725 Lord Harley visited South Shields and described it as "the chief place for making salt. The houses there are poor little hovels and are in a perpetual thick nasty smoke. It has in all 200 salt pans, each employs three men… and each consumes 14 cauldrons of coal in 7 days". The estimate of 200 pans is confirmed by Thomas Kitchen's Map of County Durham, c.1750, which incorporates an embellishment showing a slat pan and the inscription "South Shields, the station of the sea coal fleets, is a very large village eminent for its salt works, here being upward of 200 pans for boiling the sea water into salt. Tis said that 100,000 cauldrons of coal are yearly consumed in these works". The decline of salt making was rapild, however: in 1820 Surtees recorded only 5 salt pans remaining at South Shields.
<< HER 4489 >> A.C. Flag, 1979, The History of Shipbuilding in South Shields, 1746-1946, p 75