History of Sea Salt Production on the Isle of Wight and Hampshire

1086 - The first documentary proof of saltmaking in the Domesday Book listing 22 saltpans divided between 12 manors in Hampshire.

1217 - Saltmaking documented in Pennington near Lymington, although evidence shows a continuous line of salt works along the five miles of coastline from Lymington to Hurst Spit. The greatest concentration being in an area of two miles by half a mile wide situated in Oxey and Pennington marshes.

1250 - A large Salt Granary is created at Lymington Quay.

1694 - William the Third imposes Tax duty on Salt as a result of its high profitability.

1730 - After much argument, Salt duties are repealed but reinstated by 1732.

1750 - Saltmaking reaches its peak. Between 1724 and 1766, around 184,480 bushels, or about 4600 tons, was produced. By 1796, there were 103 saltpans in the Lymington area.

1794 - Customs and Excise in Cowes shows 9 full time Salterns on the Isle of Wight in Freshwater, Yarmouth, Hampstead, Newtown, Elmsworth, Shalfleet, Thornefs, Cowes, Nettleston.

1798 - Salt Taxes doubled again. The amount collected in 1804 was only half that collected in 1797 and by 1813, the number of saltpans was down to only 68.

1800 - James Kirkpatrick, a Newport banker, purchased the Saltern Cottges in Seaview with the saltpans, the marshes, and the land now bounded by Fairy Road, Seafield Road and the sea wall. Kirkpatrick built Seafield House and restarted the Salt Industry there.

1819 - Kirkpatrick sold the Seafield Estate, which included the Salt Works, and salt making here ceased.

1845 - Saltmaking finishes in Pennington due to the inexhaustible supply from underground mines in Cheshire and increased prices in coal.

1866 - Salt pans last used in Lymington.

1930 - Finally the Salt Industry closes in Newtown.

2018 - Wight Salt resurrects the Sea Salt industry in this region using finely filtered Seawater from Ventnor and natural evaporation methods under polytunnels.

18 Century Salt Making in the South

Seawater was channelled into trenches leading to large, shallow gravel bottomed ponds where much of the water was allowed to evaporate in the sun.

The partially evaporated water was then drawn off by copper pipes into a boiling house, and boiled in 2-yard square copper or iron pans, which took about 8 hours.

The piping was powered by wind pumps, which stood some 12 to 14 feet high.

An average sized saltpan could make about three tons of salt per week, and consuming about 18 bushels of coal for every ton of salt produced. ( 1 bushel = approx 36 kilos ).

The pans only ran for 16 weeks during an average summer, but in a year with excellent weather, this could be extended for as long as 22 weeks.

Did you know...

  • The word “Salary” was derived from salt.
  • The expression “not worth his salt” stems from the practice of trading slaves for salt in ancient Greece.
  • Right up to the 20th century, pound bars of salt were the basic currency in Ethiopia.
  • About 4,700 years ago, the Chinese Png-tzao-kan-mu, one of the earliest known writings, recorded more than 40 types of salt. It described two methods of extracting and processing salt, similar to methods still in use today.
  • Table salt is created by superheating natural salt to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit, which destroys most trace elements and usually contains an additive to prevent clumping.
  • Salt is an essential nutrient which maintains the potassium/sodium balance and is critical to the overall functioning of every cell in the human body.
  • Wight Salt has no additives and because it is naturally evaporated and dried, and retains many trace elements that contribute to a healthy diet.