Early Industries in Lymm
A glimpse into the industrial history of our village in Cheshire
Throughout the middle ages Lymm remained as an essentially agricultural area centred around the production of fruit and vegetables. The advent of better communication/travel links in the 19th Century escalated the scale and scope of agricultural production and ancillary related industries e.g. basket making for the transport of fruit and vegetables to the ever demanding markets of Warrington and Manchester districts via canal and rail links. Several specialised iron based industries were developed to produce nails and metal hoops for the production of beer barrels for local brewers. The nail making sites were based around two main areas.
Slitten brooke and mill
A slitting mill was designed to cut sheet metal into strips for the manufacture of barrel hoops or nails. The base metal would be heated in a charcoal furnace, followed flattening by a “Tilt Hammer” or “Rollers” before the actual slitting.The Slitting Mill in Lymm was sited in a steep sided valley between Whitbarrow Road and Dane Bank Road.
The mill was powered by a water-wheel driven by the waters of the stream retained behind a brick built dam. In later day excavations of the site barrel hoops, nails and an assortment of iron mongery have been found.
The word 'fustian' is derived from El-Fustat in Cairo. During the middle ages women's apparel and priests vestments were made of 'fustian', but latterly the material was commonly used for labourers clothes. It is the cotton equivalent of silken velvet. 'Jean' cloth which is a thick tweaked or twilled cotton cloth is one kind of 'fustian'. 'Fustian' was dyed using many colours mostly dark.
The history of 'fustian cutting' in Lymm can be traced back to the early 1860's. The 'fustian cutters' would produce endless cutting strips of weft threads, this required a degree of skill, good eye sight and the use of very sharp knives. The 'cloth piece' was nominally 100 yeards in length and was usually supplied by manufacturers in Manchester. The 'cut pieces' then went back to the original manufacturer who then paid the 'fustian master' the agreed price.
Fustian cutting was probably one of the last textile trades to be mechanised due to difficulty in designing a machine to do such precise cutting work.
Evidence of the early fustian cutting houses are still discernible today, most notably on Church Road, near the junction with Elm Tree Road.
Gold beating in Lymm
In the early 1840s William Wright commenced gold-beating in Lymm. Initially work started in a garden shed at the home of William Wright “Ash Villa”, this was a large semi-detached house in Booths Hill road.
The original site was latterly extended into Grove Avenue. In 1933 a new two storey building was constructed and was extended in 1955. In the early 1920 Wrights of Lymm became a well established name in the field of household decorating products.
The gold beating process involves the rolling of gold alloy bars into strips of a thickness of one-thousandth of an inch. During the rolling process it is necessary to oil the rollers and ribbon frequently to prevent hardening of the metal.
The basket making industry in Lymm developed in the early 18th Century. Baskets were manufactured from willow, some grown locally by but also brought from as far afield as Somerset.
The Willows were used in three different forms, the finest work e.g. shopping baskets, cradles and other domestic articles were made from white willows. 'Buff Willows' were used in basket making to carry fruit, vegetables and live stock. 'Rough Willows' were used for the transportation of potatoes and larger vegetables and would hold approximately 50kgs in weight.
Willows were also used in the production of boats, hurdles and fencing.
The original bore surveys revealed deposits of salt in the Agden and Heatley areas of Lymm.
The Heatley site near Millers Lane became the main Lymm Salt works. The borings were carried out by steam driven drills, the steam engines were drawn to the various boring sites by horses, the holes bored were approximately 20cm in diameter into which pipes were let down.
The original salt works being sited close to the railway facilitated the convenient transportation of salt to other areas. The works had its own rail cars bearing the name 'Lymm Pure Salt'.
There were approximately twelve bore holes used by the works and were driven down to a depth of 300-400 feet, with the brine being brought to the surface by means of suction pumps. Each of the bore holes was connected by underground pipes to a large storage tank in the yard of the works; here the brine would be filtered. The filter tanks (two in number) were approximately 20 feet square by two feet deep, the filtration was conducted by passing the brine through a series of hessian bags with layers of sawdust between them.
After the initial filtration of the brine, Barium Carbonate was added and the mixture agitated by passing air through it. The air pressure was about 6-7 lbs (sq inches and the process lasted approximately two hours).
When the purified brine had been drawn off, a sludge of Barium Sulphate and Calcium Carbonate was left at the bottom of the tank. The purified brine was then washed with distilled water prior to being dried on metal plates before packing into large paper sacks and transporting to its various market places in the surrounding towns.
The salt belt is approximately half a mile wide and runs from north west to south west on the north side of the 'Warburton Fault'. The effect of the fault has been to preserve a stratum of rock called the 'Lower Keuper Marl' which contains salt, after the Lymm area the 'marl' next appears at Wincham, near Northwich.
Although there are still large deposits of high purity rock salt, currently there are no plans for its extraction in the foreseeable future.
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