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Industrial Renaissance: Salt Mine > Tannery

Part 1 Project 2010
Emma Hague
University of Lincoln, UK
This project is rooted within the history of salt extraction in Cheshire which dates back 2000 years. Booming in the 1800s the industry was the main employer of the county’s ever growing population, exporting Cheshire salt to South Africa, India, and Europe. Due to over saturation of mines in the area Cheshire’s mining met its industrious demise in the mid 1900s when the pressures of efficiency lead to large scale subsidence in the area of Northwich, prompting the move of rock salt mining to Winsford. Winsford’s Meadowbank rock salt mine is the UK's largest salt mine, Britain’s oldest mine, and Cheshire’s final chapter of its mining past. Unfortunately the usage of Winsford salt is now very restricted. Despite this, Winsford salt mine is still extracting 1.8 million tonnes of salt annually; which is used to de-ice the nation’s roads. This continuous extraction has left the mine with 23 million cubic metres of void space.

Alongside the apparent need for diversification and utilisation of the salt mine lies the needs of the dispirited community of Winsford. Originally reliant on salt industry, the unemployment figures are consistently above the UK average, resulting in the town being amongst the most deprived in the county.

Through extensive research into Cheshire’s industrious past, the presence of the tanning cottage industry became apparent which coincided with the peak of Cheshire’s salt mining. These tanneries utilised the locality of cow hides from the heavily agricultural based county, and the abundance of salt to thrive. Now, the bulk of leather manufacture is in Middle East countries, and secondly, from America. This project proposes the implementation of a large scale tannery into the redundant space of the salt mine to bring the core of Europe’s tanning industry into Cheshire; to act as a catalyst of conservation and economic regeneration to the area. The building completes the machinic assemblage of the leather factory; the raw hides travel down the existing shaft into the concealment of the mine below, and emerge as processed leather which is packaged and deployed for export via the river weaver.

Emma Hague

This project explores the rise and fall of the mining industry, alongside the growth and decline of various smaller cottage industries it supported, in and around Winsford Cheshire, home of the UKs largest salt mine.

The area is understood through rigorous research, investigation and documentation. The resulting information has been integrated into a detailed resolution of a building, which introduces a new industrial process that becomes intertwined with abandoned areas of the existing salt mine.

Emma is an exceptional student who through this project is demonstrating a comprehensive attitude towards architecture, expressed through drawing and continual research. The tannery illustrates how a strategic and detailed thought process can work to produce a delightful project and building.

James Dale


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