The Lion Salt Works in Marston, Cheshire, is a restored historic open-pan salt making site

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The Lion Salt Works in Marston, Cheshire, is a restored historic open-pan salt making site

Why is Mary-Ann Ochota Passionate about the Lion Salt Works?

This February, we asked well-known personalities to tell us about the buildings they couldn’t live without. Here is a love letter by Mary-Ann Ochota, broadcaster and author of Hidden Histories: A Spotter’s Guide to the British Landscape. 

The Lion Salt Works is a Scheduled Monument and several of its buildings are Grade II listed.

Since I first saw you, you’ve spruced up. I’m glad you’ve met other people. I know you’re charming and teaching and entrancing them just like you did me.

The renovated Lion Salt Works in Marston, Cheshire.
The renovated Lion Salt Works in Marston, Cheshire. © Lion Salt Works

To the Lion Salt Works, Marston, Cheshire

"When I first saw you, I was a child and you really weren’t much to look at. In fact, you scared me. A derelict site along the canal: raggedy weeds, tangled struts and a big square chimney. But I was standing next to a historian who explained who you really were – a place where men and women built their lives, a fortune and an industry on salt.

The workers wore clogs. They sang songs as they dragged rakes across vast open pans of brine. I remember learning that the Victorian moralists worried because men and women worked together, and that the ladies sometimes stripped off to their underskirts in the steamy rooms of boiling salt. The Victorians had been horrified, I was entranced. It wasn’t that long ago, but it was a different world. The buildings around me were never meant to be fancy, they were hard and functional and built to work. But there’s a beauty in such unapologetic practicality.

I realized that your tumbledown buildings held deep seams of stories that deserved to be told. Since I first saw you, you’ve spruced up. Now you have brown heritage signs and award-winning displays and a café. I’m glad you’ve met other people. I know you’re charming and teaching and entrancing them just like you did me."

Mary-Ann Ochota
Mary-Ann Ochota © Joe Bass

About Mary-Ann Ochota

Mary-Ann Ochota is a broadcaster and anthropologist who gained her MA from Emmanuel College, Cambridge University and is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. She is the author of Hidden Histories: A Spotter’s Guide to the British Landscape

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