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Loved by chefs the world over
Maldon and the Essex Salt Makers
For over 2000 years the east coast of Essex has played
host to the age-old craft of harvesting salt from the sea
From the Iron age...
through to Saxon times, the estuaries and surrounding
marshes were at the centre of the salt making industry and
the reddened earth and broken earthenware pots that form
the Red Hills of Essex, are evidence of early salt production.
These mounds of industrial waste...
are remnants of coarse pottery vessels, ash and
scorched clay from fires used to heat the sea water
It is thought that during high tide...
sea water was trapped in clay pans cut into the river bank
where it was left to partially evaporate in the sun
The resulting brine...
was transferred into clay pots where it was heated over
open fires. When evaporation was complete, the pots
were broken open and the salt removed.
The attraction
of Essex...
to the salt making industry
remains the same today as
it did centuries ago
Because of the
comparatively low
rainfall...
the environmental conditions
in Essex are ideal for salt
making. With less fresh
rainwater the concentration of
salt in the estuaries and rivers
is much higher.
As the twice daily tides recede...
exposing the extensive marshlands and mud flats, a combination of the sun
and wind evaporates the sea water leaving salt deposits on the vegetation.
In 1086 the great Domesday survey...
recorded no fewer than 45 salt pans in the Maldon area. In
the Middle Ages, production techniques became more
sophisticated with the salty brine being boiled in pans made
of lead known as ‘leddes’.
The thriving salt industry in Essex...
left its mark and is reflected in local place names like
Gore Saltings, Saltcote Hall and Salcotte which refers
to primitive sheds or ‘salt-cotes’ in which salt was
manufactured.
The Guild of Saltmakers...
dates back to 1394 and the sign of the Guild, Three
Cups, can still be seen throughout Essex and is a
further reminder of its salt trading history.
For hundreds of years...
salt continued to be skillfully harvested from the sea but in the
19th century the industry in Essex started to decline
From the earliest times...
salt has always been heavily taxed but in the early 1800s it
had risen to £30 a ton. Combined with more economical
methods of salt production in Cheshire, the Essex Salt
Traders slowly disappeared and to this day, only a single
company carrying out this age old tradition has survived...
The Maldon Crystal Salt Company

Maldon and the Essex Salt Makers

The salt trade has been synonymous with Essex for over 2000 years

Head back into history and the Essex coast was alive with salt making. At least 2,000 years ago, seawater was being partially evaporated and then heated in clay pots over open fires. When the water had gone, the pots were broken open to reveal the precious result: salt. Opening a distinctive Maldon box today is somewhat easier.

By the Domesday Book, 45 salt pans were operating in the Maldon area and hundreds more across Essex as a whole. Salt turns up in place names across the county, the Guild of Saltmakers was founded in 1394 and its sign, the three cups, is still seen in Essex.

But like so many good things, saltmaking was taxed and, eventually, taxed almost out of existence. Except that is for Maldon, the last survivor of the Essex saltmakers and proud standard bearer of traditional high quality salt making.

According to LegendThe Lancet
  • ©2017. Maldon Crystal Salt Co.