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Welcome to Winsford Rock Salt Mine

the online educational resource for the UK's largest rock salt mine

Going underground

Welcome to winsford rock salt mine..

Winsford Rock Salt Mine is Britain's oldest working mine. It lies almost 200m under the Cheshire countryside and has a fascinating history.

It also hides some surprising facts. For example, did you know that towns around Winsford like Northwich, Middlewich and Nantwich, all take their names from salt production, with 'Wych' often meaning 'Brine Town'?

If you would like more detailed information about Winsford Rock Salt Mine you can download a Fact File from every page. These should provide you with everything you need.

Main picture courtesy of Paul Deakin

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Winsford Salt Mine Visit

Salt Mine Visit

On Wednesday 9th of June we visited Winsford salt mine. Located in Winsford in the heart of Cheshire, it is the largest salt mine in the UK. Winsford accounts for some 60% of all rock salt mined in the UK.

Founded in 1844, the mine is the UKs oldest rock salt mine. Although in the early days miners used spades and mined by hand, now the mine uses state of the art mining technology such as the laser guided JOY excavator, which I saw up close and in action on my visit.

The mine has four main shafts, each used for a different purpose:

  • Shaft one is used to take machinery down into mine. Machinery is often taken down in pieces and assembled underground, as tehy would be too large otherwise. Once machinery reaches the end of its life it is left underground, as it would be expensive to bring it back up to the surface.
  • Shaft two is used to bring processed salt up to the surface
  • Shaft three is a personnel lift, like you might find in a department store, and is the lift I used on my visit to the mine
  • Shaft four is used to pump clean air down in to the mine, to keep a healthy air flow deep underground.
When we arrived at the mine the first thing to do was to get suited up in protective clothing: a thick blue tunic to go over our clothes (orange for the miners, blue for visitors), a yellow hard hat, a lamp and even a backup oxygen supply.

Once kitted up we proceeded to go down shaft three, where we boarded an open-topped vehicle which would take us around the mine. With around 140 miles of tunnels to explore, it’s far too big to go on foot! The first thing which hits you is the sheer volume of space excavated underground. The tunnels are 20m wide and 7.5m high, it feels more the size of a large sports hall than an underground mine!

Winsdord Salt Mine Clothing

Our first step was the underground cinema. Yes, a cinema, in the mine! (Sadly no popcorn available). On the large projector screen we watched a short DVD about the history of the mine and the different techniques used to mine the rock salt. The mine uses two main techniques for mining salt, “drill and blast” and the JOY machine. Over the next two hours we would see each of these techniques up close and in action!

We also learned about the honeycomb structure of the mine. This is a method of mining which requires no props or support structure to be built. Instead, the salt is excavated in a grid pattern and the un-excavated areas act as pillars, and hold the roof of the mine up.

Once we had learned about the history and structure of the mine, it was time to start the tour. First we saw the drill and blast machinery. Although not as popular anymore, due to the new JOY machine, drill and blast still accounts for about 10% of total salt production of the mine. It follows a simple procedure:

The entire process, from scaling to detonation, takes approximately one day to complete.

We then moved on to see a more modern – and faster – method of rock salt extraction, the JOY machine. This machine is huge! It has a large rotating drum which just grinds away the rock face. The debris which falls off is then scooped up and sent along a conveyor belt – which can be several miles long – to the crusher. This is a much faster method of salt extraction as it can run continuously, and can erode vast amounts of rock face per day. This method accounts for some 90% of total salt production at Winsford.

This machine [JOY machine] is huge! It has a large rotating drum which just grinds away the rock face. The debris which falls off is then scooped up and sent along a conveyor belt – which can be several miles long – to the crusher.

Our next stop was to visit the crusher. This machine grinds down the chunks of salt mined using the various methods in to tiny grains of salt, typically either 6mm or 10mm in size. Salt from all over the mine comes in to the crusher, along conveyor belts, and passes through the crushing apparatus. The rock salt then goes through a filter, so that all grains of size less than 6mm are allowed to pass on, to the surface, and all bigger pieces are sent through the crusher again. This process is repeated until all grains are of a suitably small size. These grains will then be taken to the surface (up shaft 2), to be loaded in to wagons and dispatched, or to be stored above ground.

The final stop on our tour was at the DeepStore facility. Located deep in the mine, this is an example of what the cavities underground can be used for, once the rock salt has been extracted. The salt mine offers a secure storage facility, and people store everything from masses of documents to works of art underground, in the constant temperature, constant humidity salt mine. DeepStore has been running for about ten years, and almost three million boxes are stored here.

This concludes the visit to Winsford salt mine, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed visiting! For more information on what life is like inside Winsford Salt Mine, check out a recent BBC article here

Ready to buy?

Looking to make a purchase of high quality rock salt, sourced directly from Winsford salt mine? Why not browse our products section . Our rock salt is available in pre-packed bags of 10kg, 25kg or loose in a 1 tonne bulk bag.

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WINSFORD, CHESHIRE, U.K.

Underground salt mining storage + records management.

The Winsford rock salt mine is the U.K.’s largest and oldest working mine. It lies approximately 150 meters under the Cheshire countryside and has a fascinating history, which began in 1844 when local prospectors were searching for coal.

During the late 19 th century the salt industry descended into chaos due to over-capacity. In 1888, Salt Union, which consisted of 66 salt operators from the area was formed in an attempt to bring order to the market. However, with salt also being supplied from the Northwich mines, the market remained over-supplied and in 1892, the Winsford Mine was closed. In 1928 the last mine in Northwich flooded, resulting in the re-opening of the Winsford Mine.

The Winsford mine is Britain’s largest supplier of natural rock salt, which is used by maintenance professionals to thaw icy roads in wintry weather. In addition to supplying rock salt, Compass Minerals U.K. also developed DryStore ® , a unique salt-covering system that helps salt stocks stay dry while in storage.

The Winsford Mine was the first Compass Minerals production facility to purchase a continuous mining machine to replace the traditional drill-and-blast method of salt extraction. The continuous mining process uses a machine to cut rock away from the mine face. It’s simpler, takes less mining equipment, less underground transportation machinery and less manpower than the drill-and-blast process that it replaces, and reduces fuel use and emissions.

More than a century of mining has left a void under the countryside that features consistent temperature and humidity levels, and is naturally free from the dangers of ultraviolet light, vermin or flooding. It is the size of 700 football pitches and continues to grow as a salt is mined every year. In 1998, DeepStore was established to take advantage of this unique storage space. Treasured paintings, historical records and architectural models are among the items stored in the Winsford location.

DeepStore has more than 1.8 million square meters of storage space that provides secure storage of items ranging from active records, to treasured paintings. One of the more well-known DeepStore customers is The National Archives, for whom DeepStore manages public records.

In 2007, DeepStore acquired a location in the London metropolitan area, creating a comprehensive, nationwide records management resource.

Compass Minerals U.K. Limited Bradford Road Winsford Cheshire, England CW7 2PE

+44 (0)370 5329723

[email protected]

winsford salt mine tours

RELATED LINKS Compass Minerals U.K. Underground Salt Mining Storage + Records Management Learn about Winsford, Cheshire About DeepStore

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Salted away: Cheshire salt mine to store National Archives

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Fri 13 Aug 2010 11.09 BST First published on Fri 13 Aug 2010 11.09 BST

Salt Mine Storage: Salt mine to be used as document storage for the national archive

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Location: 1 km N from Winsford, United Kingdom

Bradford Rd Winsford United Kingdom CW7 2PE

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The final rock formation at Winsford has four distinct rock salt seams or ‘halite’ as it is known (halite is taken from the Greek word ‘hals’, meaning salt). Each rock salt seam averages 25 metres (80ft) in thickness. The remaining strata consist of rock salt with Keuper Marl bands and Keuper Marl. The youngest of the Triassic rocks in the series, Keuper Marl is usually amber or brown in colour, although on occasions it can be blue or green. Due to many of the influencing geological aspects, the colour of Winsford’s salt varies greatly – it can range from clear to pink through to dark brown, although a mixture of dark brown and pink is most commonly found. The beds of salt worked at Winsford are relatively flat (see diagram). There are two economically workable beds of salt known locally as Zone ‘B’ and Zone’F’. These beds lie between 130 and 220 metres below the surface. As discussed earlier the bed is, on average, 25 metres thick but the purest salt is located in the lower part of the bed. Winsford rock salt is more than 90% pure sodium chloride, with the remaining insolubles consisting mainly of Keuper Marl, which is a layer of clay from the late Triassic or ‘Keuper’ period. Keuper Marl has weathering properties, which give Winsford rock salt its unique ‘thatching’ effect, protecting the salt quality. Marl also contributes to improved friction when salt is used as a highway deicer.

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Winsford Salt Mine: Hazardous waste storage extension approved

  • Published 11 May 2022

Winsford Rock Salt Mine

Hazardous waste has been stored in a shaft at Winsford salt mine since 2004

Plans to continue dumping hazardous waste underground at Britain's only working salt mine have been approved.

A shaft at Winsford Rock Salt Mine in Cheshire has been used to store hazardous material since 2004 but permission is due to run out in 2025.

Cheshire West and Chester Council unanimously agreed to extend until 2045 subject to conditions.

A report to the planning committee said it would help ensure the country had " sufficient disposal capacity ".

The mine in Jack Lane, Bostock, has been operating since 1844 and is used to mine rock salt for icy roads.

It was classed as ideal for the hazardous waste because of its dry caverns stretching over five sq miles (12.8 sq km), the Local Democracy Reporting Service has previously reported.

'Most sustainable method'

The planning committee gave the green light to the extension subject to a scheme to be submitted and implemented relating to the sealing of the Bostock number five panel following the cessation of waste depositing operations.

When proposals to store the waste were first made in 2004, there was opposition from some local politicians and residents, including a High Court challenge and a public inquiry.

John Prescott - the then deputy prime minister - gave permission for shaft number four to be used, saying it was "the most sustainable method" for disposing of the waste.

The shaft - known as Minosus - is operated by waste and utilities company Veolia.

The waste is mainly solid ash formed from contaminants generated by exhaust gases at energy recovery facilities, and soda slag streams from battery recycling.

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Winsford History Society

Preserving the history of winsford, salt mine map.

11th April 2018 Leave a Comment

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This Salt Union map shows number 3 shaft close to the original access shafts. Number 4 shaft, sunk in 1963 is used to bring equipment into the mine in pieces before assembly. Two large fans also ensure a steady supply of air into the mine. Number 5 shaft was sunk in 1973 and is mainly used to transport rock salt. Not archived

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Winsford Salt Mine

Post by Julian » Wed Oct 17, 2012 11:10 am

Great Britain

Re: Winsford Salt Mine

Post by SRB » Wed Oct 17, 2012 11:53 am

Post by diggerjones » Wed Oct 17, 2012 7:51 pm

Post by Julian » Thu Oct 18, 2012 1:25 pm

diggerjones wrote: thats up the road from me. they used to do tours. any chance you could ask if they still do them next time your there. cheers dylan

User avatar

Post by modelman093 » Thu Oct 18, 2012 4:40 pm

Post by davej » Fri Oct 19, 2012 7:26 pm

Post by diggerjones » Fri Oct 19, 2012 9:03 pm

Julian wrote: diggerjones wrote: thats up the road from me. they used to do tours. any chance you could ask if they still do them next time your there. cheers dylan

Post by nick lamb » Fri Oct 26, 2012 4:55 pm

Post by Julian » Fri Oct 26, 2012 6:32 pm

nick lamb wrote: it's surprisingly warm down there. Worked a D9 ripping on the surface before,Also screened with a 980C and hauled the ripped salt about on Wardles D40D trucks.Will sort some pics....

Post by wxmman » Sat Nov 03, 2012 9:09 pm

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  1. Welcome to Winsford Rock Salt Mine

    Winsford Rock Salt Mine is Britain's oldest working mine. It lies almost 200m under the Cheshire countryside and has a fascinating history. It also hides some surprising facts. For example, did you know that towns around Winsford like Northwich, Middlewich and Nantwich, all take their names from salt production, with 'Wych' often meaning 'Brine ...

  2. 'Rare opportunity' to explore mine 300 metres below Cheshire town

    To celebrate the return of the Salt Fair, Winsford Town Council is offering six people the chance to venture down to the UK's largest and oldest working mine. Located 300 metres below the town, Compass Minerals will take six prize winners will on a two-hour tour of the Winsford rock salt mine. The mayor of Winsford, councillor Ernie Welch ...

  3. Winsford Salt Mine Visit

    Winsford Salt Mine Visit. On Wednesday 9th of June we visited Winsford salt mine. Located in Winsford in the heart of Cheshire, it is the largest salt mine in the UK. Winsford accounts for some 60% of all rock salt mined in the UK. Founded in 1844, the mine is the UKs oldest rock salt mine. Although in the early days miners used spades and ...

  4. Cheshire, U.K.

    Compass Minerals U.K. Limited. Bradford Road. Winsford. Cheshire, England CW7 2PE. +44 (0)370 5329723. [email protected]. The Winsford rock salt mine is the U.K.'s largest and oldest working mine. It lies approximately 150 meters under the Cheshire countryside.

  5. Visit us

    Visit us. Lion Salt Works Ollershaw Lane Marston Northwich Cheshire CW9 6ES. 01606 275066. Opening hours. Tuesday to Sunday, 10.30am - 5pm (last admission at 4pm) We're closed on Mondays but are usually open on bank holiday Mondays.. Admission charges. Adult: £7.30 Concession: £6.50 (concessions are 60+, jobseekers, or students. Carers go free.)

  6. Salt mines of Cheshire

    Salt mines of Cheshire. Salt from Cheshire kept the country moving when the icy winter turned UK roads into potential deathtraps. We visit the country's largest rock salt mine in Winsford to find out what goes on. Gordon Dunn and his team are working flat out about 200 metres underground in the pitch black. It's a constant 14 degrees, more ...

  7. Discover Cheshire's Salt Story

    Cheshire's Salt Story Salt-making in Cheshire dates back over 2000 years, when the salt towns of Cheshire were first established by the Romans. The salt was originally extracted from the ground in the Northwich region by brine pits. in the 17th Century. These mines were exhausted by 1850. There was a change to wild brine pumping after the ...

  8. Rare chance to visit salt mines

    A RARE opportunity to visit one of Britain's oldest salt mines has been announced as part of the second annual Winsford Salt Fair. More than 700 years of heritage and history will be at the heart of this month's event, which takes place in and around the Winsford Cross shopping centre between ...

  9. What is the history of the Winsford Salt Mine?

    The Fascinating History of the Winsford Salt Mine As a digital nomad, I am constantly fascinated by the history and cultural heritage of different regions around the world. One such intriguing location is the Winsford Salt Mine in Cheshire, England. This ancient mine has a rich history dating back over 2000 years and has played … What is the history of the Winsford Salt Mine? Read More »

  10. Salted away: Cheshire salt mine to store National Archives

    The mine in Winsford is the size of 700 football pitches, stretches to 100 miles and is still growing as approximately 1m tonnes of salt are mined every year. The unique space now houses DeepStore ...

  11. Northwich Rotary Club pays visit to Winsford rock salt mine

    A CLUB continuing to celebrate its centenary has been treated to a look behind the scenes at a historic rock salt mine. Members of Northwich Rotary Club paid a visit in January to the Winsford rock salt mine, run by Compass Minerals UK off Bradford Road. The history of the site, which is the UK's largest and oldest working mine, began in 1844 ...

  12. Salt in Cheshire

    Rock salt extraction began at Winsford in the 17th century. Initially it was used only as salt licks for animals, and to strengthen weak brine. In 1844 Winsford Rock Salt Mine was opened, and is claimed by its operator, Salt Union Ltd., to be "Britain's oldest working mine". See also. Cheshire portal; History of salt; History of salt in Middlewich

  13. Major Mines & Projects

    2048. Shapshot. The Winsford mine is the largest dedicated rock salt mine in the U.K. The Winsford mine is Britain's largest supplier of natural rock salt, which is used by maintenance professionals to thaw icy roads in wintry weather. The underground mine Winsford is operated with modern mining equipment and utilizes subsurface improvements ...

  14. Winsford Salt Mine: Hazardous waste storage extension approved

    A shaft at Winsford Rock Salt Mine in Cheshire has been used to store hazardous material since 2004 but permission is due to run out in 2025. Cheshire West and Chester Council unanimously agreed ...

  15. Inside the glittering cavern of one of Cheshire's former salt mines

    The Winsford salt mine has a massive void, but not in the same way as the Marston one. An example of this form of underground entertainment can still be seen in Poland at the Wieliczka salt mine. But back to our two heroes who have now been handed over to a foreman for a tour of the Marston Duke/Adelaide mine. The year is 1850, and they are ...

  16. Underground Tours & Mine Tours in England

    The ground beneath our feet hides a multitude of jaw-dropping sites and an underground tour can reveal so much about England's history and the formation of the English landscape. There are miles of caves to explore, boasting awe-inspiring stalagmites and stalactites. Take a sewer tour - yes, really - to gawp at the subterranean ...

  17. Salt mine map

    This Salt Union map shows number 3 shaft close to the original access shafts. Number 4 shaft, sunk in 1963 is used to bring equipment into the mine in pieces before assembly. Two large fans also ensure a steady supply of air into the mine. Number 5 shaft was sunk in 1973 and is mainly used to transport rock salt.

  18. Winsford Salt Mine

    Winsford Salt Mine. 10 posts • Page 1 of 1. Topic author. Julian Posts ... Winsford Salt Mine. Post by Julian » Wed Oct 17, 2012 12:10 pm . I had a little tour underground yesterday, took a few photos but because of the dark they are poor. They have a fair bit of equipment including a pivot steer bucket loader, sorry I've forgot the make and ...