CHAP. XIII. OF SALT MADE IN ENGLAND.
THERE are in England certein welles where salt is made, whereof Leland hath written abundantlie in his cōmentaries of Britaine, and whose words onlie I will set downe in English as he wrote them, bicause he seemeth to haue had diligent consideration of the same, without adding anie thing of mine owne to him, except it be where necessitie dooth inforce me for the méere aid of the reader, in the vnderstanding of his mind. Directing therefore his iournie from Worcester in his peregrination and laborious trauell ouer England, he saith thus: From Worcester I road to the Wich by inclosed soile, hauing meetlie good come ground, sufficient wood and good pasture, about a six miles off, Wich standeth somewhat in a vallie or low ground, betwixt two small hils on the left ripe (for so he calleth the banke of euerie brooke through out all his English treatises) of a pretie riuer which not far beneath the Wich is called Salope brooke. The beautie of the towne in maner standeth in one stréet, yet be there manie lanes in the towne besides. There is also a meane church in the maine stréet, and once in the wéeke an indifferent round market. The towne of it selfe is somewhat foule and durtie when anie raine falleth by reason of much cariage through the stréets, which are verie ill paued or rather not paued at all. The great aduancement also hereof is by making of salt. And though the commoditie thereof be singular great, yet the burgesses be poore generallie, bicause gentlemen haue for the most part gotten the great gaine of it into their hands, whilest the poore burgesses yeeld vnto all the labour. There are at this
A common plague in all things of anie great commoditie, for one beateth the bush but another catcheth the birds, as we may sée in batfowling.
present time thrée hundred salters, and thrée salt springs in the towne of Wich, whereof the principall is within a butshoot of the right ripe (or banke) of the riuer that there commeth downe: and this spring is double so profitable in yeelding of salt liquor, as both the other. Some saie (or rather fable) that this salt spring did faile in the time of Richard de la Wich bishop of Chichester, and that afterwards by his intercession it was restored to the profit of the old course (such is the superstition of the people) in remembrance whereof, or peraduenture for the zeale which the Wich men and salters did beare vnto Richard de la Wich their countriman, they vsed of late times on his daie (which commeth once in the yeare) to hang this salt spring or well about with tapistrie, and to haue sundrie games, drinkiugs, and foolish reuels at it. But to procéed. There be a great number of salt cotes about this well, wherein the salt water is sodden in leads, and brought to the perfection of pure white salt. The other two salt springs be on the left side of the riuer a pretie waie lower than the first, and (as I found) at the verie end of the towne. At these also be diuerse fornaces to make salt, but the profit and plentie of these two are nothing comparable to the gaine that riseth by the greatest. I asked of a salter how manie fornaces they had at all the three springs, and he numbred them to eightéene score, that is, thrée hundred and sixtie, saieng how euerie one of them
paied paied yearelie six shillings and eight pence to the king. The truth is that of old they had liberties giuen vnto them for thrée hundred fornaces or more, and therevpon they giue a fee farme (or Vectigal
) of one hundred pounds yearelie. Certes the pension is as it was, but the number of fornaces is now increased to foure hundred. There was of late search made for another salt spring there abouts, by the meanes of one Newport a gentleman dwelling at the Wich, and the place where it was appéereth, as dooth also the wood and timber which was set about it, to kéepe vp the earth from falling into the same. But this pit was not since occupied, whether it were for lacke of plentie of the salt spring, or for letting or hindering of the profit of the other three. Me thinke that if wood and sale of salt would serue, they might dig and find more salt springs about the Wich than thrée, but there is somewhat else
Priuileges doo somtimes harme.
in the wind. For I heard that of late yeares a salt spring was found in an other quarter of Worcestershire, but it grew to be without anie vse, sith the Wich men haue such a priuilege, that they alone in those quarters shall haue the making of salt. The pits be so set about with gutters, that the salt water is easilie turned to euerie mans house, and at Nantwich verie manie troughs go ouer the riuer for the commoditie of such as dwell on the other side of the same. They séeth also their salt water in fornaces of lead, and lade out the salt some in cases of wicker, through which the water draineth, and the salt remaineth. There be also two or thrée but verie little salt springs at Dertwitch, in a low bottome, where salt is sometime made.
Of late also a mile from Cumbremere abbaie a peece of an hill did sinke, and in the same pit rose a spring of salt water, where the abbat began to make salt; but the men of the citie compounded with the abbat & couent that there should be none made there, whereby the pit was suffered to go to losse. And although it yéelded salt water still of it selfe, yet it was spoiled at the last and filled vp with filth. The Wich men vse the cōmoditie of their salt springs in drawing and decocting the water of them onlie by six moneths in the yeare, that is, from Midsummer to Christmas, as (I gesse) to mainteine the price of salt, or for sauing of wood, which I thinke to be their principall reason. For making of salt is a great and notable destruction of wood, and shall be greater hereafter, except some prouision be made for the better increase of firing. The lacke of wood also is alreadie perceiued in places néere the Wich, for whereas they vsed to buie and take their wood neere vnto their occupiengs, those woonted springs are now decaied, and they be inforced to seeke their wood so far as Worcester towne, and all the parts about Brenisgraue, Alchirch, and Alcester. I asked a salter how much wood he supposed yearelie to be spent at these fornaces? and he answered that by estimation there was consumed about six thousand load, and it was round pole wood for the most, which is easie to be cleft, and handsomelie riuen in péeces. The people that are about the fornaces are verie ill coloured, and the iust rate of euerie fornace is to make foure loads of salt yearelie, and to euerie load goeth fiue or six quarters as they make their accounts. If the fornace men make more in one fornace than foure loads, it is (as it is said) imploied to their owne auaile. And thus much hath Leland left in memorie of our white salt, who in an other booke, not now in my hands, hath touched the making also of baie salt in some part of our countrie. But sith that booke is deliuered againe to the owner, the tractation of baie salt can not be framed in anie order, bicause my memorie will not serue to shew the true maner and the place. It shall suffice therfore to haue giuen such notice of it, to the end the reader may know that aswell the baie as white are wrought and made in England, and more white also vpon the west coast toward Scotland, in Essex and else where, out of the salt water betwéene Wire and Cokermouth, which commonlie is of like price with our wheat. Finallie, hauing thus intermedled our artificiall salt with our minerals, let vs giue ouer, and go in hand with such mettals as are growing here in England.