OVER 100 years ago, Winsford lay at the centre of beautiful Cheshire, but it had a heart of acrid smoke, hard graft and poverty, writes Paul Hurley.

The banks of the Weaver were lined with salt workings. Each salt pan required its chimney to expel the fumes from low-grade coal beneath the pans.

This effluvium polluted the atmosphere in the lower part of the town leading to it being known locally as Dark Town.

It also gained this title due to the lack of Christian worship and the penchant of the workers to frequent the alehouses in the Market Place.

After the spectacular subsidence in Northwich, another ‘salt rush’ started with the building of salt works along the River Weaver.

By 1860, 500,000 tons of white salt a year left by boat for Liverpool and across the world.

Winsford was and is the largest salt producing town in Britain.

Fortunes were made, mansions built and the working class worked under awful circumstances. There were salt magnates like Falk, Furnivall and Verdin, in 1915 there were around 296 individual salt proprietors.

Herman Falk was German and, and he imported workers from Eastern Europe. He housed them in a poverty-stricken Bass Town at Meadow Bank; the houses, constructed of bass, which was the waste cinder product from the cheap coal used under the salt pans.

Until 1894 Winsford consisted only of the area at the Town Bridge, with the villages of Wharton and Over on either side.