Visitors to the site will pass the Salt Wagon on their way to the free car park and possibly linger by the outdoor salt-pan, reading the geology boards before going into Pan House 5 and the pay desk.
Pan House 5 was the newest of the original pan houses and the one which was in the most precarious condition. With the help of a large grant from the European Manage+ Programme it was rebuilt and now houses the main visitor reception area, shop and café. Upstairs is the well-equipped and popular Thompson suite which doubles as a conference facility and performance area.
From here the tour moves to the Red Lion Inn (the site was named for the Red Lion pub on the edge of the site, now incorporated into the Museum) where there are exhibits and interactive displays describing the history of salt making and a recreation of the Manager’s Office. Visitors also meet the ‘virtual’ owner of the Works who recruits them as new employees.
Entering Pan House 1, the visitor is met by a simulation of the fiery red furnaces before climbing the stairs to a pan which is wreathed in ‘steam’. An exciting audio-visual display explains the salt making process and shows the difficult working conditions for former saltworkers.
The drying galleries come next, where the visitor cannot fail to be impressed by the scale and complexity of the structural restoration which has been achieved.
Next come the storage and packing areas where the story continues with an array of displays and inter-active exhibits, including the ‘subsiding house’; huge Crushing Machine and intricate automaton.
The tour finishes in the first-floor storage and loading area, overlooking the canal, where dramatic photographs show the impact on the local landscape of brine extraction. Here the story of the unique local landscape of the nearby Northwich Woodlands is told. Just minutes from the front gate of the museum, it provides a rich variety of habitats for orchids and butterflies as well as a good recreation area for walking and cycling.
A visit to the Salt Works would not be complete without a tour of the Butterfly Garden and for the children there is a fun, fully-equipped, industrially-themed play area. In addition to an imaginative shop selling a range of gift items such as salt, postcards, books, scarves, jewellery and children’s games, there is a relaxing café selling light lunches and refreshments.