Weaver Hall Museum and Workhouse
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|Weaver Hall Museum and Workhouse|
Weaver Hall Museum
|Location||162 London Road, Northwich, Cheshire, England|
|OS grid reference||SJ 658 731|
|Designated||8 July 1969|
The Weaver Hall Museum and Workhouse, Northwich, Cheshire, records the social, cultural and industrial history of west Cheshire. It was formerly known as the Salt Museum, reflecting its earlier focus on the history of salt extraction, a local industry dating back to Roman times. The museum was renamed Weaver Hall Museum in 2010 as its remit now extends to cover the broader history of the area and also the history of the building itself as a former workhouse.
Weaver Hall Museum houses a large collection covering the archaeology, architecture, industries and social history of Cheshire from prehistory to the present. Permanent displays include a Victorian workhouse schoolroom and the 'Board of Guardians' boardroom.
It also holds an image library of over 8,000 items recording the history of west Cheshire, particularly in relation to the salt and chemical industries and associated canal transport.
In addition to regular displays of items from its own collections the Museum also hosts visiting exhibitions, art exhibitions, special events, holiday activities, talks and regular film shows in its own mini-cinema the ‘Regalette’ (named in honour of the town's last surviving cinema, the Regal, which closed in 2007.)
In 2009 over 21,000 people visited Weaver Hall.
Origins and history of Weaver Hall Museum
The first 'salt museum' was set up in the 19th century by Thomas Ward and John Brunner, two local salt proprietors, who felt the town needed something to explain its status as the then "salt capital of the world". Ward and Brunner donated the library and museum to the town in 1887.
The museum collection originally shared a building with Northwich library but mine subsidence - once a significant problem in the town - caused this to collapse. A new combined library-and-museum building was put up in 1909. This building still exists but now houses only Northwich library, though the former title over the door remains.
The collection moved into Weaver Hall in June 1981, in large part thanks to the efforts of Mary, Lady Rochester, who played a leading role in its early establishment. It opened under the name of The Salt Museum and displayed exhibits which particularly illustrated the history of the salt industry and its impact on the area. In 2010 the proposed redevelopment of a second museum based nearby at the former Lion Salt Works encouraged restructuring, and reverting to its name of Weaver Hall the museum enlarged its focus to cover the broader history of the west Cheshire region.
The building which was eventually to become known as Weaver Hall was opened in 1839 in response to the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834, which standardized the system of poor relief throughout England and Wales. Groups of parishes were combined into 'unions' which were responsible for providing for the poor and needy in the area. The law forbade all relief to the able-bodied in their own homes. Anyone wishing to receive aid had to live in workhouses. This act led to the building of 554 Union workhouses in England and Wales. Conditions were harsh, based on the theory that pauperism among able-bodied workers was a moral failing. Entry to the workhouse aimed to stimulate workers to seek employment rather than charity. During the 19th century conditions improved and workhouses were replaced by the public welfare system in the 1930s.
The Northwich Union Workhouse was commissioned in 1837, after 65 local parishes and townships comprising nearly the whole of mid-Cheshire were combined in October 1836 into a single union. The building was designed by architect George Latham to a standard model. In 1850 a fever hospital was added, and in 1863 better receiving wards – with proper baths – were installed. Poor Law Unions and their Guardians were abolished in April 1930, when Northwich Workhouse transferred to Cheshire County Council as a public assistance institution.
In 1948 the building became the Weaver Hall Old People’s Home. Most of the workhouse buildings were demolished in the 1960s, though an original range of rooms fronting London Road remained, along with an adjoining Board of Guardians room built in 1892. The main building ceased to be an old people's home in 1968, when residents were moved to a purpose-built facility at the rear.
In June 1981 the former workhouse building was re-opened as The Salt Museum, and continued until its renaming in 2010 as the Weaver Hall Museum and Workhouse.
- "Cheshire West and Chester Council press release: 24 May 2010". Retrieved February 13, 2011.
- "Weaver Hall, Northwich", The National Heritage List for England (English Heritage), 2011, retrieved 7 May 2011
- Kelly's Directory of Cheshire (1896), p. 409
- "Northwich library". Retrieved November 26, 2012.
- "History of Northwich Library". Retrieved November 26, 2012.
- Rochester, Mary, The Northwich Poor Law Union & Workhouse, Salt Museum Publication, ISSN:0263-5593
- Northwich Guardian, 28 August 1969
Media related to Weaver Hall Museum and Workhouse at Wikimedia Commons