East Hampshire salt industry

Hayling island 


The building of new saltworks in east Hampshire appears to have been brought about by patent granted, in 1606, for 21 years to Christopher Echard and Richard Tatnall for making white and bay salt anywhere in the kingdom they thought fit, although no details of their supposed ‘new’ process are recorded.[1]  As was customary, they assigned part of the grant to Sir John Popham, Lord Chief Justice, in trust for the benefit of Sir John Payton.  This was a quid pro quo for the assistance of courtiers in obtaining the patent and particularly in reign of Elizabeth, had led to a group of courtiers being dubbed ‘Lords of the Salt’ because of their quasi-monopoly of salt related patents.


About this time, Camden describes saltworks in the area;

the Island Portsey adjoining… in many places along this shore, of the sea waters flowing up thither, is made salt of a palish or green colour: the which by a certain artificious devise, they boil until it bee exceeding white.  [2]


Later in 1625, Christopher Echard claimed to have entered into an agreement with Sir John Payton, Sir Edward Apsley, Thomas Warre and Nicholas Worth to the effect that the works were in trust for Echard alone and that part of the grant (for life) was sold back to him.  Roger Warre in 1623 sold his presumed part to Robert Aldred.  This is only one of the many claims and counterclaims regarding this site, which were unresolved until the end of the century.  There is no evidence that Echard was involved in building saltworks elsewhere.  He came from a locally prominent Great Yarmouth family.[3]


John Payton and his associates claimed to have spent considerable sums on the works and to have agreed with Robert Bold (Lord of the manor of Copnor) for the bringing of water over the lands of the latter to the works for 21 years, recurring as long as saltworks existed, at the extortionate rent of £20 p.a. Payton also agreed with William Playfont and Matthew Fielder for a way over and through the latter’s land ‘for carrying of necessaries to said works’ as the patent itself did not grant such rights.


Bold was Mayor of Portsmouth in 1615 and gave the Corporation a salt in 1617 (now in Portsmouth City Museum) although no irony was probably intended as such objects were frequently ceremonial gifts.  In 1629, on the expiration of Echard’s patent, the crown granted to Sir Edward Sydenham all these saltworks at Copnor, and he together with Sir John Payton, Sir Edward Apsley, Thomas Warre and others laid out £80 on further works there.[4] The king’s share of the profit appears to have been interpreted as a part share in the ownership.  Although the surviving sources do not enable the true ownership to be determined in view of the various assignments, mortgages etc made – or claimed to have been made - on it.  The Sydenham family retained a nominal title to it throughout most of the 17th century although it would appear the saltworks were pledged as security to various others resulting in disputes that lasted nearly a century.


Diagrammatic representation of the saltworks in 1791. 

Milne’s map of Hampshire









Robert Bold, Lord of the manors of (inter alia) Stubbington and Copnor, purchased to right to embank part of the foreshore in Copnor and thereafter created a strip of land between the saltworks and the sea.  A Mr. Harvey, by appointment of John Payton, managed the Copnor saltworks but Sydenham tried to renege on the agreement with William Bold about bringing in brine and drainage of the springs of water.  A decree in Chancery was obtained to confirm the agreement, in 1632, and that Sydenham was to pay Bold £20 p.a. for this.  For the next 50 years, there are a series of conflicting claims and much litigation although the surviving records do not provide answers to the questions raised by such legal actions.  It seems that it became a matter of de facto possession rather than de jure.[5]


In 1650, Juliana Popham of Southampton, widow of Alexander, said that Roger Warre had conveyed half of the works to Alexander Popham and also leased the other half to him for 21 years as security for his debts to Warre but that Roger Warre had taken control of the first mentioned half.  She went on to say that by reason of his delinquency, Sydenham had sequestered them to the use of the state and thereupon Robert Phillips, Thomas Newberry and John Munday had managed them.  Sir Edward Sydenham was a prominent Royalist in Romford and his extensive estates were consequently sequestrated under the Commonwealth.  She had applied to the committee for Hampshire, which gave an order to the sequestrators to give her half in 1646.  She was to have had half of the profits but she claimed to have been deceived by Phillips and his associates and never to have received any.  Regardless of the conflicting claims as to ownership, it was at least agreed that the Warre family operated the saltworks until about 1680 although Sydenham and Warre brought in William Mitchell as sole manager.  There were also allegations that Warre had mortgaged his share of the saltworks.[6]


Following the Restoration, Sir Edward Sydenham’s lands were evidently restored to him and he took further legal action against the Bold family particularly concerning two acres of land ‘overflown with water and called a fish pond or watering place … parcel of 48 acres the salt pits of Sir Edward’ which was –ironically- part of the natural freshwater drainage of the area.  The saltwater supply had been stopped by the Bolds for non-payment of rent.[7]


In a bizarre twist in this already convoluted tale, in ?


In yet another claim of 1673, Edward’s son, Charles Sydenham, was said to have died ‘seized of the saltworks at Copnor and another on the Isle of Grain in Kent’ and to have employed Roger Warre as his agent in managing these.  Nicholas Pitts was indebted to Sir Cyril Hayward for a debt of £300 of Sydenham’s, who also owed Pitts a further £250 secured on the saltworks, in 1660, but it was claimed Warre never applied the profits to paying the interest of these loans and kept them for himself.  It was alleged that Roger Warre combined with his brother George to try to disinherit Sydenham pretending Sir Edward Sydenham had leased them the premises as security for Warre’s salary and expenses.[8]


Like many of the lessees, Nicholas Pitts was not involved in the actual production process of salt, being a London businessman.  He had obtained a patent in 1664 for ‘a new way of preparing brine of seawater in winter as summer without sun’.  This he sold the following year to Sir William Smith and Charles Sydenham (both then of London) who sold on the rights as they applied to Ireland.  The latter is noted as living in Chichester in 1662 so it is possible that he took a more direct interest in the operation of the saltworks.[9]  John Collins, writing about the salt industry in 1682, stated ‘Portsea… salts are made from brine raised by sun purged and embodyed by fire ...a dry hard salt free from dirt and ill qualities’.  He goes on ‘Mr. Pitts [saltworks] at the eastward part of island is land recovered from sea by banks about 3 miles from Portsmouth’.  The information was supplied to him by ‘Mr. Binglos a [salt] merchant in Abchurch lane [London] from Portsmouth’.[10] In later legal proceedings, it was agreed that the saltworks had been in possession of the brothers Roger and George Warre 1680-4 (as lessees) but that the buildings were neglected.  In 1683 Roger Warre of Portsea, saltmaker, initiated several legal actions against various persons for non-payment of salt sent to them including William Reeves of Petersfield.[11]


Matters came to a head in 1684 and the dispute was finally resolved; albeit by indirect means.  The rent for access to the sea over Bold’s property had not been paid and Mrs. Ann Mason (daughter of Robert Bold) took legal action to recover this £280 whereby the Sheriff sequestered the saltworks to her in satisfaction of the debt.  She then let them to John Bindloss until 1699 at £60 p.a.  She owned these until her death in 1700.  Bindloss obviously had major problems with salt production and was sued by John Kinns, John Pratt, Samuel Rowett and John Prevost (traders in salt) for salt not delivered according to contract; the delay in supply causing it to become liable to newly introduced duty.  However, it was also alleged that Bindloss owed rent of £200 when he left.  Bindloss was to have been arrested for this but was taken up by the executors of a London apothecary and was said to have died in the Fleet prison insolvent in 1702.[12]


Yet further litigation ensued, in 1699, when Anne Sydenham and Roger Warre sued Anne Mason, widow, Samuel Bradford and John Bindloss.  In evidence, Samuel Bradford said that he was the salter there and described how John Bindloss had rented the saltworks for £60 pa from 1680 when the 5 pans all needed to be repaired/rebottomed, although new ones were later installed by Bindloss which he took away when he left.  From 1699, Samuel Bradford leased the premises at the same rent although, by then, they were not in a good condition.  Some  £321 had to be spent on repairs to the seabank, as well as the sluice being much decayed as were the feeding pond walls and sluices or bunneys.  Much of this had been occasioned by several great tides and storms particularly during November 1690, December 1692, September 1697 and November 1714.  The Great Storm of 1703 caused relatively little damage to saltworks along the Hampshire coast as it was not accompanied by a tidal surge.  The profit or income from saltmaking was uncertain depending ‘on the goodness or badness of the weather’ in our uncertain climate.[13]


It rarely seems to have been profitable during the 17th century, even before the advent of Cheshire rocksalt, and Bradford constructed a new building or workhouse for making sal catharticum amarum [Epsom salt] 1704 without which it was said the rent could not even have been paid, even though this had reduced 1713-7 to £20 p.a. Epsom and Glauber’s salts were derived from the bittern and were processed during the winter months giving more continuity of employment to the saltworkers and spreading the operating costs over a longer period.


Samuel Bradford died in 1717 and, in 1726, Mrs. Hanna Mason had to mortgage the property as arrears of £280 from a rent-charge of £20 p.a. had built up again.  In a strange change of circumstances, Joseph Griffin and John Wyndham and his wife (the granddaughter of Edward Sydenham) gave her the liberty to drain the freshwater pond adjoining the saltworks.


The survey of 1749 provides little information as the works were well run with resident Salt Duty collection officials.  It comprised  three units of 10,  12 and 4 pans;  all owned by Andrew Reid said to:

extend near a mile from the 10 pan work to the 4 pan work.  They have boiled only 5 weeks this year although they now have great quantities of brine...  this proprietor makes a great deal of bay salt and has now near 6000 bushels in his cribbs.[14]


The saltworks of Hampshire were the subject of a thorough investigation in 1796 as the last remnants of the solar assisted evaporative saltworks industry (appendix).  This illustrates both the decline of the industry and its illegal activities.  Mrs. Mason’s property descended to Mrs. Leeke (as Lord of the manor) and up to 1838, the rent was paid without question by Mr. Stewart, who had become owner of the Copnor saltworks; he also occupied Great Salterns under a lease from the Crown, which expired in 1830.  Stewart continued this payment up to his death in 1838, long after the saltworks were abandoned, but his heirs refused to pay as they considered rightly (in view of the original agreement) that the licence was conditional on the saltworks being operated.[15]


The Great Salterns saltworks came to incorporate the Copnor works but originated somewhat later although - yet again - the Wandesford grant was involved.  Dr. William Quatremaine had been in exile with Charles II after a career as a physician in Lewes.  At the Restoration, he was appointed both as Physician to the Navy and to Charles II as well as being an early Fellow of the Royal Society and MP for Shoreham.  He petitioned Parliament in 1660 for a grant of certain salt marshes in Dorset and Hampshire, without effect.  Lady Wandesford sought the confirmation of her grant from Parliament in 1664 and this was referred to a Committee of the House, chaired by Quatremain, although it never reported back.[16] Several members of the Wandesford family were MPs but even the presence of her nephew, Christopher, on the Committee proved to be of no advantage.  However he successfully petitioned the Crown in 1664 for the ‘grant of three-quarters of 300 acres of fenland, Gatcombe haven, recovered by him from the sea at great charges, that a lease of 31 years thereof will cost him too dear also confirmation of other quarter reserved by the late king to Mary and Margaret Wandesford and purchased by him of them’.  A report stated that he had expended in draining and embankment £3800 and for walls £300 more so he was granted a new lease for 99 years at 4d an acre.  The actual grant was made to him and Richard Alchorne jointly and on the death of the former in 1667, Alchorne continued the enterprise.  The Alchorne family are noted as substantial landowners in the Lewes area at this time but which Richard Alchorne was involved in the saltworks is not known.  Whether or not the purchase of timber by Alchorne in 1673 is connected with fuelling the saltworks is not determinable but coal was the fuel customarily in use then.[17]


East Sussex Record Office.  Letters to Samuel Jeake the elder (1623-1690)

FRE/4762.  Letter from Richard Alchorn @?  to John Byndlos @? .  Dear Friend... requesting that he ask Jeake to help dispose of a boat load of salt at Rye   13 Sep 1679.

FRE/4763.  Letter from Richard Alchorn to John Byndlos requesting that he ask Jeake to help dispose of a boat load of 40 qtrs salt; imploy who you might think fit 17 Sep 1679.

FRE/4764.  Letter from Richard Alchorn to Sam Jeake...John Byndlos concerning payment for a boat load of salt 13 Nov 1679


The work was again described by Collins in 1682 stating that ‘salts made from brine, raised by the sun, purged and embodyed by fire’ were made at ‘Mr. Alchorne’s work near Portsmouth’ with windmill pumps to raise the brine 24 ft high into ‘boiling pans of cast or wrought iron… cast may be 7 ½ ft long 5 ft broad and 9 in deep… this sort of iron (cast) is made in Hampshire and Sussex … some pans being in 4 pieces, riveted together and the cracks stopt with lime putty’.  He claimed that ‘a dry hard salt free from dirt and ill qualities is made commonly in Portsea...the chief works is of Richard Alchorne…and supplied to the navy at Tower Hill and Portsmouth’.[18]


The lease of William Quatremaine and Richard Alchorne of Crowhurst, Sussex was assigned to members of the Caryll family of Ladyholt, Sussex.  John Caryll and his sister Elizabeth inherited it from their mother and mortgaged it to Thomas Penny of London in 1737 and again in 1753 to Andrew Reid, a London merchant.  Failure to pay the interest led to a legal action in which the Carylls admitted their debt and assigned the residue of the lease to Andrew Reid and John Campbell- a naval officer (later Admiral).[19]  The latter requested a new lease from the Treasury in 1753 and a survey showed that 301 acres of 'ouzy ground' had been embanked of which 103 acres were in cultivation whilst 114 acres were still uncultivated and the rest were used as 'brine grounds'.  Each saltpan was computed to make about 40 tons a year and 'sold at 35s per ton, being common salt and bay salt for the navy.’  It continued:

there are in all 26 pans supposed at £10 [rent] p.a., 2 in ruins... 6 are fed from Bradford’s [Copnor saltworks] 4 from the king's land... the 10 pan house is supplied by 272 ranks of brine pans of which 16 belong to Bradford so that only 4 boiling pans are supplied from the king's land and the other salt pans are supplied by 435 ranks of brine pans and detailed costs as 'one new pan each year £20, repairs to old pans £9, carpenters etc repairs to houses, cisterns, gins, mills £60, sea wall repairs £20'.


The lease was again renewed, in 1775, for 28 years and there were said to be now only 18 pans at work which should have produced 800 tons of salt yearly.  Keeping the sea walls (of a mile or so in length) in repair posed a continual problem.  Strangely this describes brine being boiled in copper or lead vessels (rather than iron) and with 30 chaldrons of coal – an uneconomic amount -needed to make 29 tons of salt.[20] The works were managed by William Huttson, steward for the owners.  Nevertheless production continued under further leases until 1822 when a new lease for 31 years was sought.


There was a great deal of argument over the terms of this and yet another survey shows the deteriorating situation of the works, sublet by Col. Stewart to Glendinning and Sharp.[21]  This describes ‘the old mansion divided into two residences in the occupation of Sharp and Glendinning' together with a  brick building used by the excise officers at a rent of £6.6.0 p.a.  There were, as well:

4 brine cisterns, a very large cistern formerly used for making Epsom salts but now called bitter houses, quay, store house for salt and another constructed as a dry salting house with flues underneath but not now so used, 8 pan boiling house, 4 bitter pits, 2 large brine pits or cisterns with mill not now used, 2 other brine pits, 3 other brine pits and mill... all generally in poor condition.[22]


The bitters or bittern is the residue of substances left after the sodium chloride has crystallised out.  From this could be extracted Epsom salt (magnesium sulphate) and Glauber’s salt (sodium sulphate) which were sold for medicinal purposes.  A special licence was needed to operate such a refinery.


They had been worked by Stewart until 1818 and paid about £1500 duty p.a. (about 500 tons) but were afterwards let to Sharp and Glendinning at a rent of £550 p.a. who made about 600-700 tons of salt a year.  Repair of the seawalls continued to be a major expense particularly after the extraordinarily large storms (and tidal surges) of the mid 1820s.  There were, by then, only 3 brine grounds, 11 cisterns in the ground, 7 clearers or cisterns in brick, 4 boiling houses of 24 pans, 3 bitter houses, 11 bitter coolers, 8 bitter troughs, and 10 store rooms.  The numbers of pans continued to decrease from the original 32 to only 12 (and 8 by 1825) as it became increasingly difficult to sell salt at a profit so that the Treasury considered sale of the property.  John Henry Stewart finally relinquished the property in 1829, after a long bitter correspondence over valuations and dilapidations, and it was sold the following year to Francis Sharp for £11100.

[1] TNA: PRO C66/1704

[2] Camden, W. Britannia 1607.  Norden has a similar, shorter description 1609.

[3] The following is based on TNA: PRO E 134/7Chas1/East 14: E 134/7Chas2/Trin1: E 134/11&12Anne/Hil23; PCRO G/MN 387; Hughes; TNA: PRO STAC 8/171/21: Popham of Wellington (Somerset) had interests in several commercial ventures, including the colonial settlement in America.  He sent out two unsuccessful expeditions, one in 1606, the other in the following year, headed by his brother, George, and a Roger Warre.  This Roger Warre came from Kingston St. Mary in Somerset but the relationship between the various Roger Warres is uncertain.

[4] TNA: PRO C 66/2500: C 142/421/123, WARD 7/72/85, C 142/426/90, WARD 7/74/52

[5] TNA: PRO E 134/7Chas1/East14; E 134/13&14 ChasI/Hil14

[6] Cal. Comm. for Compounding 1643-60, 94; Cal. comm. Advance of Money.  passim esp. 1286 ; TNA: PRO C 10/29/36 ; C 10/37/163

[7] TNA: PRO E 134/13&14Chas2/Hil14

[8] TNA: PRO C 9/410/258

[9] Patent no. 144/1664; Somerset Archive and Record Service, DD\WHb/44, 45, 46, 2779, 2780; West Sussex Record Office GOODWOOD/E316.

[10] J. Collins.  Salt and Fishery, a discourse thereof, etc...  1682

[11] TNA: PRO C 8/297/125

[12] TNA C 6/319/32: PRIS 1/2 contains no reference to the committal of Bindloss.

[13] TNA: PRO C 6/319/32: E 134/11&12Anne/Hil23: E 134/11Wm3/Mich28: D. Defoe.  A Collection of the Most Remarkable Casualties Disasters which happen'd in the Late Dreadful Tempest both by Sea and Land on Friday the Twentysixth of November, Seventeen Hundred and Three.  1705

[14] TNA CUST 148/15, 39.  Cribbs were locked warehouses for non-duty paid salt.

[15] PCRO G/MN/78; TNA: PRO E134/11Wm3/Mich28, E 134/11&12Anne/Hil23

[16] B.D. Henning.  History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690.  1983: T. Comber.  Memoirs of the Life and Death of the Lord Deputy Wandesford. 1778. Cambridge: CJ 1660-2. passim

[17] HRO 5M50/1058: CTB 1660-67, 38; East Sussex RO SAS/G21/99 ff: West Sussex RO WISTON/1910 ff: They also received a grant of lands in Dorset.  TNA: PRO T 51/12.

[18] Collins, John.  Salt and Fishery, a discourse thereof, etc.  1682.

[19] The following is based on an analysis of TNA: PRO CRES 2/1162-3: C 11/339/30 Campbell v Caryll 1744.

[20] TNA CRES 2/1162  

[21] TNA: PRO CRES 39/15.

[22] The same source includes the Excise description (probably obsolete) ‘ 3 brine grounds; 11 cisterns in ground, 7 clearers or cisterns in brick, 4 boiling houses, 24 pans, 3 bitter houses, 4 bitter pits, 11 bitter coolers, 8 bitter troughs, 10 storehouses’.


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