salt models of a large and a small sailing ship and a rowing boat in a glass dome display

Model of the sailing ship 'Alfred'

This piece of folk art from Merseyside Maritime Museum's collections comes from the North West salt industry, which was based on pumping brine (salt water) from underground lagoons. Crude models made from wood and string were placed in the flow of the brine and the result was a magical transformation as the salt formed glittering white crystals on the surface.

The model is very delicate and whenever it is moved the rigging sways gently under the weight of the salt crystals. It was made in 1870 by Thomas Forster, a salt worker at The Saltworks in Garston, Liverpool. The name Alfred appears on one of the flags, the model is believed to have been named after the maker’s eldest son.

Most of the salt used locally came from Cheshire and was transported in barges called 'flats'. Another model of the Mersey flat 'Charity' is also in Merseyside Maritime Museum's collection. The flats took the salt on the river Weaver and via the river Mersey to Widnes and Runcorn, where Lancashire coal and Cheshire salt were the basis of an important industry making chemicals and artificial fertilisers. The salt, chemicals and fertiliser were exported through the nearby Port of Liverpool.

This salt ship model is not currently on display. However there are lots of other ship models made from more traditional materials on display in the museum, particularly in the Art and the Sea and Emigrants to a New World galleries. 

Accession number SJ.44