Finding the MacDonnell’s salt works…

The work to identify and document the series of salt-working sites at Ballycastle, Co. Antrim began with the late Danny McGill (1944-2013), a local historian with a keen interest in the industrial heritage of the Glens. Danny knew that a key indicator of where salt-working was taking place was the presence of sea water reservoirs (also known as bucket pots) carved into the intertidal rock. These are rectangular basins with a channel leading to low water and the open sea. They were filled with sea water at high tide – a sluice gate was then used to close the water in as the tide receded. This allowed water to be conveniently available to the saltworks at all states of the tide, and allowed the water to settle so impurities could sink to the bottom. Finding these sites was no mean feat as the intertidal sandstone at Ballycastle has been extensively quarried over the years to provide building stone for the town. Nevertheless all three sites feature bucket pots in various states of preservation. The hinterland of the easternmost site (Ballyreagh) was tested by trail excavation in 2012 and the walls of the 17th century salt house were successfully located.

This image shows the Ballyreagh bucket pot filling with seawater on a windy September day:

Ballyreagh Lower resize DSC04149

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2 responses to “Finding the MacDonnell’s salt works…

  1. Iron pan at PansRock now exposed to view as a result of storm damage to a retaining wall. You may well be aware of this but just in case you are not . . . ! Its a rare chance to see this exciting piece of industrial history. (Is on private land).

    • Hi John – yes we are aware of this and making efforts with the landowner and Environment Agency to address this later in the summer. Thanks for your interest.

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