Weaver Hall Museum and Workhouse is full of displays and tales of the history and industry of West Cheshire. The stories are told through films, reconstructions, models and vivid displays of intriguing artefacts, which relate to local industry, market towns, transport, archaeology, and the building’s former history. The museum is housed within the old Northwich Union Workhouse building. A special exhibition in the former workhouse schoolroom explores life for the paupers. Around the rest of the museum you can find out about workhouse food, discover some of the people who lived in the workhouse and visit the recreated Master’s sitting room. 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 was moved into its current premises in the former workhouse building at 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 that 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 the museum to adopt its current name of the Weaver Hall Museum and Workhouse. Its focus was also enlarged 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 a workhouse, in which the harsh conditions were intended to encourage the able-bodied poor to seek employment rather than rely on charity. 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. The displays now explore the history of the workhouse, along with Northwich industries such as boatbuilding, chemicals and salt mining. There are also galleries exploring archaeology, transport and local history. These displays are spread through the rooms of the old workhouse and the stories are told through films, models and eye-catching artefacts. The museum is fully accessible with designated disabled parking bays, accessible toilets, a lift to the first floor and a hearing induction loop in the mini-cinema. Some of the signage is given in Braille.
Location : Weaver Hall Museum & Workhouse, 162 London Road, Northwich CW9 8AB
Transport: Northwich (National Rail) then bus. Bus routes 29, 31, 37A and 37E stops outside.
Opening Times: Tuesday to Friday 10:00 to 17:00
Weekends 14:00 to 17:00 Bank Holiday and School Holiday Mondays 10:00 to 17:00
Tickets: Adults £3.00 Concessions £2.00 Children £1.50
Tel: 01606 271640