Lion Salt Works Museum starts a season of ‘Cheese Events’

The exhibition includes Aardman Animations’ model of ‘The Cheese Tent’ from the film ‘Wallace & Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit plus rarely-seen archive material from West Cheshire Museums

This Autumn, the multi award-winning Lion Salt Works Museum in Northwich will kick off a season of cheese-related events with an exhibition called ‘Intrigue of Cheese: Cheshire Salt and Dairy Industry’. Opening on Saturday 12 October and finishing on 16 February, this fascinating exhibition will surprise and amuse with quirky tales about Cheshire’s dairy and cheese industry and how salt was a key ingredient in its success. On loan from Aardman Animations in Bristol, the exhibition will also feature the original model of ‘The Cheese Tent’* from the celebrated film ‘Wallace & Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit’. Normal admission charges apply.*

Following on from this, on 16-17 November, the Museum will hold its inaugural CheeseFEAST Festival – a weekend of fascinating talks, demonstrations and cheese-tastings to delight both cheese lovers and those who want to find out more about the county’s most famous export. Both events are sponsored by Barratt and David Wilson Homes, North-West.

The Intrigue of Cheese exhibition brings together the history, trade, traditions and influence of Cheshire cheeses. For instance, it explains how Cheshire cheese gained an early competitive advantage in Tudor times. Unlike other cheeses, Cheshire cheese was able to withstand the long journey by wagon to London. The reason being that not only were Cheshire cows often grazed on the saline-rich salt marsh, but thanks to the abundance of locally-sourced salt from beneath the Cheshire Plain, the county’s cheese preserved better than lower salt content cheeses. Cheshire cheese is one of Britain’s first named cheese, and it is said to have been a favourite amongst the court of Elizabeth I – a fact that would have further enhanced its growing reputation.

Historian and volunteer researcher, Tom Holmes, 27, from Northwich, engagingly brings together the story of Cheshire cheese from its origins in Neolithic times, via farmhouse cheese-making to the 1920s when Cheshire cheese accounted for over a fifth of cheese eaten in Britain. The exhibition covers the mass production and world-famous status that were to follow.

The exhibition by Tom Holmes is based around rarely-seen objects from West Cheshire Museum’s archives, including a beautifully painted Northwich cheese vat on wheels, a Roman pottery cheese mould, a large cheese press and a range of historic pieces. Contemporary cheese-making equipment from Reaseheath College’s award-winning cheesemaking department, based in Nantwich, provides an interesting contrast to the archive objects and brings the story of Cheshire cheese up-to-date.

Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, said: ”Salt has been crucial to the development of Cheshire’s dairy and cheese-making going back to the time of the Romans and so it is particularly appropriate that this imaginative exhibition and the forthcoming CheeseFEAST Festival are being staged at our historic and atmospheric Lion Salt Works Museum. Thanks to Tom Holmes for all his hard work in researching and curating this exhibition and to Aardman Animations for lending us the enchanting model of ‘The Cheese Tent’.”

Lynton Dudgeon, Sales Director, Barratt and David Wilson Homes North-West, said: “We are delighted to be sponsoring this exhibition as part of the Museum’s autumn of cheese-related activities. There are over 700 varieties of cheese in the UK and this is a wonderful chance to find out the origins and historical context of Cheshire cheese, a world renowned cheese.”

The Museum has free parking and access to an industrially-themed play area. There is a bright café and a well-stocked shop. Staff are knowledgeable and welcoming.  There is also free access to the Museum’s outdoor butterfly garden. 

Lion Salt Works tells the story of salt through fun, interactive displays including an impressive sound and light show, ‘subsiding house’ and automaton. One of the last open-pan, salt-making sites in the world, the Museum is also a Scheduled Ancient Monument with the same status as Stonehenge and Hadrian’s Wall. The Museum has won nine awards since its four-year, £10m restoration in 2015, including winning 2016’s National Lottery’s ‘Best Heritage Project 2016’ after a public vote and the Sandford Award for teaching excellence.

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