The last revival of the salt industry in Brora was undertaken by the 1st Duke of Sutherland in 1812. New salt pans were established close to the harbour, while a coal mine was opened up further inland, on the north bank of the river.
Nationally, a combination of a rising population, the impact of the Napoleonic wars and increased demand from the chemical industries had created a surge in the domestic demand for salt. Undoubtedly alert to the potential of a high return on his investment, the Duke invested £16,000 in four pans and the construction of a miniature railway from the coal mine to the harbour and to the salt-pans.
The new salt pans produced a total of 20,000 tons of salt, which averages out at a staggering 30 tons of salt derived from evaporated sea water per week. It follows that the quantities of sea water required to be driven off as steam to consistently produce this amount of salt are barely imaginable, being in the order of 40,000 litres (8,500 galls) for every ton of salt. With the repeal of protective salt duties between 1823 and 1825, the demand for local salt ceased, and the salt pans were closed down in 1828, never to reopen.
The historian can glean much more information about
this period of salt making activity from the Sutherland Estate
Papers deposited in the National Library of Scotland. The
type of information includes employee wages, inventories of
equipment and even the names and job titles of the workers
themselves. The Inventory
& Valuation of Articles belonging to the Brora Saltworks
15 May 1822 gives a snapshot of a typical range of equipment
and its value in 1822.
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George Granville Leveson Gower (1758-1833),
Marquess of Stafford and 1st Duke of Sutherland painted by Thomas
Phillips, date unknown. National Portrait Gallery.