Leaving the bar of The Navigation pub for a break, Joseph Sant wiped his hands on his stained apron and walked to the door.

It was 1841, and he was the first landlord. The pub stood on New Road in the township of Over, and as he opened the door, Joe was enveloped in noxious smoke and fumes.

This smoke darkened the sky as it poured from the brick chimneys of the many small salt workings surrounding the pub.

Brine had been drawn from the rich seams since Roman times. Now it seemed that everyone with an acre or less of land was drawing up the rich fluid and boiling it in an open pan to extract the salt, the white gold.

Joe had a new pub in the centre of a new industry. Salt made the workers very thirsty, and he would provide the cure with his new pub.

Silently he lit his old pipe, the smell of the rich tobacco competing with the rancid smell of sulphur. 

By 1880 Hannah Burgess had taken over the licence from her late husband, Tom.

Northwich Guardian: Winsford Salt WorksWinsford Salt Works (Image: Paul Hurley)

The Cheshire Lines Railway had constructed a new line to link the many salt works, still multiplying along both sides of the river with the main line at Cuddington.

This line also carried passengers; the railway company now owned the pub.

It was now a Railway pub with direct access to the new Winsford and Over station behind it; its name had to reflect this.

Accordingly, it became the Navigation and Railway. The atmosphere outside the pub had worsened as the salt workings had increased.

This didn't bother Hannah as she handed another glass of beer to another thirsty salt man and silently gave thanks for the smoke and the grime, the salt and the brass!

Northwich Guardian: Navigation/Old Vale Royal pubNavigation/Old Vale Royal pub (Image: Paul Hurley)

Now as well as the salt workers, they had the passengers from the railway.

From 1928 to 1934, the licensee was Tom (John Thomas) Brittleton, who had played football for Winsford Juniors, Winsford Celtic, Winsford United, Stockport County, Sheffield Wednesday, Stoke City and England.

Unlike the present-day England players with their mansions, Tom retired to a rented house on Winsford High Street, resumed his job with the salt works, and was the manager at Winsford United until taking over the pub. He died on February 22, 1955, aged 72.

In 1970 Brian Tomlinson and his wife Ellie took over; the name was officially the Navigation and Railway, but by then known simply as the Navigation.

The railway had gone, and with it, most of the salt works. Over the years, the subsidence caused by the brine pumping had turned the once-flat floors into slopes and humps!

Northwich Guardian: Winsford & Over stationWinsford & Over station (Image: Paul Hurley)

They still served the salt men from the one remaining mine, and the town's population was nearer 33,000 than the 3,000 in Joseph Sant's day.

The river was still there, but no one called it a navigation anymore. As the pub was in the new Vale Royal District, Brian changed the name to the Vale Royal.

In 1987, Brian and Ellie left. The subsidence and the uneven floors were becoming a problem. Dereliction set in, and in 1989, the building was demolished.

A new pub was built in 1990 on the now-stabilised site and given the same name.

The old customers had gone, and it had a lot of competing to do. Many facelifts were tried as a pub and a nightclub with varying degrees of success until it was sold.

Now under new management, the building was upgraded and named Jax. But would this succeed where previous attempts had failed?

Northwich Guardian: The Liquid Lounge site will become housesThe Liquid Lounge site will become houses (Image: Paul Hurley)

Across the roundabout was another old Winsford pub that had undergone the same transformations.

From a salt man's pub called the Royal Oak to a 1970s 'modern pub' called the Bees Knees.

Ending up as de'bees nightclub, Jax had to compete with this establishment with its secure place as 'THE' Winsford nightclub, having taken over the reins from the old Mr Smiths Club that stood across the road.

The competition was intense.

'Let's go down d'Bees,' said the locals, so they've called it de'bees, mused Bill, the co-owner and manager of Jax.

We'll try that, Winsford people say; let's go down the club. So, let's call it The Klub.'

Another name was born, but the competition combined with other factors was against it, and soon The Klub was sold.

The new owner's Terry and Paul, saw Winsford, with its broad spectrum of prospective customers, as a challenge that needed meeting.

The nightlife and pubs already present in the town catered for their own specific groups.

What was missing was a place to see live acts besides bands. To watch football on a 12-foot by seven-foot screen and drink in comfort and peace with entry restricted to people who want a good night out without the simmering aura of aggression in many night-time venues.

The old Vale Royal was renamed The Liquid Lounge, a Free House with a large assortment of ales at pub prices and with a 2am licence.

They set out to provide Winsford with a first-class venue, proud of its zero-tolerance policy towards drugs and anti-social behaviour.

The entertainment was something for everyone, with named acts a priority.

The first of the 'named' entertainers was Bernard Manning. Not everyone's cup of tea, but judging by the ticket sales, not a bad booking!

But it never worked and was soon closed and abandoned.

Now in a state of complete dereliction, it awaits a second demolition, but this time being replaced with more houses.

The sulphurous smoke and dark skies have gone; the railway station has been demolished.

Joseph Sant, the first licensee, would not recognise his old pub now. He provided what the people wanted in the 19th century, but it hardly reached the 21st.