Although Winsford lies at the centre of beautiful Cheshire, more than a hundred years ago, it had a heart of acrid smoke, hard graft and poverty.

The banks of the Weaver were lined with salt workings. Each salt pan required its chimney to expel the fumes from low-grade coal beneath the pans.

This effluvium polluted the atmosphere in the town's lower part, leading to it being known locally as Dark Town.

It also gained this title due to the lack of Christian worship and the penchant of the workers to frequent the many ale houses in the area!

Until 1895 Winsford comprised the area around the Town Bridge, with the Red Lion being the only true Winsford pub.

On one side, Wharton had been a small village until the salt trade increased, and houses were built for the workers (however, even before this, the area was known mainly as Winsford).

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

On the other side of the river was the ancient and important borough of Over. In 1894 the three were amalgamated under Winsford Urban District Council but kept their ancient titles.

Over had been an important borough since the earliest days; in fact, the mayor of Over was of the equivalent rank to the mayor of Chester.

The town later became part of Vale Royal District Council, which was abolished on April 1, 2009, when the new Cheshire West and Chester unitary authority was formed.

High Street stretching from Over Square to the Town Bridge has now been turned into a dual carriageway, but in the 18th century, it was known as Over Lane.

At the beginning of the last century, Swanlow Lane saw much good quality house building to house the middle management and gentry of the town as they sought to escape the toxic air down in 'Dark Town'.

Northwich Guardian: The old Red Lion at WinsfordThe old Red Lion at Winsford (Image: Paul Hurley)

Sitting as it did on extensive salt beds, Winsford had seen salt extracted since the 17th century but was initially only used as animal salt licks!

A 'salt rush' started with the building of salt works along both banks of the River Weaver.

By 1860, 500,000 tons of white salt left the town by boat and, later, by goods train for the docks and onward across the world.

The area had 416 salt pans, each with its own chimney belching acrid smoke, and by the end of the 19th century, Winsford was Britain's largest salt-producing town.

Fortunes were made, mansions were built, and the working class worked under awful circumstances.

Northwich Guardian: The Ark and the Coach and Horses at Winsford Market placeThe Ark and the Coach and Horses at Winsford Market place (Image: Paul Hurley)

There were salt magnates like Falk, Furnival and Verdin, but in 1915 there were many individual salt proprietors in Winsford. Some became fabulously rich, some not so.

Herman Falk was German, and, like echoes of today perhaps, he imported Polish and other foreign workers to work for him.

He housed them in a poverty-stricken Basse Town at Meadow Bank, where houses were made of basse, the waste cinder product from the cheap coal used under the salt pans.

This meant that Winsford had a fascinating history, and although the town has changed many times over the years, some of the buildings remain.

Northwich Guardian: Winsford Flashes in 1950Winsford Flashes in 1950 (Image: Paul Hurley)

Not as damaging as the subsidence at Northwich, Winsford had its share and like Northwich, buildings were built with the possibility of further subsidence in mind.

However, the salt mining subsidence provided the town with three huge lakes known as Flashes.

The town centre has re-invented itself many times and is now known as Winsford Cross!

A declining Victorian working town has become one of the Northwest's most modern industrial and residential areas.

Changes are afoot; however, most of the present shopping centre is being demolished, the Civic Hall has already gone, and plans await a shiny new shopping centre with all the wished-for amenities.

In the meantime, the town is growing exponentially with a massive house-building programme that, like Winsford, Over and Wharton turning into one town; I would not rule out this triumvirate being joined by Moulton and Davenham!

The original plans for the new Winsford never materialised. What has happened is that a big dual carriageway has been pushed through the middle of the town sweeping away many High Street businesses, not all to the liking of the good folk of Winsford.