by free settler James Radcliff, the saltworks at Lisdillon demonstrates the
enterprise and entrepreneurship of free settlers to Van Diemen’s Land. The
saltworks are one of seven established in Tasmania during the nineteenth
century, but it is the remains of the saltworks at Lisdillon which demonstrate
most clearly the process by which salt was obtained by boiling seawater.
nineteenth century, in the days before refrigeration, salt was not just a
condiment for flavouring food, but had an important role in the preservation of
meat. It was also used widely in the processing of skins and in the manufacture
of soap and earthenware.
Diemen’s Land was reliant on imported salt, and as a result experienced period
salt shortages. This stimulated local manufacturing efforts.
remains of the saltworks at Lisdillon are the ruins of the salt store, boiling
house and store building as well as a water race, reservoir and lead anchor
points which mark the site of a windmill. The configuration of the surviving
buildings and features demonstrates how water was pumped from the sea by wind
power, fed into the water race which, through the force of gravity, channeled water
to the boiling house as needed. The salt extracted from the boiling process was
bagged and stored in the salt store at the end of the process.
records suggest that Radcliff’s saltworks operated only from 1836 to 1838.
Several reasons have been suggested for why the enterprise was short lived. It
is possible that Radcliff’s principal motivation in establishing the saltworks
was to gain more land through the Secondary Grants Board, and that he dropped
the project when his application for a 1700-acre secondary grant failed.
Another suggestion is that Radcliff opened the works when there was an import
duty on salt, and that he closed it down when the removal of the tariff made
his operation unviable. It is also possible that the saltworks became unviable
after the local supply of firewood needed in the boiling of sea water was
exhausted. There is also no evidence of Radcliff selling or trying to market
his salt. It is possible that he produced salt only for his own use and that of
his neighbours, doing so while cheap assigned convict labour kept the costs
down. The substantial nature of the saltworks infrastructure suggest either a
serious intention to establish a manufactory which failed economically, or an
expensive misunderstanding of how entitlements for secondary land grants were
fascinating story, and this short article doesn’t touch on Radcliff’s petition
to Lieutenant-Governor Sir John Franklin for more land. If you would like a
copy of the full story, email email@example.com