The Salt Pans
Like most coastal towns in Ireland, Portaferry had its own salt works at the turn of the 18th century. In 1783, Patrick Savage of Portaferry granted a lease of all this land to William Galway, John Reed, James McCleary and William Brown for ‘the free and unmolested use of the sea water for salt works.’
Salt was an essential commodity in a community dependent on agriculture and fishing. It was used for the preservation of fish, meat, butter and hides for domestic use and trade.
In 1853 the Portaferry Gas Light Co. was formed and it took over the premises to manufacture and sell gas for the production of light. A schooner brought the coal to the gas works every two months. The company continued in business for almost 50 years.
A second quay was built in the Salt Pans’ area in the early part of the 19th century. In 1900 the land was leased to James McCausland, a local shipowner, for the business of salvaging shipwrecks. He made further additions to the quay by reclaiming the land and re-filling it in with ash, stone and other gravel.
Unused tar from the works flowed out of a hole at the back of the Salt Pans and was used, free of charge, by the local people to paint their back doors and preserve their boats. They even painted it on their hearths.