For many centuries Halle was one of the principal salt-producing cities in Germany. The city’s name is an ancient Indo-Germanic word for salt, and the first documentary reference to the brine springs in the vicinity dates from 961 ad. In the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries salt was produced by evaporating brine in many small ‘pan houses’, worked by a distinct group of men called ‘Halloren’, much of the equipment resembling that portrayed by Georgius Agricola (1494-1555) in De Re Metallica.
Brine was carried through the streets in tubs from the springs to the pan houses, where it was boiled in pans heated with wood and straw, with the addition of cows’ blood and beer to speed the evaporation process. In 1680 the city of Halle, which had belonged to the bishops of Magdeburg, passed into the kingdom of Prussia, and in 1719 King Frederick William I ordered the construction of a large saltworks on an island between two streams of the River Saale, where brown coal, which is plentiful in the region, was used for heating from the mid-18th century, and a steam pumping engine was employed from 1865.
The works remained in operation until 1964, and is now the salt museum. It consists of buildings of many periods, some of them dating from the early 18th century. The displays relating to the history of saltmaking in Halle and the ways of life of the ‘Halloren’ are located in a former barrel store. Every month brine, which is brought in by road tanker, is boiled to make salt in a 19th century style pan that was constructed in the 1960s. The salt is regularly sold to bakers and to a gherkin factory, and is also available to museum visitors.