Salt-and-Pepper Building Debate Shakes Up British Town

Salt and pepper? Or pepper and salt? What about garlic powder?

In the British town of Goole, a pair of historic water towers has shaken up a spicy debate between neighbors who can’t seem to agree on which structure resembles which condiment.

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Located at the junction of the Ouse and Don rivers, Goole is an inland port city in northern England that first appeared as a small settlement in the 1620s before rapidly expanding into a bustling trading and manufacturing center in the 19th century. In 1826, the introduction of the Aire and Calder Navigation canal system connected the small village to Leeds, which transformed it into a major hub for shipping cargo throughout the country.

To celebrate Goole’s 200-year anniversary since its official establishment, the town’s civic society wanted to commemorate the special occasion with souvenir cruet sets — containers used to hold condimentsbased on the two recognizable water towers that sit on the city’s skyline. Visible for miles, the massive towers were listed as Grade II landmarks by the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission in 1987, categorizing them as sites of special interest. Both structures were introduced at the turn of the 20th century to provide clean water to the rapidly developing town: the narrow brick tower in 1885, and its white concrete sibling in 1927.

But what began as a simple project to honor a town’s history quickly transpired into a heated debate among locals over which tower is salt and which is pepper. On Sunday, July 30, the civic group polled 302 people at a vintage fair in the city’s West Park to get a sense of the city’s thoughts. And while the small number of respondents may not speak for all 20,000 residents of Goole the results certainly gave at least an impression of some local opinions.

Many Goole residents appeared to be divided based on their generational experiences with salt and pepper shakers growing up. (screenshot Maya Pontone/Hyperallergic via Twitter)

According to the poll, 183 people thought that the white concrete tower looked like a salt shaker whereas 39% of respondents who the opposite. Resident Margaret Hicks-Clarke, who serves as chair of Goole Civic Society, told the Guardian that based on polling, the two sides of the seasoning debate appeared to split based on people’s age.

“Some of the older generation think that the red one, the brick one is the salt. A lot of the younger ones think it’s the other way around,” Hicks-Clarke told the UK news outlet. “I’m 68 and when I was a child, I remember having a salt pot that looked like the red one, so I thought it was salt, too.”

The Moorlands Community Charity, a UK non-profit, expressed its views on the debate online. (screenshot Maya Pontone/Hyperallergic via Twitter)

Hicks-Clarke said that she found many of the town’s younger folks thought the 141-foot-tall brick tower resembled a pepper mill. However, the table pepper grinder’s popularity was not widespread at the time the building was erected. Prior to the 20th century when pepper grinders made their way to household dinner tables, people tended to opt for a coffee grinder or an old-fashioned mortar and pestle to grind peppercorn. In 1874, French automotive and manufacturing company Peugeot released the Modèle Z, its first edition of the household table pepper mill.

Fraser Barrett, who has lived in Goole on and off for 35 years, runs the social media account @Goole_Station, where he has chronicled his window view of the town’s water towers in daily lunchtime posts over the last 12 years. He told Hyperallergic that while he doesn’t have a strong opinion, he does have thoughts on the topic.

“To me, I’ve always seen the thin one as salt and the other as pepper,” Barrett said in a message, explaining that the water towers mirrored a salt and pepper set his family had during his childhood.

“I’m aware that’s not the popular opinion, so I’d be happy to be proved wrong!”

Since 2011, Barrett has been cataloguing images of the landmarks from his office computer. (screenshot Maya Pontone/Hyperallergic via Twitter)


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