Monday, 12 November 2018

THE MIDDLEWICH DIARY CHRISTMAS QUIZ 2018

The 2018 Middlewich Diary Christmas Quiz will be held at the Boar's Head on Thursday 20th December. Proceedings begin at 7pm with  Christmas music to get you - cliche alert - 'in the Christmas spirit', and the Quiz itself  will follow somewhere around 8.30 pm - the traditional Boar's Head Quiz time!

The rounds for the quiz will  be:

1: CHRISTMAS IN MIDDLEWICH. 

Christmas, and the run-up to Christmas, with the annual switch-on of the town centre Christmas lights, has become one of the town's most popular  happenings -  up there with the FAB Festival and the Rose Fete. And the Middlewich Diary has chronicled what's been happening in recent years (well, some of it at least). So you'll find all the answers here in these very pages...

2: CALL MY CHRISTMAS BLUFF.

Call My Bluff, based on the long-running TV show,  has for many years been one of our most popular quiz rounds. It gives you a chance to pit your wits against Mr Roberts' ever more enfeebled brain, as he gives you three definitions of obscure words, one of which is true, and two of which he's made up, the silly bugger. And because it's Christmas, all the words this time round have a festive feel to them.

3: CHRISTMAS MUSIC

No Middlewich Diary Quiz is complete without music, and here in all its cheesy glory, is the kind of Christmas music which makes pretentious musical pillocks despair. You just know that one of the answers is going to be Fairytale Of New York, so there's one point, right there,  before we even start... And there'll be loads more Christmas music throughout the evening, whether you like it or not. Your chance to start grumbling about all the songs being 'before your time'. A lot of them are before our time too...

4: CHRISTMAS NIGHT WITH THE STARS

Recordings of famous entertainers talking, singing and joking about Christmas. Loosely based on that old-time BBC TV favourite Christmas Night With The Stars but with a few more recent stars also thrown in. And so they should be. 

5: CHRISTMAS PICTURE ROUND

Pictures of well-known people at Christmas. One of them is bound to be Father Christmas. So there's another point, completely free of charge. Don't say we never give you anything.

Entry fee £1 per player.

Teams can consist of as many people as you like, but we recommend about four.

The quizmaster's decision is final, even when he's wrong. And he usually is.

If you'd like to donate prizes for the quiz and/or for the raffle we'll also be holding on the night, please don't hesitate to get in touch. 

We're after the usual quiz-type stuff; bottles of wine, boxes of chocs, all of that stuff.

You can get in touch with us through our usual Facebook Groups,  email us at

MIDDLEWICHDIARY@AOL.COM

or ring Peter Cox on 01606 834371 or 07794 1415651

Thank you for your time!

Dave Roberts

Editor.

SOUTHWAY 1987 and 2018


Southway in 1987 (photo by Diane Parr). The dirt track (with rudimentary pavement ) leads to the rear of the buildings to the left, including the Alhambra Cinema (or Bingo Hall as it was at the time the photo was taken). This area was mostly used for car parking. The original Southway (or 'Tannery Alley' to give it its time-honoured name) is the footpath to the right which leads from Wheelock Street to St Ann's Road.
Middlewich's first real supermarket, Gateway, is being built in the background.


Thirty-one years later and the scene is still recognisable, though much smartened up. Southway still runs up the right hand side of the photo, on its way to St Ann's Road but the buildings to the left have been incorporated into Wheelock Street's shopping area, with a hairdresser and florist where that rather grim looking industrial building once was. The recently refurbished and hugely successful Drinks & Bites At No 35 is on the left. The grim-looking oversized 'lamp post' is one of the town's CCTV facilities, forever looking for trouble in Wheelock Street, and the 'pagoda' in the middle distance  welcomes Wheelock Street shoppers to what has now become Tesco's 'superstore' - or, in Middlewich parlance, 'Big Tesco'. (MD Photo)

Update: Once again the changing Middlewich shopping scene renders our information out of date. From October 2018 the sign on the 'pagoda' (and the signs on the store) read 'JACK'S', a low-cost supermarket which is, we're assured, 'part of the TESCO family'.

First published 1st April 2018
Updated and re-published 12th November 2018

Thursday, 8 November 2018

MIDDLEWICH IN AUTUMN, 2018, photographed by Rebecca Page


'Of the three wiches, Middlewich is rather a hag, unredeemed, uncouth and disfavoured...'

- J.C. Walters, 'Romantic Cheshire' 1930

by Dave Roberts

Poor old Middlewich, eh? That's telling us, J.C.! 

To be fair, though, he did go on to say, '...nor is her dark visage today a discredit, for Middlewich knows the meaning of hard toil under conditions which give her little chance of any cheerful display.'

If you'd approached any Middlewichian in the 1930s and talked about 'the beauty of Middlewich', you'd have been looked at askance and met with hollow laughter.

And poor old Middlewich's dark and gloomy visage lasted for another thirty-seven years until, in 1967, its remaining open pan salt works closed.


An accident of industrial history  resulted in Middlewich being an unredeemed, uncouth and disfavoured hag for so many years. 

In most of the local salt towns the salt industry was, for various reasons, situated away from the town centre, enabling those towns to preserve at least a little bit of civic pride. 

Not so in poor old Middlewich, where the sprawling Pepper Street Works was just a matter of yards away from Wheelock Street, and the Wych House Lane Works backed onto Lewin Street.

The penny-pinching ways of the salt works owners, who only used the cheapest coal they could find to fuel their salt pans, ensured that Middlewich was a grimy old town indeed.

After a rather grim interim period in the 1970s, when it seemed that half the town was being torn down, a much more pleasant  and attractive town slowly began to emerge - the modern day Middlewich which prospective new inhabitants, putting to one side our horrendous traffic problems and lack of amenities, fall in love with.

Rebecca Page has been out and about with her camera, capturing the beauty of Middlewich in Autumn in 2018.

And no one's laughing.

The photo above shows a stretch of the Trent & Mersey canal between the Big Lock and Town Bridge. Fifty years ago this was a very industrialised stretch of waterway, with Seddon's Pepper Street works to the right, just beyond the overhanging trees in the centre of the photo - the area is now the site of 'The Moorings' - and, to the left, Middlewich's gas works, once dignified with the elaborate title of the Middlewich Gas Light & Coke Company Ltd.


Taken from underneath our utilitarian and almost brutalist early 1930s Town Bridge, the resplendent Autumn colours on the canal bank mark the spot where the gas works once stood. The River Croco runs in a culvert on the other side of the canal bank, stretching from Brooks Lane to Harbutt's Field where it joins the River Dane, and acts as an overflow for the canal.

Beyond the Big Lock and heading in the direction of Northwich we see the new housing to the left which has replaced the old Nestle Condensed Milk Factory, in more recent years British Crepe's silk works.

Beyond that, many years ago, stood the Dairy & Domestic salt works, one of many open pan works which have been dotted around the town over the years.

Opposite, and beyond  the trees to the right, is the place where the Croco meets the Dane.

The field on the extreme right is Harbutt's Field, the site of Middlewich's Roman fort.

Middlewich's swan population is thriving as never before and you'll find these magnificent creature in several locations along our waterways.

You can find out more at


...and now we're back where we started, but heading in the opposite direction, towards the Big Lock.

The Newton Brewery Inn and its large gardens are out of shot to the left, and to the right, on the other side of the canal and the River Croco, where yet more housing development has taken place in recent years, is the area we all knew in childhood days in the fifties and sixties as 'Down Bill Hewitt's'.

This was a huge area of scrubland which had, years before, been the site of yet more traditional open pan salt works.

A brine shaft, rudimentarily fenced off, could be found at the far end, close to Harbutt's Field. 

This has now been permanently capped and few will even know of its existence.


Many thanks to Rebecca Page for permission to use these photographs showing the beauty of this part of our town in Autumn 2018.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

PEPPER STREET , EARLY 1969 (2)


Once again we find ourselves in Pepper Street in 1969 with a picture which should help to make the layout of things clearer.
(The white 'flashes' to the left, by the way, are caused by damage to the original Kodachrome film, illustrating all too clearly why we need to preserve this collection wiihout delay). The houses to the left are what now makes up modern-day Pepper Street. For the first time, at the end of the row, we can see the side wall of Seddon's office building. On the right of the picture is the end of the row of cottages which have been replaced by our famous 'grass verge'. What's the building to the left of them with the tall, central chimney, just above the Robin Reliant?



This photo was first published on Facebook on 26th April 2011. 

The original Facebook feedback is below:


Geraldine Williams Oh yes! that side wall of the Seddon's offices was the perfect place to hone one's twosie, or even threesie, tennis ball skills! Not sure about the other building. Some demolition had obviously taken place where the chain-link fencing stands (and the forlorn figure sits!) so it's a bit out of context for my recollection.

Dave Roberts I've been waiting for someone to tell me it's not a Robin, but a Regal Supervan or something.
Colin Derek Appleton Is that building the pub that was called the Lord Hood ?

Geraldine Williams
Yes, according to Google.


(Editor's note: In fact subsequent research indicates that the Lord Hood actually stood on the waste ground where the Reliant car (can be seen).

Colin Derek Appleton Cool! cant take all the credit though, my dad told me the locations of all the vanished pubs when i was a boy !!

Geraldine Williams I understand that the pubs near the salt works used to open at 5.00am to enable nightshift workers to re-hydrate after working on the open pans.

Colin Derek Appleton That's very possible. My Grandfather worked on the pans in the Pepper Street works as well as working for Seddon on his fleet of boats.

First published 10th July 2011

Reformatted and re-published 3rd November 2018

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

PEPPER STREET/LOWER STREET JUNCTION, EARLY 1970s

If you own the copyright on this photograph, please let us know



Looking almost impossibly narrow and confined, this is the junction between Pepper Street and the area where Lower Street became Wheelock Street. It's very early in the 1970s - quite possibly 1970 or 1971.
In fact it's rather difficult to say which particular street Pepper Street is joining here - Wheelock Street is to the right, and Lower Street to the left.
Perhaps it might be more apt to say that this is where Pepper Street meets The Bull Ring.
Across the road is the then brand new building built by the Co-operative Wholesale Society Ltd and known as the Co-operative Superstore, reflecting its purpose as a place where all the previously scattered Co-op departments in Middlewich were, for the first time, gathered together under one roof.
It's rather disconcerting to note that the shop's entrance wasn't always on the left hand side, as it is now that Tesco Express rules the roost there. The right hand part of the building,  occupied for many years by Pineland Ltd, was at this time the Co-op's chemists department.
The windows in the building on the left belong to the flat above Vernon Coopers' Radio, TV and electrical shop, and the brick wall on the right was part of the house next to Dewhurst's butchers shop.
This junction, together with the reverse side of that ridiculously tall (for sighting purposes) STOP sign can be seen in this entry
VERNON COOPERS, STANWAYS AND WOODBINES

as it appeared from a camera position looking in the opposite direction from just underneath the Co-op's long vanished canopy.
As Seddon's Salt Works was in Pepper Street it might be thought that this cramped and inconvenient junction might cause problems for vehicles wanting to reach the works but, in actual fact, the entrance and exit for carts (and later lorries) taking loads of salt from Seddon's was further down Lower Street, next to the gas showroom near Town Bridge.

FROM WEBBS LANE TO LOWER STREET VIA PEPPER STREET


FROM WEBBS LANE TO LOWER STREET VIA PEPPER STREET

by Dave Roberts



As might be expected, the original Diary entry
 'Pepper Street/Lower Street Junction Early 1970s' has attracted a lot of interest since it was first published in 2012. 

We thought it might be worthwhile trying to illustrate how the old, longer, Pepper Street used to look and how it gave people coming from Webbs Lane access to the town centre. 

This photo is as good a place to start as any, particularly as it shows the houses which now constitute practically all of modern-day Pepper Street. Here's the original description of the photo as it first appeared on the Middlewich Diary.

Our favourite contributor, 'Anonymous', said, in relation to our original diary entry which featured this photo:



'This brings back memories. If you were to turn around and walk back towards Webbs Lane, there was an open space opposite Seddons Salt Works. We use to play football and cricket there.'


Well, we think the space to the right of our main picture, where the Reliant car is parked, must be the space in question.

This picture, taken in 1969 with our trusty Instamatic camera, is fascinating as it provides a link between the Pepper Street of those days,at the very end of the open pan salt works era and the Pepper Street of today.


The building to the right with the single chimney is interesting.

Previous MD feedback seemed to suggest that it was once The Lord Hood public house, but this is not the case.

Ken Kingston's Middlewich Hospitality (Middlewich U3A Local History group 2014) tells us that the pub, built in 1782, was closed and demolished in 1920, and replaced by a workshop and timber shed in 1929. These premises were themselves demolished just after World War II, so it appears that the waste ground itself was the site of the pub and its later replacement. What the building with the central chimney was remains a mystery.


Today's street is, as we've said, more or less just that short terrace on the extreme left. What used to be the roadway is now a slip road connecting Webbs Lane to St Michael's Way opposite the Vaults.

The large building at the end of the Terrace is Seddon's Salt Works offices.




Seddon's offices in Pepper Street in the 1920s. The still extant terraced houses can be seen behind the building.

 Beyond that is the salt works itself, by this time closed and awaiting demolition.

Here's what the other side of the street looked like:




To get to the town centre you walked towards the salt works, and then took a sharp right turn between the works and the building beyond the Reliant car to wind up in the Bull Ring. 

Middlewich's automatic telephone exchange, built in 1967 and now much expanded and fronting onto St Michael's Way, was in a small compound, just out of shot to the right.


Powell's Clothing Factory, connected with the company's retail premises in Wheelock Street, could also be found in the area, on land now occupied by St Michael's Way. 

It is this connection with the textile industry which has led to the new housing development next to the telephone exchange being given the rather fanciful name 'Spindle Whorl'. Put simply, a 'spindle whorl' is one of the many tools used by cloth weavers. It's a kind of flat disc with a hole in it. Spindle whorls are made from many diffferent materials and are very collectable.

Another development on the site, closer to Wheelock Street, has been given the more prosaic and, some might say, more appropriate name of 'Powell House'.


Powell's Tailors itself, once the smartest shop in the town, is now in a semi-derelict state after  Eric Alcock electrical moved out a few years ago.


Eric Alcock Ltd, pictured in 2012. The electrical goods firm's tenure of the former impeccably smart Powell's Tailor's premises did its appearance no favours at all, and now (2018) the shop is in a semi-derelict state and looks even worse.


Here's a bit more of 1969 Pepper Street, taking us further towards the town centre:





To get to the town centre today you have to take more or less the same route, but you'll be walking towards the entrance to 'The Moorings' rather than the salt works and, once you make the right turn, you have St Michael's Way, with heavy traffic heading to and from the M6, to contend with before you can reach the Bull Ring.

First published 2nd March 2018
Revised and re-formatted 30th October 2018






VERNON COOPERS, STANWAYS AND WOODBINES 1970

Another excellent shot from the camera of Jack Stanier and a companion shot to the one shown here. It's 1970 (as evidenced by the 'Back Home' World Cup poster in Vernon Coopers window). To the right of Vernon Coopers is Stanways fish shop with its lettering removed but the name just about still visible. Adjoining this we can get a better view of an establishment we've mentioned a few times before - Harold Woodbine Ltd in its original Lower Street premises. It's obvious from the configuration of this shop that it was once  separate premises; probably two or three small cottages. Note that while Vernon Cooper promotes the virtues of Ferguson and Ekco sound and vision, Harold Woodbine favours Philips.
Vernon Cooper advertisement from the Northwich Chronicle of Saturday May 16th 1953, urging people to buy a TV set in time for the Coronation which took place on June 2nd. Note that the address is given as 'Wheelock Street, Middlewich' and that there were also Vernon Cooper shops in Winsford, Crewe, Sandbach and other local towns
Here's a little reminiscence from me about Harold Woodbine's which featured in an earlier posting:

I still remember the excitement when I called in to order a record album in 1963
(actually, we didn't call them 'albums', we called them L.P.s)
The record seemed to take weeks and weeks to arrive but when it did, I played it
until the grooves were white with wear. It was 'With The Beatles'
(the mono pressing, of course). A year earlier my eldest brother, Glynn,
had brought home 'Love Me Do'. The perfect ending to this story would be
for me to say that I thought this early 'waxing' was great, but I didn't.
I thought it was boring. By the following year I'd obviously changed my
mind about this Liverpool beat combo. (original comment from Facebook)

Moving to the extreme right of the picture we can see the very edge of the Town Hall complex of buildings and, to the left of that, the JayGee Fireplace building which is now  Town Bridge Estate Agents. Left of this is the North-Western Gas Board showroom and, to the left of that, the first signs of demolition along the row as the showroom manager's house is reduced to rubble.
To take this picture Jack stood outside what is now Pineland*. If we were to take a picture from this viewpoint today we'd see mostly dual carriageway with the Bullring bus interchange to the right of it. (see 'Now & Then: The Bullring . Link below).
There are a few interesting little details about Vernon Coopers shop which will replay a bit of clicking and double clicking: First of all, above the 'Ltd' on the left hand side is a small sign directing people down Pepper Street to The Vaults and its car park. Secondly, what might appear at first to be a satellite dish on the left hand wall is, in fact, a STOP sign for the Pepper Street/Lower Street junction, placed at this height to make it visible from further down Pepper Street.
And if you look to the left hand side of the building's tall chimney, there is a fine array of vintage VHF TV aerials. The giant X is for band one, BBC 1 on channel 2 and the other, classic 'ITV' aerial is for band three, Granada Television on channel 9. Incidentally, if you should happen to have a surviving ITV aerial on your roof, you could use it for receiving DAB radio, as the aerials are exactly the same. Somewhere, by this time, there must also have been one or more modern  aerials for 625 lines UHF (with colour on all three channels).

* Update: Pineland has now joined the long list of closed businesses in Middlewich (Sept 2014)

See also: LOWER STREET 1970
               LOWER STREET 1969
               NOW and THEN THE BULLRING
               PEPPER STREET/LOWER STREET JUNCTION EARLY 1970s

Facebook feedback:

Ian Hill-Smith What's the road leading out of the right of the pic, Dave?

Dave Roberts Hi Ian. The road in the right foreground is Hightown which is still more or less in the same position, although the traffic flow now runs in the other direction - i.e. towards Lewin Street, The road leading off into the distance (and the Town Bridge) is now the bus lay-by and part of St Michael's Way.

Originally published on 1st September 2011
Re-formatted and re-published 30th October 2018