Sunday, 12 August 2018



Note: This originally appeared on QSC (and on our sister site The Middlewich Diary) as a straightforward plug for Lost In The Mist's annual appearance at the Middlewich FAB Festival. 

What we didn't know at the time was that circumstances would conspire to make this LITM's last appearance at the FAB Festival and one of my last  appearances with the band, instantly turning this poster/flyer into something of a historical document.

I'd been working with Bob Webb, doing 'humorous' poems and the odd song, for around five years when it was decided to form a band, with melodeon maestro Ian Murfitt as the third member.

This band needed a name and Lost In The Mist was thought as good a name as any. The band celebrated its tenth birthday in May 2018.

 We had some good times and played some really fab places as well as some really naff ones - the lot of the 'pub band' for ever, of course.

Like any other band, Lost In The Mist's personnel changed over the years, and eventually, in 2017, it was time for another personnel change, when what might be called my 'musical career' came to an end and the sound of LITM was 'refreshed' once more.

No loss at all, of course, to the band. I was never a musician of any sort, and my singing voice was not the best.

But I like to think that, if nothing else, I added a touch of fun and good humour to Lost In The Mist.

I'd hate to be seen as pretentious, but I have to admit that I've always  identified with the words of the immortal Noel Coward:

'I believe that since my life began, the most I've had is just a talent to amuse...'

Better than nothing, though, eh?

Dave Roberts
February 2018

P.S. Current publicity for Lost In The Mist suggests that the line-up changes every two years or so which, apparently, 'keeps our sound and performance fresh and full of life'. Well, thanks a bunch!

This also appears on THE MIDDLEWICH DIARY

First published 4th June 2017
Revised and re-published 12th August 2018


Tuesday, 7 August 2018


The Salt Towns’ Rally
Friday 17th Aug - Mon 27th August
Middlewich - Northwich - Winsford
The Hive and The River Weaver Navigation Society have teamed up to produce the first ever UK waterways’ boat rally to take in three events across three towns!
On Fri 17th August canal boats will be gathering at The King’s Lock in Middlewich for the reception and launch party for The Salt Town's Rally a brand new mid cheshire waterways event.
After a weekend of festivities in Middlewich the cavalcade of boats will head for Northwich via The Anderton Lift, a stage is being erected in Baron's Quay on Thursday 23rd where artists and bands on stage will entertain boaters and locals from midday.
On Friday 24th the boats depart for Winsford where they will form a parade upon arrival and enjoy a reception at The Red Lion.
The Marina island will be alive with festivities and pageantry until 7pm on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th whilst the
Offcut Festival on the parkway behind the Red Lion, now in it's 5th year the festival runs from the Saturday through the bank holiday Monday 27th. A trip boat trip will run between The Marina and the Offcut stage and link the two waterside arenas.
The idea of the three towns working together on projects such as this have been long discussed given the shared salt mining heritage and waterways linking Middlewich, Winsford, Northwich. Together the towns are known as The Weaver Valley.
The Salt Town’s Rally sets out to highlight the fantastic waterways that link the three towns whilst campaigning for a boat lift in Winsford to raise boats from the end of the Weaver to the Middlewich branch of the Shropshire Union Canal so as to create The Weaver Valley Ring of water which will become the most popular stretch of water in the country for leisure boaters and tourists.
Intrepid waterways enthusiasts the inland waterways association navigated through broken down canals years gone by to force government to repair them, similarly this cavalcade of boats plan to make an annual pilgrimage from Middlewich to Winsford via Northwich to campaign for the link
The waterways that brought industrial prosperity to mid Cheshire once before are ready to bring prosperity once again in the new age of leisure tourism on and around the waterways connecting the three towns.
The events in Middlewich, Northwich and Winsford are all free to attend!

Courtesy of Damon Horrill.

Ordnance Survey © Philips 2002

Dave Roberts writes:

The idea of a boat lift linking the River Weaver and the SUC Middlewich Branch south of Middlewich has been put forward several times over the years  as a way of boosting the canal tourist trade in the Cheshire salt towns by creating a new 'canal ring' taking in Middlewich, Northwich and Winsford to add to the existing Cheshire Ring and the other  canal routes in and around  Cheshire. The very much simplified map above shows how tantalisingly close to each other the SUC Middlewich Branch and the River Weaver are. The Weaver comes down from Winsford on  the top left, past Winsford Bottom and Top Flashes and winds its way through the valley to a point near Wimboldsley where the Middlewich Branch, coming down from Middlewich top right, passes on an embankment a matter of yards away. The black line, top right, is the West Coast Main Line Railway which runs over the SUC via a girder bridge. 

And the idea of a boat rally linking the three Mid-Cheshire salt towns together as a means of promoting the proposal for a new Cheshire canal ring is also excellent.
There has, historically, been a lot of rivalry between the three towns - in particular between Winsford and Middlewich - based on the fluctuating fortunes of the salt industry. Ironically much of that rivalry was based on the fact that Winsford, unlike Middlewich, had direct access to the River Mersey via the Weaver. Middlewich had to rely on the Trent & Mersey Canal, with its link to the Weaver, and onward to the Mersey, via the Anderton Lift.

Attempts to forge closer links between the towns with, for example, a Mid-Cheshire Council (proposed in the 1930s) always foundered because of this commercial rivalry and the residual ill-feeling it engendered.

But that was then, and this is now.

In this post-industrial age it's high time that the three towns got together to promote their common salt making heritage. 

The Salt Towns Rally looks like a very good start.

Find out more about the Salt Towns Rally here:


Wednesday, 1 August 2018


by Dave Roberts
At the beginning of March 2012 Cheshire East Council gave the go-ahead for a  much-enlarged Tesco supermarket on the company's existing Middlewich site between Wheelock Street and St Ann's Road and taking in a lot more of the adjacent land between Darlington Street and  Southway, which is currently given over to housing.
It's fair to say that these plans have caused a lot of controversy in the town, with many people saying that the development is far too large and out of keeping with the character of the town centre and others claiming that expansion of shopping facilities in Middlewich is vitally important for the town's survival and that the new store will be a big boost to existing traders in Wheelock Street, who will benefit from the increased numbers of shoppers in the town.
UPDATE(Dec 2014): In the event, all this proved to be useless speculation, as Tesco later withdrew their plans for the giant supermarket, leaving a huge amount of blighted land right in the middle of town, with no indication of what would, or could, be done with it. As at December 2014 nothing seems to have been decided. The existing Tesco stores continues to trade, with empty houses and derelict land in the place where the new store was to have been - Ed
We thought now might be an opportune time to look at the area before it was developed as a Supermarket site in the late 1980s, and, quite fortuitously,  Mike Jennings has sent us a wonderful set of photographs taken in 1987, just as work was beginning to transform  an old industrial site into what has become, for better or worse, the hub of Middlewich's shopping facilities.
In the 1980s the site was more or less just a field with F Coupe & Sons' Orchard Works 

and a few other industrial buildings at the top (Southway) end.
The site had long been earmarked as a suitable site for a supermarket and the Co-operative Wholesale Society (Co-op) had submitted plans on several occasions, only to have them rejected by the Middlewich Urban District Council's Planning Committee who 'wanted to protect local traders'.
Eventually the Co-op reached a compromise and built their 'Co-operative Superstore' not on this site but in the Bull Ring.
That 'superstore' (or part of it at least) has, somewhat ironically, now become one of two Tesco Express shops in the town.
This left the Southway site ripe for development and finally, when the 1980s were more than halfway through, the Gateway store and its associated car park were built on the site.
(I have a niggling feeling at the back of my mind that the 'Gateway' brand was used alongside another name at the time, but can find no trace of this anywhere on the internet. Does anyone remember this elusive 'other brand', or am I imagining things?
UPDATE: Having asked umpteen people and drawn a blank, I've come to the conclusion that I'm probably getting confused with the time when Gateway changed its name to Somerfield and the two names were used side by side for a while. But, as Mike Jennings said when he sent the original photos on which this entry is based, and as we've repeated below, many people in Middlewich still use the name 'Gateway' for this supermarket, whatever its official name might be.)
This was the first supermarket ever to open in Middlewich and it made quite an impact - so much so that, even after all these years, many local people still refer to it as 'Gateway', whatever it says on the building itself.
Gateway was beset by financial difficulties in the early 1990s and began a major re-organisation which included re-branding of the company, and all its stores, as 'Somerfields'.
Thus, in 1994, Gateway Middlewich became Somerfields Middlewich.
Fourteen years later, in 2008, The Co-op (ironically) took over Somerfields and, for a short time, it looked like the Co-op Supermarket which should have been built there in the early 1970s was going to become a reality on the Southway site.
It never happened, as the Co-op sold on the site, together with others, to Tesco, beginning that company's association with Middlewich which, like it or not, looks like becoming even stronger in the future.
The Somerfield store became Tesco in 2009, according to the information we have.
Can that really be right? Is it only three years since Tesco took over the site? It certainly seems a lot longer.
The date of this Office of Fair Trading  document seems to confirm the year:


Mike's picture shows what is now the Southway end of the Tesco car park, with the rear of the Alhambra Chinese Restaurant (at that time a bingo hall) to the right. The tall building above it is Barclays Bank. Southway itself is behind the trees on the left.

UPDATE 1st AUGUST 2018): In July 2018 Tesco announced that it's main store in Middlewich would be closing in August, making the existing staff redundant.
After much speculation it transpired that the firm were creating a chain of cut-price, no-frills stores to compete with the likes of Aldi and Lidl. It seems likely that the Middlewich store will become one of these stores, the provisional name for which is 'Jack's', supposedly commemorating one of the firm's founders, Jack Cohen.

First published 9th March 2012
Updated and re-published 9th March 2018
Updated and re-published 1st August 2018

Friday, 27 July 2018


ICI MIDDLEWICH WORKS in Brooks Lane. Photo courtesy of John Bailey/Bill Armsden. Reproduced with permission.
by Dave Roberts

This photograph of the ICI Works in Middlewich is dated 1962 and has been restored to near-mint condition by Bill Armsden, who writes:

This photograph, taken in 1962, is of the ICI Works which could be seen from Booth Lane and was located to the right of where the Kings Lock Pub is.

Pochins now sits where this works was.

I have cleaned up and enhanced the picture and it is now almost mint. It is hard to believe that just over 50 years ago this dominated the view from St Anns and Kitfield Avenues.

Do you remember it? I do.

Bill says that the photo has the year 1962 written on the back, and was one of many copies given out to workers at ICI Middlewich when the works closed in that year. 

This particular copy belongs to John Bailey, who now lives in Knutsford.*

I have a vague feeling that this photo may have been taken before 1962, as the buildings and apparatus on the site don't look exactly as I remember them at that time. Then again, I was only a youngster in 1962, so I may be mistaken. 

Does anyone know if this is indeed how the works looked in 1962?

Here's a different view of part of the works, courtesy of Bill Eaton

And a late 1950s view of the SUC Middlewich Branch, also from Bill Armsden's collection, which includes a glimpse of the works.

Many thanks to Bill and also to John Bailey* for allowing us to feature this historic photo.

UPDATE (4th March 2018)

From Australia, Bevan Goodall writes:

'Thanks, Dave, for making this photo available.

I left ICI Middlewich in 1960 to emigrate to Australia, so I didn't receive a copy. 

I remember working one freezing winter thirty-odd metres up the side of the distillation plant, installing some removable panels.

I had my billy-can of tea laced with rum sitting on a steam-pipe nearby.

Harry Sandbach, the foreman - a lovely guy - was in the habit of helping himself to a drink when he came around to inspect what was going on.

He had a sip of my tea.

After a 'what the heck!' it didn't take him long to have another one!

Of course that wouldn't happen today with the current 'Health & Safety' regime...'

Many thanks to Bevan for this story, and how nice that he was able to get hold of his copy of the commemorative  photo of the works, albeit electronically, 58 years on -Ed.


* Sadly, since this diary entry was first published, John has passed away. -Ed

Bill Armsden writes:

'My dear friend John Bailey sadly passed away suddenly in September last year from a massive heart attack. It was always his intention to make a private video of 'his Middlewich' as he was Middlewich born and bred.
Sadly, that will never happen but we can thank him for the 8mm film shot in his car during the late 1960's whilst he travelled from St Annes Avenue through to Chester Zoo. The Middlewich Diary was given a copy of that film and John was very happy to do that.'

We were very sorry to hear of John's passing. Here's the link to that precious film -Ed

Please note that this film is temporarily unavailable, due to a technical problem. We hope to have the link restored very soon -Ed.

First published 28th February 2014
Re-published 28th February 2018
and 27th July 2018

Friday, 20 July 2018


by Dave Roberts

Long long ago, before the days of The Middlewich Paddies, this merry band of minstrels was flying the flag for folk music in Middlewich.

Three of the Kinderton Folk are instantly recognisable; on the right, in descending order are Graham Sivills, Michael 'Trampas' Woodbine, and the unmistakable Richard Devaney.

But who are the others?

No doubt someone will be able to supply the missing names.

Kinderton Folk was formed in the mid 70s and played folk club style gigs in the upstairs room at the Boar's Head among other venues.

The idea for a folk group really started with the Dane Rugby Club when Mike Hough, hearing Richard sing some bawdy rugby songs, suggested that his voice was good enough to sing something a little more - shall we say - respectable? and Kinderton Folk was the result.

Graham, Michael and Richard later got together to form the redoubtable Middlewich Paddies with the addition of Dave Thompson on guitar.

The formation of the Paddies and the idea for the Folk & Boat Festival (inspired by the Newcastleton Traditional Music Festival)  led to Middlewich gaining a good reputation among folk music fans and it was this that led eventually to the town's thriving festival and music scene today.

Editor's note: When this diary entry was first published in 2013 we erroneously dated the photo as 1980. Dave Thompson has pointed out that, as shown in the Middlewich Paddies logo (below), this date is obviously wrong, as 1980 was the year that the Paddies were founded. We've speculatively changed the date for Kinderton Folk to 'circa 1975'. If anyone knows the exact date for KF, please let us know. Thanks to Dave T for pointing this out.

There's more on the Middlewich Paddies, including some music clips, on Graham Sivill's website (which itself goes back a few years):


UPDATE (19th June 2018):

Graham Sivills writes:

Ha ha. OK - I might have got their surnames a bit wrong but let's go with Roger Thornton guitar. Jean Crooke and Pat Hannigan or Haddican on Banjo. Michael Trampas Woodbine on Whistle and Harmonica
First published 24th July 2013 as 'Kinderton Folk 1980'
Amended, reformatted and re-published 19th June  and 20th July 2018

Monday, 18 June 2018


These questions on the Canals of Middlewich originally formed part of the Middlewich Diary Festival Quiz held at the Boar's Head on the 14th June, where £70 was raised for the Canal & River Trust's Middlewich Appeal..

How well do you know our local waterways?


1: Middlewich is an important canal junction and it could have been even more important if an 1838 plan had come to fruition. Proposals were published in that year for a canal heading East from Middlewich with a junction on the Trent & Mersey directly opposite the entrance to the Wardle Canal.
Which town would this canal have linked Middlewich with?

2: The Wardle Canal, which links the Trent & Mersey to the SUC Middlewich branch is considered to be the shortest canal in the country. How long is it?

A: 154ft (47metres) B: 50ft (15.4 metres) C: 203ft (61.87 metres)

3: What's the name of the lock on the Trent & Mersey in Booth lane opposite the former Kinderton Arms pub (now a Thai restaurant)?

4: In Brooks Lane in Middlewich, just where the T&M canal turns through 90 degrees to drop down into the town there used to be a short spur off the main canal which was used to load salt from the former Seddon's Works onto boats via a short tramway. This short section of canal was later adapted for another use. What has it been more recently used as?

5: The original question featured a sound clip originally used in the Tales Of Wych & Water CD we produced for Middlewich Town Council in 2009. This well-known lady lived for many years at Wardle Lock Cottage and was well know both in Middlewich and on the canal network. Can you name this wonderful waterways character?

6: Repairs are about to begin on the breach in the Middlewich Branch Canal near Nantwich Road. An access road has been built from the site to a local road in order to bring in the necessary equipment. What's the name of the road in question?

7: When the breach occurred in March this year one of our local rivers, usually very much unregarded became briefly famous. What's the name of that river?

8: There are actually three aqueducts in Middlewich – the well-known one in Nantwich Road, the one over that unregarded local River which DIDN'T collapse in March. And...where is the third one?

9: In what year was the original Middlewich Town Bridge replaced by the present structure?

A) 1911 B) 1931 C) 1951

10: In 1967 the biggest ever manhunt (at that time) to find the killer of local solicitor Bertie Wilkinson was started. His body was found in a shallow grave adjacent to the Trent & Mersey Canal just North of Middlewich. What's the name of the area where he was found?

The answers can be found here:


Sunday, 17 June 2018


by Dave Roberts

This photo first appeared on Facebook, not as part of the regular 'Middlewich' series, but on Father's Day 2011 as a tribute to my Dad, Arthur Roberts, who was a foreman electrician at Cerebos Salt Ltd (later to become part of RHM Foods) from the late 30s until his retirement through ill health around 1969. Dad is pictured here in the generator room at Cerebos in (we think) the late 40s/early 50s. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the generator plant and its controls and, when he had to retire, was retained as a consultant and driven up to the works at weekends by Percy Wrench in the works van to check that everything was OK. The Cerebos generating plant was very efficient for its day, as the steam used to run the generators was not released into the atmosphere but recycled to provide heating and hot water for the whole factory, as well as for a very unusual salt pan which can best be described as a giant 'electric kettle'. The steam heated a giant element in the pan which, unlike the coal fired pans at Seddons and Murgatroyds, could be kept going for days and weeks on end, making it far more productive than most salt pans.  A lot of the power produced, went to run the vacuum salt plant, fore-runner of the one now in use at British Salt which produces the greater part  of the country's salt requirements.
Salt plants and electrical generators are, of course, run with the help of computers these days, but in Dad's day, all the knowledge was, literally, in his head. He taught himself electrical engineering in his spare time by correspondence course.

see also QUEEN MUM

First published on Facebook, Father's Day, July 11th 2011
Republished June 15th (Fathers Day) 2014
Republished June 19th (Fathers Day) 2016
Republished June 18th (Fathers Day) 2017
Also June 17th (Father's Day) 2018


Middlewich Town Council/Bare Bones Marketing


Get the news on this year's event as it comes through...

Festival Parade starts at 11am - 
Route: Middlewich High School, Kind Edward Street, Queen Street, Hightown,
Lewin Street, Civic Way, Market Field.


First published 9th January 2018
Updated and re-published 14th February 2018
16th June 2018
Archived 17th June 2018