Sometimes a photograph is so striking that it just begs to be made into one of our Middlewich Diary mastheads. Such was the case with this astonishing image by Glen Leigh, who has contributed some excellent shots to us in the past, including some of passenger trains making their sedate way through the town. Seventeen Miles View (a title taken from Glen's caption when he posted it on Facebook) is a stunning view across half of the Cheshire plain, taking in Middlewich church tower, the spire of St Wilfred's church in Davenham and, way out on the horizon, seventeen miles away, the imposing (even at this distance) bulk of the Fiddler's Ferry power station on the edge of the Mersey Estuary. Glen hasn't told us (yet) where he was standing when he took the picture, but, from the angle of the church tower, we're guessing it was on top of the old ICI lime beds in Booth Lane. There has some surmise as to how this effect was obtained. Is the image, perhaps, a compilation of two or three photos skilfully knitted together? Or is it, even more remarkably, just one single shot, taking in all those miles? Glen lets us in on the secret: To satisfy your curiosity guys this is just one photo, taken with an extremely long lens. The reason that far off distant objects appear close is due to lens compression (flattens perspective and bunches everthing up) which is the result of using long lenses...the further an object is away, the closer it appears in an image. Also the image was taken on the lagoons.....as to the precise location that would be a little more difficult to explain and very hard to see with the naked eye or wide lenses. Thank you for the interest The photographers among us will be able to appreciate the technical skill involved in taking a photograph like this; the rest of us can only marvel at a composition many would have thought impossible. An indication of the power of this photo, and the effect it had on us, can be gauged from the fact that from our seeing it on Facebook and asking Glen for permission to use it, his sending us a high-resolution copy by email and the new masthead appearing took around twenty minutes. Dave Roberts Editor 26th March 2014 UPDATE (August 2017) There was concern over the intervening years between 2014 and 2017 that the Fiddlers Ferry power station might be closed and demolished, making this photograph unrepeatable in the future. It's unlikely that when those massive cooling towers do finally disappear anything on remotely the same scale would be put in their place. However, it has been announced that the power station will continue in use until at least 2019 to provide cover for the National Grid in the event of an exceptionally hard winter - something which by the law of averages is long overdue. First published 27th March 2014 Updated and republished 12th August 2017
by Dave Roberts We were a little stuck for a title for this shot by Jack Stanier taken in 1972 from the Church tower and looking out towards Brooks Lane and the countryside beyond to the hills bordering Staffordshire. It encompasses so much, not only in the town but further afield too.The original slide was given (by me) the less than enticing title 'Council Depot from Church Tower 1972' so I've tried to come up with something a little less prosaic. Perhaps this title goes a little too far the other way, but you can see right across the Cheshire Plain from here. Or across half of it, at any rate. A trip out to those same hills is always worthwhile. From the road up to Buxton there are incredible views over the plain, and on a good day you can see right out as far as Liverpool and beyond to the Irish Sea. And on clear Summer days in Middlewich looking in the other direction is also rewarding with the hills looking almost close enough to touch. So what do we have here? Left middle of the picture can be seen the sawmill in Brooks Lane and, just above it, the then-new rather futuristic-looking green building belonging to Middlewich sewage works (or to give it its official, slightly more grandiose title, the 'Middlewich Water Pollution Control Works', standing at the end of an access road which the Middlewich UDC, without a trace of irony, named Prosperity Way. In the bottom left hand corner is the British Waterways warehouse on Town Wharf, looking, as we've remarked before, in much better condition than it does today. Will the plans to turn this area into the 'Gateway To Middlewich' ever come to fruition? To the right of this is the 19th century building which once housed Middlewich's first fire engine. Some fine terracotta work over the entrance to this old fire station announced its date of origin and its original purpose. When the time for demolition came, attempts were made to save these artifacts, but to no avail.* By this time the building, and others on the site, had been incorporated into the MUDC's depot which occupied the site of the Wych House Lane salt works and workshops until local government re-organisation a couple of years later. To the right of this building can be seen the rear of the Cof E Infants School and Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Lewin Street both of which fell to progress a little later, in the mid 1970s. The council's road maintenance gang were using the salt works site to house their vehicles and road mending materials at this time (although none of the trendy tangerine and delft blue vehicles appear in this picture), and some of the salt works' old buildings were retained for this purpose. On the other side of the canal is Seabank, once linked to this area, as we've seen, by a footbridge. Above the depot the green building which Andersen Boats used when their business was first established can be seen and above that is the Seddon's works in Brooks Lane. At this time the works was being demolished, and evidence of this is seen in the splash of white below the left hand chimney which is actually part of the whitewashed interior of the works, visible because of the removal of the roof and the front part of the works. This site, today the home of Tarmac Readycrete, we've often cited as the only ex-open pan works left which is still recognisable as such, though that recognisability diminishes with the passing years. Incidentally, this is the works featured on Middlewich Heritage Trust's logo which, purely coincidentally, bears a remarkable resemblance to our own photo of the works taken in 1969. See this entry for a comparison of the works in 1969 (two years after closure) and in the spring of 2017. Beyond that are green fields, Sandbach and the hills. Note that there is little sign, to the left of the picture, of the extensive industrial developments off Holmes Chapel Road. still to come. The Brooks Lane Industrial Estate, too, is still mostly in the future. * we're delighted to say that we've been obliged to revise our thinking on this point. See this posting, and the comments attached to it First published 11th August 2011 Revised and re-published 11th August 2017.
by Dave Roberts Here's a happy discovery made while on a walk up the SUC Middlewich Branch a few days before the FAB Festival. At first glance just another immaculately turned out pleasure boat, one of thousands which pass through our town every year. But a closer look at this boat should, if you're of a certain age, love music, and have any romance in your soul, bring a smile to your face. For this is no ordinary boat. It's named Mi Amigo, after Radio Caroline's original pirate radio ship (Update: Actually that's not strictly true. Someone's taken the trouble to point out that the original Caroline ship was the MV Fredericia (or 'Frederica' according to which account you read), later renamed Caroline - see 'comments' below).
and there's an excellent illustration of that famous (or 'infamous', according to the boat's builders, Braidbar Boats) vessel on the cabin side. It's fortuitous that the new Mi Amigo should choose to visit our landlocked little town, as it gives us an unprecedented opportunity to give Caroline a plug in the Middlewich Diary. For Radio Caroline is by no means a thing of the past (although, unfortunately, the original Mi Amigo is - it sank in heavy seas in 1980). The station can be found broadcasting away merrily on the internet (and various other outlets) and is still actively campaigning for a licence to broadcast on medium wave.
The original Mi Amigo Photo: Bob le Roi
UPDATE(August 2017): In May 2017 that campaign bore fruit and Radio Caroline was given a licence to broadcast to Suffolk and North Essex on 648 Khz, ironically a frequency formerly used by the BBC World Service. They still have a ship, too, the Ross Revenge, which is currently at anchor in the River Blackwater, giving everyone the opportunity to take a tour of the ship You can listen to the station, and find out all about its fascinating and astonishing history, by visiting THE RADIO CAROLINE WEBSITE You can also find out more about the NB Mi Amigo at THE BRAIDBAR BOATS WEBSITE P.S. If, like me, you're a real pirate radio anorak, you'll know that in the sixties we in the north had our own Radio Caroline broadcasting from a ship called (what else?) Caroline, and anchored off the Isle of Man. Halcyon days. RADIO CAROLINE NORTH WEBSITE JOHN BENNETT'S CAROLINE NORTH FACEBOOK GROUP Update: Radio Caroline celebrated her 50th Birthday on the 28th March 2014 (and also at Easter 2014 - like all Queens she has an actual and an official birthday). Many congratulations to all concerned with keeping this broadcasting legend alive -Ed) First published 9th July 2012 Updated and re-published 9th August 2017
by Dave Roberts From the old MRLC archive comes this friendly face from the past. No 41229 pulled (and pushed) the 'Dodger' between Crewe and Northwich, via Middlewich, for almost ten years until the service was withdrawn on the last day of 1959. She was the most usual motive power for this service, although several of her sisters occasionally stood in for her. The train is pictured, in this famous Brian Morrison photo, at Crewe Station in 1955. The loco is standing under the celebrated 'Spotters' Bridge' and said spotters are out in full force. 1955 is a little too early, even for me, as I would only have been three years old at the time. So I know I'm not among those present. Those spotters would have thought 'The Dodger' very small beer in those days, being far more interested in the big main line express engines in other parts of the railway Mecca of Crewe. What would they give to see her now? The strange apparatus you can see on either side of the engine's boiler is part of the push-pull mechanism which allowed the train to operate in either direction: No 41229 pulled the train to Northwich, then pushed it back to Crewe, with the driver in a special compartment at the front of the leading coach. This can be seen in this equally famous photo, taken at Middlewich Station.
Click here for a full description and to find out more about The Dodger. Certain trains would reverse at Northwich and travel, via a link onto the West Coast Main Line at Hartford, up to Acton Bridge Station.
In 1959 you could get from Crewe to Northwich (and return) for 1s 2d (around 6p) Update (August 2017) When a link to this diary entry was posted on the Cheshire's Railways Facebook group, John Tackley wrote: 'I was an engineering apprentice at Crewe works from 1948 to 1952 when these locomotives were built, and some were supplied with special brake actuating valves to allow 'auto train' operation as on the 'Dodger'. My training included time at Crewe North shed, which provided footplate staff for the 'Dodger'. It was operated by footplate staff on 'light duties', usually recovering from health problems, as most Crewe North work was for heavy express working which required tremendous stamina. 'He's on the Dodger' automatically meant the driver and fireman were having an easy time - perhaps that's where the expression originated?' Many thanks to John for this fascinating, authentic and 'from the horse's mouth' account of how the 'Dodger' was operated all those years ago.
Photo: Railway Modeller Magazine
First published 8th May 2017 Updated and re-published 6th August 2017
by Dave Roberts It's hard to believe that the two photos above show exactly the same place. Forty-eight years separate the two shots - nearly half a century in which Middlewich, like every other town, has seen immense changes. We're standing next to the bottom lock of the Brooks Lane flight and looking down towards the Town Wharf, Middlewich Church and, in the first picture Seddon's closed Wych House Lane salt works, in the second the Salinae Clinic and its grounds. The problem with any modern day view of Middlewich is immediately apparent; the immense profusion of trees and bushes which has grown up in the intervening years makes it difficult to photograph anything identifiable at this distance. Behind the trees on the left, where that singularly unattractive scrubland littered with the remains of old salt workings and old cars was in 1969, can be found Andersen's boat yard. There aren't many boats to be seen at the moment (August 2017) as we're at the height of the boat hire season and most of them are out cruising along Britain's waterways. The boats you can see on the other side of the canal, however, are part of the Andersen fleet. A full description of the top picture can be found here. To try to connect the two photos together, we can only refer you to our old friend St Michael's church tower, which can just be glimpsed amongst the vegetation above the canalside canopy at Andersen's. One further thing ties the two photos together; on the left, just above the 'V' where the two paths diverge can be seen a gap in the wall. We think this might just be where that blue brick pillar (thought to be part of a pipeline bridge over the canal at one time) stands in the earlier picture. Here's a close up of that part of the wall, and you can see that there are certainly plenty of those industrial blue bricks still in evidence.
Here's our attempt to capture one of the London Euston to Holyhead Virgin trains diverted via Middlewich on August 5th 2017. This is actually a still from a video which didn't quite work out due to low batteries in the camera. The train (1D89 for those that like to know these things) reached Middlewich at around 5.15pm and is seen here travelling behind Brooks Lane. The building visible on the right with the steel framework on its roof is the old Murgatroyd's brine pump building, currently undergoing restoration and periodically open to the public. You can find out more about this historic structure here. In the foreground is the ugly steel fencing erected by Network Rail a few years ago to keep people away from the railway track. At one time there was a local tradition, based on completely false information, that there was a 'right of way' alongside the line and many people used to walk their dogs there. There never was any 'right of way'. In fact, the 'dog walk' was for many years the 'salt siding' and was always railway property. Find out more about the salt siding here.
The Salt Siding 1969
Find out more about the campaign to bring passenger trains back to Middlewich (and Gadbrook Park) here
DIVERSIONS (AND FREIGHT) FOR SATURDAY 5th AUGUST COURTESY OF REAL TIME TRAINS.
DIVERSIONS FOR SUNDAY 6th AUGUST COURTESY OF IAN TRESMAN
These trains are also being diverted via Middlewich over the weekend of 12th/13th August