Friday, 11 August 2017

ACROSS THE CHESHIRE PLAIN 1972


 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.

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