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Tuesday, 16 August 2011

NOW and THEN: THE TOWN BRIDGE

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Nearly 100 years separate these views of Middlewich's Town Bridge and Town Wharf area. On the left hand side is one of those 'classic' Middlewich postcards which we have all grown up with, so that, in a way, we've always known what our long-lost Town Bridge used to look like. A full description of the scene shown in the postcard is given here. The right hand view was taken on 16th August 2011 and shows the new bridge, built in 1931, and a scene softened, as are so many areas of Middlewich these days, by trees. In fact it is becoming increasingly difficult to take modern shots for comparison with old ones because of the vegetation. Perhaps we'll have better luck when winter comes. The lush vegetation has completely blotted out the right hand side of the modern picture, but this scarcely matters because there is nothing behind the trees but the Seabank car park.
Speaking personally, I've always felt that the 'modern' Town Bridge was somehow lacking, that it was missing something. And I've just realised what it is. Instead of a graceful arch the bridge has a large rectangular hole - it looks like a letter box stuck in the middle of the canal. Really, the 1931 bridge is nothing more than a concrete raft built, like many such structures in the 1930s, for the motor age which was then just beginning. No doubt when the Town Wharf Scheme comes to fruition the bridge will receive a cosmetic facelift, but, at the risk of being accused of being old-fashioned, I don't think it can compare for style and character with the old bridge.
But that's just a personal opinion. What can't be denied is that today's Town Bridge is not, as was the old bridge, a part of the town. It might as well be a bridge on an urban motorway, its main purpose being to get vast amounts of traffic to and from the M6 as quickly as possible. Kinderton Street itself has lost most of its pedestrian bustle, the only life found there now being injected by the presence of the Boar's Head Hotel and the Kinderton Hotel.. This is not intended as criticism, it's merely the way that times have changed in the last 97 years.
On the left is Middlewich Town Wharf; in 1914 a busy place full of commercial activity. Now it lies forlorn, unregarded and almost forgotten except by those who have realised its potential. A couple of times a year it springs back into vibrant life as events like the Folk & Boat Festival bring in  tourists and townsfolk alike as a kind of preview of what the area should, and could, be like on a permanent basis.
Eventually, the area will be transformed into 'The Gateway To Middlewich' as the Town Wharf Scheme becomes a reality.
All we can do for now is wish luck to those who are working hard behind the scenes to bring this part of old Middlewich back to life.

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