Monday, 5 September 2011

MHS REVISITED 1991: 1970 - A YEAR OF PROGRESS

1991

Author's note: When I co-founded the Middlewich Heritage Society with Ian McQueen in 1985 I found myself, as someone who could write a bit, as editor of the society's newsletter. In practice this meant writing a lot of the articles myself, as original material was hard to come by (apart from the sterling efforts of Frank Smith of Ravenscroft and one or two others). I was lucky, however, in that people would send me a lot of reference material which they couldn't (or didn't want to), make into  finished articles for the Newsletter but which I could, utilising my own meagre writing talent, work up into articles which were, at least acceptable. One of these contributors was the late ex-council employee Albert Robinson who had, for many years, kept a scrapbook of just about every reference to Middlewich ever included  in the local press. His family passed on the cuttings to me and I was thus  able to focus on the happenings of particular years to give a flavour of what had been going on on the Middlewich scene in that year. I was always careful to retain copyright on these articles, which is why I'm able to bring them back to life now.

This article was first published in the MHS Newsletter of  November/December 1991 and looks back to the year 1970 (for some reason the article ends quite abruptly in September) when, as always, big things were about to happen. Note that in both 1991 and  the balmy days of 1970, 'vandalism and rowdyness' were a big problem. The difference being, of course, that no one in those years had yet thought up the term 'anti-social behaviour'. 

The disco scene (to which I would be making my own small contribution a few years later) was just getting into its stride, the new fire station was about to be opened and there were plans for a new library. 

Incidentally, dyed-in-the-wool Middlewichians will not need to be told that 'Wilfrid' as in UDC Chairman Wilfrid Faulkner is NOT a misprint.

According to Harry Dale Middlewich was, as it has been ever since, 'on the brink of great things'. 

So let the 1991 edition of the MHS Newsletter take you back to....

1970 - A YEAR OF PROGRESS
(Further gleanings from the late Albert Robinson's collection of cuttings)

by Dave Roberts

Photo: Cheshire East Council
Middlewich's brand new Civic Hall was the venue for a special dance on January 3rd 1970 as 'Grandads - Your Big Saturday Soul and Tamla Scene' presented 'CIRCLE' with JOHNNY B. GOOD spinning discs in an extravaganza to welcome the new decade. And all for a special price of only five shillings, saving a shilling on the normal price.
1970, promised UDC Chairman Wilfrid Faulkner, was to be a 'year of progress'. The town was looking forward to the opening of the new fire station in March (the station actually opened at 14.13 on the 4th August 1970 and received its first call out two minutes later at 14.15, according to ex-fireman Bill Ward -ed) , together with start on work to provide a new County library. Interestingly, it appears that the site originally chosen for the library was behind the council offices on what is now the civic centre. It is not recorded whether or not Mr Faulkner put in an appearance at 'Grandads - The Nutty New Nightspot' but this is very doubtful. The council were concerned with more mundane and down-to-earth matters. They were, for example, much taken with the idea of building - wait for it - a swimming pool and included a sum of £2000 in the provisional estimates for Council spending for that year.
Middlewich was represented in the New Year's Honours list when Mr E K Willing-Denton became Mr E K Willing-Denton O.B.E. Middlewich Council wrote to congratulate him on his award.
Sadly, after a trial period of only four weeks, the Nutty New Nightspot was no more and Grandad and friends left the Civic Hall due to 'rowdyism' by 'outsiders'.
Later in the year, legendary DJ Jason Judge ('as heard on Radio One')* took over and appeared with Dr Kitch The Fabulous Soul Man. This was state-of-the-art disco entertainment with 'Flashing Lights', 'Jingles', 'Soul' and 'Reggae' (or 'Raggae' as the Middlewich Chronicle would have it).
Meanwhile, in the council chamber, life went on in an altogether more sedate fashion. The General Purposes Committee placed an order for two gross of galvanised dustbins at 36 shillings each, for re-sale to the public at £2 each.
In May Councillor Harry Dale took over as UDC Chairman at the age of 59.
Middlewich, he said, was 'on the brink of great things'.
Lest we are tempted to let Middlewich's current problems with vandalism and rowdyism get out of proportion, it is worth remembering that much the same thing went on in 1970.
In June a 'rampaging gang' broke windows in the Council offices. On another occasion notices were taken from doors on the ground floor. Council officials reacted in their usual laid-back fashion.
'It looks as though we will have to paint notices on the doors,' said surveyor Donald Stubbs.
'Mac' Telfer raised the subject of a Swimming Pool again in July and said that councils in some areas were able to provide pools at very low cost by 'joint community action'. A figure of only £9000 was quoted. The council referred Mr Telfer to the Swimming Baths Sub-Committee.
September was the month in which the France-Hayhurst Recreation Room was officially opened by Mr Dale and his Vice-Chairman Clarence Costello. The building had cost £2,600 to build on land donated by the late Captain France Hayhurst of Bostock Hall.
Photo: Cheshire Fire & Rescue Service
Despite its grand-sounding official name, even the local paper was moved to point out that everyone called it the Fountain Fields Pensioners' Club
The Council were also, at this time, much aggravated by  motorists who had taken to parking on the new access road to the civic centre and fire station.
Councillor Faulkner put it succinctly: 'It's no use having a fire engine if you can't get it out'.
As September drew to a close, the Cheshire Education Committee was talking about a revised framework for secondary education in Middlewich. One of the facilities the Committee thought might be needed for Middlewich was - a swimming pool...

* Jason Judge's famous 'as heard on Radio One' tagline reputedly came about because he had once said 'Hi' into a microphone on the Radio One Club. So technically it was true. That's DJs for you.

© Dave Roberts/Salt Town Productions 2011

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