Thursday, 3 August 2017


A fascinating slide which was very nearly discarded when it got damaged by some kind of toxic glue dropping onto it (part of the results of this disastrous accident can be seen at the top of the picture - one of the salt works chimneys and the church tower have been slightly distorted as the film melted). The idea was to throw away the slide and walk down to the canal in order to take the picture again. The second part of the plan never happened, so it was most fortunate that the first part didn't either, and the original slide was kept in the slide box with all the others.
 This is one of the most interesting pictures in our collection. It's labelled 'Wych House Lane Works 1969', but shows, in fact, a lot more than just the then-closed Seddon's works.
We are standing on the first of the 'Big Three Locks' just off Brooks Lane at the point where the Trent & Mersey reaches the level it will stay at until it reaches the Big Lock. The Town Bridge is just out of shot to the right. Just in the picture on the extreme right is one of the chimneys from Seddon's Pepper Street Works. This was the chimney which, viewed from Lewin Street, appeared to be a part of St Michael's Church and inspired this article in the local paper.
The church also gives us a convenient reference point for this picture.
To the left of the Seddon's chimney we can just get a glimpse of the main warehouse building on the town wharf (at that time, as we've established, un-whitewashed) and, of course, next to that, Henry Seddon's Wych House Lane Works.
This works, along with its sisters in Pepper Street and Brooks Lane, had closed in 1967 but was, obviously, yet to be demolished. Although  three out of the four remaining open pan works in Middlewich belonged to Henry Seddon and Sons at their closure (the fourth, which belonged to Murgatroyd's and was close to Seddon's in Brooks Lane, closed in 1966) they all started life with different owners.
In the case of the Wych House Lane works, evidence of this is shown in particular by the design of the chimneys, which were, unlike the plain square ones found at the other two Seddon's works, of a quite distinctive 'stepped' design, tapering in stages towards the top. Whether this was done to make them more ornamental is unclear. It's unlikely, as salt works chimneys were always built as cheaply and simply as possible, as, indeed, were the works themselves.
The excellent Wych & Water by Tim Malim and George Nash, and published in 2009 by Middlewich Vision's Canal & Salt Town Project, features  maps showing the comings and goings of the various salt works over the years, and is highly recommended reading.
In the foreground is the area now occupied by Andersen Boats which provoked a lot of discussion in this posting, in which Colin Derek Appleton put forward the case for this area being part of the Brunner Mond Alkali Works of 1897 which is shown on the 1898 OS map as being a short distance away, in between Brooks Lane and the railway line. We were surmising that the works may have spread across the canal at one time, as such undertakings are apt to do once they start to expand.
The trouble with this theory  is that the same map shows a disused salt works on the site; the Newton Salt Works (the adjacent works, which is the one seen  in our photo, is shown as the 'Wych House Lane Dairy & Domestic Salt Works of 1892). So that appears to be the conclusive answer.
The blue brick structure in the middle foregound would appear to have been the remains of another one of those pipeline bridges which, presumably, brought brine across the canal and River Croco from Brooks Lane to the works which once stood here. At the time of our picture the area seems to be serving as a dumping ground for old cars.
It's interesting to note that at this time the MUDC's Wych House Lane depot cannot have existed, as the salt works was still standing. The council took over the site once the works had gone, but  itself ceased to exist in 1974, so the depot must have been very short lived indeed, even if it continued as such for a while under the auspices of the Borough of Congleton.
Behind the salt works chimneys can be seen one of  those Lewin Street buildings which have featured frequently in 'A Middlewich Diary' - the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel with its distinctive 'four pronged' tower.
This tower provides another point of reference for further musings on Wych House Lane (see below).
Before we leave Wych House Lane once again, it's worth concentrating on the section of this slide we have enlarged.
On the extreme left is the old building we featured in this posting and, to its right (next to the upper white caravan), the long building shown here which became part of the council depot.
If you look just to the right of the 'four pronged tower' you will see what appears to be a row of cottages at right angles to those buildings (one of the salt works chimneys is immediately to the right of it).
Can this possibly be what is now the 'House of Feathers'? I would have thought that that particular establishment was much smaller than the building shown here. Another exploratory trip down what's left of Wych House Lane seems to be on the cards.
And to the left of the 'four pronged tower' is another large building, actually on the other side of Lewin Street.
When I worked for the Middlewich UDC (round about the time this slide was taken, in actual fact), this was the local Valuation Office. To the left of it was the Conservative Club, where Middlewich Library now stands.
Can anyone remind me what that Valuation Office was originally?*
So there we have it, an exhaustive (not to say exhausting) look at a once interesting part of the town.
Nowadays, from the same vantage point, the view is of Andersen Boats, the Salinae Centre and the pleasant lawned area alongside the canal.

Facebook Feedback (from the Salt Town Productions Facebook group):
Paul Greenwood I walk home along this canal towpath often (I work up Brooks Lane) and I've taken many recent photographs from almost the exact same vantage point. The difference between then and now is astonishing. Thanks for posting Dave.

* The answer was supplied by Bill Eaton, who occasionally passes on items from the collection of the late Frank Smith of Ravenscroft. The building was the Congregational Sunday School.

I remember it just like that

First published 29th October 2011
Re-formatted and re-published 3rd August 2017

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