Wednesday, 30 November 2011

WHEELOCK STREET EARLY 20th CENTURY

We believe this postcard to be out of copyright. If you own the copyright, or know who does, please let us know
What strikes me most when looking at really old photographs of Middlewich is not how many things have changed but how many have stayed the same. This old postcard, from Geraldine Williams' collection  which was compiled by Miss Mary E (Polly) Gallimore before the First World War, shows Wheelock Street as it was before that war - probably around 1905 - and anyone looking at it now will instantly recognise the town's main street with what is now Barclay's Bank on the left (simply labelled at that time with the word BANK) and the present-day Reed Rains Estate Agents on the right (the shop with the two gas lights outside it).
The building next to it, on the extreme right, was, I believe, a public house but I'm unable to find a reference anywhere telling us what it was called.
It was replaced in 1920 by the Alhambra Cinema, the new 'picture-drome', as the local newspapers enthusiastically called it. Page 113 of Allan Earl's Middlewich 1900-1950 (Cheshire Country Publishing 1994) has a report on the proposed new cinema  from the Northwich Chronicle, which includes the words:

'The projectors are in duplicate so that if one fails the operator can turn to the other...'

Which just goes to show that local newspapers, then, as now, sometimes have a slightly tenuous grasp of how things work.
Middlewich's cinema survived until the early 1960s, and was one of the best in the area. It had excellent projection equipment and a good, large screen. The Alhambra was never a 'fleapit', it was a comfortable and enjoyable place to be, and it's good to know that the building survives, externally much as it has been since 1920, and that the name lives on as a slightly unusual name for a Chinese restaurant.
We'll be returning to the history of the Alhambra later.
Further down the street on the right hand side, another of the lost pubs of Middlewich, the Bulls Head can be seen and, as always, just visible through the mist in the background, St Michael & All Angels Church gives us our point of reference

TOWN BRIDGE circa 1914

We believe this postcard to be out of copyright. If you own the copyright, or know who does, please let us know

We have been saving this picture pending a trip down to the Town Wharf  to photograph it in its present (sorry) state for a 'Now & Then' feature, but couldn't resist giving everyone a preview. It's one of a whole album of postcards and photographs kindly loaned to us by keen Middlewich Diary follower and contributor Geraldine Williams. The postcards in the album were mostly sent between Miss Mary E (Polly) Gallimore, her sister Ada, brother Frank (of Sutton Lane) and various relatives when the girls left home to go into service at several locations. Geraldine has painstakingly transcribed the messages from the back of the cards to form a fascinating account of the girls' travels in the early years of the 20th Century. We will be featuring the contents of the album in the Middlewich Diary in due course and we're sure it will be of interest to many, featuring as it does period shots of the places the girls visited including Birmingham, Liverpool, Blackpool, Chester, North Wales and many others.
Postcards, it will be appreciated, were really the e-mails of their day, and the main method of communication because they were cheaper to send than letters, which were reserved for special occasions. Today's equivalent of the letter would be...er...the letter I suppose. They're still a very good way of communicating important private information. I don't know what the early 20th century equivalent of a 'tweet' would be; probably a note scribbled on the back of a fag packet.
But we digress; most of the postcards were written between the years 1904 and 1907, but this appears to be somewhat later, being published, as far as we can judge, sometime during World War I. For this reason we've dated it circa 1914. This is one of two 'classic' views of this scene, the other one dating from 1930 just before the bridge was replaced. Both are featured on page 28 of  Images of England - Middlewich by J Brian Curzon and Paul Hurley (Tempus Publishing 2005) and the later, 1930, view as Plate 27 on page 126 of Middlewich 1900-1950 by Alan Earl (Cheshire Country Publishing 1994).
Unlike the above authors, we do have the luxury of being able to show the postcard in all its hand-coloured glory. The canal itself has benefited greatly from this  colour-washing and looks more like the Mediterra-nean than a grimy industrial waterway.
But it's the bridge itself we wanted to consider. It seems obvious that the new bridge was built exactly where the old one was. Probably this could not have been otherwise, as the River Croco had to be taken into account as had, of course, the alignment of the roads leading into the bridge. I imagine that the original Croco bridge was simply incorporated into the structure of the new bridge when it was built in 1931*. Equally obviously the new bridge is much wider than the old one was and fans out into a 'Y' shape to accomodate the improved junction between Kinderton Street, Leadsmithy Street and Lower Street (now the southernmost portion of St Michael's Way). The building on the right hand side of the bridge is the famed 'Navigation Inn', another one of those two-level pubs (the Big Lock and King's Lock are surviving examples) which the late J Brian Curzon always referred to as 'stack pubs',  a description which always struck me as very apt.
And look at the tall building on the right, which is very reminiscent of the old lock-keepers cottage at Big Lock. In fact I've seen descriptions of this postcard which actually refer to it a 'lock-keeper's cottage', which is self-evidently wrong for the simple reason that there is no lock here. The little building with the chimney on the left disappeared without warning a few years ago, showing us yet again that you can't take anything for granted.
Let us hope that the redevelopment scheme for the Town Wharf area becomes a reality before too long. The area is in sore need of preservation and conservation.
One suggestion I'd personally like to make is the provision of a crane to replace the one shown here. It doesn't have to be authentic. Any sort of reasonably old-looking crane will do. After all, the Shroppie Fly at Audlem makes do perfectly well with an old railway crane, and most people are none the wiser.

UPDATE: Actually, if you look at the postcard closely, it's obvious that there are two cranes on the wharf, not one. Let's not be greedy - one crane will do.

A thought occurred to me while I was writing this: The demolition of the old bridge and the building of the new one, with all the destruction of property involved, must have been just as traumatic for people in 1931 as the later ravages of the early 1970s were for us. Fortunately, because of more enlightened views on the  conservation of older properties, we are unlikely ever to see such radical change again (unless you count the proposed supermarket developments in Southway and Chester Road*) and a lot of the basic layout of our old town, including Wheelock Street, has, at least, been left intact.

*' ...The existing brick arch, over the River Croco, was strengthened by a reinforced concrete saddle' - Middlewich 1900-1950 by Alan Earl (Cheshire Country Publishing 1994)

Facebook feedback:
As expected, this posting generated a lot of feedback:

Stephen Dent I can't figure out where the Croco is on this picture Dave.

Dave Roberts It's on the right of the picture, just below the tall building, Stephen.

Stephen Dent it must be hidden in a little valley like it is now.

Dave Roberts Yes, I have to say it's not obvious from the postcard that the river is there.
I'm wondering if there has been a little re-touching of the photo on the extreme right?
That's the Croco Bridge, immediately to the left of the tall building. I'm wondering if the greenery has been added to 'tidy up' the scene a bit? A lot of that kind of thing went on in those days with this type of postcard.

Geraldine Williams: What do we know about the River Croco? It was mentioned earlier that it serves as an overflow for the canal but I can remember going to school over the Town Bridge and the river being a disgusting yellowy colour. Some days the water level was low and the rocks were coated in a yellow gunge. Was its proximity to the Gasworks the cause? And what happened to the water from the Millstream. Did this then flow into the Cro-co? I don't know what year the canal was cut and presumably there would have been a smaller forerunner to the Town Bridge which only crossed the river. Was the Croco the town's water supply?
The Croco's section of the bridge in the postcard seems only to be culvert-sized!

Dave Roberts: I suppose it's never really had to be anything other than a culvert, certainly not from the time the T&M Canal was built (in 1776, btw). The river's never been navigable and has, regrettably, served more as an open sewer than anything else. There are numerous outfalls all the way along its length where water from farmland, with all the questionable residues from such land, run into it.
And I seem to recall some controversy a few years ago about certain industrial concerns dumping chemicals, including aniline dyes into the River further upstream. Or was that a problem for the River Dane? I'm not sure of the geography of the river before it reaches Middlewich and its connection with Sanderson's Brook (are they the same watercourse with different names?)

In other words, as always, further research is needed.

*Update: Although Morrison's development in Chester Road went ahead, and was most successful, Tesco's proposed Southway development famously didn't. As of August 2016 Middlewich still waits to see what will be done with all that derelict land in the town centre -Ed.

(this is a revised and re-formatted posting from earlier in the year)

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

SOUTHWAY 1974 2

Here's another view of the bottom part of Southway in 1974. It's obvious from this slide that the 'industrial' building at the end of the left hand row was of wooden lean-to construction, painted with red lead in the same manner as local salt works buildings  and was replaced by, rather than converted into, the current florist and hairdressers shops on the site. There's also a fine array of vintage 1970s cars for the enthusiast.

SEE ALSO: SOUTHWAY 1974

SOUTHWAY 1974

 (Here's one that nearly got away. This photo first appeared in the 'Middlewich Diary' section of the Salt Town Site (the fore-runner to this blog) and was never transferred over when the blog began)

Southway in 1974. Strangely familiar but, on close inspection, very very different. In fact what we know today as Southway - i.e. the row of shops and pleasant paved walkway leading to the 'Tesco' entrance - didn't exist.
Instead, a kind of urban dirt-track led from Wheelock Street to give access to the rear of shops on
either side of the Alhambra (and to the Alhambra itself, of course).
This was the time-honoured way of 'sneaking in' to the cinema, risking the wrath of 'Torchy' the cinema's usher (if that's the right word?)
To the left , today's flower shop appears to have been some kind of factory premises, with a long, galleried window on the first floor*.
Beyond the trees lay a field containing F Coupe's 'Orchard Works' as seen here.
The real Southway - i.e. the footpath from Wheelock Street to St Ann's Road (formerly 'Tannery Alley' seems to have changed very little.
*Actually the 'factory premises' were demolished and replaced by the current hairdressers and florists shops.
See SOUTHWAY 1974 2

(first published on the Salt Town Site June 4th 2011)

Facebook feedback:
Paul Greenwood How weird to see this. The door and window (above it) next to the Mk 1 Capri are the entrance to my flat and the window is halfway up my stairs!!! I'm typing this in a room just above and to the right of that very same window right now!!!!

MHS REVISITED 1990: 1969 AND ALL THAT...

1990
Another delve into the Middlewich Heritage Society Newsletter archives, when we were looking at the momentous events of twenty-one years earlier, in 1969. Momentous, that is, as far as Middlewich was concerned. There's no mention of the Moon Landings, but the hourly pay rate of cleaners at Chadwick Court is included, as is the news of ERF Limited's plans for part of the old ICI Soda Ash works site. Unsurprisingly, a lot of the future delights mentioned in this article also appear in our companion article concerning the events of 1970 which you can find here
Based on newspaper cuttings collected by the late Albert Robinson

by Dave Roberts
1968 ended portentously. Just before Christmas the dreaded 'yellow peril' hit Middlewich, as the County Council introduced 'No Waiting' restrictions in Wheelock Street. This was expected to help solve the town's horrendous traffic problems.
In many ways the end of the sixties was the end of an era for Middlewich. The old method of making salt had died out, but British Salt were expected to have their £3 million factory open in the Autumn.
Other great schemes were also in the offing in 1969, all of which are now taken for granted (or were in 1990 - ed)
August was to see the start of the new inner by-pass (St Michael's Way), expected to cost £220,000
 April would see the completion of the Civic Hall, built by the UDC for the princely sum of £30,000 (the cost later 'rocketed' to £40,000).
The County Council also planned to build a new fire station, and the GPO were to introduce an automatic telephone exchange.
In February the news broke that the 'Sandbach Motor Engineering Firm', ERF Limited, had applied for planning permission for a spares and service depot on part of the disused ICI soda ash works site. ERF promised to build the depot on the understanding that the Council would improve Brooks Lane to provide a proper access road.
Middlewich Council were advertising for part-time cleaners at Chadwick Court. The successful applicants would work a ten hour week for 4s 9d an hour. General labourers in the Council's Parks & Open Spaces Department were paid £14 5s 10d per week, in accordance with the NJC for Local Authorities Services.
Also in 1969 the town's Crown Post Office closed and the sub post office which replaced it began its nomadic wanderings around the town. The first sub postmistress was Mrs Beryl Lees who ran the Central Warehouse at 29 Wheelock Street.
In June the wonders of modern technology came to the town, and Middlewich's telephone subscribers (800 in all) were linked up to the S.T.D. equipment in the new automatic exchange. The first call was made by the Chairman of the Council, Mr Wilfrid Faulkner.
In July the subject of local government re-organisation was in the air. The Maud Report was proposing a 'Super Council' covering Sale and East Cheshire on which Middlewich would have had only one representative (in 1970 Middlewich Councillors were to hold discussions with Northwich and Winsford Councillors on the idea of a Mid-Cheshire Authority. A second-best plan including Knutsford was also considered.
On Friday 12th September the new Civic Hall was opened by Council Chairman Wilfrid Faulkner.
You could hire the hall for an evening for £10 on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, £12 on Wednesday and £15 on Friday and Saturday. There was dancing on the opening night to 'The Ray Douglas Music'.
Middlewich was about  to move forward into the 1970s...
© Dave Roberts/Salt Town Productions 2011


Postscript:
Also in 1969 a young Mr David Gareth Roberts left school and, after an excruciatingly embarrassing and unsuccessful interview at the NatWest Bank, began work at the MUDC's Rates Office.
September the 12th, the day of the Civic Hall's opening, was my 17th birthday. I'm sure I remember the legendary Percy Bailey Band playing in the hall in the afternoon, but I can find no confirmation of this. -DGR




Monday, 28 November 2011

MYSTERY PHOTO #1

We believe this photograph to be out of copyright. If you own the copyright, or know who does, please let us know.
There are close on 200 photos in the Paul Hough collection and I recently spent a whole evening going through them in order to identify and label them. I knew, or could work out, what most of them represented but, as is inevitable with such a large collection of pictures, one or two were difficult to identify.
Here's one of them.
At first I hadn't a clue as to just which part of Middlewich this photo represented, so labelled it 'Mystery' and moved on. On taking a second look, however, I think I may know where the scene depicted in this photo is (or rather was).
I think it's the site of the current Tesco supermarket at the top of Southway. The building with the two windows, just in shot to the right, looks very much like F Coupe's Orchard Works, as seen in this 1972 shot.
The building immediately to the left of that, peering through the trees, looks like the top part of the shops and flats which run along present-day Southway. The roof of the 'industrial building', at the end of the row, since  replaced by Charlotte Rose florists, can just be seen partly masking  the windows of the flat above what was then Vernon's furniture shop. The building just to the left of the now vanished building in the centre of the photo is, I think, Barclay House.
That large building in the centre, which I've never seen before, seems, from this angle at least, to be divided into one large-ish house and a couple of cottages. If  I'm right about this, the tree just to the right of this building would be approximately where that present-day Tesco 'Pagoda' structure is, close to the public conveniences.
So what do we think? Am I on the right track, or not?

Facebook feedback:











  • Susan Johnson 










    You may well be on the right track here Dave. Bit before my time but I do recall as a youngster that there used to be several very old buildings next to Alhambra etc that went from Wheelock Street and up to towards top of Southway, rememberthem being knocked down as were bit derelict. So the one on right of photo could be one of them? and the pathway that runs in front of it & in front of building foremost on left of photo could be what is Southway now? Just a thought!

  • Dave Roberts Thanks for that, Sue. I'm trying to find a photo I'm sure I posted on the 'Diary' which shows those old buildings at the bottom end of Southway, but it's not showing up in the index. I vaguely remember what the area was like but, as I say, that building in the middle of the photo is new to me.













      • Peter Cox I agree it very much looks like F 
        Coupe & Sons.


        Clifford Astles 
        Dave, some more info for you re the above Photo of F Coupe & Sons, Orchard Works, Middlewich, Cheshire. The land it was built on was a small field and orchard. The field had a donkey on it some of the time,and the actual field either belonged to the large house (not in photo here, but was behind the Orchard building and was probably knocked down to build the building as it was positioned at the end, and in front of the older buildings in the picture. The "alley" which is still there today ran from the left hand side of the picture, then went in front of the old houses shown, down to Wheelock Street. The archard was often "raided" by myself and friends (from Sutton lane) when we went to the "pictures" at the Alhambra, which was the main source of entertainment for the town's youth , in those days. It would costs Nine old pence ( 2.0 pence in todays money).We would have to sit on benches at the front, not proper seats. We would also go to the mens toilet, un-lock the fire exit, and let the rest of the troup in without paying !!! There were 3 prices, 9 pence, one shilling, and one shilling and six pence for the best seat at the back.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

RIVER DANE, WINTER 1974


Here's a a wintry scene from December 1974 taken from the footpath which runs along the River Dane from King Street down to the River's junction with the Croco and then along the western edge of Harbutt's Field to emerge near to the Big Lock.
The viaduct which takes the Sandbach-Northwich railway line across the river can just be seen centre left, and beyond that is Ravenscroft Bridge on King Street.
Harbutt's Field is just out of shot to the right. Although extensive archaeological investigations had been done in the area, the field had not yet been identified as the site of a roman fort, although many people, including my Dad, Arthur, had already become convinced that there was something more than just the remains of salt workings and iron works hidden under what looks like an ordinary field. Some years later, the celebrated 'GeoFizz', beloved of Tony Robinson and his Time Team, revealed the distinctive round-cornered 'playing card' outline of the fort and Middlewich was, at last, recognised as a major Roman site.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

WHITE BEAR RE-OPENING LATEST!

Well it obviously didn't happen on Friday lunchtime due, apparently, to over-running building work. We've had several e-mails putting forward various revised opening dates ranging from Saturday (26th) through to Tuesday (29th).
We're not making any predictions. If you want the info straight from the horse's (or the bear's?) mouth phone Paul on 01606 837666.

Friday, 25 November 2011

SEDDON'S WORKS AND MIDDLEWICH GASWORKS FROM TOWN BRIDGE 1960s

We believe this image to be out of copyright. If you own the copyright, or know who does, please let us know.
Today, courtesy of Paul Hough, we're able to go back to the 1960s to take in the view from the Town Bridge, looking in the direction of the Big Lock. We've seen some of the elements of this photo before from various different viewpoints, but it's nice to see them all together in this classic 1960s view.
Our house at Number 33 (originally 27) King Street was on higher ground, out of shot and to the right. Thus we had wonderful views of both salt works and gas works from the mid-50s until the late 60s, as well as views of the town centre and part of Webb's Lane.
The same house now commands views of 'The Moorings', which (eventually) took the place of Seddon's in the 1980s.
On the extreme left is the building which now houses the Town Bridge Estate Agents. 'EE ACES is just a small part of the words: JAYGEE FIREPLACES. This long single-storey building has been considerably smartened up for its new life in the property business.
To the right of that are those oh so familiar chimneys at Seddon's Pepper Street Works.
I think the works must still have been in operation at the time of the photograph, because I seem to recall that the gas-holders went a few years before the works closed in 1967, but there appears to be no smoke from any of the chimneys (what I at first thought to be smoke, I now think is either passing clouds or smudges on the original print), and the salt pans themselves (the location of two of them can be discerned by the inverted 'V' shaped structures in the centre of the photo) are not steaming. It may be that the photo was taken over a weekend when most of the pans were shut down for de-scaling and maintenance.
The bridge which took Middlewich's supply of town gas across the canal is a bit difficult to make out in the middle of this shot - its reflection in the canal is actually clearer than the direct image.
The houses on the skyline, which still exist, are in Webbs Lane.
And on the right can be seen Middlewich's main gas holder and, in front of it, the steel framework of the secondary holder (which, as we noted in 'Storm Over Seddons', eventually 'fell off' its framework and was dismantled)
The main gasholder  (sometimes erroneously referred to as a 'gasometer'), seems to be full of gas (by this time, I think I'm right in saying, gas was no longer made on the site, but the holders were still used to store gas produced elsewhere).
The gas holder acted like a huge telescopic bellows, the top, darker coloured, part moving up and down inside the lower part, rising and falling with the demand for gas.
On Sunday lunch-times when everyone was cooking roast beef and all the trimmings, the top part of the holder would disappear into the bottom part as all the stored gas was used up.
The small brick building which can just be made out behind the girders of the secondary holder still exists and has been given a pitched roof and the name 'Cheshire House'
Both Northwich and Winsford had much larger and more spectacular gas holders than we did. But then, they would, wouldn't they?

For a different view of the salt works and gas works see
SEDDON'S SALT WORKS FROM THE CANAL MID 60s

SEE ALSO: SALT WORKS, GAS WORKS AND CANAL 1960s

The Paul Hough Collection
Ever since A Middlewich Diary first started, back in June, I've wanted to include some of the older black and white photographs which we've all become familiar with over the years, but didn't know where to source them from.
Recently I came across a whole collection of these photos, some familiar, some new to me, posted on Facebook by Paul Hough. I contacted him and asked for permission to use them on the Middlewich Diary. He explained how he came to acquire them:

They were scanned from a mate's photo album; he was the previous owner of Middlewich Auto Spares in Wheelock Street. A photographer was taking photos of his premises, apparently stables of yesteryear (Doctor's Surgery?) and sold him the prints. That's as much as I know about them. So I thought it was the correct thing to share them!! 


Which, of course it was. We're delighted to include these photos in our Diary and hope that, if you have any memories or information about the photos and the subjects contained in them you'll let us know.
Our thanks to Paul for giving us his permission to use this collection and an opportunity to delve even further back into the fascinating history of Middlewich. -Ed

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

BROOKS LANE LOCK AND CHIMNEYS 1972


Now these two chimneys really are contenders for the title of 'last salt works chimney in Middlewich'.* In fact I think the one on the right took the title in the end. It's 1972 and five years after the old open pan works in the town were closed (Murgatroyd's, which was very close to here, closed in 1966). It's hard to tell from this particular shot what state the Seddon's Brooks Lane works was in, but other photos show it as in a state of partial demolition at this time. For obvious reasons the chimneys were always the last part of the works to go.
The Brooks Lane works was, in fact, never completely demolished; some of the retaining walls were kept and are still there today and recognisable as parts of a former salt works. And many of the buildings at the rear of the premises, close to the railway line, were retained and put to other uses. This is very unusual for salt works buildings which were usually ramshackle affairs, looking as though they were about to fall down  throughout their existence, and  largely unusable for any other purpose.
If you look closely at the  chimneys, it's possible to see that the one on the left, unlike others on this site, or any of the Pepper Street and Wych House Lane chimneys, has been strengthened by steel bands. Possibly this was to prevent damage from subsidence from the brine springs in the area. This strengthening was probably what led to this chimney and its companions surviving slightly longer than the chimneys at the other two works, its demolition and disposal being found slightly more problematical.
Incidentally these are the chimneys which can be seen in the background of our original Salt Town Productions logo:
In the foreground (of the top picture) is the middle of the three Brooks Lane locks (referred to by some as 'The Big Three') which take the Trent & Mersey Canal down to the level it will stay at until it reaches the Big Lock.
Just out of shot to the right, the canal makes an abrupt right turn to make its way past Middlewich Narrowboats, the junction with the SUC Middlewich Branch and the Kings Lock on its way to Etruria.
In 1972 the boom in tourist activity on the canal was only just beginning, and the infrastructure was a little dilapidated. Notice the colour of the lock gates. Before British Waterways decided on black and white as an official colour scheme for lock gates etc, this very light greenish grey was the norm.
A few years ago it was decided to repaint the locks on the Shropshire Union Middlewich Branch a darker grey, as this was considered to be the 'traditional' colour for Shropshire Union lock gates. The lock gates on the T&M itself remained  uniformly black and white.
So where did the light greenish-grey colour come from? Was it a 'traditional colour' for lock gates, or just there because BW had a lot of paint of that colour?
I'm sure someone with knowledge of such canal matters will come forward to enlighten us.

* 'The last salt-works chimney in Middlewich'. A reference to the fact that the late Brian Curzon once published a photo of one of the Pepper Street chimneys being demolished and described it thus. These chimneys in Brooks Lane stood for years after the Pepper Street ones had gone. And, as we've said before, if we're really being pedantic, the 'last' salt works chimney in Middlewich - in reality more of a gas flue than a chimney - is still standing and in daily use at British Salt.

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Andy Kendrick My nephew worked at the bus yard at the rear of the old Seddons works next to the railway line where one of the old building still is. They were doing some clearance work  and he said there are some tunnels underground there. Could this be something to do with the brine springs?

  • Dave Roberts Could well be, Andy. Murgatroyds's brine pump, which is still in position over its brine shaft, is only a few yards away from the place you're talking about


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  • Ian Murfitt  Re the colour of lock gates. It has been suggested that the Shroppie used grey paint to decrease the impact of exposure to the sun, as opposed to black paint, which amplifies the effect. 
    There is however more compelling evidence that the Shroppie managed to purchase a significant quantity of surplus paint from the Navy on the cheap.

    Tuesday, 22 November 2011

    WHITE BEAR RE-OPENING DATE ANNOUNCED!

    We're reliably informed that this once rundown hostelry will, after extensive  refurbishment, be re-opening for business on Friday 25th November at lunchtime. There's also a possibility of a  preview on Thursday evening.
    Everyone concerned is to be congratulated on the superb restoration of this Middlewich landmark.

    A MIDDLEWICH MEDICAL MILESTONE 1967

    Courtesy of Carole Hughes, another piece of  Middlewich ephemera issued to the people of the town to introduce their new surgery at Lex House in Leadsmithy Street, and with it the new patients' appointment system.
    It may sound strange today, but, certainly in the surgery at the top end of Wheelock Street, which has more recently been the home of the Cafe Med, no appointment system was ever in operation. Patients would sit around the edges of the waiting room on old bentwood chairs, enveloped in a pall of cigarette smoke, and decide to their own satisfaction whose turn it was next.
    When operations moved to Lex House it truly seemed like the start of a new era in medical care, although, with hindsight, Lex House was not really a great improvement over existing arrangements. As explained in the card, though, the appointment system itself did prevent people having to sit around in the waiting room for too long.


    Nowadays, of course, the health of the townspeople is looked after at local level from two surgeries once more: the Acorns Surgery in Wheelock Street and Oaklands (the Middlewich Medical Centre) in St Ann's Walk. Further improvements to health provision for the town are in the air.


    Update: In May 2014 the finishing touches were being put to a 'new' surgery in a familiar place to replace the Acorns Surgery.
    Lex House was being made ready to become 'Waterside', thus moving the wheel full circle. This time, around, though, the facilities are on a much grander scale with the Doctors utilising most, if not all, of the building. -Ed

    Facebook feedback (from the Middlewich Community Group Facebook group):





    • Clifford Astles. Dr Brown was known for being very blunt and to the point.  When I was first married in 1962, my new wife, Barbara (same one today, thank God !!)  was very very ill.
      In the first week, after we had been married, she had the doctor at home  (this was  her old home, as we had not moved into our new house at 71 Hayhurst Avenue).
      Dr Brown would not tell anyone what was wrong with her, but, as I was then her official closest relative, told me to call in to see him after work when he would tell me the situation.
      What he actually said was, 'I'm sorry about Barbara. I know you only got married last week, but some you win, some you lose! She has a very bad kidney infection, and she will either get over it, or die.'
      He said no more, and that was the end of the discussion.
      Needless to say, we had a very bad few weeks until she began to improve. We made traditional lemon and barley water using only fresh barley. We strained water through the barley and then mixed it with freshly squeezed lemon juice. That, plus eggs mixed with red wine taken twice a day put her on the road to recovery.
      We moved to our new home at 71 Hayhurst Avenue six weeks after getting married in Middlewich Church. All being well we'll be celebrating 50 years of marriage on the 31st March 2012.
      So, she did get well!







    Sunday, 20 November 2011

    BRITISH SALT WORKS FROM THE LIME-BEDS

    Photo: Cliff Astles
    Cliff Astles was prompted to post this excellent shot on the Middlewich Town Council Facebook group after seeing our vintage shot of the ICI lime beds which shows the then relatively new British Salt works on the horizon.
    British Salt (known to some Middlewichians, particularly those who work there, as, simply,'Salt') was built in 1969, replacing various open pan works and vacuum plants, both in Middlewich and elsewhere. The plant is capable of producing 800.000 tonnes of salt per year. British Salt is the UK's leading supplier of  dried vacuum salt and produces over half of all the pure white salt used in Britain.
    Cliff's skill as a photographer has made the works look rather glamorous in the above evening shot. In the cold light of day, particularly when approached from Sandbach along Booth Lane, the works looks, shall we say, more utilitarian than photogenic. Seen from the back lanes on the eastern side of the railway line, it seems to loom over the beautiful Cheshire countryside like a brooding presence.
    But then, it was built to make salt, not to look beautiful.
    Photo: Cliff Astles
    Here's a daytime shot of the works, also by Cliff, showing its grim, workaday reality. The wear and tear of 42 years of continuous salt production is also beginning to become evident, and several sections of the outer cladding of the factory have recently been replaced. It was ever thus with salt works; corrosion from the salt is a self-evident and recurring problem.

    When the works was being planned at the end of the sixties Middlewich UDC's planning committee were reassured about the appearance of the tall metal chimney stack (since replaced by the more modern structure seen in the pictures above) when the builders offered to paint it in two colours: green up to horizon level and sky blue above the horizon. Thus, went the theory, the chimney would blend chameleon-like into the landscape and become completely invisible as it melted into the lush green vegetation at ground level and the perpetually blue skies above Middlewich.
    Where, precisely, 'horizon level' was, and is, is a moot point.
    We're pleased to be able to bring you this picture by Cliff and will be featuring many more of his photos of Middlewich buildings, people and events in the months and years ahead.

    CLIFF ASTLES
    BRITISH SALT

    SEABANK 1973

    So here we are back once again on Seabank, that curious little offshoot of Kinderton Street which was once the main route from Kinderton to Middlewich. This 1973 shot makes what is now a small length of roadway leading to a couple of cottages look much more like the proper street it must have been many years ago. The cottages on the right hand side of the photograph have now disappeared and, in truth, there isn't a lot to be seen. One of the cottages on the left is now up for sale and could be someone's chance to live in a historic part of town.
    The footbridge into Middlewich which we've talked about on several occasions would have begun just about where the small concrete garage is. I wonder if that garage was made by Four Square?
    Today, Seabank is thought of more as a car park than anything else.
    The real interest in our early 70s slide is in the buildings across the canal and River Croco in Lewin Street and Leadsmithy Street. We've seen them  before in our erratic, zig-zagging tour of the town, and the enlarged section of the photo, below will, I hope, help us get our bearings.

    The large building dominating the skyline to the left is the Cof E Infants School, which would be there for at least two more years. Just visible above the now-vanished cottages on the right can be seen the whitewashed front of the unfortunate Town Wharf warehouse building, and in between the two is Middlewich's original fire station.. Note also the rather elegant swan-necked concrete street lamp. A similar lamp in Lawrence Avenue is still in use.

    Saturday, 19 November 2011

    Jas BROWN BEER FLAGON

    Nothing's ever simple, is it? We came across this Middlewich artifact lurking in the kitchen of my sister's house in Nantwich Road, festooned in greenery and serving as an ornament. Seemingly it had turned up with a lot of other pots and bottles in 'Uncle' Harry Shore's shed in King Street after his death. My first thought was that it was, obviously, a companion piece to Carole Hughes' brandy bottle which we were looking at here.

    But, you will have noticed, the name is not quite the same. The beer flagon is marked Jas Brown (which, following my faux pas over Dr Murphy's first name, I am tentatively suggesting is short for 'James') whereas the label on the brandy bottle has 'Robert Brown & Sons' on it. And James is described as a 'wine & spirit merchant', Robert & Sons as 'wine & brandy merchants'. So was James one of Robert's sons?  Or did Robert come after James? Which is older, the brandy bottle or the beer flagon? Are these people both members of the Brown family of 'Brown's Vaults' fame, or was there, perhaps, more than one Brown family in the wine and spirit trade in this town? Unlikely, but not impossible.I feel another bout of research coming on...

    Friday, 18 November 2011

    LINK: THE LOST PUBS PROJECT: THE KINDERTON ARMS

    The Kinderton Arms, Booth Lane. Photo: Alan Murray-Rust/The Lost Pubs Project/Creative Commons
    Here's an interesting link. The Lost Pubs Project aims to gather information on the country's lost pubs.  According to information from the trade, 25* British pubs pubs per week are closing down, most of them in London and here in the North-West. The rate of closure has slowed down (last year 40 pubs were closing every week) but it is a measure of just how severe the current recession is that so many licensed premises are shutting their doors for good.
    Breweries and pub companies cite the smoking ban and supermarket off-licence competition as contributing to the problems pubs face.
    Our own town is currently represented on the Lost Pubs site by just two pubs - the White Bear and the Kinderton Arms. 
    There is, of course, good news to report on the White Bear, and we eagerly await its re-opening, but the Kinderton Arms, opposite Rumps Lock in Booth Lane and very close to the British Salt Factory,  is a different matter altogether. It's been closed for many years now and an attempt to revive its fortunes as a restaurant ended in failure. The pub was, unfortunately, just too far out of town to attract much custom from Middlewich and passing trade from both road and canal obviously wasn't enough to make the place viable. It might have been a different story had the pub been on the other side of the canal, but its industrial setting was always against it.
    So do you remember the Kinderton Arms? If so, you might like to look at the Lost Pubs site and let them have those memories. Do you know if there are any plans to make use of the building? Don't hesitate to pass the information on. Alternatively, you can post any memories or information either here or on our Facebook pages and we'll pass them on.
    Incidentally, since the above  photo  was taken, the car park at the Kinderton Arms has been securely fenced off.
    The Lost Pubs Project website in general is well worth investigating, with details and photographs of many lost pubs in this region.
    * The Lost Pubs Project home page puts the figure at 50 per week
    THE LOST PUBS PROJECT: KINDERTON ARMS

    Facebook feedback (from the 'You Know You're From Middlewich, When...' group):

    • Robert Sheckleston I used to pop in every Friday dinner time, when I worked at RHM, before the club was built. Norman, Vera and Trevor always made you welcome, but they would never put the heating on. It was always freezing!


    • Dave Roberts Thanks Robert. I'll pass that on. I'd forgotten the connection with Trevor, who later had the Cheshire Cheese, didn't he?

    • Robert Sheckleston Yes that's right. Trevor and his wife went on to run the Cheshire Cheese.

    • Carole Hughes I used to go into  the Kinderton with my dad sometimes.  I remember they had a room upstairs for functions, and you're right, Rob, it was always freezing!








      UPDATE (27th November 2011) : Cliff Astles has contributed some interesting information to the Lost Pubs site:
      My wife ( Barbara Astles, nee Evans) was one  of eight daughters, and two sons of Mr Alfred (Alf) and Mrs Hilda Evans
      They lived in the Lock House, opposite the Kinderton Arms, by the side of the Trent and Mersey Canal, for very many years, as Alf was a British Waterways “lengths man” for the company, and the house provided as part of his working conditions.
      Alf, used to garden the Pub gardens for himself, with flowers and vegetables for his family, and provided produce for the pub and his family as a condition for him having the gardens to work for himself.
      The gardens were always kept in an immaculate condition, were Alf’s pride and joy, and if not in his house he would always be across at his  gardens.
      When garden produce was in good supply, on occasions would also offer for FREE produce to the very many working canal boats that would go past 24 hours a day (late 40’s and early 50’s).
      The Kinderton Arms was always good for a night of traditional pub singing around an old piano, particularly on a Friday and Saturday night  where at such times their younger children would be allowed to sit in the Pub corridor and front door step.
      They were provided with a small bottle of “pop” with a straw and a bag of Smiths Crisps ( with a blue twisted bag of salt), to keep them quiet, and the kids always looked forward to doing this on a Saturday night.
      Some weekends, when Alf and Hilda had decided to stay at home instead of going to the pub, Hilda would be sent over to the pub with a large enamelled water jug, to get Alf a few pints of beer.
      In those days, with plenty passing trade of the canal boat people, and the local community the Pub was always very busy and a nice place for locals to have a good beer.