Monday, 14 November 2011


by Dave Roberts

When I was a young boy my Mother would sometimes suggest going for a walk or a bike ride. Our 'long route', only achievable by bike, was 'round Byley' but, if we wanted a shorter ride, or a walk, we would go 'down the factory lane'.

Finney's Lane, in those days, was an isolated spot at the end of Webb's Lane, dominated by the British Crepe Factory, known simply as ' the silk works'.

The silk works was a vast, sprawling, industrial complex which loomed over the Big Lock pub like a brooding giant. It started life as a condensed milk factory and opened as a silk works in July 1931.
Ten years later, during the second world war, its roof was set alight by incendiary bombs*.

The factory has now been replaced by up-market housing.

The 'factory lane' was reached either by going 'down Bill Hewitt's', the pathway that ran from King Street across the site of old salt workings to a point close to the Big Lock, and then crossing the footbridge which still stands at the end of the lock itself. Alternatively, the pathway which runs down from King Street alongside Harbutt's Field to reach the same point could be used.

Once Webbs Lane, the Big Lock and the silk works had been left behind, Finney's Lane took on a  rural aspect, reminiscent of the country lanes found all over Cheshire,and one had a feeling of being 'out of town'.

Thick hedges flanked the road on both sides, relieved only by an entrance to Middlewich Athletic's football ground on the left hand side, shortly before reaching Middlewich Cemetery.
This entrance was rarely used,  usual access being from Seddon Street off Webbs Lane, which gave the ground its appropriately Middlewichian name.

Once the cemetery itself was reached, a left turn into Croxton Lane led back to Chester Road and the hustle and bustle of Middlewich.

* with acknowledgments to Allan Earl in Middlewich 1900-1950 (Cheshire Country Publishing, 1994)

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A lovely word picture Dave. Brought back some lovely memories. My Mother was born in Seddon Street and, as was the norm for all the girls who lived in the Webb's Lane area, worked at the Nestle's Condensed Milk factory. I think there are still traces of the tunnel down which the barrels were rolled straight down to the awaiting canal barges. As you say, it then became the Silk Factory (as it was known to Middlewichers!) and continued to provide employment for all the locals. My husband's family had strong connections with Webb's Lane and Finneys Lane, as you describe, was a lovely 'country' walk, pushing babies in prams and hunting for blackberries, etc. The land behind the factory was always waterlogged though. I think the original 'new build' off Croxton Lane was aptly named!! (a reference to 'Waterside Way' -ed)

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