Saturday, 8 December 2012

VERNON'S BUTCHER'S SHOP 1987

We're going back twenty-five years again to take a look at the shop we have, in another Diary entry, dubbed The Butchered Butcher's Shop. Here we see Vernon's, successors to Fitton's, Butcher's as pictured by Diane Parr in 1987.
The obvious problem with trying to use these premises as anything other than a butcher's shop is that the shop was purpose built in the 1920s as such and has, by its very nature, never really lent itself to any other kind of retailing.
It's current use as the Balti Spice Takeaway has, at least, brought it  closer to its original use as a food retail outlet and, thankfully, the overall look of the building hasn't altered beyond all recognition.
In 1987 the shop was nearing the end of its days in the meat retail trade and the red and white vinyl labels affixed to the windows are evidence of what may have been a last-ditch attempt to promote the idea of buying meat from local shops.
We were, of course, well into the supermarket age by this time and people were getting used to picking up their Sunday joints as part of the regular weekly shop, be it in Middlewich, Winsford or Crewe, rather than using their local butcher's shops.
Just discernible through the windows are those priceless, and now lost for ever, Italian tiles and all the accoutrements of a traditional butcher's shop, including the very evocative scales on the left hand side of the picture.
In front of the shop is a bicycle, festooned with shopping bags and baskets which even the most careless of reporters could never mistake for a Raleigh Chopper. It has, of course, got to be a Raleigh Shopper, or something of the sort.
We'd love to be able to identify the people in this photograph. Does anyone recognise them?

Facebook Feedback:

Chris Koons: I can't tell you their names, but the pic certainly brings back memories! I used to work here as a Saturday girl from '86 through to '88, sometimes at the Middlewich shop and sometimes at the branch in Sandbach Market (at least I think it was Sandbach LOL) Ahh...those were the days....

Ann-Marie Hunter:  I remember this as a butchers!

Robert Sheckleston: The lady standing in the doorway is Mrs Mary Plumb, my auntie.

Monday, 19 November 2012

FLOODING AT CROXTON, SEPTEMBER 2012


The meeting of the waters...Croxton Aqueduct in September 2012
by Dave Roberts and Bill Eaton
Throughout the year the weather in Britain has been, to put it mildly, somewhat extreme. The early part of the year saw an unseasonal heatwave, leading to hopes of a pleasant warm summer.
Instead we had a traditional British summer with more rain than sunshine (although Middlewich's annual events and festivals were lucky and escaped almost unscathed).
Towards the end of the summer rainfall records had begun to tumble and talk was of 'the wettest September for a hundred years'.
On the 21st of the month the BBC was forecasting that parts of the North-West, including Cheshire could expect 'two weeks worth of rain in twenty-four hours'.
Locally, one sign that the amount of  rainfall, even by Cheshire standards, was becoming exceptional, was, as noted here by Bill Eaton, when the Trent & Mersey Canal was breached near to Croxton Aqueduct (though things were even worse near the top end of the canal where it joins the Bridgwater near Preston Brook - a massive breach in the bank there caused massive flooding and meant that the entire section of the Trent & Mersey between the Big Lock and Dutton Stop lock was out of action and many boats were left marooned.
The Canal and River Trust, successor in England to British Waterways, immediately put out an appeal for funds to repair this massive damage to the local waterway infrastructure).
Observing that something truly out of the ordinary was happening, Bill Eaton took a walk down to Croxton Lane and took the above photograph.

Here's his report to go with it:

'I had a walk down to the canal to see the floods. Bullock's Meadow and the Flint Mill were well under water. This was caused by the aqueduct bridge (where the canal narrows to half its normal width) being unable to cope with the amount of water flowing into it.
The aqueduct was closed off when the canal breached its bank.
To make things even worse, at the point where the Rivers Dane and Wheelock meet the water had backed up to make one mass of water from both sides of Chester Road back to the aqueduct.' - BILL EATON

UPDATE (NOV 27th): As November drew to a close, the work to repair the breach at Croxton was nearing completion, although the bad weather continued, with severe flooding in many parts of the country.

TOWPATH TALK REPORT ON THE CROXTON REPAIRS

Saturday, 10 November 2012

A RELIC OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR



The Roberts Collection

by Dave Roberts
To mark the season of Remembrance this year we bring you a precious piece of Middlewich history from our private family collection. 
This illuminated document was presented to William Shore of Middlewich in 1919 to mark the town's appreciation of the part he played in World War I (the dates of which, you'll notice, are given as 1914-1919 rather than the more usual 1914-1918).
William Shore was my mother's uncle and lived all his life in the town.
His son, Harry Shore, was responsible for building number 44 King Street just before the Second World War and this certificate of appreciation was hung on the wall of one of the bedrooms in that brand new house, and stayed there for over fifty years, gradually fading in the sunlight as the years went by.
The certificate was signed by the Chairman of the District War Committee, Oswald B Whitehead, and the Committee's Hon. Secretary C F Lawrence, who was, as we've seen before in the Middlewich Diary, a noted Middlewich historian, as well as being clerk to the Middlewich Urban District Council.
Mr Lawrence's influence is very strong in the wording of the certificate. He was a staunch patriot and Royalist and never missed an opportunity  to stress Middlewich's strong Royalist traditions.
The certificate also feature the crest and motto Virtus Semper Viridis ('Virtue Is Always Flourishing') which was used for many years on Middlewich UDC stationery, but  never officially adopted as the town's coat of arms due to objections from the College of Heralds.
A version of this crest is carved into the back of the Council Chairman/Mayor's chair in the council chamber. The device was also used as an emblem by Middlewich Heritage Society in its early years.


On Thursday November 10th the Middlewich Diary was looking at a well-remembered view of the town centre as seen from King Street and, to acknowledge the time of year when the people of the town come together to remember the fallen, also took a look at Middlewich's main war memorial which, despite all the changes over the years, still stands only a few yards away from its original position in the town centre.

MIDDLEWICH TOWN CENTRE FROM KING STREET

MIDDLEWICH'S WAR MEMORIAL 1934

On Remembrance Day itself, which fell on A Friday last year, we looked at the wreaths left at the War Memorial after its re-dedication in 1972

FOR REMEMBRANCE


Thursday, 8 November 2012

BRICKER CUP WINNERS' TROPHY 1938

Here's an interesting piece of Middlewich sporting history from just before the Second World War.
 This Bricker Cup Winners' Trophy was loaned to us by Leo Sykes who discovered it in a house in Sutton Lane which he  moved into recently.
Now that we have photographed the trophy Leo plans to donate it to the town so that it can be displayed on suitable occasions.
A close-up of the inscription shows that the cup, which is 5 ½ inches high and 4 inches across, was given to the winning team, or a member of the winning team, in the 1938 competition.

According to Allan Earl's Middlewich 1900-1950 (Cheshire Country Publishing 1994) the Bricker Cup was founded in January 1913 when Mr Bricker 'presented a cup to the Children's Aid Charity Football Committee for the "material benefit of the poor children of Middlewich"'.

We're hoping that someone has records somewhere which show which team won the Bricker Cup in 1938.
The competition itself has had several revivals over the years, usually as a consequence of the re-discovery of the Bricker Cup Trophy in a forgotten corner of a local pub undergoing refurbishment..
Does anyone have any information on the current 'state of play' as far as this popular local competition is concerned?




Sunday, 4 November 2012

THE CHESHIRE CHEESE 1987



Continuing our series of photos of Middlewich as it was twenty-five years ago, here's one of the town's favourite Lewin Street pubs, the Cheshire Cheese. Always a cosy and welcoming sort of place, 'The Cheese' continues as an unpretentious but well-frequented watering hole. 
In the last twenty five years the pub has expanded somewhat, while at the same time managing to keep its traditional atmosphere.
The licensed premises have now been extended to incorporate the small cottage to the right of the 'Cheshire Cheese' sign and the former car park at the rear (indicated by the small black and white sign on the extreme right) has been transformed into an excellent outdoor performance area which has been well-used for Middlewich Folk & Boat Festival and Middlewich FAB Festival Events.
In 2012 the Cheshire Cheese looks smarter than ever, as can be seen from the entry on our sister site, the Middlewich Directory:


Facebook feedback:

Geraldine Williams: It's a good many years since I was last in The Cheshire Cheese but I do remember that at Christmas they used to cover an entire wall with fir branches and fairy lights instead of having a Christmas tree (probably because of lack of space) and how effective it was.

Robert Sheckleston: Always been a great little pub. The last time I had a pint in 'The Cheese' Graham Woodbine was the landlord.






On November 4th 2011, the Middlewich Diary was making one of its numerous visits to

Sunday, 28 October 2012

THE LAST OF SEMI-RURAL WARMINGHAM LANE


Until relatively recently the section of Warmingham Lane between Cross Lane and the Middlewich town boundary had a semi-rural aspect, consisting of fields with just a sprinkling of houses.
All that, of course, has changed and looks likely to change even more in the next few years.
Mike Jennings has sent us these photographs of Warmingham Lane taken just before the start of major housing developments, and he writes:

Hi Dave
Its been a while since I sent you anything so here are a couple of photos I took.
Time for a look at Cledford?
They came to mind as a further housing development is going ahead in Warmingham Lane, not without the usual protest I see! 


This is a photo of Hardman's Farmhouse after he sold the land for the present houses, again not without
protest then, as I remember.

Cheers,

Mike

Mike's referring here to the controversial plans for 350 more  houses  in the area.

Here's a link to the story in the





MIDDLEWICH RAMBLERS BADGE 1920s

© Salt Town Productions 2012

by Dave Roberts
Back in September 2011 we looked at the original badge of the Middlewich Ramblers Cycling Club which was passed on to my late father by the Revd J.W. Fortnum when the club was revived sometime in the 1920s.
In the original diary entry I mentioned that, somewhere, I had another badge, which must have been the badge of the 'new' Middlewich Ramblers CC from the 1920s.
This, as can be seen, has now come to light, and is reproduced above. The actual badge measures 1" across.
It's a rather more modest and simple affair than the original badge, and its main feature is the wheatsheaf motif in the centre, proudly proclaiming the club's Cheshire origins.
According to Allan Earl the Revd Fortnum came to Middlewich in 1892, so the original Middlewich Ramblers Club will have been founded some time after that, probably during the Victorian era..
The Revd was a keen cyclist and, at the turn of the century, cycled to London in one day - a distance of 173 miles! He was also a keen golfer, footballer, angler and billiard player.

So in the 1920s, when my father and his friends decided to revive The Middlewich Ramblers Cycling Club the Revd Fortnum must have approached them, or been approached by them, and given them the badge of the original club as a keepsake.
Here, for easy comparison, are the two versions of the badge side by side:



On the 28th October 2011, the Middlewich Diary was looking at THE CORNER OF NANTWICH ROAD and NEWTON HEATH


Sunday, 30 September 2012

ALHAMBRA BINGO HALL EARLY 1970s


The corner of  Wheelock Street and Southway as it was in the early 1970s when the  Alhambra,in common with so many  former cinemas at that time, was a part of the blossoming craze for bingo.
Like the cinema before it, this new incarnation of the Alhambra was very popular, with patrons being bussed in from as far afield as Stoke-On-Trent to take part in games.
At this time the building had not been radically altered for its new role and rumours abounded that the projection equipment had been left in place and could be brought back into use if required.
The projection room was situated high above the entrance, behind the middle window, and there is a local legend that one of the projectionists carried on a courtship with his girlfriend who lived above the chemist's shop on the other side of the street.
The entrance lobby was later altered to become an amusement arcade and a section of the upper part of the building became a snooker club.
Next door is  James Vernon and Sons' furniture shop,now home to  Drinks and Bites at No 35, and, on the other side of Southway, is the off-licence which later became part  of Bargain Booze before closing in 2013 and re-opening once more as an independent off-licence. At the time of the photograph it was, as can be seen, extolling the virtues of Watney's Pale Ale.
In the intervening years the bottom end of Southway (the former 'Tannery Alley') has developed from a mere access road to the flats above Vernon's shop, and the rear of the Alhambra, into a pedestrian walkway with  hairdressers and flower shops and the Wheelock Street entrance to what is now Tesco's main Middlewich supermarket.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

IAN HILL-SMITH -Id Illustrator


(entry updated 29/9/2012)

Here's a link to Ian Hill-Smith's Id Illustrator Facebook page, featuring drawings, cartoons and illustrations from this talented artist who lives in Pepper Street.

Ian can provide 'a unique and personal gift for a birthday, or an anniversary, or to commemorate an achievement. Perhaps something original to promote your business or event?
Whatever the occasion, if you would like some artwork, let's have a natter...' 


SEE ALSO: PUNTERS IN THE PICTURE (Middlewich Guardian report)







'

Thursday, 27 September 2012

THANK YOU FOR OUR FREEDOM...

WINGS OVER MIDDLEWICH: One of the highlights of Middlewich's second Wartime Weekend was a flypast by  one of the most potent symbols of wartime Britain, a Spitfire, at 2.55pm on Saturday 22nd September. Here's Bill's photo of the plane, suitably amended to give an impression of what it must have looked like in action. The title of this diary entry was chosen by Bill as a tribute to the Spitfires and their crews.


by Bill Armsden
Into the realms of Fantasy now with this picture with Photoshop fake gunfire... ahhh boys own paper stuff. 

However, here is the real history of the Spitfire that flew over Middlewich:

Built at Castle Bromwich and delivered to 9 MU Cosford on February 4th 1944.

Allotted to 443 (Canadian) Sqn on March 11th 1943 it carried the code 21-V. Used extensively on operations leading up to D-Day it was assigned to 83 Group Support Unit on August 8th 1944.
Then conversion to an instructional airframe at No 1 School of Technical Training at RAF Halton in October 1945 with serial 5690M.
In 1951 it was transferred to RAF Hawkinge for gate display duties carrying the serial M5690.
After some restoration work at 71 MU RAF Bicester in 1961 it was erected on a pole at RAF Locking for some years before allocation to the 'Battle of Britain' film unit at RAF Henlow in October 1967.
Carrying the spurious serials and codes N3328/AI-R & N3317/BO it was filmed at North Weald and Duxford.
Temporarily stored at RAF Henlow after the film on August 8th 1969 it joined the RAF Museum Reserve Collection based at RAF St Athan.
Over an 8 year period it was restored to flight on November 7th 1997. Joined the BBMF on November 14th 1997. Shortly to be temporarily based at RAF Barkston Heath, Lincs. while the runways at RAF Coningsby are renovated. The aircraft is presented as a clipped wing LF Mk IX and carries the only markings it ever wore operationally as 21-V of 443 Squadron RCAF. MK356 was flown in to Duxford in October 2007 for 6 months maintenance to be carried out by the Aircraft Restoration Company and will include a repaint, replacement of the MK500 Merlin engine with a M266 Merlin engine to return the aircraft to build standard, and a respar of the wings will be necessary (Major maintenance of the BBMF fighters will be carried out by the Aircraft Restoration Company (ARCo) based at Duxford near Cambridge, for the next 5 years with an option to extend to 7 years). The new paint scheme will depict a 601 Squadron aircraft based in the Italian theatre in 1943. Presented as UF-Q, MJ250 of No 601 ( County of London ) Squadron the aircraft of Flight Lieutenant Desmond Ibbotson DFC. She is now in a silver paint scheme used during late 1944 when the Squadron carried out fighter bomber missions over the Balkans from bases in Southern Italy.
A more detailed history can be found on the RAF's BBMF website.


(originally published on the Middlewich Community Group Facebook page)

SEE ALSO: MIDDLEWICH WARTIME WEEKEND

Saturday, 22 September 2012

LINK: MIDDLEWICH YOUTH THEATRE




MIDDLEWICH YOUTH THEATRE 

is a not for profit organisation who work with nearly 40 local children every week!



For details contact HELEN CLAYTON on 07868 663529 

Friday, 21 September 2012

MIDDLEWICH WARTIME WEEKEND


At 2.55pm on Saturday 22nd September one of the enduring symbols of Wartime Britain, a Spitfire, flew over Middlewich as part of the Wartime Middlewich Weekend and Steven Doyle was on hand to capture this excellent picture of the iconic plane.

The spirit of wartime returned to Middlewich over the weekend of September 21st -23rd 2012 as  the second Middlewich Wartime Weekend hit town.
Details of the events organised can be found here.

SEE ALSO:

 MIDDLEWICH GUARDIAN REPORTS:
 TURNING BACK THE CLOCK
 MIDDLEWICH NEEDS YOU

CLIFF ASTLES PHOTO ALBUM:
MIDDLEWICH WARTIME WEEKEND

BILL ARMSDEN'S TRIBUTE TO THE 'MIDDLEWICH SPITFIRE':
THANK YOU FOR OUR FREEDOM

Facebook Feedback:

Chris Frost: I have to say that I'm immensely proud of the efforts that Middlewich people put in to events like this. Organising something like the Middlewich War Weekend and the other events is no small feat and it says a lot about the dedication of those who work so hard to make these things happen. Outstanding. Thank you!

Jim Moores: I would just like to express my appreciation to all those involved in organizing this and all the other festivals (FAB, Roman, Norman etc) that we are very lucky to have in Middlewich throughout the year. Thank you very much!

Bill Armsden: Just thinking about the weekend we have just had in Middlewich! 
Wow, wow and wow again. To the hard workers who were responsible for planning and staging the event.... thank you. To all the people who took part and made it a success.... thank you. 
To the weather, thank you for a great Saturday and most of Sunday.
To a great big band night at The Legion with The Wych Band, stompin' heaven!!! 
And to all the venues in Middlewich putting on 40's entertainment...... Thank you.

Can we do it again? Soon....

COMING SOON - THE MIDDLEWICH DIARY GUIDE TO SHOPS IN WHEELOCK STREET!


Coming soon to The Middlewich Diary - The Guide to Middlewich Shops - Part One, Wheelock Street.
compiled by Bill Armsden.

Part Two will feature Lewin Street and Part Three Hightown.
Future plans include a directory of home businesses and much more. Please keep an eye on the Middlewich Diary for the latest news.

See what our friends at the

have to say about this new iniative.


and here's a progress report from Bill on the 27th September

The Middlewich shops directory for Lewin Street, Hightown and Wheelock Street is complete apart from topping and tailing some of the shops that open infrequently. Sad news announced in the last few days, after 33 years of trading in Middlewich, Ken and Shirley at Davies Tropical/Shirleys Wool shop have put their building/business up for sale. Good luck to them in their retirement and travels in their motorhome. Another business up for sale in Middlewich is Cash's Garage.

The Foodamentalist Gluten Free Bakery in the old Reid's Bakery is behind schedule for opening and the revised opening will be mid-November. Initially, they expect to open Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Middlewich is soon to loose its Conservation Area status soon due to amount of new building that has taken place.
Things are about to start changing in Middlewich.






Thursday, 20 September 2012

JAYGEE FIREPLACES 1987

Another from Carole Hughes' collection showing Middlewich as it was twenty-five years ago.
Here we see a long, low building which still survives today and was, for many years, the home of Jaygee Fireplaces.
Built on a high bank overlooking the 'new' town bridge itself, this was the first building on the right hand side of  Lower Street as it led from the town bridge towards the Bull Ring.
Hidden behind the traffic signs on the right is a  brick  facade with the name of the firm on it, designed, probably, to give the building a more imposing look when viewed from the town bridge and Kinderton Street.
This facade has now disappeared.
The survival of this almost temporary looking building when so much in the area was demolished is probably due to its somewhat isolated position away from the main shopping area.
Never a particularly attractive building, it nevertheless lives on with a new roof and in a much smartened up condition as the Town Bridge Estate Agency.

Facebook Feedback:
Geraldine Williams: I don't know when Jaygee started trading, but we certainly had a fireplace from them when we were setting up our first home in Kinderton Street in early 1961!



Sunday, 16 September 2012

BEST OF BRITISH FAIR IN MIDDLEWICH, 16th SEPTEMBER 2012 (ARCHIVED)




(ARCHIVED)

Nicola Holbrook writes:

Don't forget the Best of British Fair today on Tesco car park 10am - 4pm. Lots of stalls, kids activities, fairground ride, hook a duck and performances from Dancercise and the signing choir.
And bike etching by Cheshire Police, so bring your bikes down and get them security stamped:-)

 I forgot to mention the food van (apparently the best bacon butties around:-)) 
and Kandoo Coffee Van as well so no one will go hungry:-) 

Friday, 14 September 2012

MIDDLEWICH BY NIGHT: THE ALHAMBRA


by Dave Roberts
This is one of a series of photographs taken after dark in Middlewich by Bill Armsden, Jim Moores and Tom Harry Johnson as they experimented with various lenses, filters and lighting equipment to produce some remarkable visual effects.
In this one we see the familiar face of the Alhambra building which started life in 1920 as a cinema and  served time as a bingo hall, snooker hall and amusement arcade before becoming a chinese restaurant.
The original Alhambra was a palace in Granada (the one in Spain, not Manchester) and the name translates literally as 'The Red Palace'.
The use of  the name for a Chinese Restaurant may seem a little inappropriate, but it has meant that the building has retained its original name and, just as importantly, the raised lettering on its frontage which has remained there throughout the building's changing fortunes, giving a pleasing sense of continuity.
Notice in the top right hand corner of the photograph how the street lamp adds a little touch of workaday reality to the scene and gives an idea of just how old the building really is, contrasting nicely with the glamorous coloured lighting at the front of the building.
The overall effect of the photo is, simply, stunning.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

PRESCRIPTION PORT RIP JULY 2012


by Dave Roberts
The curious case of the shop which wrote its own epitaph. 'Prescription Port' established itself in one of the shops in the new  housing and  shopping development in Wheelock Street, opposite the White Bear (which can be seen reflected in one of the shop windows as it basks in the warm July sunshine) just a few months ago and closed after less than a year, leaving BetFred as the only surviving business in this rather prestigious looking row of shops.
'Prescription Port' itself is a bit of an enigma. There are (or were) branches in Ellesmere Port, Runcorn, Winsford and Sandbach and it is obviously, as the name implies, a firm of chemists.
But why it should be thought that there was room for a third chemists shop in this small town, with the trade so obviously firmly sown up by Rowlands, is not clear.
Then again perhaps the competition from Rowlands was not the real reason why the shop closed - that website address brings up the name DAVID STEARNE LTD, a pharmaceutical wholesaler which also owned a chain of pharmacies but was forced to go into receivership a short while ago.
The metal sign started to fall to pieces almost as soon as it was erected and, by the time the shop closed, the first part of it read, as can be seen in the photo, RIP.
Perhaps it would be a kindness if someone removed the other remaining letters?
On a lighter note, you will notice the poster for Peter Jolley's Circus in the window.
Whoever distributes these circus posters would be worth a fortune to any publicity firm. The posters end up almost literally everywhere, including places where most people don't even realise there are places...
Observant readers will be able to date this photograph exactly, because also reflected in the shop window is one of the stalls belonging to the Artisan Market.
Our picture must, therefore, have been taken on the 28th July 2012.

Facebook Feedback:

Jain Talbot: Such a shame, as the staff were really nice and you didn't have to wait ages!



Tuesday, 4 September 2012

NIGEL and BILL SAGA - 1 THE CONGLETON COUNCIL HANGING BASKET SKETCH


SEND THEM SOME MORE HANGING BASKETS!

by Dave Roberts
There's a perception in Middlewich - maybe it's more than a perception? - that the town is pretty hard done by when it comes to local government services and amenities.
It was, of course, ever thus. There are those who would say that, with the latest council re-organisation, Middlewich  merely progressed from being the 'forgotten town of Congleton Borough' to being 'the forgotten town of Cheshire East'.
Back in August 1985  the old Congleton Borough Council, of which Middlewich was an anomalous, unlikely and (as far as its people were concerned), somewhat unwilling part, was only eleven years into its thirty-five year history.
Many people thought that Middlewich was getting 'a raw deal' from Congleton, paying high rates (forerunner to the present Council tax) and getting little in return.
At that time, it so happened that I had recently been studying the art of comedy scriptwriting - the rhythmic sequence of a scene; conciseness, the importance of characterization and all the rest of it.
One of the exercises was, unsurprisingly, something along the lines of  'write a short comedy sketch involving two characters and tackling a topical issue in a humorous way'.
So I had a go, and Nigel and Bill were the result. In the first draft, they were called Neil and Clive, fact fans, but the names didn't sound authentic. 'Nigel' of course, is a name just made for local government and 'Bill' became his partner as an oblique reference (it says here) to the fact that 'Bills' were all you ever seemed to get from the council.
I was reasonably pleased with the result, gave it the title 'The Congleton Council Hanging Basket Sketch' and decided to send it to the editor of the Middlewich Chronicle (being careful, as always, to retain the copyright) to see what he thought.
To my (slight) embarrassment, rather than giving me his opinion, good or bad, said editor merely published the entire thing on the letters page.
The hanging baskets mentioned were an early attempt to 'smarten up' the town centre at, it seemed to me, minimal cost to the council.
Thus the council could be seen to be 'doing something' about the eternal shabbiness of poor old Middlewich.
The trouble being, of course, that the hanging baskets were the only idea they seemed able to come up with, and the town soon became festooned with the things. 'One trick pony' is the phrase that springs to mind.
The 'Hanging Basket Sketch' was just the first in a whole series of Nigel and Bill sketches published in the Chronicle, featuring ever more elaborate council schemes aimed at doing poor old Middlewich down and keeping all the money in Congleton. 
One sketch was written for radio and was recorded by myself and a member of the town council for broadcasting on community radio (this was long before the days of the now-defunct Cheshire FM).
But this is the sketch everyone remembers. At the time and ever since, when the subject of Middlewich and its place at the bottom of the Council pecking order has been raised, 'Send Them Some More Hanging Baskets!' was, and is, the cry.
To its eternal credit one department of the old Congleton Borough Council joined in with the joke and sent out Christmas cards featuring hanging baskets one year (presumably 1985). Or so I was told. I never saw one of these Christmas cards. If anyone has one, I'd love to borrow it.
So let's go back  twenty-seven years to remind ourselves that the more things change the more they stay the same,with the original sketch which kicked off the Nigel & Bill Saga:

THE CONGLETON COUNCIL HANGING BASKET SKETCH

(IT IS coffee time at the Congleton Borough Council. Nigel and Bill are talking of this and that.)

BILL: By the way, I've received another letter of complaint from Middlewich?

NIGEL: Middlewich?

BILL: It's a small town on the edge of the borough.

NIGEL: Oh yes, I remember. I thought we'd demolished it.

BILL: We tried, but they will keep building new houses.

NIGEL: Yes, it's a hard life in local government. What's their problem now?

BILL: They have this absurd idea that because they pay high rates they're entitled to the same amenities as the rest of the borough.

NIGEL: The very idea! Send them some more hanging baskets!

BILL: They say they're fed up with hanging baskets.

NIGEL: Ungrateful wretches! Those hanging baskets don't grow on trees, you know.

BILL: They say they'd rather have a swimming pool.

NIGEL: For Heaven's sake! Why?

BILL: Because they have two canals and three rivers running through the town. they think their children should have easy access to swimming lessons.

NIGEL: They do have a point, but think of the expense. Send them some more hanging baskets!

BILL: They say they can't get down Wheelock Street because of all the hanging baskets, and if we send any more they'll throw them in the river.

NIGEL: You know, Bill, I sometimes wonder why we bother. Anything else?

BILL: They want to know what we intend to do with all the derelict land in Lewin Street.

NIGEL: The Council has earmarked that land for a very special purpose. We're going to turn it into a nursery and grow lots of flowers.

BILL: What on earth for?

NIGEL: To put in the hanging baskets, of course. I do wish you'd think sometimes, Bill. Anyway, back to work. I've been asked to design a new logo for the council.

BILL: And what have you come up with?

NIGEL: It's an enormous great hanging basket on a blue background...

(All characters are fictional. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental)
First published in the Middlewich Chronicle on 22nd August 1985

©Dave Roberts 1985/Salt Town Productions 2012


Saturday, 1 September 2012

THE SYCAMORE COMMUNITY GARDENS OPENING DAY, SEPTEMBER 1st



(This diary entry was originally published on 20th June and revised and re-published on 23rd August  and 1st September 2012)

(ARCHIVE VERSION)

The Sycamore Community Gardens in Warmingham Lane, which were originally due to be opened in June,  were eventually opened on Saturday September 1st at 2pm. The opening ceremony was performed by Deputy Town Mayor Bernice Walmsley.
.......................................................................................
As the name implies, this is a community initiative which has turned what was just a piece of waste ground into a beautiful garden for the benefit of pensioners living in the adjacent houses.
The main instigators of the scheme were Kath and Barry Walklate, themselves pensioners, who have been delighted with the help and support they have received, not least from the now  retired Assistant Town Clerk Stephen Dent who helped them obtain funding from the Big Lottery Fund via the Community Pride Group.
The grand opening  featured stalls, a tombola and live music.
The opening was based around no. 44 Warmingham Lane.
We'd like to congratulate everyone concerned with this wonderful project, not least Kath and Barry who have put many hours of unpaid hard work into it.



PHOTO: STEPHEN DENT




Thursday, 23 August 2012

ICI MIDDLEWICH DISTILLER BUILDING





by Dave Roberts
Bill Eaton has sent us this photograph of part of the old ICI Middlewich Works which he found in a book about the history of the firm.
He says, 'the camera man would be standing with his back to the lime beds looking at the back of the works'.
This site is now occupied partly by Pochin Ltd and partly by warehousing which was, between 1971 and 2000, ERF's Middlewich Service Centre (Pochin's is on the part of the site nearest to Brooks Lane, and the ex-ERF buildings are at the other end of the site, directly beneath the lime beds.
An access road called 'Road Beta' runs from Brooks Lane to the foot of the lime beds.
This is the start of the footpath which runs off in the direction of Cledford Lane and was formerly known as 'Poppityjohns'.
Bill, who worked at the ICI works in the mid-1950s,  goes on to say, 'the tall building with the decorative brickwork is the distiller building'.
Note the railway wagons in the foreground of the distinctive type used in the salt and chemicals industries, and which we saw an example of here.
According to Bill, these wagons would be 'on their way with limestone to feed the kilns'.
To enable the modern Middlewichian to get his or her bearings, we should say that the Kings Lock pub and the Trent & Mersey Canal were (and still are) directly behind the buildings in the centre of this picture.
The area is, of course, still industrial in nature and Brooks Lane has been transformed over the years into the 'Brooks Lane Industrial Estate' but, in its day, the ICI Works dominated the area in a way that is hard to envisage now, with its massive limestone crushing machinery, its tall chimneys and its many sidings full of railway wagons.
An idea of the huge scale of the works is afforded by a piece of information which Bill Eaton gives us about that rather charmingly decorated distiller building.
'For a comparison', he says, 'the distiller building was roughly the same height as St Michael's church tower.'

Facebook Feedback:

Bill Armsden I remember that place. There were always loud crashing noises as if stuff was being dropped down the inside of the tall corrugated building. We lived on Long Lane by the canal and that noise could be heard at our house. It was not an attractive structure at all.

Dave Roberts No it wasn't. The whole place was ugly and workmanlike. Which makes it all the more remarkable that they should go to the trouble of putting decorative brickwork on that distiller tower. For whose benefit was it? The constant crashing noises would come from the limestone crushing machinery inside that tall corrugated building






Wednesday, 15 August 2012

MIDDLEWICH GUARDIAN 'FAIR PLAY' CAMPAIGN


Our friends at the Middlewich Guardian are currently running a Fair Play Campaign calling on Cheshire East Council to invest in better and safer play areas for children in Middlewich.

The Campaign features a petition which Middlewich people are being urged to sign in order to highlight the dilapidated condition of the town's playgrounds.

The petition was originated by nine-year old Owen Hughes, who was concerned about the state of the Booth lane play area, and taken up by The Guardian. You can sign 'Owen's Petition'  here

There are already over 150 signatures on the petition, but many more are needed.

If you'd like your local play area to be featured in the Guardian's Fair Play Campaign, you can e-mail the paper, briefly outlining the problems you've experienced at:

david.morgan@nqnw.co.uk

or write to Fair Play, Winsford & Middlewich Guardian, 3 Theatre Court, London Road, Northwich CW9 5HB

MIDDLEWICH GUARDIAN MAIN PAGE

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

KORAL'S WORLD DANCE


We think this deserves as wide an audience as possible. Stephen Koralski travels the world, dancing as he goes, and visits some of the most interesting places on the planet. Starting, of course, with the most interesting of them all...


Saturday, 11 August 2012

PEAK FOREST & BUXTON via MIDDLEWICH 11th AUGUST 2012


UK Railtours' special train from Basingstoke to Buxton passes through Middlewich on the morning of 11th August 2012. Our sister site, the MRLC website, features some superb photos of the train by Neil Cundliffe.

MRLC WEBSITE: PEAK FOREST & BUXTON VIA MIDDLEWICH

SEE ALSO: THE LIMESTONE COWBOY RIDES THROUGH MIDDLEWICH

MCRUA CHAIRMAN'S BLOG: SPECIAL ON THE MIDDLEWICH LINE


Facebook Feedback:



Jenny Hatton: In over thirty years I have never ever seen a train on that line - I thought it was shut!

Diane Russell: There are trains using this line every day. Mostly goods trains, but there is sometimes a Virgin passenger train, if it gets diverted.

Jenny Hatton: I may have to take some sandwiches and camp out next to it - seeing is believing!

Diane Russell: I live about fifty yards away from it, so I can see them from my kitchen window.

Dave Roberts: The shiny rails are evidence that the line's being used quite frequently at the moment. Neil, who took the photo, tells me he lives close to the line and frequently hears trains rumbling through, particularly at night.

Bill Armsden: On a quiet night with the bedroom windows open and a breeze in the right direction, I can hear trains rumbling along the track.

Diane Russell: You can more or less set your clock by them, Dave. One about 5pm most days, and then again between 10 and 11pm, and just lately there have been quite a few during the night. I have got used to them now, and it's quite nice hearing them going past, even in the night.

Dave Roberts: It brings back memories for me. When I was young and lived across the road in King Street I'd often hear trains running in the night - steam trains from 1959 to 1968 and then diesels. I sometimes hear trains in the night now, but they're mostly on the West Coast Main Line, which isn't too far away.