Monday, 5 March 2012

CROXTON WATER FALL


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(ORIGINAL DATE OF THIS ENTRY 04/02/2012)
by Dave Roberts

UPDATE: Below is the original text of this Diary entry, full of surmise, conjecture and theory, which I have, as is usual on these occasions, left intact to illustrate once more how the Middlewich Diary works, drawing in further theories, conjecture, surmise and, ultimately, information.
It appears that  Croxton Flint Mill  was the reason for the existence of 'Croxton Water Fall' in the first place, 

 The 'water fall' is still there, but in a ruined state - was it damaged by flooding, or just allowed to fall into rack and ruin?
And is the building in the background of our photo the original Croxton Hall Farm? What happened to that? Why was it demolished?
There appears to be no trace whatsoever of this building left in the present day.
All contributions, as ever, gratefully received.

Original text:
CROXTON WATER FALL
Here's an intriguing one. Where is, or was, Croxton Water Fall?
Our usual first resort, Google, reveals nothing (although it does reveal just how many places there are called 'Croxton' all over the world) and I have to confess to never having heard of Croxton Water Fall before.
Neither do I recall ever having seen this picture, until it turned up as part of the Paul Hough Collection recently (It does, in fact, appear in Middlewich by Brian Curzon and Paul Hurley - see Update, below - so must be a reasonably well-known Middlewich photo)
The fact that we are looking at a commercial post card seems to suggest that the area was quite well known as a local beauty spot.
Croxton itself, by which we mean the area around Croxton Lane, is an area where waters meet.
The Rivers Dane, Wheelock and Croco all come together close to where the narrow Croxton Aqueduct on the Trent & Mersey Canal stands.
So which of them was able to boast such an impressive water fall?
We can, of course, rule out the poor old River Croco. We're well acquainted with its course through the town, certainly from Brooks Lane down to its meeting with the Dane at the edge of Harbutt's Field.
It's a narrow and shallow river and, though it does have quite abrupt changes in level in its journey through town, can boast nothing on this scale.
The Wheelock too, which meanders into Middlewich near Nantwich Road and takes a leisurely course along the outskirts of the town heading for Chester Road and its own meeting with the Dane, is rather a small scale river, nothing like as wide as the river (if it is a river) shown here.
That rather grand house in the background, though, is rather suggestive of Chester Road, somehow.
Could Croxton Water Fall be somewhere along that stretch of the River between the Shropshire Union aqueduct and Chester Road, hidden by all those trees which Mr Boosey planted before the First World War and which have been growing wild ever since (see this entry)?
Is the River Wheelock wide enough at any point along that stretch for this water fall to be a part of it?
And could that part of Middlewich be legitimately described as 'Croxton', anyway?
Which leaves us with the River Dane itself.
That river, within the town boundary (in fact, to the north of Middlewich, the course of the river actually is the town boundary), flows mostly through low-lying pasture land and the only large house I know of anywhere near its banks is Ravenscroft Hall, which is not the house seen here.
The weir certainly looks very much as if it could be man made, particularly with that retaining wall on the left.
Maybe Croxton Water Fall is another one of those mysterious gaps in my Middlewich education (like the aptly named 'Mystery Wood') and everyone will be amazed at my lack of knowledge of it.
I have a feeling that the house in the background is the key to this one.
Is it the original Croxton Hall Farm?

Facebook feedback:

Andy Kendrick On the River Dane to your right as you go over the bridge on Croxton Lane. Years ago, when we swam there, the water had a salty taste. We weren't drinking it though...

Dave Roberts What's the big house in the background?

Geraldine Williams Croxton Hall Farm

Dave Roberts Wow! There you go - another gap in my education. I must get down there (when the weather improves, of course) to get a modern day shot for comparison.

Liza Cornall  Not sure it is there. The height of the water is nowhere near...even when I was a kid swimming in the river, it wasn't that steep, I'm sure. Unless the river is now much higher than in the pic?

Dave Roberts I'm not sure either, Liza. The picture was taken a very long time ago (probably early 20th century) and so the area must have changed considerably. As I said before, I think a trip down to Croxton Lane with the camera is a must.

Geraldine Williams Zoom in on the satellite map of Croxton Lane and the waterfall shows up well.

Dave Roberts  Extraordinary. The waterfall's there (on Google Earth - Ed), but very much in a state of dereliction, compared to the way it looks in the old photograph. And the farm looks a lot further away from the river than it would appear to be in the photo. In actual fact the buildings shown in the photograph can't possibly be the present day farm buildings. They're completely different. The photograph must be very old indeed, and the buildings in it long gone. And the retaining wall on the left of the photograph has disappeared, along with anything else which might show that this was once a neat and tidy structure. I wonder if it was all swept away in the 1930s, in the floods which also put paid to the original Croxton aqueduct? This would explain the difference in the steepness of the waterfall which Liza mentioned. Possibly the farm buildings and a lot of the river bank were washed away by flood waters. After all, if they were powerful enough to demolish an aqueduct...

Geraldine Williams What would be the purpose of an artificial waterfall like that one? Not for water power presumably.

Dave Roberts Possibly just for the sheer joy of having a waterfall next to your property?  
(Not so - as we now know, the waterfall was there for a very definite, industrial, purpose - see below -Ed)
It was certainly very picturesque in its day. I wonder if the 1930s floods also swept away the original farmhouse and  altered the level of the riverbank?

Geraldine Williams Yes, the waterfall certainly is an enhancement and the placement of the trees looks more landscaped and ordered than random. I can see why you thought about Boosey's. I'm a bit uneasy about the actual building. The farmhouse is currently at the top of the hill and Croxton Hall is on the King Street side of the farm and if the house shown in the photograph had been demolished because of flooding in the '30s I'm sure it would have been a major, recorded event. But if this is not Croxton Waterfall then where else could it be?!!

Dave Roberts You're right. That's what I was thinking. In Middlewich such an event would still be talked about to the present day. Mind you, not a lot has ever been said about the destruction of an entire canal aqueduct by flood water, which we know definitely did happen. And yes, the picture still reminds me in some way of Chester Road. That's just me. In the same way, the 'Awkward Turn To The Lompon' photo still looks, to me, like Kinderton Street, even though I now know it was taken in Lower Street.

Chris Koons Are we talking about the spot just off Croxton Lane? There appears to be another similar, but narrower and more complete, 'waterfall' structure a bit further round the river, close to the reservoir thing.

Dave Roberts That's the place. I take it we're looking at the area on Google Earth? Actually there are a lot of these waterfalls along the Dane (and our other rivers too, of course). But I never knew that this particular one had been dignified with the name of 'Croxton Water Fall'. The one you're talking about, further towards the King Street road and railway bridges, is close to the spot we were looking at here.

UPDATE: We've received the following in the form of a comment from 'Cliffhanger 41' which sheds a lot of light on this subject:

'Dave,the waterfall shown is certainly the one off Croxton Lane. I believe it was built to use the retained water to drive the Flint Mill that was used some long time ago to grind down flint to a powder. This was then transported to the S.O.T. area by the canal to be used to glaze pottery (I think)
A Middlewich Heritage plaque, on the canalside, at the junction of the canal and the river Dane will tell you more.'

The plaque in question is actually one of the information boards (no 10) for the 'Tales of Wych & Water' trail which is just one of eight trails featured in the Middlewich Trails Brochure.
According to the information in the brochure the flint mill operated for about a hundred years, between 1810 and 1910.
There is also information on the original aqueduct which was built in 1777 by Thomas Brindley, replaced in the late nineteenth century and replaced again following disastrous flooding by the present structure around 1930.
The blue brick structures on either side of the present aqueduct are likely to be part of the second aqueduct.
There are also traces, near the site of the mill, of the millrace which ran all the way from the weir (or 'Croxton Water Fall'), and underneath Croxton Lane to power the mill (see below).

UPDATE 11/2/2012:


This diagram was drawn by Frank Smith of Ravenscroft in 1993 to illustrate an article he wrote for the Heritage Society Newsletter in that year.
The weir (or waterfall) is shown here to the right of Croxton Lane and Frank has drawn the course of the millrace which ran from there to the Flint Mill which was, as can be seen, actually on the other side of Croxton Lane and close to the Trent & Mersey Canal (the Flint Mill was not the subject of Frank's article, and so the entire millrace is not shown. It must have been very long indeed).
To the right of the diagram is Croxton Hall, which Frank describes as a 'cheese farm' and has marked as 'demolished'.
Is it the large building seen in the 'Croxton Water Fall' photo?
MORE ON THIS HERE
SEE ALSO CROXTON WATER FALL 2

UPDATE: 5/03/2012: Page 75 of Middlewich (Images of England - Tempus Publishing 2005) by Brian Curzon and Paul Hurley includes the image of the 'water fall' together with a closer view of  the hall.

This is what the book has to say about the hall and the 'water fall':

Croxton Hall is a rambling, romantic brick-and-timber framed house of the mid-nineteenth century, built on a picturesque site on the banks of the River Croco
and
'Croxton waterfalls' was actually a weir constructed to control the flow of the river and prevent flooding nearer the town. There was a pool behind which not only made a romantic aspect from the house but could also be used for boating, fishing and other genteel Victorian outdoor pastimes


SEE ALSO: THE MIDDLEWICH LIDO (CROXTON WATER FALL 3)

12 comments:

  1. Dave,the waterfall shown is certainly the one off Croxton Lane. I believe it was built to use the retained water to drive the Flint Mill that was used some long time ago to grind down flint to a powder. This was then transported to the S.O.T. area by the canal to be used to glaze pottery (think) A Middlewich Heritage Plaque, on the canalside, at the junction of the canal and the river Dane will tell you more.

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  2. I believe that the current Croxton Hall Farm is not the original one. The original one was closer to the River and roughly where the picture shows it.

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  3. Please note that 'Cliffhanger 41's' comment has been incorporated into the comments above, as it provides a vital clue as to the reason for the existence of the Water Fall itself.

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  4. If you look at the 1930s map on "where is the path" http://wtp2.appspot.com/wheresthepath.htm , this waterfall is clearly labelled "Croxton Hall Weir" and the Hall itself appears to be much nearer to the river.

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  5. Thanks John. And what a great resource that is. Never come across that before.
    'Weir' is perhaps a more apt name for this kind of construction.
    Now we need to know what happened to that hall, and why the water fall (or weir) fell into disrepair.

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  6. If you go onto Microsoft Surface Globe you can see where the house probably was. It would have been accessed from the track that goes from the first gate on the right of Croxton Lane as you are going up the hill. You get a better idea if you can go on the 3D image and you can zoom in closer than on google.

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  7. definately a weir and it's still marked on the current OS map.

    To find out why it existed go to http://www.old-maps.co.uk/maps.html and enter the coordinates 396610 367370 and click Go. When the very basic current map comes up look in the selection on the right and click the 1898 1:2500 map. That shows an entire Mill Race that is not on the current map. Nor is the Flint Crushing Mill next to the canal at the other end of the Race. There is no trace of that on the Google aerial photo. So there's your next mystery......

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  8. Thanks for that, Steve. There'll be an update on this over this weekend.

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  9. Dave, can you correct my post from yesterday, the first coordinate should be 369610 - the one shown will land you in Wildboarclough! Long day, tired eyes....

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  10. Hi Dave
    I have been talking to my father who used to clear out the debris from the waterfall which by all accounts was connected to ICI Lostock. They used to do health and Safety surveys on it. I will gather more information from him. He also states that the building burned down at some point killing a number of people??
    I will also get more info on this.

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  11. Thanks Mike. Most interesting. The link with ICI ties in with something Frank Smith once told me about the weir and the ornamental pond which once stood close by. I'll dig out the notes. We look forward to more info.

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