Tuesday, 22 January 2013

THE WEIR, MILL LANE (OFF NANTWICH ROAD) 1960s

If you own the copyright on this image, please let us know
(Originally published 24th February 2012. Updated 22nd January 2013)

by Dave Roberts
Once again we're taking an educated guess at the date of this photograph from the Paul Hough Collection.
The entire collection with the exception of, I think, one photograph is in black and white and there's a tendency to regard anything in black and white as 'old' and anything in colour as 'new'.
This can be very misleading.
Not every black and white print we see today originated from a black and white negative. Viable colour photography has been in existence since the early 1930s and many of the photographs we're used to seeing in black and white may well have originated  on colour negatives and been printed in black and white for reasons of economy.
Then, if the original negative has been lost for any reason, we end up with just a black and white print (and copies of it) and that glorious colour information is lost forever.
Nowadays, digital photography makes it easy for photographers to switch from colour to black and white at the touch of a button, or the click of a mouse. Paul Greenwood showed us how this facility can be used creatively in these memorable 'foggy day in Middlewich' pictures.
So, to get to the point (at last), we can't assume that our photo of the weir in Mill Lane, Middlewich, is particularly old.
I've dated it at around the late 1960s (or possible early 1970s) because of the condition of the paddle equipment on the weir itself.
In the photograph this equipment looks in reasonably good condition (although the paddle framework nearest the camera has started to fall to pieces) and might even have been still capable of  controlling the flow of water down to the end of the river at Croxton.
When I was in Mill Lane last summer, the equipment had all gone to rack and ruin and the weir itself was in a very sorry state indeed.
Which, of course, begs the question: if this weir is not being used to regulate the flow of water in the River Wheelock, what is, and who is responsible for it?
From 1989 until 1996 the National Rivers Authority was in charge of the well-being of all the rivers in England and Wales, but its duties have now been taken over by the Environment Agency, whose website yields very little concerning minor rivers like the Wheelock.
So, who knows?
It's not very clear in this photograph, but there is a gap in the brickwork, right in the middle of the bridge where, legend has it, a motorcyclist was killed after plunging over the parapet into the weir.
Whether this is true and why the gap in the brickwork was never repaired (if, indeed, it was caused by the accident), we don't know, but this weir, like all such structures, is a rather grim place and its easy to let your imagination run riot when standing on that little bridge with the constant roar of the waters beneath.

Update January 2013: A comment from Geoff Edwards (see below) on the 15th January 2013 gives us details of this accident, including the name of the motorcyclist and we quote it here:


  1. The motorcyclist was William Rigby age 28, who died in December 1910. He was found in the Mill stream by his brother. I've been doing some research on the area. William lived at the Mill. 
    The inquest read:
     "After a day shooting with a neighbouring farmer Rigby had started from home on his motorcycle. In one hand he caried his gun case and with the other he controlled his machine. Alarmed by his absence his brother in the early morning set out to look for him. At the foot of the steep hill a short distance from the mill he found a motorcycle against a low bridge over the river Wheelock. The front parts of the machine were completely wrecked, and the exhaust lever and handbrake were missing. A few yards up the hill was a large "clinker". Higher up the gun case was found and twenty yards away the brake handle.
     With assistance his brother searched the stream and eventually the body was found in the weir. It was suggested that Rigby lost his exhaust level and jammed the brakes on too heavily on the hill, with the result that it gave way. The machine would then rush at full speed down the hill, collide with the clinker, strike the bridge and throw the rider into the stream."


As we've mentioned before the whole area around Mill Lane and this part of the River Wheelock has become rather  unkempt and overgrown in recent years.
A colour view of the area, with the bridge taking centre stage can be seen here, and there are some great shots of the weir on Jim Moores' Canals & Rivers of Middlewich Facebook Page



Facebook feedback:


Geraldine Williams I think I only walked that path twice in the whole time that we lived in Middlewich - and one of those was the official opening of one of the trails. I was always put off by tales of pet lions at the mill and recalling the  demise of the German soldier trying to rescue the little girl in 'The Eagle Has Landed' !


Dave Roberts It's one of the town's creepy places (or I may have too active an imagination) and there's a vague air of unease about the bridge and weir. I found this even as a child when I went there often (my Uncle Bill and Auntie Winnie lived close by at Three Willows). Last summer, when I was suffering from a bad shoulder and couldn't sleep, I took the dog for a walk down there in the middle of the night. There were ghosts everywhere. Ghosts of the past, mostly, though.


Dave Thompson (via e-mail) I can vouch for the two pet lions kept in a barn at Stanthorne Mill.
When I worked at the Tut 'n' Shive (or whatever naff name they gave it after it was the Red Lion), Peter, the manager at the time, mentioned he had some terrapins I could have.
Following a guided tour of the newly-refurbished mill I was 'invited to feed the lions', which were housed in a large barn opposite the mill.
Being a 'cool' 22 year old I said, 'sure, no problem'.
Two fully grown lions greeted our entrance with (very) loud roars - have you heard them at feeding time at Chester Zoo?
It's a difficult noise to describe if you haven't - my recollection is vague, since my only thought was to find my way back out as quickly as possible!






9 comments:

  1. Sounds like it would be the PERFECT spot for a geocache placement... old, quirky, creepy, surrounded by history, legend & mystery :D I'd put one out there, myself, if I were closer!

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  2. The motorcyclist was William Rigby age 28, who died in December 1910. He was found in the Mill stream by his brother.

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  3. Many thanks, anonymous, for your informative comment.

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  4. No problem, I've been doing some research on the area. William lived at the Mill. The inquest read "After a day shooting with a neighbouring farmer Rigby had started from home on his motorcycle. In one hand he caried his gun case and with the other he controlled his machine. Alarmed by his abscence his brother in the early morning set out to look for him. At the foot of the steep hill a short distance from the mill he found a motorcycle against a low bridge over the river Wheelock. The front parts of the machine were completely wrecked, and the exhaust lever and handbrake were missing. A few yards up the hill was a large "clinker" higher up the gun case was found and twenty yards away the brake handle. With assistance his brother searched the stream and eventually the body was found in the weir. It was suggested that Rigby lost his exhaust level and jammed the brakes on too heavily on the hill, with the result that it gave way. The Machine would then rush at full speed down the hill, collide with the clinker, strike the bridge and throw the rider into the stream."

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  5. As you will have gathered from our amendments to the original text we now know that the name of our anonymous correspondent is Geoff Edwards. Many thanks to him for his contribution.

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  6. The weir was originally used to maintain the levels above the weir to allow water to flow off to the Mill, as you cross the bridge, from Nantwich road side, you will notice that the path drops away. This is where the Mill race used to be, ie the artificial water course that powered the mill wheel. As you walk along the path towards the Mill and you look to the right you can make out the old Mill race, as it sometimes fills with water.
    The paddles in the weir were set to their highest level to cause the water level to rise and flow off into the race.
    As for ghosts, the owners of Mayfields, Mill Lane had their ashes scattered at the bottom of the garden, which is where the pool of water below the weir is, at the base of the large willow trees.
    The environment agency changed the policy with regards to maintenance of rivers and their banks, I can remember that in the 70s and 80s they used to come along the Wheelock on the stretch from the weir through to Chester road and clear any trees that were crossing the river or where dropped into the river. However more recently they had not been clearing them as they want the water flow to be slowed down, so that the river levels dont drop as quickly during the summer

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    Replies
    1. I'm sorry to reply with something totally irrelevant but I noticed that somebody had found the inquest of William Rigby from 1910 . My GreatUncle Fred Yarwood lived at Mill Farm , Stanthorne,Middlewich and he shot himself on 27th September 1918 at Mill Farm aged 25 . According to his death certificate his inquest was held on 30th September 1918 and I was wondering where I might be able to locate any details of this inquest ?

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  7. Hi Paul, the inquest information for Willam Rigby was found from an online history site and passed on to us, ancestors.com I think. We also found some info for another death at the Farm, in the late 19th centiry. Where the Farmers wife cut her wrists and jumped in Stanthorne Mill Pool!
    Geoff

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  8. I worked at the mill in the 80's, the lions were dead, I knocked the lion cages out and put a fence up around where the lions had been buried, in the mill there were instructions on the walls about what to do if they escaped. Very inocent times.

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