Sunday, 29 April 2012


Left hand image courtesy of Diane Parr
by Dave Roberts
Today we're looking at an iconic building  at the top end of Wheelock Street.
The 1987 picture on the left is taken from Carole Hughes' collection of images from twenty-five years ago taken by her friend  Diane Parr, and the one on the right was taken on April 27th 2012.
It's rather reminiscent of the Alhambra, further down the street, with a large building flanked by two smaller ones (although, as we saw here, the Alhambra was built after the buildings on either side and replaced an earlier one).
What is remarkable is how the roofline has changed since 1987
It's now much more elaborate than it used to be, and the section of building on the left (the old Crosville office) appears to have been extended.
On the extreme left in both photos is the old Star Cinema, Middlewich's first picture-house.
Just creeping into shot in the 1987 picture we can  make out half of one of the town's long-lost red telephone boxes (or kiosks, if you prefer).
Let's take a closer look at the 1987 photo:
Photo courtesy of Diane Parr
I'm wondering if the old Star Cinema was a shop at this time, or was still used as a car repair business. Certainly there's a cigarette advert on one end of the building, but the roller-shutter door on the side is still in place.
Any information would, as always, be appreciated.
On the right hand side Gator's bakery shop is back in business, and appears to be selling clothes of some kind.
The central portion of the building, where the Crosville Garage once was, was occupied at this time by T&M Autoparts, the 'Complete Brake Service'.
It appears that T&M also used the old ground-floor Crosville office, but the office space on the second floor was for sale (or was it to let?).
Carole Hughes herself worked here at the time, as did Phil Yearsley among, no doubt, other well-known Middlewich personages.
T&M had a contract to supply re-lined brake shoes to ERF Middlewich at this time and, by coincidence, I was the person who received them at ERF's Goods Inwards department in Brooks Lane, and booked them into  stock.
Here's the same location in 2012:

The very much smartened up 'Cabin' (or 'Triffic Togs') is on the left, and the former Gator's shop,looking a little drab but still just as it always was, even down to the wooden gate (now painted black) in the doorway is on the right.
A discreet wall with railings  now screens it  off from the MoCoCo internet cafe, operated by Middlewich Community Church, which occupies the rest of the building.

Many people will, of course, remember this building (or, at least, the middle part of it) as the Crosville garage.
Certainly I do.
In 1957 I used to go down there, accompanied by William Moreton, to catch the single-decker Crosville bus to Wimboldsley School.
So can anyone tell us:
When this ceased to be the Crosville Garage.
What it was after Crosville left.
When did T&M move in and move out
and what was there before it became the MoCoCo cafe?


Thursday, 26 April 2012


Thursday 26th April 2012 is the day that Middlewich finally bade farewell to another local institution, Boosey's Garden Centre.
Here we take a final nostalgic look round. 

It's hard to believe that this familiar sight will very soon be a thing of the past. The somewhat haphazard-looking jumble of buildings on Newton Bank which was home to Boosey's will soon disappear to make way for a Morrison's Supermarket.
At the beginning of the year Boosey's  conducted a closing down sale which intensified during the garden centre's last week of operation with reductions of 'up to 75%'. Note the public clock on top of the building. Morrison's are usually quite good at clocks. Will there be a replacement one on top of the new store?

Here's the road access to the garden centre off Newton Bank. Behind the cars on the left is the car park and, beyond that is Glastonbury Drive, built on the fields which were once part of Boosey's Nurseries.

Another familiar sight around the town - Boosey's pick up truck. The houses on the left are in Glastonbury Drive.
The entrance to the garden centre is in the middle of the picture, just to the left of the green wall .
In this shot that green wall is in the right background. Bags of specialised compost are on offer in the yard.
In the centre of this photo are pallets containing all kinds of flowerpots and containers
In days gone by an even greater selection was available from 'The Pottery Yard'
Taking a look inside, there's not a lot to see in this part of the building.

...but here there's a chance to stock up on Christmas items.
 Boosey's was famous for its Christmas displays, but is this a leftover from Christmas 2011, or a foretaste of Christmas 2012?
Moving further inside the building, a note of melancholy starts to creep in. The artificial snow lies atop the display cabinets, but never again will we take our children and grandchildren along to see the tinsel, glitter and fairy lights at Boosey's in the weeks before Christmas...'s all rather reminiscent of a theatre after the final show has ended. Delving just a little further into the building, we chance upon these harbingers of Christmas 2012...
...but this is one place Santa won't be stopping this Christmas. Just a short distance away we come across probably the saddest sight of all...
...Santa seems to have left his sleigh behind as a reminder of all those Christmases past at Boosey's. Of course Santa will be in Middlewich at Christmas this year, as, no doubt, will his reindeer (a Middlewich tradition started by Boosey's many years ago) but not in this particular part of town (unless the manager of the new Morrison's store has a particular genius for local PR?) so let's hope he's made arrangements to get his sleigh back.
Perhaps he's not too late to take advantage of Boosey's delivery service?
One very popular feature of Boosey's Garden Centre was the coffee shop. A very pleasant spot for a snack and a drink. This particular photo is labelled 'coffee shop exterior' but, in fact, the coffee shop was inside the garden centre, giving patrons the pleasing option of being able to sit 'outside' whatever the weather.
The 'inside' part of the coffee shop was just as attractive, but this photo has an almost eerie 'Marie Celeste' feel to it now that the customers have all gone.

So ends our brief valedictory visit to Boosey's Garden Centre. We'll be making return visits as more photographs and information come to light, and we also hope to  feature pictures of the building of the new Morrison's store which will replace the garden centre, and which, we're assured, will be open for business by Christmas 2012.
If you have memories and  pictures of Booseys Garden Centre, and Boosey's Nurseries over the many years they have been part of Middlewich, we'll be pleased to hear from you.

Dave Roberts
26th April 2012

See also this entry which tells you something of the history of Boosey's Nurseries and the adjacent Middlewich Autos which will also disappear as part of the redevelopment of the site.

The original Nursery part of the Boosey company is still in business at Antrobus near Northwich,
selling plants and trees wholesale:


Wednesday, 25 April 2012


At 1pm on the 25th April the total number of Page Views for our Middlewich Diary stood at 49,979, making us just 21 away from the magic figure of 50,000 Page Views since the tenth of June 2011.
We passed that historic landmark later the same afternoon afternoon.
Many thanks to one and all for your continuing support and your interest in our Diary and in the town of Middlewich
Dave Roberts,

Tuesday, 24 April 2012


Our somewhat enigmatic title probably won't mean a lot to non-railway fans, but those who take an interest in the history of our railways will probably know just what we are talking about.
As we explained here push-pull trains were really steam powered forerunners to the electric and diesel multiple unit trains of today and one of them, the renowned 'Dodger', worked on the Sandbach-Middlewich-Northwich line for forty-eight years from 1911 until the passenger service ended in the final days of 1959.
We're fortunate that we can date the two photographs in the diary entry exactly, and also attribute them to their original source, courtesy of railway author Alan Wilkinson who lived in Middlewich and has written extensively on the subject of railways, including the Middlewich line.
The information we have on these photographs comes from Alan's excellent 'Railways Across Mid-Cheshire' (Foxline [Publications] Ltd), published a few years ago.
Although the photographs we're featuring here were not included in Alan's book another one taken at the same time was, and so we feel safe in attributing these photographs as we have.
The occasion was a 'Pull and Push Farewell' railtour operated by the Locomotive Club of Great Britain (hence the LCGB headboard) on the 5th February 1966 and the engine is seen in the top picture  taking on water at Middlewich station.
To the left is Middlewich signal box and its coal bunker which survived into recent times as seen here.

In the second picture we can get a glimpse of the Crewe-bound platform and its waiting-room which was burned down, not too long after this picture was taken, by railway workers burning grass on the embankment behind the station.
Note the MIDDLEWICH signboard on the signal box. There were two, and one of them is in the safe keeping of the Middlewich Rail Link Campaign. Where the other one went remains a mystery.
The locomotive used for this railtour was, as can be seen, no 41286.
Its classmate, no 41229, was the regular engine on the 'Dodger' and continued to work on the  line until 1965, pulling a Crewe-Northwich parcels train each day.
 She was finally withdrawn in 1966.


Monday, 23 April 2012


by Dave Roberts
If you head out of Middlewich in the direction of Sandbach, not on the main road but 'down the back lanes' as they say in these parts, turning left at the 'T' junction at the end of Warmingham Lane you will soon find yourself in Dragon's Lane, Moston. It's such an evocative name that, as I'm possessed of a vivid imagination, every time I travel that way I manage to convince myself that the Dragon is still there (in that small wood or copse opposite the turning for Warmingham, if you want the precise location of the creature). The story, thought by many to be the origin of the story of St George & The Dragon, is told in the poem The Dragon Of Moston (link below). Sir Thomas Venables is commemorated in the Venables Shields, preserved in Middlewich Parish Church.


(This Middlewich Diary entry was first published on the 13th June 2011)

Sunday, 22 April 2012


A familiar sight to children, parents and grandparents on the daily trek to and from Middlewich Primary, St Mary's and Middlewich High School, our picture shows Flea Lane Bridge on the Shropshire Union Middlewich Branch.
This is just one of many traditional 'hump-backed' canal bridges in the town.
In fact, to our knowledge, only two of them have been replaced by more modern structures - the bridge carrying Long Lane over the canal just a few yards east of this one in the late 1960s and, famously, the Town Bridge itself in 1931.
(The well-known, 'turnover bridge' on the Sandbach road, where the road switches from one side of the Trent & Mersey to the other, looks like a modern bridge, but in fact the original traditional canal bridge is still in place, hidden underneath the modern concrete and brick).
If you're not familiar with Flea Lane Bridge it may look from this angle as if the bridge leads to a dead end.
This, of course, is not the case.
For many years the bridge has been used only for pedestrians and the grey railings at the far side are there to ensure that only people on foot can get through to Eaton Drive.
When the bridge was first built it carried a track which ran from  Middlewich into the grounds of the Manor and was used by horses and carts carrying produce and other goods to and from the town.
The track continued toward the Manor on the alignment of the houses in the background.
The far grander carriage drive taking people to the Manor from Nantwich Road is a few yards to the west of this bridge on the other side of the aqueduct.
Until the new houses seen here were built the remains of a set of gates closing off the far end of the bridge were still to be seen.
Unsurprisingly the name 'Flea Lane' has fallen out of usage and seems only to be used in connection with this bridge, although the stretch of public footpath from the bridge to Manor Lane is still marked as such on Philips/Ordnance Survey maps.

Friday, 20 April 2012


Photo: Gill Stubbs/A Ghosthunter's Diary
We're grateful to regular 'Middlewich Diary contributor Paul Greenwood for pointing us toward this entry in 'A Ghost Hunter's Diary' by fellow blogger Gill Stubbs of Crewe.

Whether or not you believe in ghosts, we're sure you'll find this item interesting.




We believe this image to be out of copyright. If you own the copyright, or know who does, please let us know
Another very well known Middlewich 'classic' - the 'Giant and Dwarf' from the 1909 'Middlewich Rose Queen Fete' held in the  grounds of one of the large houses around the town and under the patronage of some of the town's more wealthy inhabitants. 
Like its modern-day counterpart the Rose Queen Fete will have featured a procession through the streets prior to the main celebrations taking place at the fete itself.
The Giant and Dwarf are obviously taking part in something akin to a 'fancy dress' competition as there is a very elegant lady to their left subjecting them to close scrutiny.
The lady in question is wearing a rosette which probably indicates that she is acting as a judge.
On the right another elegant lady is being embraced from behind by someone we can only hope was her 'sweetheart', and she doesn't look too happy about it.
Rose Queen and May Day celebrations such as this were largely ended by the advent of the First World War, although some of their traditions continued as part of local town carnivals.
The Rose Fete tradition is carried on in the present day by such events as the Middlewich FAB Festival and its associated Middlewich Rose  Fete event.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012


A couple of exhibits for our virtual Middlewich Museum today, courtesy of our regular correspondent Mike Jennings, who has been musing on the subject of Beer Festivals in Middlewich and sent us these pictures of the commemorative pint glasses produced for the Big Lock Real Ale Festivals in 1995 and 1996.
The 1995 glass was a relatively plain affair but, following the success of the first festival,  Big Lock landlord Tony Hatton pushed the boat out and had a much more elaborate glass produced for 1996 featuring a version of the ink drawing of the pub and lock which he was using on advertisements, menus etc. at that time.

Mike writes:

Hi Dave
I was reading about the 10th Middlewich Beer Festival next year and it came to my memory that there used to be a Middlewich Beer Festival held at the Big Lock. Well I have found the evidence in my cupboard with the pint glasses. Although I was not able to remember much after downing 3 halves of Roger, Over and Out. But I did somehow manage to get the glasses home intact. 
1st Festival 1995, 2nd 1996. Therefore it will be the 12th annual festival this year? 



Many thanks to Mike for the photographs. As far as we know, the Middlewich Beer Festival held at the British Legion over the last ten years has no connection with this early pioneering event organised by Tony Hatton at The Big Lock on the mid-90s. The current event is a Charity Festival organised by the Middlewich Round Table at the  Royal British Legion Club each year.
As Mike says, this year the event will be celebrating its tenth anniversary, and the Round Table are to be congratulated on the success of the event over all that time.




Tuesday, 17 April 2012


'Double Strength is a short comedy film made by the Mid-Cheshire Amateur Cinematography Society (MCACS) in the late 1930s.
It's really more of an exercise in trick photography than anything else, and most of the camera tricks available to the amateur 16mm film maker at that time are employed.
There is a lot of 'stop motion' - stopping the camera and either putting something into the frame, or taking something out, and then resuming filming giving the effect of something appearing or disappearing out of or into thin air.
But the 'double' effect used towards the end of the film, when Arthur's miraculous powers turn Evelyn into two people, is the ultimate in film trickery at that time.
To produce the effect meant exposing just half of the 16mm film with a blanking plate over the other half and then rewinding the film, blanking off the already exposed half, and then filming again.
By today's standards, the result was, perhaps, indifferent, but the true wonder is not that it was done slightly badly, but that it was possible to do it at all.
The film features Arthur Roberts and his two sisters - Winnie (later Winifred Oakes), who plays his wife and Evelyn, later Evelyn Ridgway, who was, until the end of the 1960s, the proprietor of the newsagents shop in Wheelock Street most recently known as 'Chisholm's'.
Evelyn plays 'a friend' making a memorable  appearance (or should that be two appearances?) towards the end of the film..
Arthur plays the part of a man plagued by indigestion who is always looking for the ultimate cure, as is his wife, who tries all kinds of  medicines to try to solve the problem.
The 'Double Strength' tablets which eventually fall onto the doormat and which Winnie slips into Arthur's drink prove to be not quite as advertised.
Then again could the whole thing be just a dream?
Probably - it's one of the oldest ideas in the history of film making and used to very good effect in this little masterpiece.
We believe that the house and garden used as locations for this film are in Westlands Road in Middlewich.
Note that when Arthur is relaxing in the sunny summer Middlewich garden, the newspaper he is reading carries stories full of the ominous doings of Hitler and Mussolini.
The storm clouds of war were gathering, but it all must have seemed millions of miles away from that secluded Middlewich garden.
We looked long and hard for some music to accompany this film and eventually struck gold with a website in New Zealand which specialises in transforming vintage player-piano (Pianola) rolls into Midi files.
We're very grateful to Robert for allowing us to use some of the music he has so painstakingly preserved to accompany this and other films in the series. We hope you'll agree that, as we've said on our YouTube Channel, the music fits the film 'like a glove'.
The selections used are 'Slipova' by Roy Bargy and 'Maple Leaf Rag' and 'Palm Leaf Rag' by Scott Joplin
We recommend watching 'Double Strength' on YouTube by clicking the link below.



'Double Strength' and the other films in the Roberts Collection are now in the care of the North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Monday, 16 April 2012


© Phillip Shales 2012 All Rights Reserved. With acknowledgments to Kerry Fletcher and Dave Thompson at Middlewich Town Council
By Dave Roberts
At this distance in time I don't suppose anyone will really object when I say that the first name that sprang to mind when I looked at this picture from the Phillip Shales Collection was Tommy Handley?
It's another photograph  taken from a folder simply marked 'Chairman's Sunday', without any specific year being mentioned, and follows on from this one.
The gentleman on the left would appear to be another one of those visiting chairmen from neighbouring local authorities and the gentleman next to him could quite possibly be the clerk to that same local authority.
They're standing in the same place on Hightown as the MUDC Chairman and his escort were in the first photo and were, presumably, in the same procession.
Although we can't, at present, tell you the exact year of these two photographs, we can tell you that they were certainly taken on the same day and probably only minutes, or even seconds, apart.
The clue is the chap in the flat cap standing outside the employment exchange. He's in exactly the same place in both photographs:

Sunday, 15 April 2012


Here we are back in the familiar surroundings of Wheelock Street, a thoroughfare which seems to stay the same the more it changes.
The main focus of this particular picture from the Paul Hough collection is, of course, The White Bear Hotel, currently enjoying a new lease of life and certainly looking more spick and span these days than it did when this picture was taken, in the days when it was a 'commercial hotel' and catered for travelling salesmen (known these days as 'reps').
It's interesting to note the side door, long ago bricked up and replaced by a window.
Middlewich (Images of England) by J Brian Curzon and Paul Hurley (Tempus Publishing 2005) features a photograph taken around the same time (page 67)along with this one (page 105).
Messrs Curzon and Hurley also tell us that Wheelock Street  boasted several other pubs at the time (circa 1904) and they were: The Commercial, The Bulls Head, The Black Bear, The Red Lion, The White Lion and The Red Cow
This is useful, because we've been trying to identify the pub on the opposite side of the road in this picture and, so far, can only make out the word 'Inn' on the sign.
We can, of course, rule out the Red Lion and the Red Cow, which were both at the top end of the street, so that leaves us with a choice of the others.
The pub in question looks too small to be a commercial hotel with the same status as The White Bear, so that might rule out The Commercial (although it would make sense for two commercial hotels to be on opposite sides of the street).
So could this 'Inn' be The Bulls Head, The Black Bear or the White Lion? The word 'Inn' could follow any of those. Anyone know which it is?
We can safely date this photograph as prior to 1920 because that is when the familiar Alhambra cinema was built, its arched ornamental frontage fitting in perfectly between the two gabled buildings on either side and replacing the much lower and much older building seen here.
In fact so well does it fit into its surroundings that it gives the impression of always having been there, to such an extent that to see this still recognisable Wheelock Street scene without it comes as a slight shock.

Editor's Note:
This proved to be the shortest-lived and most easily solved 'conundrum' so far, largely due to the fact that Geraldine Williams has a good memory, particularly when it comes to her own collection of postcards:

Geraldine Williams: One of the previous Wheelock Street postcards showed the inn sign from the other direction and it seemed to read The Bull's Head Inn'

Here's the link to the relevant Diary entry, which reveals that we've already answered our own question...

...there's also some additional information about Wheelock Street and the Alhambra

Friday, 13 April 2012


One year ago the first tentative step towards what would become 'A Middlewich Diary' was taken when this colour slide was posted on Facebook:

It shows the much lamented Pool Head Farmhouse on the corner of Kinderton Street and King Street as it was in 1970. (for a detailed description see this entry).
We continued to post pictures on Facebook until the 25th May 2011, when we introduced 'A Middlewich Diary' on the now defunct Salt Town Site, still with links from Facebook.
 This ran until the 10th June when the blog version of the Diary, which you're reading now, came into being.

Thursday, 12 April 2012


Surprisingly this is the first time that St Michael & All Angels church has featured in our Middlewich Diary in its own right, although its tower has, of course, been seen many times over the last ten months or so in the background of many pictures from many different  eras.
That tower always comes in useful when we're trying to put an old Middlewich photo into the context of the town we know today.
It is, as Sherlock Holmes said of Dr Watson in His Last Bow, 'the one fixed point in a changing age' - or, in this case, several changing ages.
At the end of June 2011,when the Middlewich Diary was only a month old, Geraldine Williams (from whose postcard collection this image is taken) said:
'What I like about all these pictures (in 'A Middlewich Diary') is the way that the Parish Church sits there benignly over the years, solid as a rock, no matter what mayhem, in the name of progress, is taking place all around it.'
And in our link on the (now defunct) Salt Town Site to the St Michael's website we called the church 'the centrepiece of Middlewich and its Pride and Joy'.
It's undeniably the town's most photographed, most cherished, most famous and most beautiful building.
Its history has been well-documented elsewhere and we will, no doubt, be seeing a lot more of Middlewich's Parish Church before we're done, but briefly:
The Church was built during the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries (it is generally regarded by most architectural historians as a 15th Century building) but incorporates parts of at least one earlier building dating back to the 11th century.
In 1643 it was famously the scene of a Royalist defeat in the first Battle of Middlewich during the English Civil War.
The Church was extensively restored by the Victorians, which explains the veritable forest of pinnacles all around the building.
The Middlewich Diary being the Middlewich Diary, of course, even the publication of this straightforward picture of the church gives rise to puzzlement and conjecture.
We're wondering just where this picture was taken from, and when.
As explained above, the image comes from Geraldine Williams' album of postcards sent by Miss Mary E (Polly) Gallimore to various friends and relations between 1904 and 1907.
This particular card was never posted and thus has no date or message on it and so may possibly be of a later vintage than most of the others in the collection.
As far as we are aware it was only possible to take this particular shot of the church once that cluster of buildings adjoining the churchyard and bounded on the left by Hightown and on the right by Leadsmithy Street had been demolished:
Or would it have been possible to get the shot by standing somewhere near where Middlewich Carpets and Flooring now is, without those buildings getting in the way?
Was there, perhaps, a passageway between the churchyard and the shops to the right, running down from Hightown to Leadsmithy Street, its entrance where the red hand is in the section of the photo shown below?
This would be where the current footpath runs between the two streets.
A Heritage Society plaque informs us that the slope in question was once called 'Halfpenny Hill'
Would it have been sufficiently wide in those days to enable the photographer to take his photo of the church?
Was the churchyard perhaps extended when the block of shops was knocked down, enabling the classic view of the church in our main picture to be obtained, probably just before or just after World War I?
So there's another  Middlewich Diary can of worms opened....
The attractive railings around the churchyard, by the way, were taken away for scrap as part of the war effort during World War II, as were so many of their kind.
The railings at the Chester Road entrance to Middlewich Cemetery, however, were spared due to the rarity of their design and construction.


Wednesday, 11 April 2012


Middlewich Folk & Boat Festival

by Dave Roberts
As we approach festival time in Middlewich once more we take a look back to May 1990 when preparations were in full swing for the first ever Middlewich Folk & Boat Festival.
The original plan was for the inaugural festival to take place in June 1991, giving organisers plenty of time to make preparations but, almost at the last minute, it was decided to go for June 1990.
Although money was tight and everything in the early years was done on the proverbial shoestring some pre-festival advertising was clearly necessary and the above ad appeared in the local press in the month before the festival.
We've altered the contact telephone number to a fictitious one just in case some wag should decide to ring it after all these years.
Anyone not in the know who turned up for the Middlewich Paddies concert expecting to see a 'female ceilidh band' was disappointed. They're not, of course. A ceilidh band, I mean.


Tuesday, 10 April 2012



by Dave Roberts
Here's  an old Middlewich favourite. 'Patriotic Verses on Inn Signs at Middlewich' is another of those bits of Middlewich history which used to be found, painstakingly written out in copperplate, framed and  hung on pub walls.
There was a copy in The Talbot, which is the pub we've used for our header as it's mentioned in the poem, and another copy was given to me after being found in the cellar of the Kings Arms, which also gets a mention.
On that particular version the pub names were picked out in red ink, an idea I've followed here.
The poem was published in that standard book of Middlewich reference The History of Middlewich (1894) by C.F. Lawrence, when it was already ninety or so years old and most probably originated as a 'broadside' - a printed sheet sold in the street for a halfpenny or so and eagerly passed around among those who could read.
No doubt this particular set of verses would be read aloud in pubs like the Kings Arms for the benefit of those who couldn't read, and greeted with great enthusiasm.
It dates back to around 1804 when the country was being threatened with invasion by Napoleon Bonaparte who had massed troops at Boulogne for the purpose.
The British Navy had other ideas and attacked the port, and the would-be invading French forces, as part of a sequence of events which would eventually lead to the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
Quite why the invading forces, should they have made it across the channel, would want to head for Middlewich isn't clear.


WHEN folks meet together dissension to sow,
And by breeding divisions encourage the foe;
When false motives like colours they hold to their view
It's a sign they might find something better to do.

If ever the French should attempt to come here
To eat up our beef and to drink our strong beer,
Of both they'd fall short, but if fighting they wished,
At each sign of Middlewich they would be dished.

First the Lion called Golden would make them to quake
And The Talbot I doubt not would give them a shake;
At the sign of The Wolf  would they venture to rap,
They'd find, though too late, they'd run into a trap.

By our Bears White and Black they'd be put to the rout,
And a thrashing they'd get at The Wheatsheaf, no doubt,
From Lord Hood a broadside they'd meet to their cost
And at The Bulls Head they'd be savagely tossed.

At The White and Red Lion they'd find, to their shame
Whether Black, White or Blue, British Lions are game;
At The Bridge Foot they'd stop, and perhaps call for a 'whet';
And they'd get it - that is a good ducking they'd get.

If they call at The White Horse they'll treat them so kind,
With a horse shoe, that more kicks than half pence they'll find;
Should they venture to peep at The George & Dragon
They'd see to their cost they had nothing to brag on.

Next at The Seven Stars they'd soon show them the door;
At The Oak a good drubbing they'd get and no more;
Should these sans-cullottes dare with our Crown interpose,
They'd prick their French fingers well under The Rose.

At The Nag's Head with bites and cuffs they would be treated,
At The Ring o' Bells next with an empty house greeted;
The sign of The Eagle would raise fresh alarms,
And they'd run like soup maigre to escape The Kings Arms.

May the sign of the King ever meet with respect,
And our good constitution each Briton protect;
May he who first caused all the troubles of France,
Be high hung on a sign, on nothing to dance.

This is by no means an exhaustive lists of pubs in Middlewich at the time - The Navigation Inn on Middlewich Town Bridge, The Red Cow at the top end of Wheelock Street and The Junction Inn at the end of Brooks Lane, to name but three, have been missed out.

But the versifier was, no doubt, only including pub names he could use his own peculiar brand of tortured English on.

So why did he miss out The Carbineer, a pub on Hightown which must have been there at the time and which you might have thought would be ideal for his purposes?

Perhaps something along these lines...

If the Frenchman should once at The Carbineer tread,
An Englishman's rifle would blow off his head....

Definitely a lost opportunity.

Only a few of the pub names mentioned in this deathless verse survived into recent times: The Talbot, as we've seen before in our Middlewich Diary, disappeared in the 1970s to make way for a widened Kinderton Street (the line in the poem about the Talbot 'giving them a shake', by the way, refers to the fact that 'talbot' is an old name for a mastiff); The Crown, after a brief spell as The Danes, became the pub currently known as The Narrowboat; The Red Lion was subjected to all kinds of outrages (The Cat's Whiskers, The Tut & Shive, The Cats Bar etc) until it finally regained something of its dignity as an apartment block called Lion House.
The Golden Lion (or 'Lion Called Golden' if you will), The White Horse, The White Bear and The Kings Arms are all still with us but The Wolf, The Black Bear, The Wheatsheaf, The Lord Hood, The Bulls Head, The White Lion, The Bridge Foot, The George & Dragon, The  Seven Stars, The Oak, The Rose, The Nag's Head, The Ring o' Bells, and The Eagle  all disappeared many years ago.

A Middlewich pub-crawl in Napoleonic times must have been quite something.

Monday, 9 April 2012


© Phillip Shales 2012 All Rights Reserved. With acknowledgments to Kerry Fletcher and Dave Thompson at Middlewich Town Council
Today we're featuring another of  Phillip Shales' collection of black and white photographs from the 1940s, and we're being deliberately vague about the precise year.
This, of course, is through sheer necessity as the photos, rescued from a computer at Middlewich Town Council, do not have any real background information with them.
We've seen pictures from the 1948 Chairman's Sunday processions before and we're hazarding a guess that this is another of those occasions.
Something about the clothes worn by these solemn-looking civic dignitaries seems to suggest that it is from slightly earlier in the decade, and they do not appear to be the same people we saw in, for example, this 1948 shot.
Then again, this could just be a different group of council chairmen on the same occasion.
Presumably that is the then Chairman of Middlewich UDC in the middle of the shot, complete with robe, chain of office and ceremonial hat? And could that be the clerk to the council look rather self-effacing at his side?
The other gentlemen in the group give the impression of being at a state funeral.
Then again, Chairman's Sunday was always a somewhat sombre affair, as is only right and proper.
So what was the year? Was it 1948? Does anyone recognise the MUDC Chairman in this picture? If we could put a name to him, we're halfway there.
As always, though, it's the Middlewich streetscape which steals the show and we can  easily put this very old photo into a modern context and identify the scene as Hightown.
The main clue is the White Bear which we can see above the heads of the group of Chairmen.
 Left of that is the old Coopers shop which we had a good view of here. This shop was formerly Kinsey's, and the location of one of the first telephones in Middlewich, as recounted here.
 To the left of the gentleman we're presuming is the Chairman of the MUDC is the National Westminster Bank (a small part of the Fittons/Vernons butchers shop can also be made out).
But who knew that the labour (or employment) exchange once occupied that shop on the left which later became Brockley's wallpaper shop?
Out of shot to the right was Middlewich Town Hall and the row of shops seen here were demolished in the 1970s to make way for the 'Piazza', now in its turn replaced by the amphitheatre which was memorably photographed by Paul Greenwood at the end of last year. Here's a reminder of that wonderfully atmospheric winter scene.

Facebook Feedback:

Geraldine Williams It's certainly the late 40s, judging by the girls' clothes. The Chairman looks a bit like Clement Attlee but, as this is unlikely (!), might it have been Mr Powell from the Gents Outfitters in Wheelock Street?

Dave Roberts When we published an old Powell's Tailors bill last year one of Mr Powell's relations got in touch. I wonder if he might be able to confirm whether or not Mr Powell is the man in the picture?
(see comment below)


Friday, 6 April 2012


Photo courtesy of Diane Parr
by Dave Roberts
We're going back twenty-five years once more to the Middlewich of 1987 with these pictures from the Carole Hughes Collection taken by her friend Diane Parr.
The second photo in this diary entry focuses on the interior of one of the town's most fondly-remembered shops but, before we take a look at it, it's well worth looking at the picture above in its own right as it shows the way things were in those days when it came to shopping in Middlewich town centre.
To the left of the picture, next to the church and bathed in sunshine, you can just make out Brockley's paint, wallpaper, and decorating supplies shop with its side window facing the lower part of Hightown.
Brockley's moved from this location to a shop near the top end of Wheelock Street not long after this picture was taken.
Next to Brockley's is the shop we've immortalised as 'The Butchered Butchers Shop'.
Daniel Preston managed to get pictures of this unfortunate shop just after it closed at the end of 1988 and fell into the hands of people with scant regard for its history and architectural merits.
Then comes the NatWest Bank (which, in those days, kept regular banking hours like any other bank) and the Co-op, by this time no longer billing itself as 'The Co-operative Superstore', but still boasting its rather impressive canopy, albeit with a small blue Co-op logo replacing the original sign.
Looking at this nondescript building today, with its modest Tesco Express and Pineland shops it's hard to imagine that it could ever be described as a 'superstore', but appearances are deceptive.
Much of the building is taken up now by a large storage area at the rear of the premises belonging to Pineland. This is the area which was once the Co-op's furniture department, reached by a rather impressive staircase from the ground floor.
The removal of the canopy from the front of the building has served to emphasise its loss of stature.
Next comes another long lost Middlewich institution, Skellon's shoe shop, where we were all taken as children to be fussed over by assistants with tape measures, rulers and 'Clark's Children's Foot Gauges' to ensure that we were always given shoes which fitted properly, thus avoiding our being maimed for life by shoes which were too big or too small.
Next comes that wonderful shop which everyone remembers with a great deal of affection - G Samuel & Son, which we'll be examining the interior of shortly and, finally, Reg Taylor's Newsagents, once the employers of the redoubtable Daniel Preston and Cliff Astles, both pioneers of the art of paper shredding.
Which brings us to the next remarkable photograph:

Photo courtesy of Diane Parr
Well, whoever would have thought we'd ever see this scene again, even if it is only in photographic form?
 It's the interior of the legendary Samuel's shop - technically, at least, an ironmongers but in reality stocking a bewildering array of household goods of all kinds: plastic buckets, seeds, disinfectant, paint, dusters, walking sticks, coat-hangers, garden tools, ribbon, washing baskets, clothes dyes....and that's just a random selection of what can be seen in this photograph.
The two Samuels - Senior and Junior - were seldom stumped, whatever you asked them for and if they should happen to be 'temporarily out of stock' on some item or other, you could be sure they'd get it for you in very short order.
It was a delight to shop there; the Samuels had that old-fashioned courteous way of dealing with the public which we all miss so much these days and the words 'thank you!' and 'ta!' were bandied about freely.
In fact, in the end, Peter Samuel adopted his own portmanteau word and would say 'thankyou-ta!' at the slightest provocation.
Wonderful people.
You get something of the same feeling today when shopping at Middlewich DIY.
We're grateful to Diane Parr for having the foresight to take this photo and to Carole for allowing us to bring it to you.

Facebook Feedback
(When Carole Hughes first published this photo on her Facebook page there was a great reaction):

Lynne Towers I love this photo. Fantastic Samuels!

Karen Reynolds It sold everything you needed!

Maureen Condra I called in there a few times when I was over for a visit.

Christine May The shop always had a nice smell.

Carole Hughes It did, Christine. It was a great shop.

Dave Roberts Does anyone know the older Mr Samuels first name? I know the son was called Peter. They were both a delight to do business with, full of charm and old-fashioned courtesy. And yes, the shop sold everything you could think of, and if it wasn't in stock they'd get it for you.
(I'd still like to know this - Ed)

Maureen Condra I bought a lot of things there. I still have a tea-towel and some cups I bought there.

Christine May I'm so glad I didn't do the stock-take!

Wendy Sproston My Mum used to go in there for everything.

Paul Hough What a fantastic shop. I've still got a kitchen knife I bought there. Twenty-odd years old and still going strong!

Dave Roberts Absolutely wonderful! Who would have thought we'd ever see it again, even if it is only a photograph?


Since this entry was written, the NatWest Bank has closed its doors for good and the premises are, by all accounts, going to become a carpet shop.* Pineland, too, has  closed down and the Choklat Bar, which was based in Reg Taylor's shop, closed down after a partial collapse of its floor on New Years Eve 2013. The likelihood is that it will be absorbed into the neighbouring Chimichangos Mexican restaurant.

Update (2017): In fact what used to be the Choklat Bar is now Maggie Finn's Tea shop.

* In the Spring of 2017 Manchester Carpets opened the shop for the sale of beds and mattresses.