Thursday, 12 April 2012

MIDDLEWICH PARISH CHURCH EARLY 20th CENTURY

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.

ST MICHAEL & ALL ANGELS WEBSITE




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