Friday, 20 December 2013


Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas!. Some images of Middlewich at Christmas from the not-too-distant past, courtesy of Cliff Astles. 

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Geraldine Williams Lovely. Well done, you two......

Jacqui Cooke Lovely. Thank you. We passed through Middlewich yesterday and admired your town's Christmas lights. Everywhere looked lovely. Merry Christmas to you all...from an ex-Middlewicher....

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Monday, 16 December 2013



Singers, Musicians, Poets, Storytellers and Performers of every kind always more than welcome





Starting at 8.30pm

One last chance to take part in the Live & Local Open House nights which have been running under various titles, and at various Middlewich venues, since 1995.

Further details: DAVE THOMPSON on
 07765 025596

It started in 1995 as 'Poetry & Pints' (I know this, because I started it) at the Kings Arms, spent a short time at the Newton Brewery; went back to the Kings Arms for a bit and then settled down for a long stretch at the Boar's Head. The name changed over the years, becoming 'MOM Nights' (Middlewich Open Mike Nights), then simply Live & Local Acoustic Nights, and finally Live & Local Open House Nights. Tonight it comes to an end after 18 years. I can't be there, but I'll be raising a glass in remembrance of some fantastic nights in days gone by. Cheers!
-Dave Roberts, 18th December 2013

Facebook feedback:

Sharon Barnard: I loved working on Poetry & Pints Nights. Great!

LAST UPDATED 16/12/2013

Saturday, 14 December 2013



Live Music at its very best!
Singers, musicians and  performers of all kinds very welcome
Starts at 8.45pm
Be early to make sure of a seat!


This is the last Saturday Night session for the foreseeable future. 
Many Thanks to all who have supported the sessions over the years
and to the BIG LOCK,BOARS HEAD and KINGS LOCK for hosting them. 
Dave Thompson

Archived entry: This was the last diary entry for the Boar's Head acoustic session (formerly folk session) which had
been running since the first Middlewich Folk & Boat Festival in June 1990, and possibly before that

Friday, 13 December 2013


Photo: Salt Town Productions 2011

by Dave Roberts
Go to any meeting of truck enthusiasts and you'll find stalls selling all kinds of souvenirs of trucks, past and present.
Particular favourites among truck fans are  lapel badges such as the ones shown above, which were the last remnants of a collection I built up during the years I worked at ERF occasion to do a little - shall we say - stock checking?
ERF Ltd was founded in 1933 by Edwin Richard Foden, a member of the famous  Foden family of Elworth, manufacturers of industrial and agricultural machinery, notably steam lorries and traction engines.
My mother's side of the family has strong Sandbach connections. They lived in Moston and my Mum went to school in Elworth. My Grandmother, Mary Mason, was 'in service' with the Foden family in her younger days.
When Edwin Richard  was unsuccessful in persuading the Fodens that the future of lorries lay with diesel power, he decided, at the age of 63, to start his own company to manufacture the 'ER Foden Diesel'.
As a shrewd businessman, ER realised that the Foden name still carried a lot of clout even if the company were refusing to move with the times, and had no compunction in sticking the name Foden on the front of his prototype.
The first ERF, with the legend 'ER Foden & Son' emblazoned across its radiator. The first ERF lorry was given the chassis no 063 - ER Foden's age in 1933 -and sold to Gilbert Engineering of Leighton Buzzard. It's perfectly possible that this truck is not actually the first ERF ever built at all. Rumours persist that the real ERF 1 was scrapped many moons ago, and this is a slightly later model brought in to play the part. Such goings-on are not unknown in the arcane world of truck preservation... (photo: Truckphotos)
After complaints from Fodens Ltd, the name was shortened to ERF Ltd and after first looking at what later became the Steventons/Ideal Standard pottery works in Cledford Lane, Middlewich+, the company established a factory on land in Sandbach where now stands a medical centre, an Aldi Supermarket and a branch of MacDonalds.
The company was a thriving part of the British truck industry until the end of the 20th century, when, after a series of takeovers, it was eventually swallowed up by MAN Trucks and production moved to Germany where it ceased altogether shortly afterwards.
ERF Ltd played a brief, and ultimately inglorious, part in the industrial history of Middlewich.
In 1971 (co-incidentally the year that ERF 1 was restored by apprentices at Sandbach) the company wanted to expand its service and warehousing operations and, as the Sandbach site was full to bursting, looked at a site off Brooks Lane in Middlewich where part of the former ICI Middlewich soda ash plant had stood until a decade previously.
The ERF Service Centre was closed in 2000 as part of a re-organisation which would see the entire company moved to a new, allegedly purpose built, truck 'factory' off Pochin Way.
Before too long the company had, effectively, ceased to exist.
Towards the end of its independent existence ERF made great play of its Britishness, billing itself as the last British Truck Maker.
The slanting lines on the front of the trucks, originally put there by ER Foden to represent sunrays, because of his belief in the health-giving properties of sunlight (hence the name of the Sandbach Factory, 'Sun Works') were adapted into red and white stripes to look like part of a Union Flag and no chance was missed to stress the 'British' motif.
Photo: Commercial Motor
The badges shown in the illustration above (originally created when I sold them on ebay) are from ERF's 'British' era.

Here's a brief description of them (clockwise from top left)

1: This black, white and gold enamelled badge was created for the launch of the ERF 'EC' Series in 1993, the company's Diamond Jubilee year. The 'EC' was the last product produced by the independent ERF Ltd and was designed to attract custom away from DAF, Scania and the rest of them by getting away from the 'gaffer's truck' image and providing something approaching luxury for the truck driver (the EC 'Olympic' was even more luxurious). According to those in the know at ERF the 'EC' didn't stand for anything in particular (it followed on from the 'E' series, which followed on from - you guessed it - the 'C' series. There was never a 'D'series.) but was 'supposed to remind people of Europe'. Rather than Sandbach, probably.

2: This bronze badge was also created in 1993 for the company's 60th anniversary and shows 'ERF 1' alongside a new EC Series vehicle. Although the trucks, understandably, look rather different, according to Peter Foden, the company's MD, there was a 'family resemblance' which meant anyone could tell one of the company's trucks 'at a glance'. Maybe so, but I always thought the letters ERF on the front were the real giveaway.

3: The spectacular (and rare) 'ERF Professional Drivers Club' badge, always referred to by us, for obvious reasons, as 'sheriff's badges' were presumably designed to make ERF drivers feel like the undoubted stars they were (and are, of course).

4: Plugging the 'British connection' for all its worth, this 'Union Jack' badge couldn't possibly put it any more clearly.

In the centre is one of what seemed like hundreds of millions of button badges we had in stock. We gave them away by the handful, but the stock never seemed to diminish. 'Sunpar' was a contraction of 'Sun Parts', named after the Sun Works (one of the least sunny places in the world, in actual fact) and was the trade name for the Middlewich parts operation*.

You can find out more about ERF Service, Middlewich, here

* ERF's use of 'Sunpar' as a trade name gave rise to an urban legend. Someone told me that Fodens, who always kept a jaundiced and resentful eye on what was happening 'down the road', were considering calling their own parts operation 'Fo-par' in similar style. Until, that is, someone realised what it would sound like.
I've no idea whether or not it's true, but I hope so.

+ Many years later to become the site of ANSA's controversial waste recycling site.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013


Cliff writes

Following a very successful family and promotional photo session at the WYCH Centre, Middlewich, in November this year, we have decided to continue these local community photo sessions to raise funds for charities. We therefore plan to have another session on Jan 26th 2014, all afternoon and evening. If you are interested in having photos PLEASE make contact ASAP to discuss and review your requirements.Sessions will be available from 1.00pm until 8.00pm, but please book early to reserve your family photo session.

Contact Cliff Via Facebook

Monday, 2 December 2013


by Dave Roberts
AKA " I Don't Believe You Want To Get Up And Dance (Oops!)" and a huge dance floor and radio hit for The Gap Band in 1979, this classic track is a staple for all occasions. 
No deejay worth his or her salt would dream of presenting music for a wedding reception, birthday party or any other major event without playing this and watching everyone, young and old, doing the strange and hilarious dance that goes with it.
Now this disco sensation is helping put Middlewich on the map once again as part of the celebrations welcoming the town's 'new' Town Hall.
The former Middlewich Civic Hall is now run locally by the Town Council and already it is seeing far more use than it ever did under Cheshire East and Congleton Borough Councils.
It is only fitting that the name should be changed, not only to reflect the new ownership, and a new beginning for this local amenity, but also as part of the Council's policy of generating pride in the town and everything that goes on here.
You can be a part of history by taking part in this attempt to put Middlewich Town Hall and the town itself in the record books with a brilliant evening of dance and entertainment.
All the information you need is above, so get on down to the Town Hall and get your name down for a night to remember.
Meanwhile, to help you practise, here's a useful link...

See also...

Thursday, 28 November 2013



 Come and have a browse!
Some lovely gifts from over 30 stalls.
Light refreshments served on the night.
A raffle will be held with all  proceeds 
to the  Mayor's Charities 



JUNE 2012 - NOVEMBER 2013

The Artisan Market, pioneered successfully  in Wilmslow, proved to be equally successful in Middlewich during a trial period which took place on June 30th, July 28th and August 25th 2012. Response from local traders and shoppers was overwhelmingly in favour of the market  continuing after the trial period and, at the beginning of September, after negotiations between Cheshire East, Middlewich Town Council and the market's organisers, it was announced that  the intention was for the market  to become a permanent feature of the Middlewich shopping scene.
In  February 2013 the local press reported that the Town Council were planning to buy the right to close the road each month so that the market could go ahead.
This move would also benefit other events such as the FAB Festival and the annual Christmas celebrations.
Here's a link to the Guardian's report:
If you'd like to make a comment about the Artisan Market please use the 'comments' feature after this diary entry, or e-mail us at

 Please note that your comments, if appropriate, will be included in this diary entry

The market is organised by a highly professional group of people, working in association with Middlewich Town Council, and means that  for the first time ever, traffic is excluded from Wheelock Street for the duration of the event.
It's being seen by many as a much needed 'test' of the capacity of our main shopping street to function as a pedestrianised area, something which has been proposed for Wheelock Street many times over the years, but never before tried outside the worlds of conjecture and theory.
It also, of course, gives Middlewich a rare chance to function as a 'market town' in the true sense of the word.
The First Artisan Market in Middlewich 30th June 2012
Geraldine Williams captured the atmosphere and bustle in Wheelock Street as the Artisan Market came to town and proved that Wheelock Street is a natural venue for an event of this kind

Middlewich people were full of praise for the first market:

'...It was packed. I spent lots of money in our ordinary shops as well. Great occasion. I can't wait until the end of July now...' (our italics - Ed)

'...It was great to see the town so busy, and it was nice to see no cars allowed up the street for a change!'

'...Stalls all the way up the street! About time we had something decent in Middlewich!'

'Pleasantly surprised. I'm looking forward to the next one. Loads of olives, garlic, breads and cheeses and the atmosphere was brill. I'll definitely be making it a monthly thing.'

'It was very busy, even when it rained!'

'...A Resounding Success!'

'...really enjoyed this. I hope we have more in the future.'

'Everything looked ace. And the food was great!'

'We thoroughly enjoyed the market today.'

'I've never seen so many people on Wheelock Street on a Saturday! Plenty of stalls and a great choice of merchandise. Marvellous!

'The Artisan Market was great, and it was  nice to see so many people out and about. I hope its success will prompt more events like this in the future!'

'Some fab food on offer, and it was nice to see so many people out and about'

'Well done Middlewich!'

'I really enjoyed the Artisan Market today. I got the nicest goats cheese ever!
Let's have more events like this in Middlewich!'

'...Stalls all the way up the street!' - Paul Greenwood photographed the market from the Bullring end of the street, after the rain which failed to dampen anyone's enthusiasm.

The scene in The Bullring during the second Middlewich Artisan Market on July 28th 2012

Local reaction to the second Artisan Market on July 28th:

' husband loves the market. he has stocked up on his beer, scotch eggs and hot sauce. He can't wait for the next one...

'Again I loved the Artisan Market. It brings Middlewich to life. I stocked up on the goats cheese!'

'Fabulous! Nice to see the local shops joining in and taking advantage of the extra people in town on Saturday. Just what Middlewich has needed for years!'


'Well organised, and well presented. A pleasure to shop there, and what a boost for the existing traders!'

'Loved my first visit to the Artisan Market and picked up some truly fabulous cooking sauces, some hot some not, but well worth a visit. I can't wait for the next one. Nice to see all the car parks full for this event and another good thing is that the vendors offer 'try before you buy'. Well recommended.'

'We went to the last Artisan Market and have never seen the main street so busy. The atmosphere was great, with so many people browsing and buying. We spent money in the market, and in local businesses, as did many others. This idea is the best that Middlewich has offered in recent years and we look forward to visiting regularly for special and unusual goods. This is something that could become a regular special event which would revitalise the town centre. The local traders that we spoke to had nothing but good things to say about their trading on the day. We loved it and will definitely come back next month!'

'We loved it, and spent more than we should have! The chicken was very tasty and the cheese not good for me when I'm trying to diet!'

'About time Middlewich had something good coming to its town!!
The market is fab, never seen the high street so busy. Fingers crossed it stays!!'

Photos of

The third Market, on the last Saturday of August 2012 proved just as popular as the previous two, and Geraldine Williams took this sequence of photographs which give some idea of the quality and variety of goods on offer:

Local reaction to the third market on August 25th:

'Another fantastic market today!'

'Well done Middlewich! A great atmosphere and it was good to see some of the Wheelock Street shopkeepers entering into the spirit by setting up outdoor displays of their own goods.'

UPDATE (29th JUNE 2013):

Facebook feedback on the first anniversay of the Artisan Market:

From Bernice Walmsley, Middlewich Town Mayor:

What an amazing day today in Middlewich! A fantastic turnout, great weather, brilliant and talented stalls and superb performance from Steven Doyle in the Bull Ring...already looking forward to next month!

Ruslyn Wood Creations Great day! Can't wait for next month!

Jonathan Williams (Middlewich Town Clerk): Yes it was a brilliant day, and the Artisan Market in Middlewich goes from strength to strength. I noticed that a lot of traders had sold out as they passed me and waved to me at the road closure. Some even used all five fingers!!! Well done to everyone who made the day such a success. Middlewich appreciates it.

The Artisan Market Thank you to you Jonathan, and to the Middlewich Town Council. The amount of time and effort you all put in for the event is amazing! Can't wait for the 27th July!

Jonathan Williams's all about working together, and a partnership which means so much to all of us. The Twitter messages are flying this evening, and it's a wonderful response to a fantastic day. So thank you too!
-a link to a story from our friends at the

Find out more at




This Diary Entry was originally published on 30th June 2012

Wednesday, 13 November 2013




with COLIN from JUNCTION 18
Come on down for a great night and a sing along with an appreciative audience.

 Late Bar with Music up until 1am.


(from 2013)

Sunday, 10 November 2013


Lest We Forget...


Photo courtesy of Frank Smith and Bill Eaton

This photograph and article also appear on our sister site, Middlewich Station

by Dave Roberts
This photograph recently found its way back to The Middlewich Diary by way of Bill Eaton, who was given a lot of material written and collected by the late Frank Smith of Ravenscroft, an early contributor to the Middlewich Heritage Society and its Newsletter.
Bill has been passing on various bits of material for publication on the Middlewich Diary and MRLC websites, rightly thinking that it would be of interest to readers of both.
I was intrigued when he emailed this photo to me, with my own handwriting on the bottom giving details of its origin.
Obviously, in the early years of the Heritage Society, when I was editing the MHS Newsletter, I must, at some point, have given Frank this photo for his records.
This would have been sometime in the mid-late1980s.
The somewhat dubious quality of the picture betrays its origins as a photocopy of an original photograph by Alan Wilkinson, who lived in Middlewich in the 1960s and is well known as a railway photographer and author.
It came originally from a book called The Stanier 8F 2-8-0 published by D Bradford Barton and the Stanier 8F Loco Society, and the originally caption for the photo reads:

'Saturday afternoon bustle on a Cheshire by-way.
Crewe South's recently outshopped 48505 (D44)
slows for a brisk tablet exchange at Middlewich,
heading the 12.25 Stanlow -Egginton Junction
tanks in January 1965.'

Railway enthusiasts will, of course, have little need for any explanation, but for the layman/woman, here are some explanatory notes:

The engine shown here is, as indicated, a Stanier 8F - a very common type of  engine on the Middlewich line in the 1960s and 1970s, when freight traffic was very heavy.
One very important type of traffic was oil, which came from Stanlow via the West Cheshire route from Helsby to Mouldsworth on the Mid-Cheshire line* and then via Northwich and  Middlewich  to Sandbach and (until 1971) along the Sandbach-Kidsgrove line  to the Stoke area without having to pass through Crewe.
The 'tablet exchange' is the handing over of the token which enabled the train to travel over the single line section from Northwich to Middlewich. The signalman can be seen with his arm out of the signal box window, ready to take the token from the engine driver.
Note the water tower on the left, and the familiar MIDDLEWICH sign on the signal box.
This sign is now in the possession of the MRLC Committee, having been retrieved from Uttoxeter.
Its story is told here.

* the official title of MCRUA's Middlewich sub-committee (the Middlewich Rail Link Campain), which aims to build a new Middlewich Station and introduce a new passenger service from Crewe to Manchester via Sandbach, Middlewich and Northwich, is the Middlewich & West Cheshire Committee.
The West Cheshire line has been lifted, but the trackbed is protected and we keep an eye on the route with a view to its possible re-instatement in the future

Very belated thanks to ERF Ltd for very much unauthorised photocopying facilities.

Saturday, 9 November 2013


A reminder that the Service of Remembrance takes place tomorrow morning (Sunday 10th) at the War Memorial in Middlewich Town Centre.
Those taking part in the procession should assemble at the Royal British legion Club in Lewin Street at 10.15am.

Thursday, 7 November 2013


Now that the nights are drawing in, and Christmas looms on the horizon, the season for  stories of weird experiences and inexplicable happenings is upon us.
Like every town in this ancient and haunted kingdom, Middlewich has its share of spooky places.
Hannah's Walk, for instance, on a frosty, foggy December afternoon when dusk is approaching can play fearful tricks on an over-excited imagination, and it's easy to let your mind wander and perhaps fancy you can just glimpse, out of the corner of your eye, the shade of poor Hannah rushing to her doom in the icy waters of the canal.
We've already mentioned Mill Lane and that restless and uneasy place where the little stone bridge passes over the old mill weir and an awful feeling of being watched can steal over one on the brightest of afternoons. Go there on a cold November day, with the frost on the ground and the first dustings of snow in the air, and the oppressive feeling that you're not alone is almost overwhelming. 
What malevolent force is lurking there in the deep and ceaselessly churning waters under your feet, waiting to drag you to your doom?
Not too far away, down Nantwich Road (or, if you prefer, down the River Wheelock and a short distance away from the aqueduct, the 'twin' of the one that takes Nantwich Road under the SUC Middlewich Branch) is 'Mystery Wood', between Nantwich Road and the old road to Middlewich Manor, and the new housing estates in what were once the manor grounds.
It's the haunt of dog walkers and strollers, and children playing among its trees and pathways.
But does Mystery Wood also hold an ancient secret which might account for the strange experience which Malcolm Hough had there more than fifty years ago?
-Dave Roberts, Editor.

by Malcolm Hough

I was 13 years old, and it was late July or early August, and it was just about dusk. 
Myself and three friends were playing in the woods next to the main Nantwich road in Middlewich, by the aqueduct that carries the Shropshire Union Canal over it.
 The wood's local name is “Mystery Wood”
 I knew adults who would not go in there after dark.
 It was a long narrow wood with spooky iron railings at each end, and with a stream running through it. That particular night it was still and very quiet, and we were joking about it being a spooky atmosphere, when all of a sudden a Sycamore tree of about  six or seven inches in diameter fell over.
 It was a perfectly still summer evening. 
We ran the long way home for about a mile or more, and only stopping outside of the British Legion club in Lewin St,  all of us out of breath. 
We were scared stiff. 
We did not talk about it that night and we went our separate ways home.
I remember, I left the bedroom light on all night. 
When we met up the next morning at our pre-arranged time, my friends all talked about the highwayman in a tri-corn hat, that they had seen pointing a gun at us when they turned around to see what was happening.
I saw nothing, as I did not turn around, I just kept running. 
It must be remembered that, in those days, we had no telephones, so no way of discussing the matter.
One thing I do know, is that I definitely saw that tree fall, and we were not near it at the time.
The area has now been partly developed, but most of the wood still stands.
It’s now named “Misty Wood” by the developers of the site, so I have been told by someone whose garden backs onto it.
I wonder why? 
© Malcolm Hough 2013

Wednesday, 6 November 2013


We're back once again in Lawrence Avenue, that unadopted thoroughfare (or former thoroughfare)* which once connected Wheelock Street and Webbs lane, until the intervention of St Michael's Way split it into two dead ends called Lawrence Avenue East and Lawrence Avenue West.
Our Now and Then picture shows us once again that charming, almost rustic, scene  as the Avenue (then known as Lawrence Gardens) basked in the warm Edwardian sunshine, together with a shot taken in September this year which proves that, although places change over the years, they perhaps do not always change as much as we might think.
Our musings on this photo can be seen here.
In 2013 we can see that the doorway where the happy Edwardian family were standing all those years ago has been bricked up, the approximate edge of the former door being marked by the red and white No parking sign.

Something about the rather haphazard brickwork suggests that this was done not too long ago, probably in a bit of a hurry.
Quite possibly this was done as part of the conversion of the premises into a shop.
As late as 1937 this large building, on the corner of Lawrence Avenue and Wheelock Street, which is now a kebab shop and the premises of Brooks & Bostock,appears to have had large bay windows at the front. Was it originally a large family home, with servants' quarters at the rear, to which the bricked up door was an entrance?
The basic outline of the rear of the building is still very much the same, with its sloping lean-to roof leading the eye to the rest of the north side of Lawrence Avenue which, again, looks remarkably unaltered, externally at least.
The first house in particular, now the home of a dental surgery, appears to have weathered the years remarkably well.
Here's a larger version of the 'now picture':

*actually, even before the coming of the Inner Relief Road, Lawrence Avenue had not been a thoroughfare for many years. There were bollards at the west end of the road preventing access to vehicles from Wheelock Street.