Thursday, 31 January 2013



Express YOUR views on how key areas of Middlewich should advance in the coming months and years.
You could be a resident, work here, or pass through on the way somewhere else, but you will have an opinion so
The survey is running NOW, so click on the link below to
have YOUR say!

e-mail address for additional comments:

Tuesday, 29 January 2013


The old order changes. Frank and Edna Bailey pictured in 1972.
Frank was the last Chairman of the Middlewich Urban District Council and the town's first Mayor when the one time Royal Borough of Middlewich became a part of the District (later Borough) of Congleton. Thus he bridges the gap between two eras of local government. Should you be wondering  why the slide depicting Frank and Edna is damaged, thereby hangs a tale. A tale which we may decide to tell in the fullness of time...

by Dave Roberts
It may seem odd to people who are relatively new to this area that Middlewich, administratively speaking, is part of the Cheshire East Borough when its history and relationship with its near neighbours Northwich and Winsford would seem to indicate that its logical home would be in the Cheshire West & Chester area.
So why are we where we are?
When it comes to local government Middlewich finds itself where it is because of decisions made in the early 1970s.
In April 1974  Middlewich became part of Congleton Borough.
There had been talks about creating a new local authority for this area as far back as the 1930s when a ‘Mid-Cheshire Council’ was proposed, amalgamating Middlewich, Northwich and Winsford UDCs but the traditional rivalry between the three towns, particularly between Middlewich and Winsford, based on historical factors concerning the salt industry, meant that nothing was done.
In the nineteenth century Winsford was able to exploit its position on the River Weaver to develop its salt industry. The salt could be sent straight down the River to the Mersey for export. Middlewich, despite the existence of the canals, had no such advantage. Plans to bring barges straight into the town centre via the Anderton Lift and the Big Lock never came to anything. Nor did a plan to canalise the River Dane or another to build a canal eastwards from Middlewich towards Macclesfield.
Winsford's salt industry boomed, and Middlewich's went into a decline. Ironically, though, we had the last laugh when British Salt was built here in 1969.
Reform of the system was talked about incessantly during the sixties and early seventies, and several ideas were mooted for this area.
Middlewich could have found itself part of Stoke-On-Trent under one such idea; another was for us to be part of a ‘Super Council’ stretching from Sale to the north down to Stoke-on-Trent to the South
By 1974 the Government had decided to act.
It was thought that councillors at UDC level did not have the experience and know-how to handle the ever more expensive and complicated business of running local authorities, and that the creation of larger ‘local government units’ was the best way to serve the public.
Talks were held at all levels about the way forward. The ‘Mid-Cheshire Council’ idea was resurrected but discounted for the same, familiar reason, one Middlewich Councillor saying that he would never serve on a council which included Winsford.
Eventually it was decided that a new council taking in Congleton, Alsager, and Sandbach and the rural areas between would be created.
In the opinion of many Middlewich was eventually included simply to 'make up the numbers’ – a local authority has to have the requisite number of rate-payers after all.
Simply, no one else wanted us. The new Vale Royal most certainly didn’t.
In fact, if the truth were known, the new authority we ended up in probably didn’t either.
When the news broke that we were to be part of this new authority we couldn't believe it.
Our inclusion n the Congleton District, incidentally, led to Middlewich being on that little ‘peninsula’ of land, surrounded on three sides by another authority which looks so weird on the map.
Actually this situation is by no means new. Up until 1974 we were 'surrounded' by the territory of the Northwich Rural District Council. Which explains why, for example, Wimboldsley and Sproston, though technically 'part' of Middlewich, have ex-council houses bearing the inscription 'NRDC'.
But, to paraphrase the immortal Goon Show, 'every town's gotta be somewhere', and Middlewich needed to be under the control of someone, somewhere. So, for no better reason that that, as far as can be ascertained,  we found ourselves  'lumped in' with Congleton. 
Of course we were left wondering 'Why Congleton?' Wasn’t Congleton somewhere on the other side of the county, near Macclesfield?
Whatever the ins and outs of this most unsatisfactory jiggery-pokery, eventually the steering group for the new council met to decide on a name for the new authority.
No. In fact the committee decided that the name should be ‘Daneborough’ reflecting the fact that the River Dane runs through our area.
Sleight of hand by officials at Congleton substituted the name ‘Congleton’ at the last minute, understandably giving people the idea that this was some kind of ‘takeover’ by Congleton.
It was, as they say, ‘bad PR’ and Middlewich people resented the new Congleton authority right from the start. With good reason.
Incidentally I was working at Middlewich UDC just before the re-organisation and remember the Clerk to the Council, Ivan Glover, telling councillors that now was the time for them to introduce their own ‘pet schemes’ – swimming pools, leisure centres etc – and the new council would be duty bound to carry the work on.
A golden opportunity for us to get that swimming pool we’ve always wanted.
Heartbreakingly, and astonishingly, the council said that there was 'nothing that the town needed’.
And from the start it was patently obvious that this form of local government would lead to unfairness. What chance would a few councillors from Middlewich have when ranged against those from Congleton and Sandbach (where the main offices were situated).
We were all convinced that, just as we’d never heard of Congleton, they’d never heard of us. We always suspected that, if there was any money to be spent, it would be spent in Congleton, Sandbach, Alsager – anywhere but Middlewich.
And I can’t help thinking we were right. Certainly, as is apparent from the state of our town after the CBC years, they did very little for us.
Congleton Borough Council was hated so much that it’s hard to believe that another authority could enjoy even less esteem.
Cheshire East has managed it with ease. It's only existed for a few years and already its name is a hissing and a byword. All the old complaints we heard about the CBC are made about Cheshire East, with a few thousand more thrown in for good measure.
The authority is perceived as 'not caring' about Middlewich, and whether or not this perception is justified, Cheshire East doesn't seem very bothered about correcting it.
And now, as power struggles between Macclesfield and Crewe rage, poor old Middlewich is even more isolated than it was before.
What’s going to become of us?

© Dave Roberts 2013


Tuesday, 22 January 2013


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!




February 23rd, March 30th, April 27th, May 25th, June 29th, July 27th, August 31st, September 28th, October 26th, November 30th, CHRISTMAS TBC.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013


Following harsh winters in recent years the number of potholes in roads throughout  Cheshire East has increased alarmingly and, it will come as a surprise to no one, Middlewich is affected as badly as everywhere else in the Borough, probably worse.
David Morgan of the Middlewich Guardian, working in association with local builder David Latham, is collecting pictures of potholes on the town's roads for a forthcoming feature.
Obviously the exercise will also help Cheshire East to pinpoint the areas where work is urgently needed, following the granting of emergency government aid to tackle the problem.

Please email your photos of severe road damage in Middlewich to

including details of the location and any problems you may have had.


Sunday, 6 January 2013


A new and already highly effective association formed to do something about the appalling state of our town's playgrounds, which we're happy to support.


Saturday, 5 January 2013


We believe this image to be out of copyright. If you own the copyright, or know who does, please let us know

by Dave Roberts

Since the Middlewich Diary began we've tried hard to resist the rose-tinted view of some who like to think that Middlewich was once a picturesque and attractive little town which has been 'ruined by progress'. We've been at pains to point out that the town is more attractive now than it was forty years ago and try not to wallow in nostalgia too much.

Having said all that, it's hard not to get nostalgic about 'old Middlewich' when you see a photograph like this one, although the fact that it's in black and white probably makes it look rather older than it actually is.
It was taken in the late 1960s and shows that most-lamented of all the town's old buildings, Moreton's farmhouse on the corner of King Street and Kinderton Street in its final days.
If you stand in the same spot today you can see right down into the town centre with the Parish Church dominating the view and providing a very pleasant first impression of the town for motorists coming down from Junction 18 of the M6.
Kinderton Street now runs down from the Holmes Chapel Road, or Station, Bridge in a gentle curve, contrasting with the old alignment which had a much sharper bend at the bottom end - in this photo it almost looks like an abrupt turn to the right.
Nearly everything in this picture has  disappeared, to be replaced by the new, wider Kinderton Street which connects with St Michael's Way at the Town Bridge.
Moreton's farmhouse stood more or less where the traffic island at the end of King Street now is and I was privileged, as a friend of William and Mary Moreton, to visit it many times from 1959 onwards, as we lived a short distance away down King Street.
It was a typical Cheshire farmhouse, full of ancient oak furniture and, in particular, many grandfather clocks (there was said to be one in every room).
Pool Head farmhouse, to give it its official name, was built to the same pattern as many such farmhouses, in an 'L' shape, with two distinct parts at right angles to each other. The part nearest the camera and running alongside the end of King Street would originally have housed the farm's dairy.
The patch of lighter brickwork on the lower left of the building is evidence of a catastrophe from a few years earlier when a heavy lorry crashed into the house, fortunately, as far as I know, without injury to either the driver or the residents of the house.
Just above this you can just make out a small yellow AA sign which points the way to Northwich; the preferred route these days is via Croxton Lane - when its not flooded...
This modest little sign was later replaced (or possibly just obscured) by a large and ugly green sign more suitable for the motorway age. This can be seen here.

Next to the farmhouse on the way down the bank is a chip shop which is the subject of one of those old Middlewich legends concerning the lady proprietress who, it is claimed, once lost her wig in the fat fryer.
There's no way of knowing whether this actually happened or not, but I do know that at one time they served the finest fish in the town - better even, if it can be believed, than Etta Mault's.
In 1969 a friend and I would buy fish and chips from this shop and then wander up King Street to no 33 to watch the earliest showings of  Monty Python's Flying Circus.
Further down Kinderton Street are Whittaker's and Costello's shops

and several small houses, all now a distant memory.

Out of shot to the right was the former entrance to Middlewich Station yard, at that time home to Martin's Coaches,

 and the site for many years of a huge advertising hoarding which, if someone tried to erect it now, would cause hands to be thrown up in horror.
This hoarding can be seen on the 1970 photo of the farmhouse (link below) which we featured early in the life of the Middlewich Diary. 

There was another of these hoardings on King Street, next to the farmhouse, for the benefit of traffic heading over the Station Bridge towards Middlewich town centre..
The walls alongside the 'Kinderton Street' part of the farmhouse were made of blue engineering brick, and also extended along King Street past the Mill pond which gave the farm its name. I always wondered if the LNW Railway, which built the station, also built these walls. They are exactly the same as those used on the parapets of the Station Bridge. The railway did have an interest in the Mill pond, as it supplied water for its water tower at the station.
To the left of the picture is a confused jumble of old buildings in Seabank* and Lewin Street, most of which have now disappeared.
Also on the left, the small patch of white between the brick wall and the lamp-post is part of what is now the Kinderton Hotel.
Those lamp-posts, by the way, served Middlewich well for many years, even though almost every lamp in the town gave off a yellow sodium glow which made everything look quite ghastly, particularly in winter.
They were all painted in the official MUDC colour of dark green, and panic ensued when someone started a rumour that they were all going to be painted orange to fit in with the council's new 'trendy' image for the 1970s.
Now who on earth would  start a rumour like that?

*We originally had this, for some inexplicable reason - advancing age? - as 'Southway' until it was spotted by Geraldine 'Eagle Eye' Williams. Hence the comments below!

                    MORETON'S FARMHOUSE 1972

Friday, 4 January 2013


(First published 4th January 2013, updated with additional information 5th January 2013)

by Dave Roberts
Our forays into Middlewich 'twenty-five years ago', with material supplied by Carole Hughes and Diane Parr, have taken longer than was anticipated. So technically we're talking about twenty-six years ago now, but I don't suppose anyone will mind too much. 
The photo above poses something of a puzzle.
That shop, tucked away at the back of what is now Gallery Finance towards the top end of Wheelock Street, seems to be selling all kinds of things from cardboard boxes and plastic tubs out in the sunshine. Can anyone remember what that shop actually sold? Or is that outdoor display of goods perhaps independent of the shop itself? Can anyone enlighten us?
When I first saw this picture I couldn't recall whether the shop we are talking about was still there. Our modern-day shot (below), taken in the Autumn of 2012, shows that it is, though it seems to be empty.
On the other side of Wheelock Street can be seen two shops (although I think they were linked together and were both dedicated to the sale of greengroceries).
They've both since been incorporated into that fascinating shop called Temptations which seems to have grown a little bit bigger every time you visit it. To the right of these shops, the house with the green windows was, at the time, being used as a kind of antique shop by Ian and Margaret McQueen. It's now been turned into flats and is linked to the large housing development on St Michael's Way next to the telephone exchange.
This is the best I could do for a modern comparison shot, as the green iron railings rule out any attempt at taking a picture from the same angle. Our mystery shop lurks despondently at the back, dreaming of better days.
The railings are fencing off what used to be the car park for Pace, an offshoot of the old Cheshire County Council, which was just out of shot to the right, next to the Co-operative Travel Agency.
This area of Wheelock Street will change radically once Tesco implements its plans for a large new supermarket on land behind the trees in the background.
UPDATE: Sadly not. Tesco announced in the first week of January 2013 that they had abandoned plans for the new superstore, leaving a large tract of blighted land filled with dilapidated former luxury homes right in the middle of the town. See BROKEN DREAMS...


Well, I may not remember this shop, but many people do, including those who posted comments on Facebook after reading this entry.
Sammi Hatton says, 'I recall this being a card shop at one time, run by Barbara Wells and called, I think, 'Best Wishes'. I used to baby-sit for them when they lived in a flat above the Co-op Travel Agency for a while. I also recall a dry-cleaning business being there too. Hope this helps?
Well, it certainly does.
Brendan Conlon  remembers the shop as 'Kev's Corner'.
This is confirmed by Emma Louise Brown who says, ' was called 'Kev's Corner and it sold all sorts of stuff - gifts, toys crockery and cards - in fact I think it later became a card shop. I think in 1987 it would still be Kev's Corner. They sold all kinds of gimmicky stuff and when I was a child it was one of the few places you could spend your pocket money on rubbish such as water pistols, trading cards and  those things you threw on the floor which went BANG!
Stuart Warren Twigg has been studying the photo itself and says, 'I think that the items outside of the shop are indicative of what was for sale inside (there certainly appears to be a rack full of greetings cards in the picture -ed) Didn't the shop belong to Barbara Wells, the wife of Steve who had what is now Chisholm's Newsagents?'
Jenny Hatton says, 'I can't remember the shop like this, but I do remember a dry-cleaners at some point. I went to school with Simon Wells, so I do remember the family. I've got a really vague memory of his Dad running a fishmonger's from the shop in front of it - or at least fish in freezers? - can anyone else remember this, or have I made it up? I would have been seven or eight then, so it's a bit fuzzy! I do remember that fruit and veg shop which is now part of Temptations - didn't they have a sweet shop to the side of it as well?'
So it would appear that during the period of this particular photograph this little shop was called 'Kev's Corner', selling all kinds of items, including cards, but later concentrated on cards, probably under the name 'Best Wishes'.
Stephanie Burton actually worked in the shop. She says,: 'I'm not sure what it was in 1987 but in 1985/6 it was called 'Kev's Corner' I had a Saturday job there. It sold all sorts from stationery to household bits and bobs, as well as things for kids to spend their pocket money on.'
Going back to the 1987 photo itself, Chris Koons has a theory about all the goods outside the shop: 'It looks to me like they're having a clearance sale.'
I wonder if this was the time of transition from 'Kev's Corner' to 'Best Wishes', and all the surplus stock was being sold off?
Geraldine Williams says that she does not remember this particular shop from the time when she lived in the area: 'The shop with the sun canopy that you're enquiring about didn't exist then. It seems to have been tacked onto what was always a private house.'
Geraldine goes on to say, 'It's lovely to see Carole's picture showing the two shops across the road. This was our family home from the late '40s to the late '50s as my parents ran a business from the shop on the left. My bedroom was the one over the small-paned shop door but the other bedroom also belonged to our property and the lock-up shop below was rented by an optician who came to Middlewich twice a week.'
Both Geraldine and Stuart Warren-Twigg were interested in the house with the green windows:
Stuart remembers it as 'Cobweb Antiques' and mentions that it was the former home of Reg Taylor.
Geraldine goes back even further: 'it was owned, prior to Reg Taylor, by G F Pugh who ran his joinery business from outbuildings at the back of the property. He also made coffins! The shops, and his house, had long gardens which ran down to the corner of Pepper Street and Webbs Lane.'
So another gap in my knowledge of Middlewich has been filled! Many thanks to everyone who sent in this information.


(first published, September 2012, updated January 2013)

Opening in Wheelock Street just in time for Christmas 2012 was the Foodamentalist Gluten Free Bakery, situated in the shop recently vacated after many years by Reid's.


Apparently, a complete redesign of the shop's frontage has been ruled out on grounds of cost.
You can find out more about the  shop and the people behind the new bakery by visiting their Facebook page.

Facebook Feedback:

Karl Jamieson: The Foodamentalists have been a real positive addition to Wheelock Street.

Jenny Hatton: I can vouch for their cakes - very yummy! An excellent purchase in exchange for displaying our RAMP poster! Take a closer look!

Karl Jamieson: The pork pies are rather good with my home made tomato chutney.

SEE ALSO: REID'S BAKERY 1987 and 2012
                     CHATTY DAISY DAYS (BLOG)

Thursday, 3 January 2013


Yes, it's panto time again! Oh no it isn't! Oh yes it is! And this, we can confidently assure you, will be one of the best around. The Byley Players can always be relied on to put on a good show.Highly recommended!
Oh no it's not! Oh yes it is!