Thursday, 31 January 2013



Express YOUR views on how key areas of Middlewich should advance in the coming months and years.
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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.

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, and nor did  plans to canalise the River Dane and build another canal eastwards from Middlewich. 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.
It’s no secret that 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 why were we being 'lumped in' with Congleton? 
Wasn’t Congleton somewhere on the other side of the county, near Macclesfield?
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, giving people the understandable 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


Saturday, 26 January 2013


It's time for another of our little journeys back in time to see what Middlewich had to offer in terms of shopping twenty-five or so years ago.
This photo from the Carole Hughes/Diane Parr collection shows us that the town's efforts to provide something rather more 'upmarket' than the norm is nothing new.
This shop, offering a delicatessen and 'high class provisions' was owned and operated by husband and wife V.T. (Trevor) and E. (Enid) Williams who also had a somewhat larger establishment in Holmes Chapel during this period*.
Later, part of the premises  was turned into a sandwich bar to cater for the increasing amount of people who worked in shops and offices in the town and wanted to buy a lunchtime snack.
Trevor was also the owner of the splendid Georgian house at the top end of Southway which once boasted a swimming pool in the garden.
We met one of Trevor's daughters, Fiona, here during her time as a member of the original Middlewich Youth Theatre in the 1970s.
In the present day this shop, externally largely unaltered, is home to the Paragon Cantonese Takeaway.

The Paragon as it was in October 2012

On the extreme right we can just see part of Farrall Cleaners which also appears to be in a similar condition today, although it boasts a different signboard.

*see information below from Diane Russell and Geraldine Williams-Ed

Diane Russell says, 'the shop in Holmes Chapel belonged to Trevor's brother who had a son called Fred (real name Dorian). He was in the same class as myself and your sister (Cynthia).
Blue Ginger next door to Paragon used to be a furniture shop which belonged to Enid's parents. They lived in the large house in Southway next to Barclay House called The Poplars.

 The house could also be reached by going through the furniture shop and out of the back, as I did on a couple of occasions with Fiona, who was also in the same class as myself and Cynthia.
And Geraldine Williams told us: 'Enid's parents, who owned the furniture shop, were Sammy and Barbara Moss. Enid and her elder sister Maureen used to attend the school run by Mrs Plant at Ravenscroft Hall, which boasted a very smart uniform!'
Diane adds, 'Maureen owned the whole block where Forshaw's and Cynthia's are now and ran a hairdressers there. She lived above the shop. Her husband Alan still lives in Middlewich'

Many thanks to Diane and Geraldine for this additional information.

Facebook Feedback:

Bill Armsden Great Dave. Love the links to and from the current users of that building too. Makes The Middlewich Directory a current part of the Town's trading history.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013


Photo: Salt Town Productions 2012
by Dave Roberts
This, I can assure you, is a completely true story which happened in the heady days of  the summer of 2012 during the Middlewich FAB Festival.
The scene is the White Horse public house in Lewin Street which, like many of the town's pubs, was playing host to some of the festival's fringe acts.
Mindful of the need to ensure the safety of its customers the pub's management had helpfully put this warning on a boarded-up window so that no one would trip over while trying to negotiate the entrance to the pub  and its beer garden.
Whether this had been done specially for the festival I don't know, but the last time I visited the pub the sign was still there.
Late on the Saturday afternoon I walked into the bar and was intrigued to hear the bar staff laughing uproariously and, from time to time, mentioning the words 'uneven surfaces'.
When I asked them what was going on I was told that, earlier in the afternoon, a folk festival visitor, complete with anorak, pewter tankard, Festival Guide and perplexed frown, had called in and asked them what time The Uneven Surfaces were playing.
He could not, he said, find any mention of this particular band in the Guide.
It is unclear whether or not  the Please Take Care was a later addition to the sign, possibly designed to make its purpose clearer.
Perhaps it was already there when this hapless festival-goer wandered in from the street?
If so, I wonder if he thought that Please Take Care was The Uneven Surfaces' support band or that The Uneven Surfaces were such a wild and dangerous bunch that care should be exercised when watching them?
But honestly, you try to help people...

P.S. Stuart Warren Twigg says:

Great story.
 Sometimes the truth is indeed stranger than fiction. OK so the band is called Daryl and the album is Uneven Surfaces, but you couldn't write this stuff!


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.




by Dave Roberts.

...or, if you're one of the many people who opposed Tesco's plans for expansion in Middlewich,  perhaps The End of a Nightmare might be a more apt title.
The sheer size of  the proposed store and its accompanying car park is absolutely staggering, as can be seen from Tesco's official plan (above). The existing store is shown as a purple oblong.
I have to admit that my first reaction on hearing the news that Tesco had decided not to go ahead with this scheme was one of horror.
I described it as 'a complete and utter disaster', which was, of course, an over-reaction to the totally unexpected news.
The likelihood is that the carrying through of this project would have been the real disaster.
But living in Middlewich for any length of time (and I have been here for sixty years) is very likely to produce a pessimistic outlook and a tendency to clutch at straws.
Despite the best efforts of our councillors, at  both Town and Borough levels, poor old Middlewich always seems to miss out on all the things that most towns take for granted, and have done for years.
We'd all love to have a swimming pool but the chances of one ever being built seem remote; a railway station is more likely, but it has taken so many years to make the scheme even a possibility that people can be pardoned for wondering if it will ever happen in their lifetimes.
And there's a general feeling that Middlewich has to fight tooth and nail for any improvements to the town to come about.
I recently found myself wondering why getting anything done always has to be as the result of a 'campaign' rather than coming about as part of the natural course of events as in other towns.
The recently formed RAMP organisation, which campaigns for the upgrading of Middlewich's parks and play areas, is a case in point.
Why are these things not done by the council whose responsibility they are without such prompting?
So when Tesco began buying up  property between Darlington Street and Southway with a view to expanding their store many of us welcomed the idea in a weary 'anything's better than nothing' sort of spirit.

BARCLAY HOUSE, WINTER 2011 Photo: Salt Town Productions
We objected, of course, to the impending destruction of some beautiful properties including everyone's favourite, Barclay House (above), but consoled ourselves with the thought that we would at least be able to boast a 'proper' supermarket giving us a much bigger choice of goods than the present Tesco store offers.
This was the straw we were all clutching at in our usual 'beggars can't be choosers' Middlewich way.
And, we reasoned, surely  all the new trade brought into the town by the new store will mean a revival for Wheelock Street?
The jury, of course, was always out on that one. Even the much-lauded Artisan Market has divided opinion: Right from the start the market was hugely popular with the public but not necessarily with all the businesses on Wheelock Street, some of whom claim to have seen a decline in trade on Market days.
There would, though, have been one indisputable benefit for Wheelock Street in that one of the town's greatest eyesores, the former Dave's Angling Supplies shop, would have been transformed into a coffee shop (or, more likely given its current parlous state, knocked down and a coffee shop built in its place)

This shop  was once, as older residents will know, two shops with a central entrance porch and doors set at an angle.
The left hand one was Bill Cotterill's barber's shop and the right hand one  the original premises of Brooks & Bostock, the jewellers, who are now just across the road at the end of Lawrence Avenue.
We'll be reminiscing about Cotterill's barbers in a later Diary entry.
Incidentally one of the entrances to the new Tesco car park would have been just behind the car in the photograph.
(for more on the future of this building, see the update below - Ed)

To all outward appearances Tesco seemed to be hell bent on building this new store.
They submitted several planning applications, arguing the toss with councillors and officials about the undoubted problems the development would cause, and tried to quell people's worries about the decidedly dodgy delivery access in St Ann's Road and the traffic problems it would cause (or, to be precise, make worse - the goods entrance to the present Tesco store is in the same place)
And they tried to win hearts and minds, placing huge explanatory posters in the existing store explaining the proposals to the public.
SELLING THE IDEA TO THE PUBLIC 2011  Photo:  Salt Town Productions
The only cloud on the horizon as far as Tesco was concerned was rival supermarket group Morrisons who were threatening to build a new store on the site of the old Boosey's Garden Centre in Chester Road.


The Morrison's store is now a reality and opens its doors, according to reports, on Monday  the 28th January.
(although, as the opening date drew nearer, the Middlewich Guardian reported that Morrison's had had to apply for retrospective planning consent for the store because a number of conditions relating to highway improvements had not been met. Thus, just days before the doors were due to open, frantic efforts were being made to improve the road network near the store and build pedestrian crossings on Newton Bank and in Chester Road.
Nothing ever happens in Middlewich without 'unforeseen circumstances' coming into the equation, it would seem)
Is it just co-incidence that Tesco's announcement that it intended to pull the plug on its ambitious plans came at precisely the same time as Morrisons announced its opening date?
Finally, on Wednesday January 16th, just twelve days before the store was due to open its doors, the needed planning permission was granted by Cheshire East and the local newspaper was able to confirm the opening date.
Even then more chaos was in store for Middlewich as Newton Bank was closed to traffic over the weekend of 19th-20th January to enable contractors  to work  frantically to complete the necessary road improvements.
Somewhat ironically, this made access to Lidl in Chester Road a problem for many and we also heard reports of local residents as far away as Webb's Lane being woken up early on the Saturday morning and being asked to move their cars so that heavy trucks could get through and  work could continue on the roads.


But was Tesco's  big new idea just smoke and mirrors all along? Was the object of the exercise just to frighten Morrisons (and any other retailer which might have had similar ideas) away?
Or has Tesco merely revised its plans as a resuilt of a commercial decision?
How much trade would it have lost during the closure of its store for rebuilding?
Clearly the existing Tesco store, and its two Tesco Express satellites in The Bullring and Warmingham Lane will lose a lot of trade once Morrisons opens its doors.
Anyone who was in Morrison's Winsford store on Saturday afternoon (Jan 13th) would have seen many people from Middlewich giving themselves a preview of what the new company has to offer.
It's hard to imagine them trying out the new Morrison's and deciding to go back to tired old Tesco, unless Tesco pulls something out of the bag.
What about a good old-fashioned price-cutting war?
If that happened the shoppers of  Middlewich could be on to a winner.
Meanwhile Tesco has something else to consider: what is going to happen to all that blighted property right in the heart of our town?
Are the houses now beyond redemption? If so what will take their place?
Middlewich's much anticipated 'Store Wars' have resulted in a defeat for Tesco, almost before a shot was fired.
In the long run this is probably a good thing for Middlewich, but we now eagerly await the next move from Tesco.
Will they help us build a Town Centre we can be proud of? Or will they simply sell off  all the land they bought up and leave us in the lurch?

© Dave Roberts 2012
(Revised January 2013)

Facebook Feedback

Bill Armsden Excellent, Dave. I also agree with your conclusions.

Lizzie Rosenfield Very good piece, Dave! You speak for a whole lot of us...thank you!

William Cooley Warning signs that the Tesco plan for Middlewich might be disingenuous could be found in the financial press as early as January 2012 when Philip Clarke, Tesco boss, revealed a scaling back of expansion plans in the UK, instead focusing on driving the sale 'of clothes and non-food items online as the internet plays a bigger role for customers'.

It was always going to be a dodgy business putting all your eggs in one basket, not to mention putting your trust in a multi-national. I see this as a lucky break for Middlewich. One that could be turned into a golden opportunity to get a town centre fit for the 21st century.

Karl Jamieson I have been in touch with the town council. They will be speaking to Tesco to see where they can go from here.

Steve Dean Well said, Mr Roberts!

Feedback below is from the 'Middlewich Superstore Info' Facebook page:

William Cooley Some people think that the Morrisons store is big at 2,448 metres gross. Tesco's was going to be 5,091 metres gross - i.e. twice as big, and taller. Madness.

Steven Doyle It's tiny. Have you see the car park? There's room for about 100 cars, I reckon. That's if you can even get near it. The traffic's crazy around that way at the moment, and will be worse when the store opens.

Dave Roberts Which opens up the possibility that Tesco is still in the game and waiting to see what kind of impact Morrisons has on local shopping patterns before deciding what to do. After all, they did (eventually) get planning permission for their mega store and can, presumably, keep renewing that permission as many times as is necessary until the time is right. Perhaps the 'Store Wars' aren't over after all?

Steven Doyle That's a likely possibility, Dave.

Here's a link to the Middlewich Guardian's report on Tesco's decision. The comments made by Middlewich people are of great interest, and there seems to be a general feeling that the 'Store Wars' are indeed not over yet. Several raise the possibility of the Town Council talking to other retailers about moving into the town.



On the 16th January the Middlewich Guardian reported that Tesco were 'still committed to demolishing derelict buildings and tidying up the land it owns between Southway and Darlington Street' and that buildings such as Cheshire House (Darlington Street) and the old Dave's Angling Supplies building (see above) would be demolished. The process of demolition was due to start 'before the end of January'.

So it now remains to be seen what happens to the land that Tesco owns. Will they hold on to it, to prevent the building of another rival supermarket? Or will they sell it off, with the proviso that any future retail development on it  would not be in competition with them?

It is unclear whether Tesco intend to make improvements to their existing store in Southway, but the battle to win over Middlewich shoppers is already in full swing with Tesco donating new kit and training equipment to Middlewich Town FC's under-eights squad and organising a 'free family fun day' at the Southway store and the Tesco Express in Wheelock Street on January 19th.
(with thanks to David Morgan at the Middlewich Guardian)


Wednesday, 9 January 2013


by Dave Roberts

Here's an interesting photo which Middlewich Narrowboats have kindly given permission for us to use here, after posting it on Facebook and asking if anyone could identify the people pictured, and the approximate date.
The location is easy enough to identify and, as Middlewich Narrowboats says, looks very much the same now as it did when the picture was taken.
Its the canal shop at their premises which has, in fact looked like this for many many years.
But what's happening in the photograph, who are the people, and when was it taken?
The girl on the left has rather a look of the early 1970s about her. Does anyone recognise her?
It looks to me as if she's just presented the lady and the gentleman to her left with the things they are holding proudly for the benefit of the camera.
Have they, perhaps, won a raffle or a competition?
The gentleman looks very familiar, and he has the look of a Middlewich man, quite possibly a Middlewich boatman.
I've seen that face before, or one very like it. Does anyone know him?
And what of the lady? Is it his wife? Or is it, as has been suggested, a member of the Cliffe family, who ran the firm before the present owners?
In the background is what looks like a poster of some kind. Can anyone decipher the wording?
 I think the first word is 'The', but what's the word underneath? Could it be 'tunnel'?
If you can help with this in any way, don't hesitate to get in touch, either by posting a comment here, or on Facebook.
Alternatively, you can e-mail us on:

Many thanks once again to Middlewich Narrowboats for permission to use the photo.

Facebook feedback:

Diane Russell: I think the man is Mr Bunn. He was a boater, and his son lived in Rosemount. His daughter-in-law worked at RHM. I think his son was called Bill and the daughter-in-law was Phylis I think. She was quite a tall lady with black hair, and they owned a boat.

Robert Sheckleston: Yes, that is Mr Bunn, His daughter-in-law Phylis worked on the salt floor at RHM

Stephen Dent: It is Fred Bunn that lives up Rosemount. The young lady looks very much like Chris Cliffe's partner but if it is she has never aged as she still looks like this. She is American (or Canadian, I can't remember).

Diane Russell: I think you might be right about him being called Fred, not Bill. The young lady is Brenda Cliffe. The Cliffe's bought the boatyard from Willow Wren Kearns in 1982, so it must have been taken shortly after. I recently talked to Raymond Kearns and he told me that was when they sold it, and that Brenda Cliffe was Canadian. He also confirmed that the Bunn's were a boating family.

                    MIDDLEWICH NARROWBOATS

Monday, 7 January 2013


We believe this image to be out of copyright. If you own the copyright, or know who does, please let us know
Once again Bill Eaton has been delving into the archive of material given to him by the late Frank Smith of Ravenscroft, and this time we are taking a look at the Big Lock and the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Factory, both situated on the banks of the Trent & Mersey Canal and built during the late 19th century.
The picture above shows the lock itself which, by its very nature, does not change very much over the years, except in small details. For example, notice the lock gates nearest the camera, which are of a type not seen nowadays (in this area, at least). They appear to be of all wood construction, rather than the mixture of wood and steel used nowadays.
Behind the boat can be seen the footbridge which still links Webbs Lane with King Street via the public footpath which runs up the bank from the canal, alongside Harbutt's Field to join the main road at the foot of the bridge which takes King Street over the railway line.
On  the extreme left of the picture is the Big Lock Pub, greatly changed, but not beyond all recognition in the present day. Its distinctive doorway and part of the Dutch style roof are still very much in evidence.
We believe this image to be out of copyright. If you own the copyright, or know who does, please let us know
We have seen the other picture before, when we looked at the Condensed Milk Factory.
 Frank has obviously grouped these photos together because they were taken at around the same time.
 We've dated them as being taken in the 1920s, because, according to Allan Earl, the milk factory  closed in 1931 after fifty-nine years of operation before being re-opened as a silk works in 1932.
That perennial problem of the salt districts, subsidence, meant that part of the factory had had to be demolished a couple of years earlier, causing lost production and financial difficulties, both for the milk company and the many local farmers who supplied it.
Both these pictures give an impression of the factory working at full swing, so were probably taken a few years before these problems emerged.
The tall building which dominates the left hand side of the top picture is the same one which can be seen on the extreme left of the lower one.

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


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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.