Friday, 31 May 2013


NORTHWICH CARNIVAL 1963 Photo: Angela Jones/ Northwich & Surrounding Area Past & Present
Many Middlewich people travelled to Northwich Memorial Hall in the 1960s for appearances by
popular groups of the day including Gerry & The Pacemakers, The Searchers and The Beatles who had a special affinity with Northwich and opened the town's Carnival fifty years ago this summer.

Here's a link to a new Facebook group featuring photographs of Northwich and surrounding area over the years. Middlewich is well represented, as are other towns and villages in Cheshire, but the main focus is on Northwich.
Those of us who lived in Middlewich but went to school in Northwich enjoyed the best of both worlds.


Thursday, 30 May 2013




(This Diary Entry was first published on the 14th March 2012, and re-published in updated form on the 31st May 2013)

The Big Lock in Webbs Lane  reopened in March 2012 following a major renovation and just in time for the tourist season. This old canal pub, which we've featured several times before in A Middlewich Diary, takes its name from the nearly Trent & Mersey Canal lock.

Many thanks to Cliff Astles for supplying the above photo of The Big Lock illustrating how the building of the new housing next to the pubs has restored the look of the area to something approaching what it was when the old condensed milk factory/silk mill stood in its place.
Whoever designed that new housing rightly concluded that the Big Lock building needs another tall building next to it to make it fit into its surroundings.
Take a look at the Big Lock in former days here (follow the links).

UPDATE (MAY 2013): On St Valentine's Day 2013 the Big Lock changed hands once more and was taken over by previous owners Ken and Jackie Pickles, who also ran it from 2008 - 2011.

The website for the pub can now be found at:

Saturday, 25 May 2013


A Middlewich sunset in early May 2013 photographed by Fiona Baker who, she says, was out for a walk, noticed the scene and captured it with her mobile phone.
It was taken just as the daylight was fading and before most of the lights of the town came on (a couple of them can just be made out glimmering through the trees) and shows us what is becoming a very popular subject for photographers, the Parish Church and Town Wharf from the Brooks Lane locks.
The whitewashed wharf buildings can just be made out in the gathering gloom (centre right), as can the  awning at Andersen Boats (left) and, of course, the tower of St Michael & All Angels church.
But we haven't published this photograph because of what it illustrates, but for its own sake and because of the mood it captures.
A moment in time in a town which is, slowly but surely, becoming a more attractive town to live in than it ever was before.
Regular Middlewich Diary contributor Jim Moores captured the same scene a little later in the evening in this memorable shot.

Friday, 17 May 2013


MIDDLEWICH AERIAL VIEW circa 1967 Photo courtesy of MIDDLEWICH TOWN COUNCIL(used with permission)
by Dave Roberts
This astonishing aerial view of our town has been supplied by Dave Thompson of Middlewich Town Council with the information that it was taken in 1968.
So the first thing we have to do is correct the date, on the grounds that, as can be seen, Seddon's Salt Works in Pepper Street was still in operation at the time of the photograph, so the very latest the picture can be dated is 1967, which was the year that the Pepper Street works, along with the Brooks Lane and Wych House Lane works, closed.
This is just one of the aerial views which the council has let us borrow, and we'll be considering earlier and later ones in future Diary entries.
But, for now, let's concentrate on this one.
Of all the birds-eye views of Middlewich I've seen, this one is by far my favourite because it shows the town at the very end of what I like to call our Salt Town Days, just before the open-pan works closed and production was concentrated at the new British Salt Works in Booth Lane, built in 1969 and still going strong.
(In truth, our Salt Town Days, aren't really over, but the time when the works were a part of the fabric of the town are long gone.)
This is the town I and my contemporaries grew up in.
A dirty, grimy, workaday town with no pretensions to be anything else.
It was in 1967 that the terminally snooty Cheshire Life magazine published a very patronising and sneery  article about Middlewich, wondering where all the up-market antique shops, bistros and posh clothes shops their readers would expect in a Cheshire town were, for all the world as if we'd been offered these things and turned them down in favour of dirty, smoky factories.
It didn't go down well.
In the 1980s, in my capacity of editor of the Heritage Society's Newsletter I took a look back at this notorious article and marvelled at the writer's apparent inability to grasp the concept of a town which worked for its living.
Middlewich has featured in the Cheshire Life a few more times since the 1960s, and our progress from slatternly working class manufacturing town to bustling, lively 'town of festivals' can be charted by reading some of those articles.
The Church of St Michael & All Angels, dominates the sixties scene, as it has always done and still does today.
At this time the Churchyard had not been tidied up and the gravestones which now form pathways around the building are still in their original places.
To the right of the Church is the old Town Hall which, along with adjacent buildings, was demolished in the early 1970s to make way for first the nightmarish 'piazza' and then the much more stylish and attractive 'amphitheatre'.
To the right of the church, and just across Lower Street (now absorbed into St Michael's Way) sprawls Seddon's Pepper Street works. Clouds of white steam from the salt pans show that the works is still in operation.
There has long been speculation as to why the salt works should be in Pepper Street. The general consensus is that when the Council came to name the road they were in 'playful mood', which is as good an explanation as any.
'The Moorings' now occupies most of this site.
Across the Trent & Mersey canal is Middlewich gas works. The two round structures are the main and subsidiary gas-holders, still containing coal gas in those pre-North Sea Gas days.
The pipe bridge taking the gas supply into Middlewich can be seen crossing the canal.
Below the Church in the photograph is Middlewich Town Wharf, still awaiting its rebirth as 'the Gateway to Middlewich', but in those days witnessing the last days of commercial canal traffic and the first glimmerings of the tourist trade which, among other things, has helped put Middlewich back on the map.
To the left of the wharf are those huge buildings in Lewin Street, the Church of England Infants School and the Wesleyan Chapel.
Across Lewin Street from the Chapel is a building we haven't looked at yet - the Centenary Sunday School, by this time in use as the local Valuation Office. Middlewich Library now occupies the site.
Below the vast bulk of the Wesleyan Chapel can be seen part of Seddon's Wych House Lane Salt Works and, to its left the old Seddon's waggon repair shop, with its ramshackle collection of sheds and workshops incorporating Middlewich's first Catholic Church and School.
Moving upwards, just above the Sunday School is the Victorian police-station in Queen Street, now replaced by a small box-like brick building.
Above this, on the extreme left of the picture we can just see part of the bowling green at Fountain Fields.
Above that is the present site of Tesco's main Middlewich store, and above that the wooded area is the land between Southway and Darlington Street which Tesco bought up as part of their now-abandoned expansion plans.
Also notable is the Town Bridge which looks in this picture like some kind of motorway flyover, flung across the Trent & Mersey on a huge concrete raft.
It must have looked very strange indeed in 1931 when it was first built, replacing the original little bridge which had been there since the late 18th Century.
To make the picture easier to understand, here it is again with a key and explanatory notes:


1: St Michael & All Angels Church
2: The Churchyard before alteration. Part of the Churchyard was removed in 1931 to widen Lower Street when the new Town Bridge was built.
3: Middlewich Town Hall. In the same way, one end of the Town Hall was demolished to make room for a wider Lower Street.
4: Seddon's Salt Works in Pepper Street
5: Middlewich Gas Works. Originally built by the Middlewich Gas Light and Coke Company. Most of the original works had gone by this time, but the two gas-holders were still in use.
6: The gas-pipe bridge which carried gas from the works into Middlewich. The offices of the North-Western Gas Board were in Lower Street close to the salt works yard.
7: The Town Wharf with its large warehouse building, wharfinger's cottage and wash-house for the boaties. Fronting onto Leadsmithy Street above are the public conveniences, built on stilts to bring them up to road level, which Cheshire East are currently (May 2013) trying to close.
UPDATE: This Middlewich Guardian item sheds more light on the Town Wharf and Public Conveniences issue
8: The Talbot Hotel in Kinderton Street. Behind the pub, and running at right angles to the main road, is a small terrace of cottages called Flag Alley.
9: The Town Bridge. Built by Cheshire County Council in 1931.
10: The CofE Infants School. The land occupied by this building, the Wesleyan Chapel (11) and Seddon's Salt Works and workshops (13,14) are now the site of the Salinae Centre and associated lawns and gardens.
11: The Wesleyan Chapel.
12: The Centenary Sunday School (Valuation Office). The library stands on this site now. To the left of this enormous building is a long, low building. This was the Conservative Club. The access road to the car park behind the library now occupies the site.
13: Seddon's Wych House Lane Salt Works.
14: The first Catholic Church and School, incorporated into Seddon's Workshops.
15: The Police Station in Queen Street.
16: Fountain Fields bowling green
17: Site of Tesco store in Southway.
18: Land between Southway and Darlington Street, home to several beautiful houses, including Barclay House. Now gone to rack and ruin. The future of this site is uncertain.
19: Webb's Lane - a continuation then, as now, of Pepper Street.
20: St Ann's Road.
21: The White Bear in Wheelock Street.
22: Pepper Street. Now just a short row of houses (where our '22' is) but once linking Webb's Lane with the town centre. The large building at the end of the terrace is Seddon's offices.
23:  Seabank car park.

So that was Middlewich in the late 1960s.
As those days recede further and further in time, it gets harder and harder to believe that our town once looked like this.
It's fascinating to look back on the way Middlewich used to be, but this is the grim reality of that 'lovely little town' which everyone thinks they can remember.
Once the works were closed and  demolition started in earnest, poor old Middlewich was a sorry sight indeed to behold.
Truly the past is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there.

© Dave Roberts 2013

Facebook Feedback 
(in our introduction to the Facebook link to this entry, we suggested that people who lived in Middlewich in 1967 might 'sigh with nostalgia' when they saw this picture)

Geraldine Williams OK, I'm sighing - but nostalgia ain't wot it used to be! The photograph doesn't show much of Kinderton Street, but we had to leave in 1967 as the house was being compulsorily purchased for the widening of the road.
However, it clearly shows the much-discussed cottages, and their gardens, which ran at right angles to the road at the side of the Talbot. Great picture, and it shows what an industrial place Middlewich was, and how short of greenery we were......!

Michelle Game This is great. I spent ages trying to work out where I live. It's amazing how a town can change over the years. Thanks for this.

Geraldine Williams I've just been revisiting this Diary entry, and in your excellent commentary you mention the Centenary Sunday School (no 12 on your plan). I can't picture the building, but I do remember there being a Conservative Club on that site. Was it in the same building, or adjacent to it?

Dave Roberts The Conservative Club was a long low building to the left of the Sunday School. It was where the road leading to the car park behind the library is now. It's featured in the Coronation 1937 film with an illuminated sign saying 'Long Live  Our King And Queen' Look out for it at 01:48. There are day time and night time shots, and in the day time one you can just make out the roof of the Sunday School on the extreme right.

Geraldine Williams That's Brilliant. Thank you

Wednesday, 8 May 2013


This Cerebos Salt drum was, rather surprisingly, bought as recently as 2004.
 In fact, this style is still used today for Cerebos Extra Fine Iodised Table Salt.
Great prominence is given to the company's Royal Warrant showing that the company is a supplier of table salt and pepper to Her Majesty The Queen
 What is intriguing is that as late as 2004, which is not only well into the RHM era, but also within sight of its end, the company was still proudly proclaiming the fact  that Cerebos Salt was -
- with no mention of RHM Foods, which had taken over the company in 1968, or its short lived successors. The modern bar-code shows that the packaging is indeed of recent origin.

Also on the packaging is the familiar 'boy and chicken trade-mark, which we talked about here and much is made of the iodine content of the salt. Iodine is vital for health, although there are some people who are iodine intolerant and have to stick to non-iodised (or iodized or even iodated) versions of the product.
By now the original calcium phosphate anti-caking agent which had enabled free running table salt to be introduced in the nineteenth century had been replaced by the (presumably) more efficient magnesium carbonate and sodium hexacyanoferrate II, and the important iodine trace of 1150 microgrammes per 100g was added to the product in the form of potassium iodide.


Sunday, 5 May 2013


This entry was originally published under the title 'All Dressed Up For The Coronation - But Whose?'

by Dave Roberts
It is, of course, high time we dipped once again into the Mike Jennings Classic Collection, and this one is a classic indeed, although it's completely new to me.
When I first saw this photograph I jumped to the (not unreasonable) conclusion that it showed Hulme's Grocery on Hightown decorated for one or other of the Coronations in the first half of the  20th Century - 1911 or 1937.
It simply never occurred to me that there might be another explanation (see the comments from Geraldine Williams and Jim Moores, below).
I've left the rest of this Diary entry intact to once again show how the Middlewich Diary works when it comes to drawing in information and also to prove the old adage that two heads (or, in this case, three heads), are better than one...

I think I know when this picture was taken, and why,  but I can't be certain, because certain factors may not add up.
I think the King and Queen we're talking about are King George V and Queen Mary.
That picture of the King on the wall to the right certainly looks like George V. Extensive internet searches have not brought up that particular picture, but here's a picture of the King in question.

MUA photo services

Is it the same man?
George V and Queen Mary were crowned on the 22nd June 1911, and it's possible that this picture was taken on or around that day and shows some of the decorations which would undoubtedly have been placed all around this traditionally loyal town.
But, somehow, the picture doesn't look quite right for 1911.
For a start the quality is very good if the picture is over a hundred years old. This doesn't necessarily mean anything.
 Some of the early photographers were able to produce superb results with relatively primitive equipment and the photo could have been produced on a glass negative which was subsequently stored away safely for years.
My doubts arise from other factors:
Was Hulme's Grocery even in existence in 1911?
The HULME lettering on the front was the same for many years - right up, in fact, until the shop closed. But was it there in 1911?
(incidentally, that shop front can be seen here in 1938 undergoing repainting)
Also, if you look carefully, what appear to be electric light bulbs festoon the decorated shop front - no doubt coloured ones. Would coloured bulbs have been used as early as 1911 for this purpose?
Or have we got the wrong Coronation altogether, here?
Are these decorations for Middlewich's contributions to the 1937 Coronation of King George VI?.

Here's George VI on his Coronation day:

That certainly doesn't look like him on the wall of Hulme's, and although the picture on the other end of the shop isn't very clear, it certainly doesn't seem to be the dear old future Queen Mother either.
Perhaps George and Mary visited the town at a later date (he didn't die until 1936) and the town was suitably decorated for the occasion?
The problem with that theory is that I can't find any reference to a Royal Visit to Middlewich during that period.
King Edward VIII Photo: Creative Commons
And, in case you're wondering, it's unlikely that poor old Edward VIII was the King we're talking about. 
Not only does the picture on Hulme's wall not look like him but he was, as we know, never even crowned before scandal overtook him. He's most unlikely to have had time for a Royal visit to Middlewich or anywhere else during his short but eventful reign.
Not even Ultra-Royalist Middlewich would have put on such a display for someone universally considered to have 'let the side down'.
Perhaps the decorations weren't for a Coronation at all. Could it be that the shop was decorated for  the dedication of the war memorial in 1934 or some similar  ceremonial occasion?
I think it's doubtful.
The words GOD SAVE OUR KING AND QUEEN were always used for Royal celebrations - there are several instances in our 1937 Coronation film (link above) so it's unlikely that these decorations were for anything other than the celebration of someone's Coronation. But whose?

Geraldine Williams has come up with a very plausible alternative theory:
She says, 'perhaps it was celebrating the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935?'
Which would explain why the photo has more of a 1930s feel to it than an early 20th Century one. It would also explain the fact that the King has a beard in his photo on the shop wall.
Geraldine goes on to say, 'I got this information from Google, which bangs on about 'the rapturous Silver Jubilee celebrations'. I wouldn't want you to think I go that far back - well, not quite, anyway! By the way, I think the beard was a relic from his naval career. According to a TV programme I saw his wife, formerly Princess May of Teck, was brought over to marry his brother, but he inconveniently died before they could wed, so she got landed with George instead. Very Mills & Boon! George was also responsible for the change of the family name to Windsor, because of World War I.
And Middlewich photographer Jim Moores has sent us this picture of a souvenir mug which his Dad was given as a 13 year old to commemorate the Jubilee in 1935.

Many thanks to Geraldine and Jim for this additional information.
So given that, as seems likely, Hulme's was all dressed up for the Silver Jubilee in 1935, it would also seem likely that the decorations would go up again for the 1937 Coronation.
Hardly seems worth taking them down, does it?

Notice the large shop to the left of Hulme's. This was demolished at some point to enable a driveway to be created to the car park behind the Kings Arms - rather unnecessary as there is a perfectly good car park entrance just around the corner in Queen Street.
The gap was filled in again when the pub was extended in the 1980s, leaving just a narrow walkway to the back door of the pub.

Hulme's Grocery is no more, but the building still exists and continues the tradition of topical and festive window displays as THE ACCORD CLINIC

Saturday, 4 May 2013


University of Liverpool

Here's another Youtube video about Middlewich, this time created by students at the University of Liverpool as part of a wider project aiming at regeneration and development in the area. As regular readers will know, we're always in the market for videos which boost Middlewich, particularly if they contain logos which can only be described as Modern Design Classics...

Middlewich Town Clerk, Jonathan Williams writes:

The Students from Liverpool University have created a fantastic DVD and project about the canals, economy and community life of Middlewich. 
More than this, they are part of a regional project looking at regeneration, economic development and social awareness.
Middlewich Town Council and Middlewich Vision are very proud to have supported our students, and we hope that their final report is successful at a national presentation at the Lowry, Salford Quays on the 13th of May.
The first stage saw the Middlewich team gaining the top marks amongst all the selected towns, so we hope that further input from the Town Council recently will contribute to a successful conclusion to the project.

Our thanks to everyone involved for, once again, making our town look so good (and, equally importantly, recognising its  potential) and also to Jonathan for bringing this to our attention.




'The environment in which we live and work in has been shaped by our ancestors for thousands of years. 
Cheshire is a landscape steeped in history; it has been an industrial and agricultural land with established 
route-ways dating back to the Iron Age and engineered waterways from the Industrial Revolution. Each part 
of Cheshire is distinctive and unique. 
Brief: To capture an image of Cheshire, exploring the landscape both natural & worked and historic built 
environment. We also have a ‘general’ category that will allow more scope in terms of having a prize 
winning photograph that does not fit into an existing category. 
This exciting opportunity exists for young budding photographers, enthusiastic amateurs and semi– 
professional photographers to take part in the Annual ‘Your Heritage’ exhibition. All Photographic entries 
received will be displayed at the Folk and Boat Festival on 15th and 16th June 2013'. 

(from the Town Council 'Heritage' pages)