Tuesday, 12 August 2014

BRITAIN FROM ABOVE (MIDDLEWICH) - FINNEY'S LANE & THE BIG LOCK

Aerial View: Britain From Above/English Heritage
 by Dave Roberts,

Today we're returning to our 'core business' to indulge in what was recently and very memorably, referred to as '...the regurgitating of random, boring, local facts' as we take a look at one of the aerial photographs of our town now made available by English Heritage on the site britainfromabove.org.uk.
The 'Britain From Above' collection contains hundreds of high definition photographs taken between the years 1919 and 1953 and thus, in the case of Middlewich, giving us an invaluable view of our town in its salt town heyday.
What's more the site is asking everyone to help annotate the photos in the collection so that future generations will be able to identify just what it is they're looking at and enjoy them all the more. If we've missed anything out of our interpretation of this, or any of the photos we'll be featuring in this series, please let us know.
Our own notes on the photo above are appended to the version below, and we would as always be pleased to have any additional information and/or corrections.

We're starting with this excellent view of the area around the still-thriving Big Lock pub (and, of course, the lock it is named for) as it was (we estimate) some time in the early 1920s. We've given the open pan works in the top left hand corner of the picture its original name on opening in 1892, but by the time of this photograph it would be under different ownership and partly disused, as was the custom during the open pan era, when pans were opened and closed as demand for salt fluctuated.
There's an intriguing structure on the far bank of the river (right next to the little blue aeroplane). We're wondering if this has any connection with attempts to screen the salt works from the Upper Crust at Croxton Hall Farm, as mentioned here (with diagram) by Frank Smith.
The building we've circled and called a 'salt warehouse'  survived well into the early 1970s, finding various industrial uses, as discussed here. On the other side of the Trent & Mersey Canal lies the River Dane and the spot where the River Croco, running alongside the canal through the town, joins it, can also be seen.
The top right hand corner of the photo shows us Harbutt's Field, long known for its connections with the Romans and long marked on maps as Roman Station (Condate). It would be the 1980s before the fact that this modest and unassuming field had, in fact, been the  site of a fully-fledged permanent Roman military fort was confirmed by modern geophysical techniques. We are, though, dealing with the world of archaeology here, and not all is sweetness and light as the name 'Condate' for Middlewich is still disputed among academics.
On the right a public footpath ran, and still runs, from bridges over the canal and River Croco to join King Street at the top right hand corner of the field. The land on the other side of this footpath, now given over to housing, was studded with brine shafts and the remains of previous salt workings.
On the opposite side of the canal from the Big Lock is the old lock-keeper's cottage, perched precariously between canal and river and  threatening  always  to subside backwards into the Croco. We discussed the sad fate of this building here.
Every year, come festival time, bands perform on the patch of ground where the cottage once stood (with the audience, somewhat unusually, standing on the other side of the lock), a use for the area which those lock-keepers of old could never have foreseen in their wildest dreams.
Taking centre stage is the impressive bulk of the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Factory (later part of Nestle, and later still a silk and man-made fibre factory).
It goes without saying that this little corner of Middlewich has, like many others, now been covered in modern housing.
In the bottom right hand corner, along Webb's Lane, is 'Swiss Cottage', which gets its name from the fact that it was built to house the Manager of the Anglo-Swiss works.
The Milk Factory closed in 1931 and the buildings were converted for use as a silk factory which opened in 1932 and closed in the early years of the 21st Century.
Finney's Lane itself is all present and correct, although its course has changed through the years and it now takes a more direct route towards the Big Lock, where it joins Webbs Lane. 



Aerial View: Britain From Above/English Heritage
Swiss Cottage, Webbs Lane as it is today

SEE ALSO: BIG LOCK & SILK WORKS 1970s

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave your comments here. Please note that comments are moderated and, if they are particularly relevant, may be incorporated into the original diary entry.