Thursday, 29 December 2016

WINTER IN MIDDLEWICH 2016 by Shaun Broad

The dying days of 2016, in Middlewich as elsewhere, produced some excellent photographic conditions which many local photographers were quick to take advantage of. Among them was Shaun Broad who took an early morning stroll in the keen frost and low-lying misty light of 29th December. His atmospheric shots of some iconic Middlewich locations are reproduced here with his permission - Ed

The sun struggles to break through the mist and casts an unearthly light over early-morning Middlewich, draining the scene of almost all colour.

A scene which in Summertime is alive with boats, and colour, and people having a good time, particularly in mid-June when the FAB Festival hits town. In late December the Big Lock, and the pub which is named for it appear to be sleeping. This shot could almost be mistaken for one of those composite 'Then & Now' pictures combining a  very old photo with a modern one. The only colour comes from the subdued red-brick of the pub and adjacent buildings.

Awaiting better days to come, the Town Wharf, once the bustling commercial heart of the town, is also dozing in the misty early morning stillness. There's nothing to suggest that  busy roads choked with traffic are only a few yards away. 
Where the Trent & Mersey and the Shropshire Union canals meet, all is quiet and there is no hint of the busy canal traffic, and even busier road traffic, which normally characterise the area. In the distance, above the blue boat, the dim and ghostly outline of the Kings Lock pub looms through the mist.

Commentary by
Dave Roberts


Saturday, 24 December 2016



For Christmas Eve  we have something very special for you, courtesy of Bill Eaton, who is custodian of a lot of photographs and written material by the late Frank Smith of Ravenscroft.
When the Middlewich Heritage Society started in 1985 and I found myself in the role of Newsletter Editor my main, and best, source of material was Frank, who had an enduring interest in the town and its history. Frank wrote many articles for the Newsletter and kept up a reliable and seemingly inexhaustable supply of unfailingly interesting material.
This tale of old Middlewich has, to my knowledge, never been published before and gives us just a glimpse of Middlewich as it was in the 1920s.
It was written, in 1989, in Frank's distinctive and very evocative style, and will, as Bill Eaton says, be particularly interesting for older residents who may just remember some of the places mentioned.
One of them, incidentally, the 'Meadow Dairy', features in our header photograph.
I'm delighted to be able to bring you this story, so very appropriate for Christmas Eve , and hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I did.
My thanks to Bill Eaton for passing this on, and to Joan Smith for permission to publish it.

Dave Roberts
Christmas Eve 2012


by Frank Smith

As the North-Western bus pulled away from its stop near the bottom of Darlington Street a rather old man in well-worn clothes appeared among the passengers who had alighted.
It would be hard to give a description of him, as everything about him seemed indeterminate. The only two details that seemed positive were that he seemed very old and by the bright lights from Hodkinson's Greengrocery it was evident that he had a white beard.
He stood for a moment looking at the fruit and vegetables and the tinsel that was draped over them. He moved on to Wilson's Fruit Shop and looked over the half-door which was closed to keep out some of the chill air which gave promise of snow before morning. He sniffed appreciatively at the aroma from the barrel of Canadian Dr Mackintosh apples with their purple tissue paper wrappings before he moved on and gazed over the heads of a group of children who were standing, gazing with looks of desire and excitement at the display of toys, garlands and silver stars in Ward's Toy Shop window. He hardly seemed to notice the rather mundane display of crockery in Niddrie's shop.
Before crossing the road he watched a smiling, rosy-cheeked Mrs Atkins serving a customer with a 1lb box of Red Rose chocolates. Obviously a Christmas present for a loved one.
He paused in front of Walker's shop, but there were many blank spaces in the display where boxes of toys and games had been removed to meet the requirements of parents in their Christmas Eve rush to fulfil promises to their children.
There was, however, one box which had not been moved from its pride of place in the centre of the display. It was a large doll in a magnificent silk dress, with the lace of a petticoat peeping below the hem. Its porcelain face was almost too beautiful to be true, especially with the long eyelashes of its moveable eyelids. How many little girls must have yearned for it as a Christmas present, but the price label of 18s 6d effectively put it beyond the range of many people.

Heathcote's was the next shop to catch his eye. They seemed to have made a special effort to show off their confectionery skills. There were several Christmas cakes with their robins and holly decorations and, even as the old man paused, the largest of the cakes, complete with Santa, his sleigh and reindeer, was lifted from the shelf for a beaming customer within.

The Alhambra Cinema, despite its bright lights, did not seem to impinge on his consciousness. Obviously Buster Keaton held no attraction for him. 
What appeared to have caught his eye were the ducks, geese and fowl hanging outside Butcher Mountfield's shop, but strategically placed in the centre of the row was a large, beautiful turkey with its black/bronze feathers glinting in the gaslight. A few more paces and he mounted the steps and looked over the half-door of Cauley's shop. He looked in admiration at the kissing bush which hung from the ceiling. Inside the paper decked hoops hung a fairy, complete with wand, who moved gently in the incoming air. It was almost impossible to see her for the pink sugar pigs and mice, the sugar pocket-watches and the sugar birdcages with their white lace mesh. A small boy stood near the counter, enraptured by the magic of it all, almost forgetting what he had come for when Mrs Cauley asked him for the second time what he wanted.

It seemed strange that the people who passed in front of the old man never heeded or spoke to him even though they cheerfully wished each other a 'Merry Christmas'. The Meadow Dairy window seemed to outshine all the other shops with the intensity of its lighting, and many of the highly-coloured slab cakes on display seemed almost garish in the harsh light. The Christmas cakes seemed to be rather overdone with coloured, piped icing and, while they didn't appear to be of the same standard as Heathcote's, their prices of 4s 6d and 5 shillings were somewhat lower.

The display of chocolates and sweets in Paul Whittaker's held his attention for a few moments, as did the tall glass display jars with their spiked glass tops as they dominated the shelf at the back of the window. A burst of laughter and some cheerful back-chat between friends across the road indicated that Brown's Vaults were helping to capture the Christmas spirit. As the old man moved on he saw the harrassed staff in the Co-op attending to the needs of their customers while two of the counter-hands were busy making up final orders while the delivery man stood impatiently by, grabbing the order as soon as the cardboard box  was filled, and almost before the counter-hand had time to write the customer's name on it in indelible pencil.

Butcher Hulme, too, was busy as he dealt with a steady stream of customers.
Kinsey's also seemed to have its fair share of customers, although the atmosphere seemed somewhat calmer than the Co-op. The old man seemed intrigued by the overhead arrangement whereby the customers' cash and bills travelled in little wooden pots to the cashier, and the receipt and change returned to the counter.
Although it was only eight o'clock the smell from Gatley's Chip Shop indicated that soon the first house from the Alhambra would be coming on to the street, and they were ready to catch the trade.

The new premises of Fitton's butchers was making the most of the opportunity and they had put on a very creditable display. The right-hand side of the shop seemed to have its rails full of all types of poultry, a few hares, some rabbits and several turkeys, which seemed to indicate that it was becoming a popular Christmas choice. The rails on the left-hand side of the shop were hung with carcasses, mainly beef and pork.
The window displays were of various cuts and joints of meat, but centre-stage in each window was a pig's head with an orange in its mouth.
Opposite, Brauer's the Chemist were closing their shop and it was just possible to see all the exotic perfumes, bath cubes and other toiletries before the lights were switched off.
Pegrams, too, was busy, and the open spaces in the shelves where the dried fruits were kept indicated that many people had been busy preparing their mincemeat, puddings and cakes for the festivities.
Next door, at Hulme's, the fragrant smell of fresh ground coffee floated on the air, but the old man appeared not to notice.

The sound of music floated on the air as Bailey's Band began to tune up in the Town Hall for the Christmas Eve dance which was due to start. This was apparent from the number of young men in their bowler hats and navy blue serge suits, and the young women in their 'flapper' dresses with small brown paper parcels containing dance shoes under their arms, entering the Town Hall.
At the bottom of Queen Street the two small shops, a butcher's and a greengrocery belonging to Wright's were still open but, perhaps due to their position on High Town, didn't seem to be so busy.
Perhaps the magnificence of Fitton's was drawing away much of their custom.

The rest of Hightown and much of Lewin Street seemed rather less busy, although there were plenty of shoppers about.

At the top of Wych House Lane Robinson's Chip Shop was advertising its wares by the smell drifting across the road on the East wind. 

Opposite, the pyramidical displays of fruit in T. Oakes window hardly merited a glance from the old man.

He seemed to be tiring and walked as if every step was an effort.
He turned up to the Market by the Fire Station, and paused as if to gather his strength.
Again it seemed strange that no one seemed to notice him.
By the guttering light of the naptha flares it was possible to see from the haggard look on his face, and his deep sunk eyes, that he was ageing quickly.
Despite this he looked at the different stalls; the fish stall with the fishmonger almost giving his wares away, as he knew that tomorrow (Wednesday) being Christmas Day his unsold fish would be a dead loss as he had no facilities to keep them saleable until Friday.
The stall selling cheap German toys for a few pence; the glass birds with glass fibre strands for their tails which would decorate Christmas trees along with the gaudy glass baubles and the coloured wax candles.
Finally, he turned and painfully dragging his feet between the stalls, walked to the darkness of the Vicarage Field.
A small boy, who appeared to be the only person to see him, ran after him and called, 'who are you?'
As the figure disappeared into the gloom the boy heard an old voice say,
'I am the year 1928...'

Frank Smith
© Joan Smith 2012

Originally published CHRISTMAS EVE 2012
Re-published 16th DECEMBER 2013

Revised, reformatted and re-published Christmas Eve 2016

Thursday, 22 December 2016


By Dave Roberts
Here's a little corner of Middlewich which hasn't changed much over the years (or has it? See the link below -Ed), and always reminds me of Christmas time because of a particular memory from long ago.
Manor Lodge, just off  Nantwich Road and very near to the Aqueduct which carries the SUC Middlewich Branch canal over that road, stands at the top of the former carriage drive which made its way (and, in a way, still does) through the gateway on the left in a straight line towards Middlewich Manor. 

The Lodge is seen here in the winter of 1974. Sometime after this photograph was taken, the gate-post seen at the left hand side of the building fell into disrepair and lost its top. That top,complete with decorative ball, after spending years lying forlornly in the undergrowth, has recently been restored to its rightful position, another one of those little touches which, all put together, make a difference and make the town look as though someone cares (In fact, the saga of the Manor Lodge gate-post was only just beginning. The link towards the end of this entry will tell you more).
The reason this attractive building reminds me of Christmas every time I see it goes back 51 years to 1960 when I was, for a very short time, a member of the Church Choir at St Michael's Church.
As it was the Christmas season, it was decreed that members of the choir should walk all around the town singing carols. I don't recall there being any other motive behind this festive goodwill gesture - there may have been, but I was only eight at the time and wouldn't have been interested even if someone had told me. I don't think we were collecting money for charity or anything like that, just singing carols for the sake of it  because, at Christmas, that's what Church choirs did. And still do, of course.
We duly wandered around what was at that time still a smoky little industrial town singing festive songs to anyone who would listen and eventually, after making our way along Nantwich Road and under the aqueduct, found ourselves at Manor Lodge, where we dispensed more carols in return for mince pies and pop (at that time most likely to be the legendary Tizer, the favoured drink of the youth of the day).
But this wasn't the end of the journey by any means. Our ultimate destination lay at the Manor itself, at that time the home of Mr E.K. Willing-Denton and family.
And so we made our way along that carriage drive. You can still make the same journey today but the difference is that, once you get a short distance along it, the carriage drive turns into Kerridge Close. Walk a bit further and you'll find yourself walking along the footpath of Greendale Drive. Both these modern interlopers are built (more or less) on the alignment of the old drive.
In 1960 it was carriage-drive all the way to the Manor.
In my mind's eye I can still see us making that journey all those years ago, dressed in traditional Victorian costume and carrying those candle lamps on sticks through the snows of December.
But there, of course, my mind's eye is playing tricks on me, as it always does. We weren't in Victorian costume (nor even dressed as choirboys - it would have been a bit cold), we didn't have any lamps, candle or otherwise, and, I don't think it was snowing either.

We made our way through this then rural part of the town, passing through what children now call 'Mystery Wood' (there is some dispute at the moment over the correct name for these woods. Some say 'Mystery', some say 'Misty'. In 1960 - I am trying hard not to say 'in my day' - they weren't called anything. They were just 'the woods', and there was a lot more of them. See the comments below from Daniel Preston), and along the tree-lined drive to the Manor itself.

There we were met by the Willing-Dentons who plied us with more festive fare. More mince pies, and more Tizer with, no doubt, cups of tea for the senior members of the choir, if not something a little stronger.
Just a little idle memory, but it still haunts me every time I walk past Manor Lodge, particularly at this time of the year.
The Manor, of course, is now a Nursing Home and the last time I visited it (ironically to do a spot of singing and entertaining) was shortly after my Mother died.
The place had hardly changed at all, but the first thing I saw when I entered the imposing hallway was the door to one of the residents rooms which bore a sign saying DORIS ROBERTS.
This brought me up with quite a start. But that's another story altogether...

Editor's note:  The area may not have changed much, but the Lodge itself certainly has. See this posting

Facebook Feedback (from the 'You Know You're From Middlewich When...Group):

Daniel Preston Having read the part in the story where some dispute is mentioned over the name of Mystery Woods, I can say that that is what we called the woods in the sixties. As noted in the diary, Mystery Woods covered a lot more ground in those days.

Dave Roberts Ah! Other people have told me they remember the name from quite a few years ago, so it must be one of those inexplicable gaps in my education. Others, including Dave Griffiths (see comments) remember the area being known as 'Manor Woods', which would certainly make sense. I spent a lot of time there with my brothers (drinking Tizer and eating Smiths Crisps) when I was really tiny and we lived just down the road at 53 Nantwich Road, but I only ever heard the name 'Mystery Woods' in the last few years. It's an 'official' name, by the way; officers from the dreaded Cheshire East Council have it in their sights and are looking at how it can be 'managed'. Leave it alone would be my suggestion. Or, if it really has to be 'managed', get someone who knows what they're doing to manage it...

Originally published 10th December 2011
Re-published 19th December 2013
and 22nd December 2016

Wednesday, 21 December 2016





SANTA AND HIS LITTLE HELPERS 2016                                  Photo: MIddlewich Round Table
Just of few of the many appreciative comments on Facebook:

Jenny Hatton Rebecca and Oliver would like to send their thanks to Santa and his snowmen for 'waiting for them to get home from school' (it's in Manchester - they were worried they'd get stuck in traffic and miss you!) but no - we looked out the rear window of the car at the King's street junction and you just magically appeared behind us! We thought the rain might have called things off, we thought you might not be able to see where you were going in the black out but no, it was worth the wait (very top of Bunbury Close), and a very impressive sleigh maneouvre to finish things off (double axle I believe?!?!) Thank you as always we do appreciate it! (a little snapshot of life in Middlewich in December 2016! -Ed)

Nikki Donovan Thank you so much to the guys of the Round Table. Seeing Santa and his snowmen tonight has made Christmas for my boys. We drove around trying to find you after collecting my eldest who was gutted to miss you. Thanks for taking the time to talk to him. 
What a wonderful job you do for our town. Massive Christmas wishes to you all!

Denise Appleton  Thank you for waiting for us at the top of the road Santa! Some very happy children down Princess Crescent and thank you Mr Snowman for collecting the little girl who I told you couldn't get out in time to see Santa and you ran with her to see him. You made a poorly little girl very happy! Thank you - all of you - and a very Merry Christmas! xxxxx

Jacky Moulton A great big thank you for tonight! You all do a brilliant job - See you all next year!

Helen A'Court To see the look of delight and excitement on the face of our neighbours little girl when Santa came round.....wonderful. Thank you

Emma Wickham Thank you once again to the fabulous Round Table, one very happy boy tonight! You do an amazing job every Christmas, Merry Christmas to you all.

Cllr Simon McGrory Brilliant, as always. Happy Christmas everyone!

From Middlewich Town Crier, Devlin Hobson:

First published: 4th December 2016
Re-published: 13th December 2016
14th December 2016
15th December 2016
16th December 2016
19th December 2016
20th December 2016
21st December 2016
22nd December 2016


From Kerry Fletcher, Middlewich Town Council's Heritage Officer

Salt Sunday 2017
Would anyone like to take part in a very special event in May next year?

Communities and industries have flourished thanks to the salt reserves beneath our feet in Mid-Cheshire. Since 2009, the Salt of the Earth Network has drawn on this abundance to make connections between businesses, communities and churches. 
Termly network meetings explore contemporary topics in a variety of locations.
Each year, Salt Sunday explores and celebrates this heritage with a family-friendly mix of interactive art, music and science. In 2017, we’re taking our annual Salt Sunday event back to the Lion Salt Works in Marston, Northwich for a contemporary family-friendly event from 1:30-4pm on Sunday 7th May.

This year we’re expanding our activities with three streams spread across the site throughout the afternoon: 

• A messy science stream: with hands-on science for all ages including, of course, salt panning;

• An EXPO stream with space for displays from industry, faith, heritage and more with a series of 5-minute taster talks and a great opportunity to network, and... 

• An arts and worship stream: with live music, a talk from Keith Sinclair, the Bishop of Birkenhead, and a community drama event created by Mr and Mrs Theatre Company. 

You may have been involved in previous events or you may have never heard of Salt Sunday – but we’re sending you this invitation to see if you would be willing and able to be a part of the day.
 Please do pass it onto any of your contacts who you feel may also be interested in taking part.
You can watch a short save-the-date clip here:, and you can find out more about the Salt of the Earth Network and other upcoming events here:
Interested in taking part or want to know more?
 Then please respond to or by using the “contact us” page at detailing your organisation, which stream (messy science, EXPO and/or arts and worship) you best fit into and any questions you may have.

(Blue text indicates live links)

Monday, 19 December 2016




Thursday, 15 December 2016


Due to unforeseen circumstances there will be no Makers Market on 17th December. However Middlewich Town Council are organising a Mini Christmas Market on the Bull Ring and St. Michael's Church  on Saturday 17th December between 10.00 am – 3.00pm. We have some space for stalls, gazebo provided but you would need to provided your own tables. Price just £20.00. 
Community Groups are £10.00.
Any further information, please contact the office on 01606 833434 - Nicci Antoney



Get in the Middlewich Christmas Spirit with our
'Christmas In Middlewich' video featuring
 photos by Cliff Astles and a classic
Christmas song from Jane McDonald.

Cllr David Latham writes:

After much work I am pleased to announce that the market will now be situated around the cenotaph and church.

We spent a lot of time listening to business owners on Wheelock Street, and it has been decided that the main street  will now be open as usual, with access being as normal to allow full passing trade to all local businesses.

We ask all people to come and support this special  Christmas event which has been put on, at short notice, for the people of Middlewich due to popular demand.

First published 6th December 2016
Updated and re-published 15th December 2016

Wednesday, 14 December 2016


For some reason it took quite a long time for us to decide on the year that both these pictures of Kinderton Street were taken. Originally we published the left hand one, which I took, with the date of 1972 and dated the right hand one, by Jack Stanier, as 1974. How these dates were arrived at is rather complicated and we won't go into it here, particularly as it is quite obvious that, despite the vast changes in Kinderton Street evident from the comparison of the two, our original estimates were wrong and these pictures were both taken in the same year, just a few months apart.
Apart from the demolition of the property in Kinderton Street from Percivals right up to the junction with King Street, the photos are practically identical, the only real difference being that the sparse vegetation in the left hand shot has given way to lush  late Summer green-ness in the other photo.
So we now think that these slides were taken in May and September of 1974, when the Church Tower was open to visitors on two separate occasions.
One other difference between the two pictures is that in the later one, with the sad demise of Moreton's farm house on the corner of Kinderton Street and King Street, its modern replacement has appeared to the left of where it stood. Could this house have been built in four months, assuming that it had been finished by September? We think so.
So that's the current thinking on this one. Until we change our minds again.

Here are the original slides, so that you can take a closer look:

The original descriptions can be found here and here.

Facebook Feedback:
Andrew Tomlinson: The empty shop next to Dickenson's bungalow in the left hand photo used to be Dean's Undertakers and was run by Len Dean, brother of George Dean the coalman.

First published 14th December 2011

Amended and re-published 14th December 2016

Monday, 12 December 2016


by Dave Roberts
Today we're deep into Middlewich salt country as we delve once more into the invaluable archive kindly loaned to us by Paul Hough. It's a little difficult to date this particular photograph, although the buildings just discernible in front of Seddon's Brooks Lane works could be a clue. It's not too easy to make out, but the signwriting on the side of the brine tanks which reads  SEDDONS SALT WORKS seems to be partially obscured in this picture by a row of cottages, whereas, certainly in the 50s and 60s, it was possible to read the whole sign from this viewpoint.
And there are other cottages to the right of those, which survived until the end of salt making on the site. The Middlewich Tank Wash currently occupies the site of the cottages in question.
The picture was probably taken some time in the 1930s or 1940s. Perhaps someone with specialised knowledge of canal boats might be able to pin down the date more accurately by reference to the boats in the picture?
The chimneys dominating the picture are the same two which appeared in the background of our original STP logo, and the works itself appears in the background of this classic picture, which confirms forever my Middlewichian credentials and was taken in the days of too much hair and not much stomach, a situation which has now been reversed.
DAVE ROBERTS 1966 Photo: Salt Town Productions
Returning to the main photo, to the right of the Seddon's works can be seen the smaller chimneys of Murgatroyd's open pan works which closed in 1966, and on the extreme right of the picture is part of Seddon's Wych House Lane works.
Also just getting into shot on the right is another chimney which is in the wrong place to be part of the Wych House Lane works, and must be the disused chimney we were discussing here which my Dad took me to see when I was a little lad. Incidentally the colour slide from 1969 which appears in that posting and provoked the discussion on the chimney in question serves to illustrate how little things changed in this area until the end of the 1960s.
To the left of the works can be seen the bridge abutment we saw here, and there is another one on the other side of the canal and river. These could have been part of a bridge carrying a pipe line to bring brine into the works which formerly stood close by. Another possibility is that it was a footbridge, but this is unlikely; the abutments do not appear to have any steps incorporated into them and, in any case, a footbrige would not have been necessary, as the canal can be crossed by the lock a few yards away.
Our old friend the River Croco is on the left, confined in its gulley to serve as an overflow for the Trent & Mersey Canal. There had obviously been a lot of heavy rain just before the photo was taken, and the river is very swollen (the canal, too, looks very full).
The poor old Croco only really looks like a real river in these conditions. Most of the time it more closely resembles a drainage ditch.
Here's the photo again, with annotations. The red line is meant to indicate the possible course of the pipe line.


Photo: Northwich & Mid-Cheshire Through Time (courtesy of PAUL HURLEY)
Here's a photo kindly loaned by PAUL HURLEY which was taken from a lower viewpoint around the same time (or, possibly a few years later). The scene is very much the same, give or take a chimney or two, but the discrepancies might be explained by the difference in the camera angle.
This photo appears to have been taken from the Town Wharf, whereas our main photo was most likely taken from the Town Bridge. *
What is intriguing about this particular version of this familiar Middlewich salt town scene is the wording on the bottom which describes the waterway as the MERSEY AND WEAVER CANAL, a description we've never come across before.
The description is self-evidently wrong. As we all know, the canal is the Trent & Mersey, built to connect the Pottery industries of Saffordshire with Liverpool and the sea, and serving Middlewich's salt industry on the way.
Quite possibly someone at the photo laboratory or postcard company - perhaps someone as far away as that London - was asked to write a description and either misunderstood the instructions given to him/her or simply invented a plausible sounding name for the canal from his or her own sketchy geographical knowledge.

* You'd think so, wouldn't you? But no. A modern-day recce of the area proves this not to be the case. There's a definite curve in the canal, the start of which is just visible in the bottom right hand corner of the Mersey & Weaver Canal photo, and the Town Bridge actually looks out onto the Town Wharf and the  Salinae centre (or if you prefer,  the site of the Wych House Lane salt works.) 
This is evident from this celebrated photo by Cliff Astles which also shows the modern-day area in its summer finery, all dressed up for the FAB Festival:

Facebook Feedback 

Dave Griffiths I would think that this photo is definitely pre-1950's. From memories as a child (late '40's / early '50's), the area on the right, between the end of Seddons and the slope up to the lock, didn't have the abutment shown, but was an area of overgrown air-raid shelters where we used to go blackberry picking. (December 2016)

Celia Burt My sister lived in the cottage, right of the lock. 1953...... (December 2016)

First published 11th December 2011
Updated and re-published 11th December 2016