Monday, 31 October 2016

HALLOWEEN 2016: DRACULA SUCKS!

Melody Smith Animation
A short (ten-second) animation from Middlewich-based Melody Smith Animation for Halloween.
(originally produced in 2014)

Watch it here:





Or (for more information) Watch it on YouTube (recommended):


Friday, 21 October 2016

NOW and THEN: HIGHTOWN, 1972, 2011


Two photographs illustrating the dramatic changes in Hightown over the last 39 years. In the 1972 picture the Town Hall and adjacent row of shops are about to be demolished to make way for the ill advised 'piazza', a bone of contention locally from the start of and throughout its life. The problem was not with the design, but with its execution; the whole area was made up of pink, yellow and white paving stones and looked as if it was specifically intended to be bleak, windswept and rain-sodden. At one time it was a Middlewich rite of passage to do an 'all-nighter' on the piazza, staying up throughout the night, drinking, smoking and talking, though it's hard to think of a more miserable and depressing place for that sort of thing.
But it did, at least, provide an improved view of the church and a setting for the war memorial away from the traffic.
The current arrangement is a great improvement and resembles a Roman amphitheatre (or part of one, at least). It occupies more or less the same space as the piazza, but is far more attractive. In the summertime, when the Middlewich FAB Festival comes around, the space is used for morris dancing and concerts and attracts (and can accomodate) huge crowds.
And at night time, when approached along St Michael's Way, the town centre can look stunning.
In front of what is now Tesco Express, parking arrangements have varied over the years. In fact, until fairly recent years, parking there at all was almost impossible, as can be deduced from the 1972 picture. A parking spot outside Tesco is a much sought-after thing, and facilities have been extended bit by bit further up Hightown until we have reached a situation where the through traffic along the street is almost an afterthought.
Hightown in 1972 had character and history, but the property on the left hand side, including the Town Hall, was worn out, shabby and difficult to maintain and was definitely reaching the end of its days.
The 2011 outlook is much brighter and the town now has a centre it can be proud of.

The fact that the 'new Bullring' resembles a Roman amphitheatre is no accident as Town Clerk Jonathan Williams explains here.


Photo: Carrick Plant Ltd
The amphitheatre style is very much by design. In the early 2000s we received Heritage Economic Regeneration funding for the town centre; shop fronts, public realm etc. There were a number of designs drawn up to renovate the piazza area. The Town Council applied for an additional £60K from the Rural Recovery Fund, which allowed us to excavate the site and drop down in tiers from Hightown level to the former Lower Street line (now the bus lane). The amphitheatre was someone's daft idea (ahem!) but was designed to not only acknowledge the town's past history but also create a modern piece of public space with a performance area and built-in seating. Total cost was about £350k and we had some initial flack...'Should've spent it on a swimming pool' etc. Of course it was grant money, which would have been spent in another town if we hadn't come up with this scheme. Apart from our time as Town Council/Vision Officers of the day, the new Bull ring cost Middlewich £10,000. - Jonathan Williams

And, keeping things in the family. Jonathan's Mum, Geraldine, commented:

I couldn't agree more with your observations about present-day Hightown and the first impressions it gives of the town when approached from the Chester Road end of St Michael's Way. This is precisely why I took this photograph a couple of years ago.

First published 21st October 2011
Updated and re-published 21st October 2016

Thursday, 6 October 2016

POCHIN CONCRETE PUMP IN KINDERTON STREET 1975


                                                                                                                             

Yes. It's Kinderton Street once again, this time in the early part of 1975.
One of Pochin's concrete pumps negotiates the Brooks Lane junction.

All traffic, at this time, was still using the old road formation and we can see from this shot that this was noticeably higher than the new formation (between the kerbstones and the flimsy wire 'fence' with red and white markers, approximately where Whittaker's shop once stood, with Costello's to its right).

It's interesting to note that the piece of road where the concrete pump and the van are standing was once the total width of the Kinderton Street carriageway, taking large volumes of traffic to and from the M6 Motorway.

Presumably, once the new roadway was able to accommodate traffic, the old formation was closed and lowered to make both sides level. Or, alternatively, was the new formation built up to be level with the old one?

In the background, of course, looking a little beleaguered in the wintry weather, is the Boar's Head Hotel. Some alterations must have been made to the carriageway outside this esteemed hostelry, in order to create the small parking area and grass verge, along with re-modelled entrance to Seabank and its carpark, which we see today.

Although it is not too apparent from this photo, the exterior of the pub was looking a little sorry for itself at the time and has since been brightened up considerably. The original Victorian detail has been restored and hanging baskets decorate the front of the pub, regularly winning the establishment prizes in the 'Middlewich In Bloom' competition.
It's also bigger, with an extension, built in sympathetic style, to the left of the building as shown in this picture.

First published 6th October 2011
Re-formatted and re-published 6th October 2016


Tuesday, 4 October 2016

STATION GARDEN AT MIDDLEWICH 1950s

Photo courtesy of David Myles


Old black and white photographs have their charms, of course, but don't you wish that, in this case, David 'Jock' Myles, Middlewich Station's most distinguished signalman, had used colour film?
Jock was a keen gardener and made use of his skills and his spare time creating this wonderful garden on the Up (Crewe bound) platform at Middlewich Station in the 1950s. 
In fact, so colourful and pleasing to the eye was the garden that it won Middlewich First Prize in the British Railways (London Midland Region) Best Kept Station Garden Competition towards the end of that decade (when, of course, the station closed to passengers).
This is just one in a series of pictures of the garden and shows BR's original 'lion & wheel' emblem above an exhortation to 'Travel British Railways'
Sitting on top of the whole assemblage is - what else? - another one of those Middlewich witches ( and there's another one to the right of the picture).
Original and creative use of railway equipment was made in putting together the garden, as we'll see in some of the other pictures in this series.

We're grateful to  Jock's son, also called David Myles, for passing these photographs on to us.

Originally published 4th October 2011
Re-formatted and re-published 4th October 2016