Saturday, 19 August 2017

THE SECOND MIDDLEWICH MEXON STREET MARKET AUGUST 2017 (ARCHIVED)




A NEW TRADING OPPORTUNITY!
(Eventbrite link)




SUPPORTING THE MIDDLEWICH MEXON MARKET....






IF YOU'RE A SUPPORTER OF THE NEW MEXON MARKET, SEND US YOUR DETAILS AND WE'LL ADD YOU TO THE EVER-EXPANDING LIST OF THOSE HELPING GET THIS BRILLIANT NEW LOCAL INITIATIVE OFF THE GROUND!

First published 22nd July 2017
Re-published 16th August 2017
& 19th August 2017

Saturday, 12 August 2017

FAMILY FRIENDLY ACTIVITY DAY AT MARKET FIELD 12th AUGUST 2017 (ARCHIVED)






In memory of a much-loved and well-respected lady.

BRAKE - THE ROAD SAFETY CHARITY (WEBSITE)

Published 7th August 2017
Re-published 12th August 2017

SEVENTEEN MILES VIEW by GLEN LEIGH

Photo by Glen Leigh Photography
Sometimes a photograph is so striking that it just begs to be made into one of our Middlewich Diary mastheads. Such was the case with this astonishing image by Glen Leigh, who has contributed some excellent shots to us in the past, including some of passenger trains making their sedate way through the town.
Seventeen Miles View (a title taken from Glen's caption when he posted it on Facebook) is a stunning view across half of the Cheshire plain, taking in Middlewich church tower, the spire of St Wilfred's church in Davenham and, way out on the horizon, seventeen miles away, the imposing (even at this distance) bulk of the Fiddler's Ferry power station on the edge of the Mersey Estuary.
Glen hasn't told us (yet) where he was standing when he took the picture, but, from the angle of the church tower, we're guessing it was on top of the old ICI lime beds in Booth Lane.
There has some surmise as to how this effect was obtained. Is the image, perhaps, a compilation of two or three photos skilfully knitted together? Or is it, even more remarkably, just one single shot, taking in all those miles?
Glen lets us in on the secret:

To satisfy your curiosity guys this is just one photo, taken with an extremely long lens. The reason that far off distant objects appear close is due to lens compression (flattens perspective and bunches everthing up) which is the result of using long lenses...the further an object is away, the closer it appears in an image. 
Also the image was taken on the lagoons.....as to the precise location that would be a little more difficult to explain and very hard to see with the naked eye or wide lenses. Thank you for the interest


The photographers among us will be able to appreciate the technical skill involved in taking a photograph like this; the rest of us can only marvel at a composition many would have thought impossible.
An indication of the power of this photo, and the effect it had on us, can be gauged from the fact that from our seeing it on Facebook and  asking Glen for permission to use it, his sending us a high-resolution copy by email and the new masthead appearing took around twenty minutes.
Dave Roberts
Editor
26th March 2014

UPDATE (August 2017)

There was concern over the intervening years between 2014 and 2017 that the Fiddlers Ferry power station might be closed and demolished, making this photograph unrepeatable in the future. It's unlikely that when those massive cooling towers do finally disappear anything on remotely the same scale would be put in their place.
However, it has been announced that the power station will continue in use until at least 2019 to provide cover for the National Grid in the event of an exceptionally hard winter - something which by the law of averages is long overdue.

First published 27th March 2014
Updated and republished 12th August 2017

Friday, 11 August 2017

ACROSS THE CHESHIRE PLAIN 1972


 by Dave Roberts  

We were a little stuck for a title for this shot by Jack Stanier taken in 1972 from the Church tower and looking out towards Brooks Lane and the countryside beyond to the  hills bordering Staffordshire. It encompasses so much, not only in the town but further afield too.The original slide was given (by me) the less than enticing title 'Council Depot from Church Tower 1972' so I've tried to come up with something a little less prosaic. Perhaps this title goes a little too far the other way, but you can see right across the Cheshire Plain from here. Or across half of it, at any rate. A trip out to those same hills is always worthwhile. From the road up to Buxton there are incredible views over the plain, and on a good day you can see right out as far as Liverpool and beyond to the Irish Sea. And on clear Summer days in Middlewich looking in the other direction is also rewarding with the hills looking almost close enough to touch.
So what do we have here?
Left middle of the picture can be seen the sawmill in Brooks Lane and, just above it, the then-new rather futuristic-looking green building belonging to Middlewich sewage works (or to give it its official, slightly more grandiose title, the 'Middlewich Water Pollution Control Works', standing at the end of an access road which the Middlewich UDC, without a trace of irony, named Prosperity Way.
In the bottom left hand corner is the  British Waterways warehouse on Town Wharf, looking, as we've remarked before, in much better condition than it does today. Will the plans to turn this area into the 'Gateway To Middlewich' ever come to fruition?  To the right of this is the 19th century building which once housed Middlewich's first fire engine. Some fine terracotta work over the entrance to this old fire station announced its date of origin and its original purpose. When the time for demolition came, attempts were made to save these artifacts, but to no avail.* By this time the building, and others on the site, had been incorporated into the MUDC's depot which occupied the site of the Wych House Lane salt works and workshops until local government re-organisation a couple of years later.
To the right of this building can be seen the  rear of  the Cof E Infants School and Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Lewin Street both of which fell to progress a little later, in the mid 1970s.
The council's road maintenance gang were using the salt works site to house their vehicles and road mending materials at this time (although none of the trendy tangerine and delft blue vehicles appear in this picture), and some of the salt works' old buildings were retained for this purpose.  On the other side of the canal is Seabank, once linked to this area, as we've seen, by a footbridge. Above the depot the green building which Andersen Boats used when their business was first established can be seen and above that is the Seddon's works in Brooks Lane. At this time the works was being demolished, and evidence of this is seen in the splash of white below the left hand chimney which is actually part of the whitewashed interior of the works, visible because of the removal of the roof and the front part of the works.
This site, today the home of Tarmac Readycrete, we've often cited  as the only ex-open pan works left which is still recognisable as such, though that recognisability diminishes with the passing years.
Incidentally, this is the works featured on Middlewich Heritage Trust's logo which, purely coincidentally, bears a remarkable resemblance to our own photo of the works taken in 1969.

See this entry for a comparison of the works in 1969 (two years after closure) and in the spring of 2017.

Beyond that are green fields, Sandbach and the hills.
Note that there is little sign, to the left of the picture, of the extensive industrial developments off  Holmes Chapel Road. still to come. 
The Brooks Lane Industrial Estate, too, is still mostly in the future.

* we're delighted to say that we've been obliged to revise our thinking on this point. See this posting, and the comments attached to it

First published 11th August 2011
Revised and re-published 11th August 2017.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

PIRATE 'SHIP' VISITS MIDDLEWICH


by Dave Roberts
Here's a happy discovery made while on a walk up the SUC Middlewich Branch a few days before the FAB Festival. At first glance just another immaculately turned out pleasure boat, one of thousands which pass through our town every year.
But a closer look at this boat should, if you're of a certain age, love music, and have any romance in your soul, bring a smile to your face.
For this  is no ordinary boat.
 It's named Mi Amigo, after Radio Caroline's original pirate radio ship (Update: Actually that's not strictly true. Someone's taken the trouble to point out that the original Caroline ship was the MV Fredericia (or 'Frederica' according to which account you read), later renamed Caroline - see 'comments' below).



and there's an excellent illustration of that famous (or 'infamous', according to the boat's builders, Braidbar Boats) vessel on the cabin side.

It's fortuitous that the new Mi Amigo should choose to visit our landlocked little town, as it gives us an unprecedented opportunity to give Caroline a plug in the Middlewich Diary.

For Radio Caroline is by no means a thing of the past (although, unfortunately, the original Mi Amigo is - it sank in heavy seas in 1980).

The station can be found broadcasting away merrily on the internet (and various other outlets) and is still actively campaigning for a licence to broadcast on medium wave.
The original Mi Amigo        Photo: Bob le Roi


UPDATE(August 2017): In May 2017 that campaign bore fruit and Radio Caroline was given a licence to broadcast to Suffolk and North Essex on 648 Khz, ironically a frequency formerly used by the BBC World Service.

They still have a ship, too, the Ross Revenge, which is currently at anchor in the River Blackwater, giving everyone the opportunity to take a tour of the ship

You can listen to the station, and find out all about its fascinating and astonishing history, by visiting

THE RADIO CAROLINE WEBSITE

You can also find out more about the  NB Mi Amigo at

THE BRAIDBAR BOATS WEBSITE

P.S. If, like me, you're a real pirate radio anorak, you'll know that in the sixties we in the north had our own Radio Caroline broadcasting from a ship called (what else?) Caroline, and anchored off the Isle of Man.
Halcyon days.

RADIO CAROLINE NORTH WEBSITE
JOHN BENNETT'S CAROLINE NORTH FACEBOOK GROUP

Update: Radio Caroline celebrated her 50th Birthday on the 28th March 2014 (and also at Easter 2014 - like all Queens she has an actual and an official birthday). Many congratulations to all concerned with keeping this broadcasting legend alive -Ed)

First published 9th July 2012
Updated and re-published 9th August 2017

Sunday, 6 August 2017

THE DODGER AT CREWE 1955

by Dave Roberts

From the old MRLC archive comes this friendly face from the past. No 41229 pulled (and pushed) the 'Dodger' between Crewe and Northwich, via Middlewich, for almost ten years until the service was withdrawn on the last day of 1959. She was the most usual motive power for this service, although several of her sisters occasionally stood in for her.
The train is pictured, in this famous Brian Morrison photo, at Crewe Station in 1955. The loco is standing under the celebrated 'Spotters' Bridge' and said spotters are out in full force. 1955 is a little too early, even for me, as I would only have been three years old at the time.
So I know I'm not among those present.
Those spotters would have thought 'The  Dodger' very small beer in those days, being far more interested in the big main line express engines in other parts of the railway Mecca of Crewe. What would they give to see her now?
The strange apparatus you can see on either side of the engine's boiler is part of the push-pull mechanism which allowed the train to operate in either direction: No 41229 pulled the train to Northwich, then pushed it back to Crewe, with the driver in a special compartment at the front of the leading coach. This can be seen in this equally famous photo, taken at Middlewich Station.



Click here for a full description and to find out more about The Dodger.

Certain trains would reverse at Northwich and travel, via a link onto the West Coast Main Line at Hartford, up to Acton Bridge Station.


In 1959 you could get from Crewe to Northwich (and return) for 1s 2d (around 6p)

Update (August 2017)

When a link to this diary entry was posted on the Cheshire's Railways Facebook group, John Tackley wrote:

'I was an engineering apprentice at Crewe works from 1948 to 1952 when these locomotives were built, and some were supplied with special brake actuating valves to allow 'auto train' operation as on the 'Dodger'.
My training included time at Crewe North shed, which provided footplate staff for the 'Dodger'.
It was operated by footplate staff on 'light duties', usually recovering from health problems, as most Crewe North work was for heavy express working which required tremendous stamina.
'He's on the Dodger' automatically meant the driver and fireman were having an easy time - perhaps that's where the expression originated?'


Many thanks to John for this fascinating, authentic and 'from the horse's mouth' account of how the 'Dodger' was operated all those years ago.


Photo: Railway Modeller Magazine



First published 8th May 2017
Updated and re-published 6th August 2017


Saturday, 5 August 2017

FORTY-EIGHT YEARS ON - WYCH HOUSE LANE


by Dave Roberts

It's hard to  believe that the two photos above show exactly the same place.
Forty-eight years separate the two shots - nearly half a century in which Middlewich, like every other town, has seen immense changes.
We're standing next to the bottom lock of the Brooks Lane flight and looking down towards the Town Wharf, Middlewich Church and, in the first picture Seddon's closed Wych House Lane salt works, in the second the Salinae Clinic and its grounds.
The problem with any modern day view of Middlewich is immediately apparent; the immense profusion of trees and bushes which has grown up in the intervening years makes it difficult to photograph anything identifiable at this distance.
Behind the trees on the left, where that singularly unattractive scrubland littered with the remains of old salt workings and old cars was in 1969, can be found Andersen's boat yard. There aren't many boats to be seen at the moment (August 2017) as we're at the height of the boat hire season and most of them are out cruising along Britain's waterways. The boats you can see on the other side of the canal, however, are part of the Andersen fleet.

A full description of the top picture can be found here.
To try to connect the two photos together, we can only refer you to our old friend St Michael's church tower, which can just be glimpsed amongst the vegetation above the canalside canopy at Andersen's.
One further thing ties the two photos together; on the left, just above the 'V' where the two paths diverge can be seen a gap in the wall.
We think this might just be where that blue brick pillar (thought to be part of a pipeline bridge over the canal at one time) stands in the earlier picture.
Here's a close up of that part of the wall, and you can see that there are certainly plenty of those industrial blue bricks still in evidence.


EUSTON-HOLYHEAD DIVERSIONS VIA MIDDLEWICH 5th/6th AUGUST 2017


by Dave Roberts

Here's our attempt to capture one of the  London Euston to Holyhead Virgin trains diverted via Middlewich on August 5th 2017. 
This is actually a still from a video which didn't quite work out due to low batteries in the camera.
The train (1D89 for those that like to know these things) reached Middlewich at around 5.15pm and is seen here travelling behind Brooks Lane. The building visible on the right with the steel framework on its roof is the old Murgatroyd's brine pump building, currently undergoing restoration and periodically open to the public. 
You can find out more about this historic structure here.
In the foreground is the ugly steel fencing erected by Network Rail a few years ago to keep people away from the railway track. At one time there was a local tradition, based on completely false information, that there was a 'right of way' alongside the line and many people used to walk their dogs there.
There never was any 'right of way'. In fact, the 'dog walk' was for many years the 'salt siding' and was always railway property. Find out more about the salt siding here.


The Salt Siding 1969
Find out more about the campaign to bring passenger trains back to Middlewich (and Gadbrook Park) here


DIVERSIONS (AND FREIGHT) FOR SATURDAY 5th AUGUST COURTESY OF REAL TIME TRAINS.


DIVERSIONS FOR SUNDAY 6th AUGUST COURTESY OF IAN TRESMAN



These trains are also being diverted via Middlewich over the weekend of 12th/13th August

Thursday, 3 August 2017

HERITAGE SOCIETY PLAQUES (1) SALINAE CENTRE

In the 1990s Middlewich Heritage Society commissioned a number of metal plaques to be affixed to various buildings and features of historical interest in the town. Here's one of them, photographed in August 2011, which you will find on the front wall of Salinae, the day care centre and clinic in Lewin Street/Wych House Lane. So why photograph for posterity something which is itself designed to label Middlewich's heritage for the same purpose?
A couple of reasons, actually. Firstly, if you're a Middlewich resident or visitor it's relatively easy to wander about and take in the sites of interest and their accompanying plaques. But what if you left Middlewich many years ago and have found it difficult, or impossible, to get back here? What if you've (horror of horrors) never even been here? We hope the inclusion of these plaques will help fill these gaps and let everyone see via the internet what some of us can see whenever we want to.
We have, by the way, people all over the world looking at 'A Middlewich Diary', including avid followers in America, Canada, Spain, Germany, Sweden, and, intriguingly, Taiwan and  The Phillipines. A lot of these will be exiled Middlewichians, but some will have just stumbled across us by accident. How nice to be able to show all these people what used to be in Middlewich (and, equally importantly, what's here now).
And secondly, permanent as these plaques are, or appear to be, what happens if (God forbid) someone pinches one? What happens if a particular building is altered and the plaque is removed and someone loses it or 'forgets' to put it back? Presumably the Heritage Society has records of the plaques, and probably photographs and drawings too, but including them here is an additional safeguard.

Salinae 2nd August 2011

The culmination of those 600 years of salt making on the site was the Seddon's Wych House lane Works, which closed in 1967 but was still largely intact when this somewhat damaged slide was taken in 1969. The Salinae Clinic and its lawned area are where the salt works stood. In the foreground is the site now occupied by Andersen Boats and Wych House Lane ran (and still runs) down from Lewin Street to the canal alongside the salt works wall. Andersen's site was itself used for salt manufacture in the past. The grey brick construction in the centre of the picture is a column which once supported one end of a brine pipeline spanning the canal and River Croco. A full description of this photo can be found here

First published 3rd August 2011
Updated and re-published 3rd August 2017

WYCH HOUSE LANE 1969

A fascinating slide which was very nearly discarded when it got damaged by some kind of toxic glue dropping onto it (part of the results of this disastrous accident can be seen at the top of the picture - one of the salt works chimneys and the church tower have been slightly distorted as the film melted). The idea was to throw away the slide and walk down to the canal in order to take the picture again. The second part of the plan never happened, so it was most fortunate that the first part didn't either, and the original slide was kept in the slide box with all the others.
 This is one of the most interesting pictures in our collection. It's labelled 'Wych House Lane Works 1969', but shows, in fact, a lot more than just the then-closed Seddon's works.
We are standing on the first of the 'Big Three Locks' just off Brooks Lane at the point where the Trent & Mersey reaches the level it will stay at until it reaches the Big Lock. The Town Bridge is just out of shot to the right. Just in the picture on the extreme right is one of the chimneys from Seddon's Pepper Street Works. This was the chimney which, viewed from Lewin Street, appeared to be a part of St Michael's Church and inspired this article in the local paper.
The church also gives us a convenient reference point for this picture.
To the left of the Seddon's chimney we can just get a glimpse of the main warehouse building on the town wharf (at that time, as we've established, un-whitewashed) and, of course, next to that, Henry Seddon's Wych House Lane Works.
This works, along with its sisters in Pepper Street and Brooks Lane, had closed in 1967 but was, obviously, yet to be demolished. Although  three out of the four remaining open pan works in Middlewich belonged to Henry Seddon and Sons at their closure (the fourth, which belonged to Murgatroyd's and was close to Seddon's in Brooks Lane, closed in 1966) they all started life with different owners.
In the case of the Wych House Lane works, evidence of this is shown in particular by the design of the chimneys, which were, unlike the plain square ones found at the other two Seddon's works, of a quite distinctive 'stepped' design, tapering in stages towards the top. Whether this was done to make them more ornamental is unclear. It's unlikely, as salt works chimneys were always built as cheaply and simply as possible, as, indeed, were the works themselves.
The excellent Wych & Water by Tim Malim and George Nash, and published in 2009 by Middlewich Vision's Canal & Salt Town Project, features  maps showing the comings and goings of the various salt works over the years, and is highly recommended reading.
In the foreground is the area now occupied by Andersen Boats which provoked a lot of discussion in this posting, in which Colin Derek Appleton put forward the case for this area being part of the Brunner Mond Alkali Works of 1897 which is shown on the 1898 OS map as being a short distance away, in between Brooks Lane and the railway line. We were surmising that the works may have spread across the canal at one time, as such undertakings are apt to do once they start to expand.
The trouble with this theory  is that the same map shows a disused salt works on the site; the Newton Salt Works (the adjacent works, which is the one seen  in our photo, is shown as the 'Wych House Lane Dairy & Domestic Salt Works of 1892). So that appears to be the conclusive answer.
The blue brick structure in the middle foregound would appear to have been the remains of another one of those pipeline bridges which, presumably, brought brine across the canal and River Croco from Brooks Lane to the works which once stood here. At the time of our picture the area seems to be serving as a dumping ground for old cars.
It's interesting to note that at this time the MUDC's Wych House Lane depot cannot have existed, as the salt works was still standing. The council took over the site once the works had gone, but  itself ceased to exist in 1974, so the depot must have been very short lived indeed, even if it continued as such for a while under the auspices of the Borough of Congleton.
Behind the salt works chimneys can be seen one of  those Lewin Street buildings which have featured frequently in 'A Middlewich Diary' - the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel with its distinctive 'four pronged' tower.
This tower provides another point of reference for further musings on Wych House Lane (see below).
Before we leave Wych House Lane once again, it's worth concentrating on the section of this slide we have enlarged.
On the extreme left is the old building we featured in this posting and, to its right (next to the upper white caravan), the long building shown here which became part of the council depot.
If you look just to the right of the 'four pronged tower' you will see what appears to be a row of cottages at right angles to those buildings (one of the salt works chimneys is immediately to the right of it).
Can this possibly be what is now the 'House of Feathers'? I would have thought that that particular establishment was much smaller than the building shown here. Another exploratory trip down what's left of Wych House Lane seems to be on the cards.
And to the left of the 'four pronged tower' is another large building, actually on the other side of Lewin Street.
When I worked for the Middlewich UDC (round about the time this slide was taken, in actual fact), this was the local Valuation Office. To the left of it was the Conservative Club, where Middlewich Library now stands.
Can anyone remind me what that Valuation Office was originally?*
So there we have it, an exhaustive (not to say exhausting) look at a once interesting part of the town.
Nowadays, from the same vantage point, the view is of Andersen Boats, the Salinae Centre and the pleasant lawned area alongside the canal.

Facebook Feedback (from the Salt Town Productions Facebook group):
Paul Greenwood I walk home along this canal towpath often (I work up Brooks Lane) and I've taken many recent photographs from almost the exact same vantage point. The difference between then and now is astonishing. Thanks for posting Dave.



* The answer was supplied by Bill Eaton, who occasionally passes on items from the collection of the late Frank Smith of Ravenscroft. The building was the Congregational Sunday School.






I remember it just like that

First published 29th October 2011
Re-formatted and re-published 3rd August 2017

NOW and THEN - WYCH HOUSE LANE


They say that a picture is worth a thousand words and we've said right from the beginning that 'Now & Then' shots would be an excellent way of illustrating in  a sometimes dramatic manner just how much Middlewich has changed over the years. The idea is a simple one and, as far as we know, not subject to copyright or patent laws.
So here's the first of our occasional 'Now & Then' features showing views of Wych House Lane taken 37 years apart.
In 1974 the long straggling line of buildings forming part of Seddon's workshops takes up the left hand side of the lane. Middlewich D.I.Y is just out of shot to the right. In 2011 the area has taken on an almost rural aspect with trees and shrubs surrounding the Salinae Centre (now part of the Cheshire East empire). The clinic and its gardens take up the space previously occupied by the workshops, the Wesleyan Chapel and the Cof E School. Further down the slope where the Seddon's salt works once stood is a lawned area fronting onto the canal. The alignment of the lane has been altered slightly to allow parking space for Middlewich D.I.Y which, again, is just out of shot to the right. The drainpipe on the old Seddon's building would be just about where the lamp post (?) is in the centre of the modern shot.
Just a brief note about the cameras used: The 1974 picture is a Kodachrome 126 transparency taken with a Kodak Instamatic, and the 2011 view (taken 2nd August 2011) was snapped on a Blackberry 8900 phone. So here's a thought; If you're wandering around Middlewich with your hi-tech phone and you see something of interest, why not click the shutter and send the result to us? We might even be able to match it up with an older shot..Our aim is to record the modern day scene as well as looking into the past. I'd  like to think that in 2048 someone will be taking delight in our 'old pictures of Middlewich'

First published 3rd August 2011
Re-formatted and re-published 3rd August 2017

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

MEET THE MIDDLEWICH METEORS!

The Middlewich Meteors May 1957: L to R - Elvin Bowyer (washboard), Alan Birchall (guitar), Peter Birchall (guitar), Peter Wilson (double bass), Freddie Moores (banjo), and Brian Eaton (guitar) In front is Edward Tattersall (guitar)



by Dave Roberts

The Middlewich Diary is always at home to talk of Middlewich music matters and from local legend FREDDIE MOORES comes this salutary reminder that music in Middlewich didn't begin twenty-five years ago with the first Folk & Boat Festival.

In fact, although this article is about Middlewich music 1957 style, it goes without saying that there have always been people around town making music of one kind or another.

An older generation, for example, will tell you all about Percy Bailey's Band which played dance music at the old Middlewich Town Hall on Hightown for many a Saturday Night Dance, with Percy famously propping the latest edition of the Evening Sentinel  up on his piano's music stand to keep up with the local news as interminable waltzes, quick-steps and fox-trots filled the smoky air.




                                           The old Middlewich Town Hall



So, to be clear, we're talking about the start of the modern era of Music In Middlewich in the1950s - the age of Skiffle and Rock 'n' Roll!

Fred kindly loaned me a copy of this historical souvenir which features not only a copy of a press cutting from May 1957 about the Middlewich Meteors but also one from 48 years later when Freddie was trying to get hold of a copy of the photo he remembered being published all those years before. There's also an 'ode' to the band (or 'group' as they would, undoubtedly, have been called in those days) which was probably written by one of those young musicians.
We're happy to reproduce these historic documents for the electronic generation and preserve them for posterity.
Let's begin with Fred's 2005 appeal to the local Guardian for information about members of the band, and for a copy of that elusive photograph.
The first thing to note is that Fred was talking to the 'wrong' newspaper - perfectly understandable after all those years, and given the tendency of the Guardian and the Chronicle to wax and wane in popularity locally, seemingly taking it in turns to be the local paper of choice for Middlewichians.

NORTHWICH GUARDIAN
Winsford & Middlewich Edition
Wednesday April 13th 2005.

FRED ON A MISSION TO BE REUNITED WITH BAND

A MIDDLEWICH musician is looking to be reunited with his former band mates nearly 50 years after they first formed.
Fred Moores of Shropshire Close is looking for members of his old skiffle band The Middlewich Meteorites (sic)*, and is trying to source a picture of the band which he believes was taken in 1956 or 1957.
Fred, 67, said: 'The picture was taken at the back of the White Bear pub which is where we used to practise.'
Fred says the picture, which appeared in the Guardian (sic), features guitarists Eddie Tattersall and Brian Eaton, as well as washboard and bass player Peter Wilson.
Fred, who played the ukelele and banjo, would love to know if anyone has a copy of the picture and would also like to hear from his former band mates.
He said: 'We were only aged between about 15 and 17. It was just before we went into the army in 1958. We took part in a few contests at Mr Smiths in Winsford. I'd just like to know where they all are and if anyone has a copy of the picture.'
If you were a member of the Middlewich Meteorites (sic)*, or know someone who has a copy of the picture, contact reporter Gemma Sproston by ringing 01606 813624, email gsproston@guardiangrp.co.uk, or write to 15 Market Street, Northwich, Cheshire CW9 5DT.

*You'll note that we rather sniffily use the term sic to indicate that we are reproducing the Guardian's use of 'Meteorites' even though we know it to be wrong. It's very likely, of course, that Gemma Sproston, who is a very good journalist, only used the name Middlewich Meteorites because that's the name she was given by Fred who himself believed it to be the name of the group. It was, after all, a long time ago - Ed.

Fred's appeal obviously bore fruit because also included in his souvenir is a cutting from The Chronicle of Saturday May 18th 1957 (how long is it since the publication of our local papers switched from Saturday to Thursday?)

To put this piece of Middlewich history into context, remember that the Middlewich of May 18th 1957 was somewhat different to the town we know today.
Middlewich Station was still open to passengers and 'The Dodger' was still whisking passengers from Middlewich to Northwich in as little as 7 minutes. It would only continue to do so, however, until the last day of 1959.
The Alhambra was still open for business as a cinema and  there were, as now, many pubs, but the only place you could get something to eat or a cup of tea was  Heathcote's Cafe in Lewin Street.
The open-pan salt works were still going strong, with Seddon's in Pepper Street - just a matter of yards away from the Meteors' rehearsal room - belching out black smoke and white steam all through the week. The other Seddon's works in Wych House Lane and Brooks Lane were also thriving, as was Murgatroyd's Brooks Lane works. This venerable method of salt-making would continue for another ten years (nine in the case of Murgatroyd's) before falling to progress in the shape of the British Salt works which replaced them all in 1969.
And Fountain Fields - now re-christened 'Tesco Park' by a new generation - which seems to have been there forever was, in 1957, a mere five years old.

Middlewich then was a dirty, dingy, smoky little town just crying out for some great entertainment - something Fred and friends were determined to provide...


THE CHRONICLE
Saturday May 18th 1957

They aim to 'rock' the town in a big way

MEET THE MIDDLEWICH Meteors, the skiffle group that is currently 'rocking' the town three or four nights a week at its practice sessions. You can see them in action at their headquarters - a room in what was a stable block in the ancient coaching yard behind the White Bear Hotel.
The group had originally planned to form themselves into a harmonica gang. Then came the skiffle craze. Nobody wanted to listen to harmonicas*, so the seven friends set about acquiring the necessary instruments.
The double bass is a simple matter of a tea-chest, a wooden pole and a piece of string. The washboard is of a kind any housewife can buy at a hardware store. The guitars were all bought second-hand.
So far the group has only had one official booking - they played at the British Legion Club a fortnight ago - but they are on the look-out for future engagements.

(the photo illustrating this story is reproduced at the top of the page)

The White Bear Hotel in the early 1970s. In a former stable building behind the pub the sound of the Middlewich Meteors was  born in 1957.


So where did the long-lost cutting come from? I'm making an educated guess that it was bass player Peter Wilson who kept it for almost half a century. Also reproduced in Fred's souvenir is a short poem, signed by 'PW' Is this also Peter Wilson? If so, he obviously, like Fred, never forgot his time as one of the MIDDLEWICH METEORS!

ODE TO A SOUND

One time when lightning struck in Middlewich
And the MIDDLEWICH METEORS emerged from the sky,
Was the single moment in the world of Skiffle
When each player soared nine miles high,
Freddie, Eddie, the two Peters, Brian - and Alan and Elvin too;
We don't forget those that shone as bright in our souls as they will always do,
An era we all belonged to that will never come again,
Arte those times of joy and fun that forever will remain,
And in this hour once more together in minds and thought , and heartm
Forever we rekindle the flame that began its throbbing youthful spark. PW

And a quick glance at the music chart (an institution which had at that time only been running for five years) gives us an inkling into the music which inspired the formation of the MIDDLEWICH METEORS fifty-eight years ago.

Selected number one hits of  1957:

11th January Singing The Blues - Tommy Steele
12th April - Cumberland Gap - Lonnie Donegan
17th May - Rock-A-Billy - Guy Mitchell
28th June - Gamblin' Man/ Puttin' On The Style - Lonnie Donegan
12th July - All Shook Up - Elvis Presley
1st November - That'll Be The Day - The Crickets.

*'...nobody wanted to listen to harmonicas' Very ironic, really, as Fred is well-known today as a master of the blues harmonica. Together with his equally talented son Craig, Fred formed Moore & Moore Blues a few years ago. Fred and Craig are also members of the Salty Dog Blues Band



Many thanks to Fred for sharing this fascinating piece of Middlewich musical history with us.-Ed

First published 1st August 2015.
Re-published 1st August 2017 to mark the 60th Anniversary of the Middlewich Meteors.