Sunday, 31 December 2017

MEMORIES OF MIDDLEWICH CIVIC HALL

Memories of  Middlewich Civic Hall
By Dave Roberts



Adapted from ‘Middlewich Civic Hall – the first twenty five years’ as published in the Middlewich Heritage Society Newsletter, October 1994.


MIDDLEWICH CIVIC HALL - Photo CHESHIRE EAST COUNCIL

Author’s note:
When this article first appeared in the Heritage Society Newsletter I gave it the title ‘Middlewich Civic Hall – the first twenty-five years’, which might well have led people to expect a detailed account of EVERYTHING which happened there between September 1969 and October 1994.
 Although people have, as we have proved with the ‘Middlewich Diary’. a high tolerance for Middlewich trivia, that would have been too much for even the most avid Middlewich fan to take.
 The article was really just a first-hand eye-witness account of the Hall’s opening on September 12th 1969 with a few details of the slightly fraught pre-opening period (kindly supplied by Albert Robinson, by the way) and a couple of other memories of occasions when I was there as MC of a rock concert and the first Middlewich Folk & Boat Festival, and so I have edited and re-written it accordingly.
The Civic Hall will be in the news again during 2012 as the Town Council get involved in taking over its running from Cheshire East, and I thought it would be appropriate, for our last Middlewich Diary entry of 2011, to go back to the beginning.
The article is also appropriate for New Year’s Eve because it mentions the fight between the Young Farmers and the Cerebos Foods Transport Social Club (won, as you’ll see by the Cerebos faction) for the honour of hosting the very first New Year Party at Middlewich Civic Hall forty-two years ago tonight on the 31st December 1969.

I was at the Civic Hall on the day it opened in 1969, and twenty-one years later, in 1990, had the privilege of presenting the main concert at the town’s brand-new Folk & Boat Festival at the same venue.
Even before it opened, Middlewich’s new ‘showpiece’ was causing controversy.
Cerebos Foods Transport Social Club was at daggers drawn with the Young Farmer’s Club over the booking of the Hall for New Year’s Eve 1969.
The Cerebos faction were insisting that Clerk to the Council, Mr Joseph Alcock, had confirmed the booking, whereas the Establishment Committee were determined that the Hall should be let to the YFC who intended to hold a public dance.
Eventually, Cerebos won the day. They had, after all, splashed out £40 to hire a band, and this was ‘not refundable’.
And as if all this were not enough the sink unit chosen for the hall was the subject of heated debate.
Councillor Fred Stallard described the sink as ‘paltry’ and implied that, as council surveyor Donald Stubbs, who had ordered the sink, was a bachelor, he was ‘not well-versed in the field of washing up’.
Mr Stubbs retorted that even a bachelor could be interested in cooking.
Acting Deputy Clerk Terry Fitton was instructed to advertise the fact that the MUDC was offering free use of the hall to local organisations during its first week.
Meanwhile, probably oblivious to all the small town politics surrounding the Civic Hall, contractors Lanner Ltd of Wakefield were putting the finishing touches to the building and Charlesworths of Crewe were installing the sound system and stage lighting.
A firm of signwriters were asked to make a commemorative plaque to be unveiled by Council Chairman Wilfrid Faulkner – a plaque which, as it turned out, contained an unfortunate spelling error which was to cause red faces at the opening ceremony.
In what would nowadays be called the ‘run up’ to the opening of the hall, fresh controversy erupted.
Why, asked the Chamber of Trade & Commerce, had local shopkeepers not been asked to tender for the equipping and decorating of the hall? Even the flowers for the opening ceremony had been obtained from Winsford.
The Council replied that local traders had been asked to supply flowers and had been unable to do so – a reply which could have been predicted.
Despite all this wrangling, plans went ahead for the grand opening, which was to take place on Friday September 12th 1969.
I was working in the Rates Office at Middlewich UDC at the time (starting salary at 16 £330 per annum) and I have good reason to remember the day the Civic Hall opened.. It was my 17th birthday, and this meant I was in line for a pay rise (salary at 17 £380 per annum in accordance with Clerical Division Grade 1).
We were all given the afternoon off  to attend the grand opening. There were plates of ham and salmon sandwiches and some little puff pastry things which, we were assured, were ‘vol-au-vents’.
Small glasses of sherry were proffered, and we all stood around eagerly awaiting the opening ceremony.
I have been unable to find any written evidence for this, but I am pretty sure that the music in the afternoon was supplied by Percy Bailey and His Band, in what must have been one of their last appearances. Contemporary reports say that the afternoon music was provided by the Secondary School Band, but I don’t remember them, just the Percy Bailey Band. I even remember talking to Percy and one of the councillors patting him on the back and saying, ‘well done. Percy!’
Bailey’s Band was the mainstay of Middlewich music for many years and Percy himself was famous for his habit of propping his copy of the Evening Sentinel on the music stand of his piano and reading it intently throughout every dance session.
As we know, our minds can play tricks as we get older, but this is such a vivid memory that there’s no doubt in my mind that Percy and his Band were there and, if that fact is not recorded elsewhere, I’m glad to do it here.
When it came to the unveiling of the commemorative plaque, to the consternation of council officials and the amusement of Mr Faulkner, his name had been spelt WILFRED instead of WILFRID, something that, he said, had happened to him all his life.
A council spokesman said later that the mistake had been noticed but it had been too late to get the wording altered in time.
Mr Malcolm Bowden, chairman of the Establishment Committee, paid tribute to Councillor Clarence Costello who, he said, had fathered the whole project.
The new Civic Hall was now well and truly open and, in the evening, there was a special Celebration Dance featuring ‘the Ray Douglas Music’ (tickets fifteen shillings including refreshments).
This was, remember, September 1969.
By February 1970 Mr Bowden was accusing the public of ‘letting the council down’.
The Hall had been let on only a ‘tiny’ number of occasions and this was ‘heartbreaking’.
Perhaps the high charges were to blame? To hire the Hall for a whole day on a Friday or a Saturday would set you back £20.
A series of ‘beat dances’ came to an abrupt halt in January 1970 after ‘rowdyism’ and, for most of its first twenty-five years of existence the Hall was under-used.
Over that twenty-five years I made several appearances at the Civic Hall, as disc-jockey, compere and MC.
One memorable occasion was the night I introduced a Rock Concert in aid of the CND, featuring a band with the cheerful name of Death Wish.
The highlight of this strange (and deafening) evening came when the band decided to let off a ‘thunderflash’ – a kind of detonator affair which made a terrifyingly loud band, a bright blue flash and a vast amount of smoke.
I was about six inches  away from the thing at the time and, although I had been warned about it, I was still very nearly thrown off the stage by the explosion.
And when the first Middlewich Folk & Boat Festival took place in 1990 I was there, along with Bernard Wrigley to present the first of many mainstage concerts for a festival which helped  kick off the long, slow and laborious process of putting our town back on the map.
© Dave Roberts/Salt Town Productions 2011
31st December 2011

UPDATE - 19th March 2013: The Middlewich Civic Hall was taken over by Middlewich Town Council in March 2013 and  rather fittingly, became the Town Hall Function Suite. At the same time the Victoria Building, home for many years to Middlewich's Council offices was officially given the name it should have had for all those years, the Town Hall. 

UPDATE - 12TH October 2016: By 2016 the running of the hall had been taken over by the Middlewich Community Trust* and the hall was renamed the Victoria Hall, a pleasing reference to its links with the Victoria Building and the former Victoria Square, the name given to the land between the building and Lewin Street.

*not 'Middlewich Heritage Trust' as we erroneously said earlier. Many thanks to Ken
Kingston for pointing this out.

First published New Years Eve 2011
Re-published New Years Eve 2014
Re-formatted and updated 12th October 2016
Re-published New Years Eve 2017

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2018

Many thanks for following our Middlewich Diary throughout 2017. 
There's much more to come in 2018! Best wishes to everyone for the New Year!

Saturday, 30 December 2017

RIVER WHEELOCK FROM THE MIDDLEWICH BRANCH CANAL EARLY 1970s


Here's a nice colour shot by Jack Stanier to cheer us all up during the cold winter days.
Taken on a Summer day in the early 1970s, it shows the River Wheelock meandering its way from the aqueduct which takes it under the Shropshire Union Middlewich Branch and flowing on alongside Nantwich Road, later to run under a bridge in Chester Road just outside the town and borough boundaries, on its  way to join the River Dane near the narrow canal aqueduct not far from Croxton Lane.
The combined rivers then flow on another five miles or so to join the River Weaver at Northwich.
The Chester Road bridge, is perfectly level, so that many people will not even realise they are crossing the River Wheelock as they drive in and out of Middlewich. The bridge was rebuilt a few years ago, resulting in it looking even less like a bridge than before.
In the middle distance can be seen the little bridge which takes Mill Lane across the river on its way to Stanthorne. The whole footpath from Nantwich Road to Stanthorne is, by the way, a public right of way, although the owners of Stanthorne Mill (the white buildings seen to the left of the photograph) always made a point of disputing this in former days.
Close to this bridge is a weir which you can see here in a black and white photograph taken around the same time, or possibly a little earlier. The weir is very difficult to photograph these days, so overgrown has it become - a point we were making here, when we were looking back at the general area as it was in 1967.
In fact a quick glance at Google Earth will show that the whole course of the river, certainly between Nantwich Road and Chester Road, has become completely engulfed in trees, making it very difficult to follow.
I originally thought that this was a recent phenomenon but, in fact, as a glance at page 52 of Allan Earl's Middlewich 1900-1950 (Cheshire Country Publishing 1994) will show, these trees have been here for many years and were at one time being cultivated by Boosey's Nurseries until the First World War intervened and they were left to run wild
The village of Wheelock, by the way, was named after the river and Middlewich's main street was named after the village.

To see the aqueduct this picture was taken from go to SUC AQUEDUCT OVER THE RIVER WHEELOCK 2012

First published 30th December 2011
Re-published 30th December 2017

Saturday, 23 December 2017

CHRISTMAS GREETINGS FROM THE NAVIGATION INN 1917

Pat Nancollas/Malcolm Hough



Here's a small reminder of how Christmas cards looked  a hundred years ago. This card which was sent from the Navigation Inn in Middlewich  by Mrs Ida Malpass is tiny, measuring only 10cm by 7cm (approximately 4 inches by 2 1/2 inches), but its lack of size is made up for by the elaborate way it has been made.

Its sentimentality is, perhaps, partly explained by the fact that the Great War was in its penultimate year. Many postcards of the same era also carry similar messages showing a collective yearning for some sort of security after long years of war and the heartbreak of separation and loss.


A card such as this would have been very expensive to produce and to purchase and only the relatively well-to-do, or people 'in trade', such as Mrs Malpass, and her husband George (landlord of the Navigation from 1903-1928) would have been able to afford such extravagances.




We're grateful to Malcolm Hough, who runs the House Of  Feathers in Wych House Lane for passing these items (along with many others which will see the light of day in the Middlewich Diary in due course) to us.


Pat and her husband Derek are regular customers of the House Of Feathers and Pat, knowing of Malcolm's interest in the history of Middlewich, lent him the Christmas card and the photo of Ida, who was Pat's great-grandmother. 

According to Malcolm, Ida's husband George was also landlord of the nearby 
Talbot Hotel in Kinderton Street for a time.

We have looked at the Navigation Inn before in the Middlewich Diary, notably in this entry:


NAVIGATION INN circa 1894

The pub, which was in Mill Lane, off Kinderton Street, was, according to Ken Kingston ('Middlewich Hospitality', Middlewich U3A Local History Group 2014), at one time called The Coffee House, then the Canal Coffee House, the Canal Inn, the Bridgefoot and finally, from around 1816, the Navigation.

The Navigation Inn, on the corner of Kinderton Street and Mill Lane around 1894. Middlewich Town Bridge and the Trent & Mersey Canal are behind the building
Paul Hough Collection

Acknowledgments:
Malcolm Hough
Pat Nancollas
Ken Kingston

This was the first Middlewich Diary entry produced in Queen Street,
Christmas Eve 2015

First published Christmas Eve 2015
Revised and re-published 23rd December 2017

Friday, 22 December 2017

MIDDLEWICH IN WINTER 2017



Snow is  not a very common feature of the Middlewich winter scene. Our low-lying and sheltered position on the Cheshire plain between the Derbyshire hills to the east and the Mersey estuary to the west usually means that we are protected from the worst of any snow showers (though we do get more than our fair share of rain). December 2017 was somewhat different, though, as exceptional circumstances brought a dusting of snow, transforming the town and bringing with it some great photo opportunities. At just after 8 o'clock on the morning of the 9th of December, Jennifer Jane Snelson, who works on Hightown, was able to capture this classic view of Middlewich town centre in the snow. Our magnificent Christmas tree takes centre stage, unusually seen with its lights switched off. This photo first appeared on the Middlewich Community Group.

Jim Moores of the Canals & Rivers of Middlewich Facebook page (link in the left hand column) took this frosty early sunrise shot of the junction between the Trent & Mersey and Shropshire Union (Middlewich Branch) canals.  The relentless road traffic in Booth Lane thunders on, while the canal sleeps.

A couple of miles outside Middlewich, spanning the SUC Middlewich Branch as it winds its way through the Cheshire pasture lands towards Nantwich, is bridge no. 26, known locally as 'Norman's Bridge'. Norman's Wood lines the towpath to the right. Norman's Bridge carries Coal Pit Lane, which runs from Stanthorne crossroads to join Chester Road just outside the town boundary. The picture-postcard scene is captured beautifully by Natasha Harrop.

Commentary by
Dave Roberts

SEE ALSO: WINTER IN MIDDLEWICH 2016

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

THE BOGOTA BOYS AT MIDDLEWICH CARNIVAL 1949

© Phillip Shales 2011  All rights reserved
with acknowledgments to Kerry Fletcher and Dave Thompson of Middlewich Town Council

By Dave Roberts

Here's another vintage picture from the Phillip Shales collection. It's a scene from the 1949 Middlewich Carnival procession as it passes along Lower Street. In the background are several buildings we've seen before in our Middlewich meanderings but never before at this particular period in time.
They are, from left to right, the White Bear, Dewhursts butchers, the shop later to become Vernon Coopers - does anyone know when Vernon Coopers moved into this shop and what kind of shop it was before they took it over? I have a feeling that 1949 is a little early for the radio, TV and electrical retailer to be there - and Stanways fishmongers (or 'fish dealers' as the sign on the premises would have it).
Don't forget, also, that the 'Vaults' was still there, set back from the road and hiding in the space between the White Bear and Dewhursts. Many people mistake the Vaults for a new building which replaced what was on the site before but no - it was there all along.
To the left and right we can see evidence of the huge crowds following the procession. And there are still more taking in the scene from the upper windows of the shops, which is something people rarely do nowadays. As we've seen before, large numbers of people attend events in our town centre these days, but in former times masses of people approaching football crowd proportions thronged the town centre and the streets leading to it.
Which neatly brings us to the 'float' taking centre stage.
As far as I can make out, the 'Bogota Boys' must be a reference to the World Cup which was revived for 1950 (amid much controversy, apparently) and the qualifying heats would be taking place at the time of the 1949 Carnival. I can't, however, find any reference to a team from Bogota having qualified for the contest, and to be heading off for Rio De Janeiro where at least some of the matches were played (hence the sign saying NOW TRAINING FOR CUP TIE AT RIO).
The link with Rio is an interesting one; both Rio and Middlewich have always been famous for their carnivals, although it has to be said that one of them knocked the other into a cocked hat. Poor old Rio.
I'll leave it to those better versed in football history to decide why this particular team of Middlewich athletes should have decided to name themselves after a Colombian team.
Our Bogota Boys look much more likely to be heading to the British Legion than footballing glory in Brazil.
One of the hand made signs on the truck says, quite rightly:


HELP THE LEGION TODAY. YOU MAY NEED THEIR HELP SOME DAY.


But they do appear to be a genuine football team. Another sign  says  
THINKING OF LAST YEAR'S GOOD FRIDAY SUCCESS, THE OLD CROCKS KEEP IN TRAINING, EVEN WHEN IT'S RAINING

In accordance with another long standing Middlewich tradition the truck (or 'lorry', to be more in keeping with the spirit of the times) was provided by W.E. Jones of Middlewich, something the firm would continue to do for many years to come.
And there's another Middlewich link here, in that the lorry was made by the then only sixteen year old ERF Ltd at the Sun Works in nearby Sandbach. (the company later had a more direct involvement in Middlewich when it moved its spares and repair facilities here in the early 1970s). You can just make out the 'sunray' ERF logo underneath that hand-lettered sign on the front of the vehicle.

If you want to get your modern-day Middlewich bearings, that lorry would be just to the right of the access road that now runs from the Bullring past The Vaults and out onto St Michael's Way.
And finally, just take a look at what is occurring as the Bogota Boys make their way along the streets of post war Middlewich.
Their lorry is a tipper and the driver has, for the amusement of the crowd, decided to operate the tipper mechanism, humorously threatening to decant the Bogota Boys onto Lower Street.
We all get a bit fed up with Health & Safety requirements these days, but sometimes you can see where some of them came from...
UPDATE (31st December 2016) We have now found out the identity of the lorry driver. It's none other than Ivor Niblett (Senior), father of Ivor (Junior), Jessica, Don and Chris. Or, as Don himself put it, in fine old Middlewich style, 'our owd chap'. 


Editor's Note: Other photographs found in the same computer file as this one have been proved to actually come from the 1952 Carnival. Because of the 'World Cup' connections mentioned above, we've decided to leave this one dated as 1949. If you have any information as to the true date of this photo, please get in touch.


Facebook feedback:


Such a stunningly evocative picture of a long lost era couldn't fail to provoke a lot of comment. Here's some of it -ed.


Geraldine Williams This is such a good photograph showing how important an event the Carnival was in those days with people turning out in force. I can just about remember when the King and Queen drove along Wheelock Street as part of their tour of the country celebrating the end of the war. The street was packed for that historic event too. My father had an electrical shop in Wheelock Street and fitted coloured lights round the window. Of course he wasn't allowed to have them switched on because of the restrictions on power still in force but Dad flicked the switch on and off as the royal car passed by and they caught the King's eye, much to Dad's satisfaction. I don't think anyone had ever heard of Bogota before the football connection. The Old Crocks football match on Good Friday was an annual institution but I can't remember who their opponents were. The shop at the corner of Pepper Street was once a crockery shop owned by a family from Winsford called Dutton, probably about the time of this photograph. My mother was keen to start collecting Wedgewood crockery - the original blue with the raised white grapevine border - which the Duttons sold but her entire collection comprised of two dishes so I don't know whether it was because the Duttons sold up or mother's funds ran out!!

Andrew Tomlinson They couldn't be the Bricker Cup winners, could they? There were major riots and unrest in Bogota in 1948 - could they have picked the name as some strange pun?
There does seem to be some kind of cup or trophy on the roof of the lorry's cab.
And does it really say that  W E Jones' phone number is Middlewich 26 on the door?
By the way, the 1950 World Cup was held in Brazil and England went out in the group stages, famouly losing 1-0 to the USA! 


Geraldine Williams Didn't the England team do their training in Bogota to acclimatise for the World Cup?

Andrew Tomlinson Are you thinking of 1970 in Mexico? In any case that wouldn't have been in 1949. I still think this team looks more like a Bricker Cup side.
I'm just talking to Mum now and she seems to think there was a team called 'The Old Crocks' who played once a year for a cup - she can't remember who they played, but thinks it was against the same team every year, and the game was played Easter Weekend, although she can't be 100% certain.
I seem to remember similar matches to the one Mum thinks she can remember, being played on the same day as the Bricker Cup final. The reference to Rio will be the FIFA World Cup for certain, as 1950 was the first year that England took part.

Daniel Preston Relatives of ours lived in the upstairs flat at the Vernon Cooper building in the 1950s. They were my dad's cousin and her family. I can remember my second cousin playing with his lead soldiers by the fire.

Dave Roberts By coincidence, I knew the family which lived there in the late 60s/early 70s. They were Frank Ryder and family, formerly of the ICI farm near Wimboldsley. Their son Stuart, now sadly passed away, was my first 'best friend' at Wimboldsley School when i started there in 1957.

First published 20th December 2011
Re-formatted and re-published 20th December 2017




  • Tuesday, 19 December 2017

    SANTA'S SLEIGH ROUTES 2017 (ARCHIVED)



    And thank you  to Middlewich Round Table for inviting Santa to tour Middlewich once again this year. To find out more about the Round Table and the excellent work they do, not only at Christmas but all the year round, take a look at their website:



    Once again this year the Round Table collected food on behalf of

    Marc Holmes writes...
    On behalf of The Salvation Army in Winsford I would like to say a HUGE THANK YOU to the community of Middlewich and also to Santa and his snowmen of Middlewich Round Table for your generosity, support and donations over the last couple of weeks. 

    It has been my privilege to have come and collected your donations of food/gifts/toiletries and the amount collected is mind blowing! My car has been full 3 times (and almost overflowing tonight!)!

    This Christmas we have noticed the need for support even more than other years. We have already supported more than 200 families with food parcels, (which include festive goodies and a gift for every member of the family) with more going out over the next few days. 

    In addition to the food parcels we will also be opening up our hall on Christmas Day to those who would otherwise be on their own, where they can enjoy a Christmas dinner, fun and fellowship.

    Thank you just doesn't seem enough!
    Without your help we wouldn't be able to help so many people. It really does make a difference to their lives.
    God bless you all and we wish you all a very Happy, Healthy Christmas and New Year.



    Photo used with permission
    To finish our Santa Sleigh run in 2017 we donated a very special trike for a very special young man ! Santa's sleigh and the snowmen delivered William his dream transport allowing him to have a little of his own mobility. This could not be achieved without all our Round Table, our family, friends and those in the community who support the work we do. Happy New Year all !! - Middlewich Round Table, 2nd January 2018


    Santa's sleigh routes for 2017 were...







    First Published 4th December 2017
    Re-published 11th December 2017
    12th December 2017
    13th December 2017
    14th December 2017
    15th December 2017
    17th December 2017
    18th December 2017
    19th December 2017

    Sunday, 17 December 2017

    CHRISTMAS POEM 2017




    by Rachel Hughes


    'I'll have one. Then just another...
    'Oh, go on then! It's Christmas time, brother!'
    A couple of shots, a few more pints.
    'I'm not paying for a taxi...I'll be all right!'

    'I'll be home soon, love!' - She's asking again.
    'I ain't walking, it's started to rain...'
    Laughing and joking, the time passes by,
    Enjoying the company stood by your side.

    'I really  must go now; my tea's in the dog!
    And it's been a few hours since I finished my job.'
    As wobbly legs take this Human across the road,
    It tells itself it's in 'driveable mode'.

    Key's in the starter, the mirror's in view.
    'I'm on my way home love! I love you, I do!'
    Driving along with thoughts of its bed,
    The drunk-driving human hits a tree up ahead.

    A knock on the door wakes the family inside.
    Tears start to fall from the loved ones' eyes;
    'How has this happened? I can't believe...
    'Why would our loved one decide to leave?'

    An individual's act; a choice that was made,
    Another human life that could have been saved...
    Think of the others you'd leave behind,
    At any time of year, not just Christmas time.

    ©Rachel Hughes, November 2015
    (reproduced with permission)



    Editor's note: We thought this excellent poem by Rachel Hughes deserved as wide an audience as possible, partly because of the time of year, and partly because of the powerful writing and the message it gets across. A message which can't be repeated too often. It first appeared on the Middlewich Community Group on Facebook - DR







    Monday, 11 December 2017

    AN AWKWARD TURN TO THE LOMPON

    We believe this image to be out of copyright. If you own the copyright, or know who does, please let us know.

    A what? Middlewichians (or 'Middlewichers', which seems to be the favoured current term) of long-standing might just understand why I have used this particular title for this posting. It's another one of those familiar postcards of old Middlewich scenes we all grew up with and 'An Awkward Turn To The Lompon' was the title/description hand-written on the original negative, although it's missing from  this particular print, which we’ve borrowed from the invaluable Paul Hough Collection.
    So what does it mean?
    I always, without really thinking it through, had a vague idea that it might, in some way, be a corruption of 'lump pan' but this, of course, is a dead end. The nearest lump pans were some distance away in Wych House Lane or Pepper Street.
    But the word 'lompon' does have a kind of authentic Cheshire dialect ring to it, so I consulted A Glossary Of Words Used In the County Of Chester  published by Robert Holland of Frodsham in 1885 and found this:

    LOMPOND (or, as it should probably be spelt, LOM POND) - the pond in a farm yard into which all refuse runs.
    There is a place at the junction of two brooks,the Allum and the Croco at Kinuerton (sic -ed)called Lompon - The Cheshire Sheaf (The Cheshire Sheaf was a regular column featured in the Chester Courant newspaper)

    So 'Lompon' was, or could have been, a Cheshire word for a kind of muck hole or cesspit. But how does this fit in with the picture above, which has teased and tantalised many of us for years? According to Brian Curzon  in Images of England - Middlewich (Tempus Publishing 2005)the large building in the centre of the photograph is  the Navigation Inn, which was one of those split level pubs with entrances at street level and canal level, and stood immediately next to the old Town Bridge, and the motorcycle and sidecar are turning from Mill Lane (where Town Bridge Motors now is) to take an immediate left turn onto the bridge.
    But, if Brian Curzon is right, here's the enigma: when you turn out of Mill Lane today onto Town Bridge, you turn right, not left.
    If we take the picture and flip it horizontally it makes more sense.

    In this case Kinderton Street would come in from the left behind the buildings on the extreme left of the picture and Mill Lane would have had to have been a much more substantial road than it is now. What's more, its alignment would have had to have changed a lot since those days.
    But, in any case, could a picture like this have been published 'back to front' for so many years without anyone noticing?
    (In any case, John Capper has pointed out that, in the reversed version, the sidecar is on the wrong side for the UK, which is 'not out of the question, but unlikely'.)
    It just doesn't seem to ring true, whichever way you look at it (to coin a phrase). The road in the foreground is much more likely to be Kinderton Street itself,  but, if we take that to be true the picture remains a bit of an puzzle. 
    Perhaps the building on the left (of the top picture) wasn't the Navigation Inn at all. Perhaps the hostelry in question is, in fact, out of sight behind the building on the right? This would make the road in the foreground Kinderton Street all right, but what, then, were all those buildings to the left?
    Are they the buildings seen on the right of this picture? 




    They don't look like them.
    Now we can begin to see why this particular postcard has always puzzled people. We all know what it depicts, or is supposed to depict but, somehow, the pieces won't fall into place properly. We have a nagging feeling that, somehow, in some way, the picture is 'the wrong way round'.
    To simplify our dilemma: I've looked at this old postcard thousands of times as a straightforward picture of a motorbike and sidecar travelling down Kinderton Street on its way to pass over the old town bridge. Why, then, is it turning left?
    The answer has to be that the alignment of Kinderton Street was drastically altered when the new bridge was built and that was a lot more demolition than I'd thought. (Another red herring, with hindsight, when you know the real solution to the mystery -Ed).
    But just where was the ‘Lompon' anyway? It must have been a familiar local name, to have been thought worthy of a mention on a postcard. But why would a cesspit be a local landmark? Then again, this is Middlewich...
    Was it a reference to the River Croco itself which, as we've discussed before, seems to have been used as a drainage culvert for most of its long history?
    On the other hand, the name Lompon, as used here, may have nothing whatsoever to do with cesspits and drainage, and might have another source altogether.
    And what about the other brook, the Allum, which is supposed to join the Croco somewhere near here?
    Well, actually I have a theory about that which will have to wait for another day.
    Incidentally, non-Middlewichers may like to note that the word 'awkward' in our title should be pronounced 'ockud'.

    Cliff Astles says: Sure this one was taken of the old Middlewich Town Bridge over the Trent & Mersey Canal, some time in the early 1900s, The motorbike and sidecar are a giveaway. This would be well before the new 
    Town Bridge was built (1931-Ed). The corner of the building on the right may even be the Talbot Hotel.



    As is usual with this kind of problem, the actual answer is very simple, and was 'there all the time'.

    We have indeed been looking at the picture 'the wrong way round' but not in the way we surmised.

    Here's the answer.

    The following was originally published as a separate Diary entry. For convenience, we've combined the two entries together.

    We believe this image to be out of copyright. If you own the copyright, or know who does, please let us know
    We're very grateful to Dave Thompson of Middlewich Town Council for sending us an aerial view of Middlewich as it was in 1928. I've seen this aerial view many times, as it hung for a long time  in a corridor in the Boar's Head Hotel in Kinderton Street (it probably still does)* The picture above is a section of that aerial view showing the  Town Bridge area as it was then, and solving, after all these years, the mystery of where the 'Awkward Turn To The Lompon' photo was actually taken. It's strange indeed that no one I ever spoke to about this ever made the connection between the two photos, because the truth is plain to see. That's a very distinctive group of buildings.


    When we said  that we may have been looking at the picture 'the wrong way round' we were closer to the truth than we knew.
    It's obvious from the above that the motorbike and sidecar combination was not in Kinderton Street at all, but in Lower Street and travelling in the opposite direction, towards Holmes Chapel.
    To drive home the point, and to coin another phrase - X Marks The Spot.
    There even seems to be another motorbike and sidecar combination on the bridge in this shot.
    So Kinderton Street itself may not have changed its alignment very much in the sweeping changes of 1931, but, on the other side of Town Bridge, Lower Street certainly did. In fact it's still hard to get one's head around that abrupt turn off the bridge. But it has to be remembered that a section of Middlewich churchyard was removed in 1931 to enable the widening of Lower Street. Part of the Town Hall was also demolished at this time, and the building can be seen in its original form at bottom right. In the changes of the 1970s the 'Church' side of  the street was left alone, and all the demolition took place on the opposite side of the road.
    At the top of the photo, Middlewich Town Wharf can be seen, seemingly in those days much more a part of the town centre, rather than being separated from it as is the case today (a situation which, we hope, will change once again when the 'Gateway To Middlewich' scheme finally comes to fruition).
    All the buildings around the Town Bridge also went in 1931, of course, and the  road crossing it was considerably altered and widened.
    We'll be returning to this fascinating 1928 view of our town to study other sections of it in future postings.

    Very interesting stuff of course (for some of us, anyway) but we still have to find out why this particular part of Middlewich should be called 'The Lompon'. So on we go...

    John Capper I'm glad that has been solved. That 1928 picture is fascinating. Looking at the position of the sidecar on the road in that picture I think confirms it was an awkward turn. It's a good job the roads were quiet then.

    Dave Roberts Yes. Were there a lot more motorbike/sidecar combinations about at that time, John? Because that could explain the title. That turn from Lower Street onto Town Bridge may have been notorious among the biking fraternity, and well enough known for everyone to 'get the joke'.

    John Capper. I believe there were. An alternative to the family car which would have been unaffordable to a lot of people then.




    First published 7th/8th December in two parts December 2011

    Re-published 11th December 2017 as a combined entry.