Monday, 27 February 2017


Ryan Mottram is a talented local photographer and we've already seen some of his local work in his new Facebook page Middlewich Photos Past & Present.

Ryan also specialises in images of wildlife and nature. Here's a link to his Nature photography page.

Sunday, 26 February 2017


We believe this image to be out of copyright. If you own the copyright, or know who does, please let us know
by Dave Roberts
This diary entry has been revised several times as I tried to reconcile what I thought I knew (and remembered) about Murgatroyd's  Works with what is shown in this photograph from the Carole Hughes Collection.
The Murgatroyd's Salt Works in Brooks Lane is  familiar  to those who study the history of the local salt industry, but what concerns us here is that part of the works in the centre of  this aerial view alongside the railway line.
When Murgatroyd's closed in 1966 (the first of the remaining open pan works to do so) the works as we knew it consisted of the buildings in the lower middle of the picture and a few ancillary buildings including the wagon repair shop and, of course, the building housing the no 2 brine pump, which is being preserved to stand as a representation of the town's long history of salt making. Incidentally the pdf document about the brine pump which we have linked to includes a plan of the site at its fullest extent, but  with no date.
In the 1980s the Cheshire Museums Service published a poster featuring a cut-away diagram of the works showing how it was constructed and how it operated.
The poster can be found on page 37 of Wych & Water (Middlewich Vision 2009) by Tim Malim and George Nash.
This book, incidentally, is a must for anyone who wishes to learn about the Middlewich Salt Industry - and the canals which served it - and is available for purchase from Middlewich Town Council.
The County Museums poster shows the works as it was at the time of its closure and includes the buildings seen in the section of our main photo shown below:
We believe this image to be out of copyright. If you own the coyright, or know who does, please let us know
This section of the photograph is remarkable similar to the view of Murgatroyd's in the Cheshire Museums poster; so much so that the diagram must have been based on the photograph.
But the poster is titled 'Murgatroyd's Open-pan Salt Works Middlewich 1889-1966' and there is no indication that we are only looking at a part of the works.
So when was that large section of the works running along the railway line built, and when did it disappear?
Turning once again to Wych & Water and the invaluable series of maps showing the comings and goings of the various salt works in Middlewich over timewe can see that it  appears in the 1898  OS map (dated as 1889) and is  included in the 1909-14 and 1939 OS Maps.
So it must have been built some time between the years 1889 and 1898 and been closed some time after 1939.
It may well be that the remains of this part of the works was still there in the 1960s, but I can't remember them.
Another interesting point is this: what has happened to the network of railway lines which are shown on all the OS maps from 1898 onwards?
There were, from the late 19th century (possibly from the earliest days of Murgatroyd's), connections to the LNWR Sandbach-Middlewich-Northwich branch line, (via The Salt Siding from 1918), serving the ICI Mid-Cheshire Works and Murgatroyd's.
In fact the works (the part which survived until 1966) was, at one time, circled by railway tracks in a way which irresistibly reminded us of a model railway layout, as shown in this section of the OS map of 1907/8 (with additions to 1938):
The tracks in question must have been removed  before 1966, possibly during the 1950s (Murgatroyd's were certainly using road transport during that period) or even earlier, leaving only the connection to the ICI Works, running behind the Scout Hall, across what is now 'Road Beta' and through the wrought iron works gates, which survive to the present day as part of Pochin's premises.
The ICI works itself was closed in 1962, but the rusting railway tracks lingered on for a few years after that.

Which puts the date of our main picture somewhere after 1939 and before 1966.
So what is intriguing me is this: was that  vanished  section of Murgatroyd's Salt Works still there as late as the 1960s?
When did it actually close down, and when was it demolished?

Facebook Feedback:

Geraldine Williams: See what you mean about the likeness to a model railway layout. It also strongly resembles the 'paperclip' pattern made by the planes when they are put 'on hold' at Manchester!
I was also intrigued by the 'Roman Road (site of)' shown on the OS map. Has this featured in any of the Roman Middlewich literature?

Editors Note: It appears that Newton Farm (later to be the site of Murgatroyd's Works) had well recognised Roman connections, and that may be the reason why Murgatroyd bought the site, possibly reasoning that the Romans must have identified a source of brine nearby. Follow the link to 'No 2 brine pump' for more on this from Kerry Fletcher's Middlewich Heritage site.

We're grateful to Kerry for the following additional information:

Kerry Fletcher
Just a couple of notes for you. The last salt lump at Murgatroyd's was produced in December 1966, Manchester Evening news came to take photographs of the last shift.
Demolition was in 1968 with the famous Common Pan Chimney coming down in April 1968.
The Open Pans were in operation for 76 years almost to the day, as the first salt lump was produced as the New Year of 1890 was seen in.
I don't know the exact year of when the railway side buildings disappeared, I'll find out for you but it must have something to do with the fact that the Common Salt Pans were last used in 1962-3. I have a picture of common salt being tipped into the wagons below from those buildings. As vacuum salt was being produced at the main factory I suppose those buildings wouldn't be required for anything.
I've discovered quite a few photographs taken around Seddons and Murgatroyd's, some taken by people who worked there, some publicity shots taken by local but now closed photography businesses, some by the papers and the aerial shots were by airview of Manchester or similar company. hope that helps.
Here's one of the photos mentioned by Kerry:

Last 'Baggin' time' at Murgatroyds. Left to right: Jack Clarke, Tom Gallimore,  Bob Peach, Bill Challinor. Photo Manchester Evening News (attrib.)

First published 29th February 2012
Re-formatted and re-published 26th February 2017


Monday, 20 February 2017


The Wheelock Aqueduct on the SUC Middlewich Branch, February 2012.
by Dave Roberts
Jim Moores has been out and about recently gathering photographs for his excellent new Facebook page 
'The Canals & Rivers of Middlewich' and here he's giving us all a glimpse of one of the three aqueducts in the town - one we've talked about in several previous Middlewich Diary entries but have never had the chance of a proper look at, until now. 
Like so many such places around our town, the SUC* aqueduct over the River Wheelock, just yards away from the much better known (for obvious reasons) Nantwich Road aqueduct, is a 'hidden gem'. 
It's very similar to the nearby road aqueduct which was built at the same time but, in the case of the river aqueduct, the large sweeping buttresses on either side,with ornamental stone pillars at the end of them are very obvious:

Actually, this is explained very much better by George Nash in Wych & Water (Middlewich Vision 2009):

'At either end of the supporting revetment are curvilinear piers that terminate to form circular roundels. A similar ornamental arrangement is present on one of the surviving piers attached to the Croxton Aqueduct'

The Nantwich Road aqueduct is lacking these stone pillars and the opulent curves on either side of the road, presumably because of space constraints in the narrow cutting in which it lies. According to George Nash (see above), the road aqueduct is, in any case, smaller than the one over the river.
It seems strange, though, that the river aqueduct, out of sight of the general public, should be given these embellishments and the Nantwich Road one left unadorned.
In the early 1960s,when I was still at Wimboldsley Primary School  I remember playing around this aqueduct with a group of friends.
One of our ambitions was to walk through the aqueduct from one side to the other along the middle of the river.
We never did it, as we were unsure how deep the river was.
In those days, just a short distance into the tunnel (both these aqueducts are more like short tunnels,burrowing into the canal embankment, than bridges) on the Wimboldsley side was what looked very much like an abandoned boat.
Another of our ambitions was to rescue this boat, repair it, and  go sailing all around the canals and rivers of Middlewich,like our heroes the Swallows and Amazons.
That never happened either.
Jim's third photograph shows the River Wheelock flowing on from the aqueduct and heading off towards its meeting with the River Dane at Croxton.

UPDATE (20th February 2017)
When a link to this diary entry was re-published on Facebook in February 2017, Andy Boardman got in touch to say that he too had photographed the aqueduct in 2015. His excellent study, us an overall view of the structure, is reproduced, with permission, below

Photo: Andy Boardman

* Shropshire Union Canal (Middlewich Branch)

Note: This entry started a discussion in the 'comments' section (see below) of a 'tunnel' under the canal in or near Norman's wood. 

Jim Moores' Canals & Rivers of Middlewich' Facebook page has photos.

The Norman's Wood 'tunnel' under the SUC Middlewich Branch at Norman's Wood. Is it a tunnel, or more properly a drainage culvert?
Photo: Jim Moores
First published 18th February 2012
Revised and re-published 20th February 2017

Monday, 13 February 2017


A real asset to our town is GO LOCAL, the magazine which is distributed every two months to every house in Middlewich. 

The magazine includes features of interest to everyone living here. 

There's a regular look at Middlewich history presented by Julie Elizabeth Smalley in MIDDLEWICH'S HERITAGE.

The COMMUNITY PAGE features notices giving details of upcoming events in the town, 

And the DID YOU KNOW? page  never fails to provide some fascinating esoteric and off-the-wall information. 

There are also full listings of the many and varied events taking place here month after month throughout the year in the WHAT'S ON section .

On top of this,  GO LOCAL is crammed with advertisements  which will be useful to anyone in Middlewich who wants to find a local business or service. 

There's also a READY REFERENCE section with contact details for all the vital services in the town you may need.

And it's all delivered FREE to your letterbox!


The APRIL/MAY  2017 issue is out now.

If you've had a copy of GO LOCAL through your door and never bothered to look at it, take a look now! It always repays inspection!

Saturday, 11 February 2017



Kerry Fletcher writes:

I need help to save the Murgatroyd's open pan works model which is currently on display at Weaver Hall Museum Northwich.

This model is being taken out mid-March and  I need help with funding to be able to dismantle the model, transport it back to Middlewich and re-assemble at the Victoria Building.
I also need to be able to pay for the room hire costs, so we can do the model justice in its new home, once again welcoming visitors.
Anyone interested in helping please contact me on 01606 841379. Please share!

January 28th 2014

Editor's note:

If you can help, or know someone who can, please contact Kerry on the above number.
Although the latter days of open pan salt making in the town were dominated by the three Seddon's works in Pepper Street, Brooks Lane and Wych-House Lane, Murgatroyd's works, also in Brooks lane, continued operating right up until 1966 and had the distinction of remaining under the same ownership throughout its life.
Below are links to some of the information on Murgatroyd's we have in the Middlewich Diary. There will, in due course, be more to come.
Dave Roberts




(includes notes from Kerry Fletcher)




UPDATE (February 2017)

The model was brought back to the town where it, arguably, belongs but, unfortunately, nowhere has yet been found large enough to put it on permanent display. The obvious place would, of course, be somewhere on the Murgatroyd's Brine Pump site which is currently in the process of being preserved. 

MURGATROYD'S BRINE PUMPS (Middlewich Heritage Trust)

First published 11th February 2014

Updated and re-published 11th February 2017

Monday, 6 February 2017


Looked at thirty-six years after it was taken, this picture by Jack Stanier comes as something of a shock as we realise just how extensive were the alterations to Kinderton Street at that time. If you followed our pontifications earlier this year about Kinderton Street, you'll know that we have gradually revised our assumed dates for this transformation from around 1972 (when St Michael's Way was built) to a couple of  years later, which is why we've dated this slide at 1975.
In those days panoramic views of Middlewich could be
obtained by paying 5p for a trip up the Church tower
Jack was taking advantage of one of the occasional Church Tower open days which happened in those days on a regular basis. This one was in September (according to the inscription on the slide). We have already published my shot of the same view a couple of years earler, before demolition began in earnest and a direct comparison of the two shots is very interesting. We'll be publishing the two shots side by side shortly to make direct comparison easier (not so much a 'Now & Then' feature as a 'Then & Just BeforeThen' feature...)
When you look at Kinderton Street today, it's hard to imagine that it was ever any different, but Jack's picture shows just how narrow the original road was, particularly at the top end. But quite a large proportion of that huge swathe of cleared ground in the middle of the picture is now given over not to traffic, but to a wide footpath and landscaping, and the actual usable carriageway seems only to have been widened sufficiently to bring it in line with the width of the road at Town Bridge and Station Bridge at either end.
The' black stripe' running along the left hand edge of that huge area is the temporary and rather precarious footpath which was placed high on the top of the bank to  maintain pedestrian access to King Street. Just how precarious this path was can be seen here.
Note that  Ashleys, the contractors building the new carriageway, have established a base on part of the Seabank car park.
And on the extreme right of the picture, you can see that the cottages on the right hand side of Seabank are yet to be demolished.
Some of the features seen before in our in-depth examinations of Kinderton Street are present and correct.
On the right, the jumble of offices and houses which now make up the Kinderton Hotel can be seen, below the Boar's Head, and close by is another of those old GPO red phone boxes.
At  the top of all that cleared ground, Moreton's old farmhouse has disappeared and its modern and boring replacement can be seen just to the left.
Way out on the horizon, that white dot is the Jodrell Bank radio telescope near Chelford and, closer to home, we can just see the little wooden boat, peeping into shot bottom right, which became almost a part of the Town Wharf as she was moored there for many years. Her name was, I think, Tilley, and she was owned by Tommy Williams who worked all his life on the canals, eventually settling down to live in a cottage in Canal Terrace close to Middlewich Narrowboats.

Facebook Feedback (2016)

This diary entry's second outing on Facebook, in February 2016, brought this interesting crop of comments:

Peter Wakefield I was about nine years old and going to St Mary's RC Primary School in King Street, just around the corner, when this photograph was taken in 1975. On the town bridge there always used to be a crossing patrol managed by a local policeman. Outside the school in King Street there was a 'lollipop' crossing. The location of Middlewich Railway Station was just below the 'J' and to the left. That red telephone box used to take 2p and 10p pieces. Then Harold Wilson put the 2p price up to 5p. 'Don't forget to dial 100 and tell the operator to get off the line - there's a train coming!' or 'Can we ask the fire brigade if we can put some coal on the fire until they get there?' The white disc in the background is the parabolic dish of the Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank, which is owned by the University of Manchester. To the right are the Pennine Hills, Mow Cop, The Cloud, Macclesfield and Congleton. Further right still lies Derbyshire...

Paul Williams I remember that copper all too well. He kicked me up the arse for crossing town bridge when there was a car coming!

Geraldine Williams 1975? It took a long time for the re-development to take place then! Our home was on the right hand side of Kinderton Street - just opposite the digger on the photographe - and we had to vacate 1n 1967 when our house chimney collapsed. By that time, most of the adjacent properties were already empty.

Kevin Birchall Hard to believe how big the bend in the road was!

Facebook Feedback (2017)

Kevin Birchall I'm sure there used to be another phone box outside Chris Earl's at some point.

Geraldine Williams Yes, there was.

Helen Stanley What were those big brick archways that stood on the land where the factory shop now is? I used to think they were air raid shelter, but was told they were bread ovens. Anyone remember?

Geraldine Williams We lived for at while at 18 Kinderton Street in the 1960s and, to our left, was a deserted shop which I understood was formerly a bakery (Clewes?)
EDITOR'S NOTE, DECEMBER 2011: When we first published this photo we dated it as 1974 and argued that it was probably a couple of years later than its companion shot, also taken from the church tower which we estimated as being taken around 1972. Close examination of both pictures, however, seems to indicate that they were both taken in the same year, as so much in each shot is the same. And comparison with other pictures of the area show that the date of both is more likely to be 1975.  We have therefore revised the date of both slides to that year. This is the later, September, shot.

First published 3rd December 2011
Re-publish with additional (2016) Feedback 6th February 2017

Saturday, 4 February 2017



For 2017, the Middlewich Rose Fete has moved away from its links with the FAB Festival to become yet another separate  event for Middlewich - the Middlewich Rose Fete and Children's Festival! 

DIrect Facebook Page link:

The Festival itself takes place on
20th May 2017

First published January 2nd 2017
Re-published February 4th 2017

Thursday, 2 February 2017


On the 12th May 1937 Middlewich joined with the rest of the country in celebrating the Coronation of King George VI, and we assume that this picture was taken, if not on the day itself, on a day very close to it..
The Coronation marked the end of a turbulent time for the British Monarchy. Edward VIII had reigned for less than a year before he was forced to abdicate rather than give up his relationship with Mrs Simpson.
He was never crowned  and  by 1937, when Edward had been succeeded by George VI, the Monarchy was keen to mount an occasion to remember, in order to restore Royalty's somewhat tarnished reputation.
The town rose to the occasion, as it traditionally did when it came to Royal occasions.
Middlewich had always considered itself to be a 'Royalist' town, from the days of the civil war, although by 1937 this will have been more a matter of custom and practice than of any deep-seated emotional attachment to the Crown.
Nevertheless, for the 1937 Coronation, Middlewich pulled out all the stops. Among the many events were no less than three processions through the town, a bonfire and firework display, and sports on the football ground in Seddon Street.
All these things, and more, were recorded on film for posterity by members of the Mid-Cheshire Amateur Cinematography Society (MCACS) and the films subsequently shown to the public in the Alhambra Cinema.
The Coronation 1937 film is now preserved in the North-West Film Archive at Manchester University, as part of the Roberts Collection.
The film, with the original opening titles restored, can be seen on the Salt Town Productions YouTube channel. Please follow this link.

Another feature of Middlewich's  celebrations for this momentous Royal occasion was the erection of arches bearing patriotic messages across some of the streets.
There was one in  Kinderton Street, one in Kitfield Avenue, and one in Hayhurst Avenue. ICI built one in Lewin Street close to the White Horse
And there was the one shown here, erected by the Independent Order of Oddfellows, who were based at the Golden Lion, just out of shot to the left, proclaiming


This arch also features in the Coronation 1937 film and, fortuitously, when the MCACS cameraman (in all probability Clifford Ridgway) came along to film it, he did so from the other direction, and so we know what it says on the reverse  side:


 a quote which is attributed to Charles Frederick Lawrence, Clerk to the MUDC, historian and poet.

He was, of course, alluding to that old Royalist rhyme from the days of the Civil War:

Middlewich is a pretty town,
Seated in a valley,
With a church, a market cross,
And eke a bowling alley.
All the men are loyal there,
Pretty girls are plenty;
Church and King and down with the Rump,
There's none such a town in twenty

In the background Middlewich Motors can be seen, draped with bunting for the occasion, and with another of those superb vintage cars parked outside, complete with spare wheel carrier.
Under the arch itself a gentleman who looks very much like a postman is passing the time of day with a local resident.
(with acknowledgments to Middlewich 1900-1950 by Allan Earl (Cheshire Country Publishing 1994)

First published 10th March 2012
Updated and re-published 2nd February 2017