Thursday, 29 June 2017


Our masthead from 1st June - 18th June 2017. Middlewich Town Council/Bare Bones Marketing
Here's our Masthead for the rest of the month, featuring a photo by Stephen Green which we think sums up the spirit of the FAB Festival so well.
Photo: Stephen Green
Stephen Green took many photos of this year's incredible Middlewich FAB Festival, and he kindly allowed us to borrow one in particular which, we feel, sums up the spirit of the Festival, its sheer exuberance and sense of fun. 
Here's the original photo which we incorporated into our Masthead from the end of the Festival until the end of June.
 With many thanks to Stephen and to all who work so hard to put this event on each year and make sure it runs smoothly. There's something about the 'Folk & Boat' which is indefinable and makes it unique. Others have tried to replicate it, and failed. That's Middlewich for you, though! Dave Roberts, Editor

Sunday, 18 June 2017


This photo first appeared on Facebook, not as part of the regular 'Middlewich' series, but on Father's Day 2011 as a tribute to my Dad, Arthur Roberts, who was a foreman electrician at Cerebos Salt Ltd (later to become part of RHM Foods) from the late 30s until his retirement through ill health around 1969. Dad is pictured here in the generator room at Cerebos in (we think) the late 40s/early 50s. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the generator plant and its controls and, when he had to retire, was retained as a consultant and driven up to the works at weekends by Percy Wrench in the works van to check that everything was OK. The Cerebos generating plant was very efficient for its day, as the steam used to run the generators was not released into the atmosphere but recycled to provide heating and hot water for the whole factory, as well as for a very unusual salt pan which can best be described as a giant 'electric kettle'. The steam heated a giant element in the pan which, unlike the coal fired pans at Seddons and Murgatroyds, could be kept going for days and weeks on end, making it far more productive than most salt pans.  A lot of the power produced, went to run the vacuum salt plant, fore-runner of the one now in use at British Salt which produces the greater part  of the country's salt requirements.
Salt plants and electrical generators are, of course, run with the help of computers these days, but in Dad's day, all the knowledge was, literally, in his head. He taught himself electrical engineering in his spare time by correspondence course.

see also QUEEN MUM

First published July 11th 2011
Republished June 15th (Fathers Day) 2014
Republished June 19th (Fathers Day) 2016
Republished June 18th (Fathers Day) 2017

Saturday, 17 June 2017


Tools used in the production of open pan and cut-lump salt
This photograph from the 2011 FAB Festival illustrates another important aspect of our town's most hectic and exhilarating weekend.
From its earliest beginnings in 1990 the festival was seen not only as an important musical event and celebration of Middlewich's canal heritage but also as an opportunity to showcase the town's long and hitherto rather neglected history as one of the famous 'Cheshire Wiches'.
There can't be many British schoolchildren who weren't taught about Nantwich, Middlewich and Northwich and their tradition of salt-making stretching back to a time even before the Roman invasion, so that almost everyone would have heard of our town, even if many of them probably couldn't have told you exactly where it was.
Every year now, thanks to the sterling efforts of  Middlewich Town Council's Heritage Officer, Kerry Fletcher, and the work put in by many volunteers, including members of the Middlewich Heritage Society, the history of Middlewich is displayed and interpreted for the benefit of both townspeople and visitors.

Modern day Bisto Kids pose in front of the mural rescued from RHM Foods when the factory closed in 2009. See this diary entry.

Festival visitors on the Narrowboat Sweden, formerly one of the fleet of boats used by Henry Seddon & Sons to bring in coal and export salt from their Wych House Lane and Pepper Street works along the Trent & Mersey Canal (the Wych House Lane works was situated  to the right of the boat on what is now known as the 'Salinae Field'. Part of the field can be seen above the boat's engine compartment.).
Sadly, since this photograph was taken, Sweden has been repainted in a livery representing a different period of her long life.

With the Town Bridge in the right background, Cliff's photo shows the scene at Town Wharf a few years ago (one of the wharf buildings is on the extreme left). The wharf and the immediately adjacent Salinae Field are really the point where the 'Folk & Boat' parts of the festival come together; concerts are staged on boats moored by the wharf and stalls and exhibition stands help tell the Middlewich story to Folkies and Boaties alike.
When the 'Gateway To Middlewich' scheme comes to fruition  this part of town will have become even more attractive and welcoming, not only at festival time but also throughout the rest of the year.
(Editor's note: We're still waiting! That line was from the original 2013 edition of this diary entry and in 2015 little has changed as far  as the wharf is concerned.)

...and just in case anyone might have forgotten how it all started back in 1990 here are the legendary MIDDLEWICH PADDIES who have appeared at all 25 Festivals through the years.
On the left is Graham Sivills, centre is Richard Devaney, the man who thought up the idea in the first place, and on the right, Dave Thompson, formerly Folk & Boat Festival Artistic Director and now running the FAB Festival on behalf of the Town Council as Events Manager.

Diary entry originally published 12th June 2013 under the title

Many thanks to CLIFF ASTLES for permission to use these photographs.

First published 12th June 2013
Re-published 7th June 2014
10th June 2015
17th June 2017

Wednesday, 7 June 2017


This all too short video appeared recently on the Middlewich Community Group on Facebook. It shows some stunning shots of the Parish Church, the Trent & Mersey Canal and the British Salt Works in Booth Lane.
Familiar elements which make Middlewich the town it is today, but shown from a new angle thanks to new 'drone' technology.
We're hoping that a longer version will be forthcoming soon.

Many thanks to HENRY COLE for permission to use his work.

You can view the video here.


(Middlewich Community Group Link)