Sunday, 30 July 2017

REVEALING MURGATROYD'S - OPEN DAYS 2017

Final open days for this season:
SATURDAY 9th SEPTEMBER
SUNDAY 10th SEPTEMBER
Site open 1pm - 4pm




Find out more about the Murgatroyd's project on the






As any schoolboy knows, this area has for centuries been famous for its salt industry, and Middlewich still flies the flag with one of the most important salt manufacturing plants in the country. 
And the Murgatroyd's brine shaft, its brine pumps and associated infrastructure, are a very special part of the story of Cheshire Salt, with the Murgatroyd's site having the distinction of being the only one of its kind still in existence.
Middlewich Heritage Trust is working hard to preserve it for posterity so that Middlewich can take its rightful place, alongside the Lion Salt Works, as part of the history of Cheshire salt. Don't miss your chance to find out more about this important national project. Click on the link above for pictures of one of the 2016 open days, and for more information about the Murgatroyd's site and its preservation.




UPDATE (FEBRUARY 27th 2017)

BLOG UPDATE
First published 15th February 2017
Updated 27th February 2017
Re-published 30th July 2017

Saturday, 29 July 2017

WHISTON'S TV VAN EARLY 1960s

Now here's a real find. This photo was sent to us by Stuart Warren Twigg, grandson of Harry Jackson who is seen here at the wheel of Whiston's TV van in the early 1960s. Stuart sent the photograph after seeing this entry in the Middlewich Diary, in which we talked about Whiston's Garage which once stood where Wheelock Street, Chester Road and Nantwich Road all meet. In the course of the ensuing discussion Geraldine Williams remembered Whiston's radio department which was behind the camera. We think, from the look of the van and the TV set next to it, that this picture comes from the early 1960s when TV rather than radio was the dominant form of home entertainment.
The van driver is Harry Jackson, Stuart's grandfather. As Geraldine mentioned in our earlier discussion the radio department was run by Harry , who later moved just a short distance down the road to Douglas Williams and Co which was based at the shop now occupied by the Easy Tan  Tanning Salon. Another one of nature's gentlemen, Harry was the epitome of old-fashioned courtesy and customer service.
The buildings just visible on the extreme right are the Crosville Garage (later T&M Autoparts, the MoCoCo cafe and now apartments run by the same organisation) and Gater's Bakery, the front part of which was  empty for many years and has now been incorporated into those apartments, only the old shop fascia board giving away the secret that it was once a shop.
Note: Part of that fascia board can be seen on the extreme right of the picture, just above the white vehicle. Can anyone decipher the lettering? 
The Whiston's building seen here, bearing that enigmatic word SHELLUBRICATION which was  seen everywhere in those days, disappeared long ago and all that can be seen on the site in the present day is some shrubbery separating the bus lay-by in St Michael's Way from Red Cow Court.
The main Whiston's buildings, i.e. the Garage and radio and TV shop, were further down the road opposite the end of Nantwich road, as can be seen in that earlier Diary entry.
Also long gone, presumably, is that immaculate Ford Popular van bearing the two-digit local telephone number, which you could obtain by lifting your receiver and saying, 'can you put me through to number 97 please?'
It all sounds rather like a scene from 'The Prisoner'.
The smart looking TV set would enable you to watch BBC Television on Channel 2 or Granada TV/ABC on Channel 9. It was, presumably, made by Pye of Cambridge.

Update (July 2017)
 For comparison, here's a shot of the same area taken in July 2017: 




Harry Jackson can also be seen  here

Facebook feedback:


Geraldine Williams: We had one of the early TV sets from Whiston's in the 1950s - I think it was in time for the Coronation in 1953 and I seem to remember our sitting room being full of neighbours and relatives who came to watch the ceremony. This also happened for the Cup Final! The TV was a console model with a 9" screen. My father eventually bought a magnifying screen on a stand which was supposed to enlarge the picture and also prevent light reflection. By the look of this picture the business, and the TVs seem to have progressed a lot and I suspect this van is a new addition. Harry looks very pleased with himself!

Michael Tully: Harry Jackson was one of the nicest guys ever. Absolutely great photo of a great man. Hilda, his wife, was fantastic too.

Dave Roberts: You're right, Michael.

First published 13th January 2012
Re-published with amendments 17th October 2015
Re-published with 2017 comparison shot 29th July 2017


Friday, 28 July 2017

GATER'S PASTRYCOOK and CONFECTIONER BILL 1954


Here's another of Carole Hughes' collection of old bills and everyday documents. It dates back, as can be seen, fifty-eight years to 1954 and gives us cause to revisit a couple of photographs we've seen before..
Gater's was a rather high-class pastrycook and confectioner situated next door to what was then the Crosville Bus Garage in Wheelock Street, more recently home to the Mococo Cafe and soon to become 'starter' flats for young people.
Gater's shop can be seen in the photograph below to the right of the cafe.



Despite being empty for many years, the appearance of the shop remains very much the same as it always was, with its distinctive 'gate' across the entrance (although the gate itself looks to be  a replacement for an earlier, slightly higher, one, as seen in the third photo (below) from 1987 when T&M. Autoparts occupied most of the premises. 

Gater's shop was, evidently, in use at the time but it's very difficult to see what was being sold. Can anybody shed any light on this?

UPDATE (23rd July 2016): By 2016 all had changed again with the closure of the Mococo Cafe and its replacement by flats (still, though, under the auspices of the Middlewich Community Church).

See: MD Archive: MOCOCO CAFE TO CLOSE (JULY 2012)
 Gater's former shop was included in the conversion and the shop front with its plate glass window and gated entrance finally disappeared, to be replaced by ordinary windows. Interestingly, the black fascia board seen in the above photo was retained, presumably because of the difficulty removing it would have caused, and so at least one clue to the building's former use remains.


Here's the scene on the 28th July 2017, a wet and dreary Summer day in Middlewich. The cafe's gone and the flats have been created. Gater's shop window has been replaced by the three plastic windows, but that tell-tale black fascia is still there betraying its origins as a shop. No doubt this will eventually disappear during some future refurbishment, and the very last trace of Gater's will have gone.

The bill itself, for 30 teas at 3s 6d each, adding up to a grand total of £5. 5s 0d (or, to put it another way, five guineas) has something of an air of melancholy about it.
The teas were actually funeral teas and were sold to local undertaker Len Dean to be consumed by those attending a funeral in the Sant family.
But the slight  air of glamour which hung around Gater's is reflected in the  unusual and rather sophisticated  typeface used on its paperwork.

First published 23rd July 2012

Updated and re-published 23rd July 2013,
23rd July 2016 and 28th July 2017

THE PARTLY-BUILT PIAZZA, 1972


by Dave Roberts

It's That Man Again! The partly built Middlewich Piazza in 1972, and our old friend George Robinson (left) in his quest to try to be on every photo I ever took, observes the passing Middlewich scene after, no doubt, having just emerged from the nearby Vaults public house.
The massive Colditz-style retaining wall by the bus-stop is complete, but the steps and the bleak, uneven acres of dodgy-looking paving slabs (in sickly shades of white, pink and yellow) have yet to be put in place.
Interestingly, the War Memorial has already been placed in its new position and traffic flow over Hightown still runs from Lewin Street to Wheelock Street. 

If you look carefully to the right of that massive 'Colditz' wall there appear to be two policemen, obviously guarding this new gem of modern urban architecture from possible malefactors.
Well, maybe not, but at this distance in time people seem to have forgotten the outright hostility this unlovely and unloved development engendered. It was universally despised and loathed by one and all and, when it was replaced by the current 'Roman amphitheatre' in 2005 the whole town breathed a sigh of relief.

The Piazza and the town centre in the 1980s




First published on Facebook on 5th June 2011
Published on the Middlewich Diary 28th July 2011
Revised and republished 28th July 2017




    • First published on Facebook on 5th June 2011

Saturday, 22 July 2017

MUSIC IN MIDDLEWICH: RECORDSVILLE DJs AT THE WHITE BEAR 22nd JULY 2017 (ARCHIVED)







THE FIRST MIDDLEWICH MEXON STREET MARKET JULY 2017 (ARCHIVED)





Hot on the heels of the Artisan Market (June 2012 - March 2014) and the Makers Market (April 2014 - May 2017) comes a brand new and this time purely local venture, the Middlewich Mexon Market!


SUPPORTING THE MIDDLEWICH MEXON MARKET....






From Middlewich Town Council:
Middlewich Town Council, Middlewich Vision, partners and volunteers would like to announce the creation of a new market for Middlewich. The market will be a not-for-profit venture and all proceeds will be used to sustain the market over the coming months. It will take time to develop but we hope that you will give it your support to make it a success and a welcome enhancement to our town centre.


DIRECT EMAIL LINK: visionapm@middlewich.org.uk

Find out more about the Middlewich Mexon Market at:


SUPPORTING THE MIDDLEWICH MEXON STREET MARKET...




Middlewich Heritage Society   Photo: Salt Town Productions July 2017

There's a long history of markets in Middlewich, stretching back to at least the 13th century (our first Market Charter was granted in 1260), and the Mexon website features an article with information from Allan Earl giving a brief run-down of that history and explaining where the name 'Mexon' comes from. 
 'Mexon' doesn't appear in the OED, so it may be that the word is obsolete. Or it may be a word of purely local origin, like 'Lompon'.

Photo: Bill Armsden

Historical note: This is not the fIrst time that the name 'Mexon' has been revived. In the 1970s local businessman Steve Wells used the name The King's Mexon for a restaurant in Wheelock Street, where the Blue Ginger Indian Restaurant & Takeaway currently (2017) is.


SUPPORTING THE MIDDLEWICH MEXON STREET MARKET...






And here's our celebratory MD Masthead for July 2017 featuring the advent of this

great new venture...


We wish the new Middlewich Mexon Street Market every success!

This also appears on THE QUEEN STREET COLLECTION

First published 14th July 2017
Re-published 22nd July 2017

Friday, 21 July 2017

LUTHER WALTON'S SHOP 1974


We're back in Middlewich Town Centre in 1974. The black & white building to the right is The White Bear and framed in its ornate gateway is Luther Walton's shop, which I remember as a mixture of high-class confectioner and travel agent. Next door, to the left, was Reg Taylor's Newsagents and next to that Samuel's Ironmongers, with Skellern's shoe shop on the corner of Wheelock Street and Dierden's Terrace completing the row. Walton's has now become the 'Kandi' Bar*, and for most of the 80s it was, as Colin Derek Appleton reminded us, Tempter's Wine Bar, referred to by social climbing Middlewich newbies as 'The Wine Bar In The Village', thus making it the inspiration for a poem about old and new Middlewich which will probably find its way here before too long.. Does anyone remember any other uses the building had between then and now?

* Update: In early 2012 the Kandi Bar was transformed once more and became 'Chimichango's Mexican Restaurant'.

First published on Facebook.

Original Facebook feedback:

Natalie Sant Then it was shops and a cafe, about six years ago.

Colin Derek Appleton I think the shops and cafe were in what was Reg Taylor's old newsagents?

Geraldine Williams Luther Walton's brother used to run a sweet shop higher up Wheelock Street (wool shop area) and in the days of rationing my family used to pool its sweet coupons and spend them at that shop for a once-monthly binge. Luther's was also an ice-cream parlour at one time.

Dave Roberts Yes, the shops and cafe were at Reg Taylor's, next door. It was called Middlewich In Shops and the cafe was at the back. A very pleasant spot, but short-lived. It was later incorporated into the Kandi Bar premises as the Choklat Bar. Luther Walton was ahead of his time with his travel business where you could buy brain and coach tickets.

Ian Bailey And ex juke box records!

Melanie Edwards Don't forget Cafe Bar M 2002-2007


Update (July 2017)

By 2017 Luther Walton's had become CHIMICHANGO'S MEXICAN RESTAURANT 
and Reg Taylor's Newsagent MAGGIE FINN'S TEA-ROOM




Chimichango's (photo Bill Armsden)

The Choklat Bar (photo Bill Armsden)
First published on Facebook 3rd May 2011
First published in The Middlewich Diary 21st July 2011
Revised and re-published 21st July 2017




Wednesday, 19 July 2017

NOW OPEN IN WHEELOCK STREET AND CANAL TERRACE - MAGGIE FINN'S!

TEA-ROOM AND CATERER

FRESHLY PREPARED HOT AND COLD FOOD.
TEAS,  COFFEES AND COLD DRINKS.

EAT IN OR TAKE OUT.

OPEN MONDAY TO SATURDAY
from 8am until 4pm.



MAGGIE FINN'S TEA GARDEN

Maggie Finns Website


Facebook Page


'Here at Maggie Finns we pride ourselves on our quality and service...

We always use only the best ingredients, sourced locally whereever possible, prepared with care and reasonably priced.

We can accommodate most dietary requirements and intolerances...please ask.

Business meetings, parties etc.. any special occasion - ask about our party food and catering services.'

Contact number for catering: 01606 869062



Find out more from our friends at the

PASSION IS THE DIFFERENCE...

First published 7th April 2017
Updated and re-published 19th July 2017

BACK TO QUEEN STREET!

Monday, 17 July 2017

PUPPETEERS AT WIMBOLDSLEY SCHOOL, EARLY 1960s

by Dave Roberts

I've always wanted to be an entertainer, and some day I might be. Here's an early attempt, at Wimboldsley school in the early 1960s.
 At the risk of sounding like a name-dropper, that's me with Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse. Next to me is David Bradley, with Pinnochio and what looks to me like either Pinky or Perky. 
The girl on the left is Judith Whittingham, but I can't remember the other girl's name. 
What's intriguing me is this: who's the tall dude with the puppet and paintbrush? 
He looks worryingly like a young businessman who's wandered in off the street. He'd look more at home on 'The Apprentice'.

Can anyone supply the missing names?

SEE ALSO: PUPILS AT WIMBOLDSLEY SCHOOL 1950s

Sunday, 16 July 2017

THE VIEW FROM 1987 ('CHURCH and CHIMNEY')

Author's note: This article was first published in the Middlewich Chronicle in October 1987. To set the article in its period: it was twenty years since the open pan salt works had closed and fifteen years since the coming of St Michael's Way; the first Folk & Boat Festival was still three years away and the Heritage Society had been founded, by myself among others, only two years previously. The start of the Mid Cheshire Rail Users' Association's campaign to re-open Middlewich Station was five years in the future (although efforts to start such a campaign had already been made in the 60s and 70s). We were all still tickled to death that Middlewich could boast a wine bar and an Indian Restaurant (in fact there must have been more than one, even then) and we were getting annoyed at newcomers who tried to boost their social status by referring to our town as 'the village'. We were, of course, administratively still part of Congleton Borough, a fact which still sounds strange, even today. It is,  remember,  twenty-four years since this was written. I think it still stands up quite well, though bits of it are rather embarrassing. But isn't it odd how things taken for granted will change almost without us noticing? That 'tall, slender, metal chimney-stack' at British Salt, for example, has gone and been replaced by another chimney of a different design. We must be vigilant if we want to keep up with things. 'Church and Chimney' was the name I originally gave to this piece, and I'm glad to be able to restore it here. As you'll know if you've ever had dealings with newspapers, it is a matter of honour among sub-editors that, however perfect and fitting a title might be, they must change it. In the original newspaper, the title is 'Some dim and distant dream-time a mere twenty or thirty years ago'. Perhaps they were thinking of entering a 'clunkiest title for a newspaper article' competition? Those same sub-editors also inserted the sub-headings, which I've kept intact. So here we go, with a double nostalgia whammy - the nostalgia for 1987 when Middlewich was emerging as a pleasant 'dormitory town' and the nostalgia for the time twenty or thirty years before that when smoking chimneys were the order of the day - Dave Roberts July 2011


CHURCH and CHIMNEY

A nostalgic look at the recent past 
by Dave Roberts



Let me take you back to a time when Middlewich was something more than a massive housing estate with a church and a few shops in the middle.
A time before the great gash of the dual carriageway disfigured the town centre; a time before piazzas, Indian restaurants and Wine Bars; a time when Middlewich and its natural allies Winsford and Northwich formed a kind of mini Black Country dumped into the middle of lush, green, ever-so-posh Cheshire like some kind of joke.
I am not talking about some dim and distant dream-time, but a mere twenty or thirty years ago.

Field Day

Middlewich, then, was a very different place. L.S. Lowry would have had a field day. There were enough dreary, smoky vistas for a hundred sombre and dramatic paintings.
Just a few yards away from the very heart of the town sprawled the Pepper Street works of Henry Seddon & Sons, salt manufacturers. The square, brick-built chimneys of these works dominated the town centre and belched clouds of grey-black smoke over everything.
Keeping your washing clean was murder, but no one ever complained. This was a salt town, you see, and smoke and dirt were a part of life.
Venice had its bell-towers, Clydeside its cranes, Kent its oast-houses and Middlewich its salt works chimneys.
This was the natural order of things; the way things had always been and, we used to think, the way they always would be.
You could never accuse Middlewich of being a beautiful town but it had a certain style all its own; a character and atmosphere which largely disappeared in the early 1970s along with those gaunt, forbidding chimneys.
Some people are pleased to refer to this ancient Royal Borough as a ‘village’. Pardon me while I snort derisively. Let me tell you that when I was a little lad I thought that Middlewich was nothing less than a city.

Awe and Wonder


Filled with awe and wonder, I was trundled around its post-war austere little shops and might have been in Manchester or Liverpool for all I knew. I was perched on the railway bridge in Holmes Chapel Road to watch the black steam engines shunting wagons full of coal or salt, and concluded that Middlewich must be a great railway centre, like Crewe or Clapham Junction.
And I was taken once to Seddon Street to watch the only football match I have ever seen, and thought myself at Old Trafford.
The game was between Middlewich and, of all places, Congleton and all the days of my life I will remember the catchy little jingle the Middlewich Athletic supporters were singing:

Congleton Down The Drain,
Middlewich Pull The Chain!

Not exactly Shakespeare, of course, but it still has the power to cheer me up when the rates bill arrives from Congleton.
At that time, of course, we didn’t really know where Congleton was. It was just a town near Macclesfield, as far as we knew. We’d heard some talk about a bible and a new bear, but events on the other side of the county held no fascination for us. Certainly no one we knew had ever actually been to Congleton. After all, why should they?

pseudo-Borough

In those far-off days, long before the creation of the pseudo-Borough of ‘Congleton’ our civic affairs were looked after by the Middlewich Urban District Council, which boasted a Chairman with a greater aura of Municipal Majesty than any mere Lord Mayor. Contrast the present pallid name ‘Town Mayor’ with the resounding title, ‘Chairman Of The Urban District Council’ and you get some inkling of our sense of lost glories.
You could see the council’s initials everywhere. Even the grid-covers in the streets had M.U.D.C. stamped on them and, when I was really tiny, someone told me that the letters stood for ‘Mud Company’ and that there were men down the grids whose job it was to stir the mud all day long. It all seemed perfectly logical to me.
We were never sure what precisely the M.U.D.C. was for, but it was part of the town and part of our lives.
Two or three decades ago it was still possible to get an idea of Middlewich’s former importance from the smoke-blackened buildings and the general air of workmanlike and unglamorous efficiency.
The whole atmosphere of Middlewich shouted ‘THIS IS A WORKING TOWN’ at the top of its voice and there was an air of drab self-confidence about the place before the bulldozers moved in to rip its heart out.

Another tower

If you stood in Lewin Street and looked down towards the Town Bridge you could see a sight which no one in this world will ever see again. From this angle the Parish Church appeared to have sprouted another tower.
This tower smoked. In fact, it wasn’t really a part of the church at all; it just seemed so from that particular viewpoint. What it actually was, of course, was another of those tokens of Middlewich prosperity, a salt works chimney, looming over the heart of the town. If anyone tried to spoil the townscape in this fashion today, hands would be thrown up in horror, but then it seemed perfectly natural – the town’s two symbols side by side, church and chimney.
So much of dirty, old-fashioned Middlewich has gone, and quite right too. A lot of it deserved to be consigned to oblivion. The air is cleaner now, and so is the washing. Much has been gained but, in the process, many things have been lost; among them a sense of continuity and history.
The Urban District Council was abolished in 1974 and we are now governed from that obscure little town near Macclesfield. What was it called again?
Many of the little tumbledown shops and houses are gone. Some to make way for new developments but many – too many – to create those weed-filled, rubble-strewn waste grounds which no self-respecting town should have to put up with.
We are becoming a ‘dormitory’ town where the new breed of commuters can while away the evenings on the new estates after a hard day’s work in Crewe or Manchester.
Undoubtedly, Middlewich is fast becoming a more pleasant place to live in. In time the waste grounds will be built on; the wine bars, restaurants and bright new shops will spread and that other, older Middlewich will be just a memory.
I was walking around the town the other day reflecting on the changes of the last few years when, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed something which made me think that, maybe, the more things change the more they stay the same.
It was the tall, slender, metal chimney-stack of the British Salt works. Wherever you go in Middlewich you can see it, standing out on the skyline, a sort of modern, high-tech version of those old brick chimneys of former days.
Middlewich is still making salt, after all. A new generation of wallers is carrying on the old tradition up there in Cledford Lane.
Who know, there may even be a few ex-M.U.D.C. mud-stirrers still lurking in the dank darkness under Wheelock Street.
If you see one, give him my regards.

First published in The Middlewich Chronicle
Thursday October 8th 1987
© Dave Roberts 2011 

First published in 'The Middlewich Diary' 11th July 2011
Re-published 16th July 2017 to mark 30 years since first publication in the 'Chronicle' and fifty years since the end of open-pan salt making in Middlewich






Editor's note: Looking at this in 2011 I find it interesting to note the deliberately provocative language which I occasionally used: 'A massive housing estate with a church and a few shops in the middle' was never actually how I thought of Middlewich, but it would have been a good starting point for a discussion should anyone have wanted to take me up on it. And the digs at the old CBC were also a Roberts trademark of the time; a one-man campaign which later included the 'Nigel and Bill' sketches, also published by 'The Chronicle' (albeit in the 'Letters To The Editor'section). It never made the slightest difference to anyone, but, if nothing else, it gave everyone a bit of a laugh






AmandaLynne Music said...















I especially enjoyed the references to the rates bill and the Mud Company.






Dave Roberts said...















Actually, looking back into the archives, I find that the 'Nigel and Bill' saga actually began two years before this, in 1985, with the 'Congleton Borough Council Hanging Basket Sketch'. What larks!