Monday, 25 September 2017


The Roberts Collection


Film © Salt Town Productions 2017
By Dave Roberts

Bank Holiday was produced by the Mid-Cheshire Amateur Cinematography Society circa 1937.
The film shows the adventures of a group of friends venturing out from Wheelock (that fine old house at the top of the bank is still there, and looks very much the same today)

and into the Cheshire countryside around the River Dane near Middlewich, the Beeston Castle and Tarporley area, Bostock and the Shropshire Union Canal.

Highlights are:

Precious seconds of footage showing Middlewich station in its heyday.

Scenes featuring the long-vanished Beeston Castle & Tarporley station on the Crewe-Chester line.

Glimpses of the Nag's Head Hotel in Wheelock. 

An old black and white milestone on the Middlewich-Northwich Road at Bostock, which is still in exactly the same position today and, despite the depredations of  modern-day road traffic, looks just the same as it did eight decades ago.

And much more.

Watch out, towards the end of the film, for the scene in which several of our tired and weary Bank Holiday revellers are picked up by a horse and cart in a leafy Cheshire lane. This scene wasn't planned in any way; the cart just happened along as filming was taking place, and the driver was happy to be a part of the proceedings.

...and what better destination could you have than the one so stylishly depicted in this long-vanished signpost?

I've loved this film ever since I first saw it when I was a small child. It features many of my relations and their friends. Uncle Bill (Oakes), once of Three Willows in Mill Lane Middlewich, is the man who (heroically, we always thought) falls into the River Dane in an attempt to retrieve his cap. Uncle Bill also wrote the script (or 'scenario' to use the term current at the time).

Auntie Winnie and Auntie Evelyn are also very much in evidence, Auntie Winnie (Uncle Bill's wife) as one of the hikers, complete with rucksack, and Auntie Evelyn  wielding a camping kettle and primus stove four minutes into  the film. Auntie Evelyn, incidentally, was married to Clifford Ridgway, and older Middlewich residents may remember her as the proprietor of Ridgways Newsagents in Wheelock Street, more recently known as Chisholm's.

But the undoubted star of the show is my Dad, Arthur, playing the unlikely role of an angler whose love of angling is only surpassed by his love of bottles of beer. 

In real life Dad hardly ever touched a drop, but that's real acting for you.

In case you're wondering which of the two bicycling fishermen is Dad, he's the one in the lighter coloured hat.

If you recall all those old-fashioned Western films, you'll remember that the 'goodies' always had lighter coloured hats than the 'baddies'. Not that the other fellow was a 'baddie', of course, but it does make identification a bit easier...

There's a lovely shot in the film showing one of Dad's prized possessions, a Victorian gold pocket-watch which was passed on to him by his father.

That same watch is now one of my prized possessions, too, and still keeps perfect time.

A word about the music: Over the years this film has been shown with various tacked-on musical accompaniments, but I've always known the exact song which  would make the perfect companion to these 1930s Cheshire frolics: Albert Whelan's immortal I'm Happy When I'm Hiking - and I'm pleased to be able to marry film and song together for the first time here. 

Albert's classic song is augmented by other appropriate music from  Jack Hylton, the Andrews Sisters, the New Concert Orchestra and Jack Leon & His Band. Making a virtue out of a necessity, we've spliced together Albert's version of this quintessential hiking song with Jack Leon's version at the start of the film. Can you tell where the joins are? Albert Whelan's unedited version, in its entirety, is played over the closing sequences and titles. It took a lot of fiddling about to do all this, but that fiddling can best be described as a 'labour of love'!

You'll note that one of the pieces used is It's That Man Again, the theme tune to Tommy Handley's wildly popular radio show of the same name,  usually abbreviated to ITMA.
This is included for a very special reason:
As noted (below) the films in the Roberts Collection ended up in the North-West Film Archive at Manchester University.
In the early 1990s Granada TV, then at its original home in Quay Street, Manchester, was still in the business of making 'regional' programmes for transmission only in 'Granadaland', aka the North West. 
One of the company's programmes for 'local' consumption was a nostalgic documentary series called The Way We Were, narrated by Stuart Hall, which contrasted life in the North West in the 1930s, 40s and 50s with life in the early 90s.
The team at Granada would often call me to ask for copyright clearance on little bits of the films in the  Roberts Collection for inclusion in this nostalgic series, thus making Dad and Uncle Bill and other members of MCACS latter day TV stars, 60 years or so after they made their films.
The production team at Granada were very fond of using It's That Man Again as background music because, although ITMA is usually thought of as a wartime show, it actually started in the late 1930s and continued after the war until Tommy Handley's death in 1949. The ITMA theme is a 1930s classic, redolent of the rather desperate optimism of those fretful times. Our film features the full studio orchestra version which is included here as an oblique remembrance of Granada TV and all the staff who were sold down the river when the bland and boring national 'itv' usurped the proper regional service which we valued so much and which has been taken away from us.

Although the music still sounds great, sadly the picture quality on this version of the film is awful, bordering on abysmal. This is due to the fact that, owing  to unfortunate circumstances,  I've had to use a copy of a copy of a DVD of a video of the film (if that makes any sense) in order to bring it to you at all.

Like all the rest of the Roberts Collection of films, the original of Bank Holiday resides in the vaults of the North-West Film Archive in Manchester and I hope, in the fullness of time, to be able to show you a much better and much clearer version.

If you've been so kind as to read through this rambling introductory rigmarole rather than going straight to the link to the film, here it is again to save you the trouble of scrolling back to the top of the page.


Film © Salt Town Productions 2017

Friday, 22 September 2017


by Dave Roberts

A comparison of the Wheelock Street scene as it was in the early 1970s and as it is now ('now', of course, being a relative term - in  a few years our 'now' picture will be just as much a part of history as the 1972 shot. For the record, the 2011 picture was taken on the 2nd September).
The immediate thing we notice about the modern shot is the cars, which will always be a prominent feature of any new Wheelock Street photo, but we have to be fair: the 1972 slide was taken late in the evening, as can be deduced from the long shadows, and the 2011 picture in the middle of the afternoon.
Wheelock Street today, when compared with its 1970s counterpart, seems a lot brighter.
The 70s was a drab decade in any case, despite all the 'glam rock' and the Laura Ashley chintz, and Middlewich was going through a transitional stage, from salt town to dormitory town. There was no real incentive to shop here. There were no supermarkets (unless you count the 'Co-operative Superstore' at the other end of the street) and, from a retail point of view, the town was in the doldrums, a situation which has achingly slowly and painfully improved over the years, and is only now being addressed properly.
To the left is the former doctors surgery which was to become 'Jan's Cafe' and, in a more recent guise, the 'Cafe Med'.
Across the road, where the Co-op Travel Agency and the former Cheshire County Council 'Pace' office (now empty) and its associated car park are, there seems, in the 1972 shot, to be a long low wall or fence. Does anyone know what was on the other side of it?
Finally, a word about street lights. In the 1972 shot, to the left we can make out one of the old lamp standards erected by (or on behalf of ) the UDC. These were quite elegant and modern-looking for their day, but have now been replaced by cheap-looking efforts which look for all the world like glorified patio heaters (there's one in the 'now' picture, looking a bit like it's sticking out of the boot of the car on the right). A great pity because, for a short period, we did have some rather nice Victorian style lamps. Seemingly these did not give out enough light, so they were replaced by the ghastly ones we have today.
I think that street lamps are very important to the ambience and  atmosphere of a town. Take a look at the ones in Sandbach, particularly around the High Street area. They're traditional in style and very fitting for a historic area. Lamps like those would be much more in keeping with the traditional Victorian feel which Wheelock Street is supposed to be aiming for.
But at least one rather nice looking lamp has been provided, privately by the look of it, outside the Cafe Med.

Update (September 2017)
Those 'glorified patio heaters' were gone by the start of 2017, when nearly all of Middlewich's street lights were replaced by LED versions. Although an improvement on the 'patio heaters', the new LEDs can hardly be said to be traditional in style.

Facebook feedback:

Geraldine Williams When we lived in Wheelock Street we were directly opposite the area with the fence next to the PACE office that you were enquiring about. There used to be some sort of low building there, disguised by shrubs, with a public bench in front of it. This was the daily haunt of a local character, Tommy Wilton, who used to entertain passers-by with his comments!

Wendy Johnson Yes, Dave. The original Edwardian lamp outside what used to be the Cafe Med is part of said property. When we owned the cafe, we lovingly restored it by ridding it of the garish white, blue and red paint, replacing it with black and gold highlights. It was in full working order when we were there, but changing the bulb was a bit scary!

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    First published 22nd September 2011

    Updated and re-published 22nd September 2017

Saturday, 16 September 2017



(Eventbrite link)

Middlewich Vision writes...

Our third Mexon Street Market takes place on the 16th September and in addition to our fabulous regular stalls, we are joined by more new traders.

The team have also been lining up a host of free entertainment and activities for a day out that can be enjoyed by all the family. 

Come and join us for Line Dancing on the Bullring at 10am followed by a 30 minute Tai Chi session.

From 10am until 3pm we are delighted to be joined by the team from Community Recycle Cycles. Get bike fit! Bring your bike along anytime and get a free 10 minute safety check from a qualified team member.

In addition, dare to take the 'Bike Challenge' - a fun activity for all ages and you can take away a free cycle map which have been produced by the South East Cheshire Cycle Action Group (SECCAG). 



Our special masthead for September's Market

First published 30th August 2017
Re-published 11th September 2017
and 16th September 2017

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

ERF SERVICE 1971 - 2000

by Dave Roberts

In the year 2000 ERF closed its 'Sun Works' in Sandbach and the Middlewich Service Centre and moved operations to a new 'factory' in ERF Way, off Pochin Way (the truncated 'Middlewich by-pass').

The new building was in no way suitable as a truck factory and it wasn't long before the company's new owners MAN Trucks announced that production of ERF Trucks in Britain was to cease.

The announcement of the first major batch of redundancies - in effect the announcement of the imminent closure of the new Middlewich plant - came on, of all days, September 11th 2001, when the attention of the world was elsewhere.

Production of ERF Trucks - or, at least, trucks with the ERF badge on them - struggled on for a few more years in Germany but eventually, on 23rd July 2007, MAN announced that ERF was no more.

This photograph was first published on Facebook on 20th May 2011, and the original Facebook feedback is below:

Ian Murfitt
(Ian used to live on a canal boat - in fact, on two canal boats - moored very close to the ERF Service Centre's boundary and the Training School near the Kings lock pub.)

Not totally related, but one ERF loss that I mourn is the training centre near the canal. The trees along the canal from the Kings lock car park to the winding hole* were planted by a genius.

Each tree had a different colour leaf and different colour blossom and fruit, and the trees turned  different colours in the Autumn.
I can't imagine that this was just good luck.
I frequently walked down there. The training centre itself became an eyesore and a hang out for local undesirables who went onto the moorings causing damage, so the centre was knocked down. But why most of the trees had to go is beyond me.

*a winding hole is a wide section of canal used for turning boats round.

Dave Roberts
Yes, the training centre was in one corner of the site, close to a gate which opened onto the Kings Lock car park. Unfortunately this gate was always locked, thus making a long hike necessary if one wanted a lunch-time pint.
I got myself crossed off the training centre's Christmas card list by  driving a heavy fork-lift truck into the middle of their nice posh lawn and getting it stuck there. We had to get a tractor to retrieve it.
I wasn't ERF's best fork-lift driver. Then again, nor was I the worst, by a long chalk.

Ian MurfittThe fence in that corner was cut and re-attached with bits of wire so workers could crawl through.
Latterly, it grew a sign  which read:

'Next time you come to work this way will be the last time you come to work!'*

The ground adjacent to the winding hole was once a dry-dock with a cottage beside it. I rented this area for years as a garden. We dug up loads of interesting things as it was the custom to bury rubbish in those days.

Later, it transpired that the ground actually belonged to ERF rather than British Waterways, and it was sold. 
The fence was moved towards the canal, and it became a used car lot.

* A typical ERF management touch - Ed.

The training school, and the original office block are long gone, but the rest of the ERF Middlewich buildings are still there, re-clad in light grey and looking bland and anonymous.

They appear to be serving the motor industry still

Does anyone know who uses them now?

First published 13th July 2011

Revised, re-formatted and re-published 13th September 2017.

Thursday, 7 September 2017




First published 28th February 2017
Revised and re-published 7th September 2017


Final open days for this season:
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.


First published 15th February 2017
Updated 27th February 2017
Re-published 30th July 2017
and 7th September 2017

Monday, 4 September 2017


By Dave Roberts

We're grateful to Steve Graley for permission to use this advertisement which he found in a newspaper purchased at a local car boot sale. It's another one of those advertisements extolling the superior qualities of Cerebos Salt which was, apparently, the only salt worthy of being used by members of the British Antarctic Expedition of 1910-1913. 
The advertisement comes from the Daily Mirror of May 21st 1913 which also includes the following two advertisements. In the first one, Captain Scott is singing the praises of another great British culinary institution, OXO, which also so impressed Sir Ernest Shackleton that he felt impelled to send a telegram to the manufacturers telling them how much he'd enjoyed OXO on sledge journeys 'and throughout the winter'
There's only one oblique reference to the disastrous end to Captain Scott's expedition, in that the OXO advertisement refers to him as 'The Late Captain Scott'.
Neither Captain Scott nor Sir Ernest seemed to have any use for 'Glosso, the one-minute metal polish' made by Hargreaves, Bros. & Co. Ltd, 'The Gipsy Black Lead People'. Perhaps Glosso missed an opportunity here by not doing a deal, because something might have been made of the fact that, like Scott and Shackleton, 'Glosso Stops At Nothing...'

OXO gets you through an Antarctic winter, while Glosso Stops At Nothing!
- courtesy of Steve Graley
Captain Scott's ill-fated team pictured on the 18th January 1912
 Left to right (standing) Wilson, Scott, Oates
(seated) Bower, Evans    Photo: Alex Plank/Wikipedia

Scott of the Antarctic (Photo: Wikipedia)
For Captain Scott and his colleagues the expedition ended in disaster. They reached the South Pole on the 17th January 1912 only to find that Roald Amundsen had got there thirty-four days earlier. They all perished on their way back to their ship, the Terra Nova, and their fate wasn't known until a search party found their bodies eight months later.

P.S. We're well aware that we're cheating a bit by including this in our 'Middlewich Diary'. The shameful truth is that Captain Scott's supply of salt wouldn't have come from here at all, but from Greatham, the original home of Cerebos. The brand only came to Middlewich much later. But we think the long association of the Cerebos name with Middlewich is enough to warrant the inclusion of this diary entry. What's even more shameful is that in 2017 the Cerebos brand is, by all accounts, owned by the Japanese! -Ed.