Thursday, 30 November 2017


by Dave Roberts

For Christmas 2017 there can only ever have been one subject for our masthead - the excellent display of Christmas lights and the quite exceptional Christmas tree in the town centre, captured here  by Ken Rane in a photo used with his permission.

There was some criticism of the lights last year and hopes were high that the situation would be remedied this year.

Those hopes were realised (and then some), and we were treated to Christmas lights and a tree that any town, big or small, would be proud of.

The light switch-on, combined with one of the best Christmas markets in the area, was also very well organised and did us proud.

You can find out more about the switch-on here, and in our archived Mexon Market diary entry here.

Photo: Ken Rane

Ken's photograph sums up the Middlewich at Christmas scene very well indeed. Despite the ever-present (and unavoidable) modern traffic in the town centre, this photo still manages to convey something of our town centre's Victorian heritage. 

The shops on the right still have their 19th Century frontages more or less intact, and that lantern  outside  the White Bear on the left adds to the atmosphere.

As for the Christmas tree, the lights are the best we've seen in years, and the 'baubles' in the trees in St Michael's churchyard are a pleasing addition.

Merry Christmas Middlewich!

Monday, 27 November 2017


2003                                   Mike Jennings Classic Collection

From the Mike Jennings Classic Collection comes this poster advertising a Toga Party at The Cat's Bar, on the corner of Wheelock Street and Nantwich Road in September 2003.

Were you there on the night? And did you go dressed in a toga?

Saturday, 25 November 2017


This slide is so badly damaged as to be almost unusable but it's included because, like all the others, it has a tale to tell.

It's the 'Urban District Of Middlewich' road sign which once stood in King Street, close to the Dane Bridge. It was photographed in 1972, when the old Middlewich UDC had just two years to go before being absorbed into the 'District Of Daneborough' (Congleton, to you and me).

The sign has a very passable picture of the parish church on the left, and two 'Middlewich witches' top left and top right. And that's where the sign hit problems when some people complained  that it showed the left hand witch 'flying over the church'.

Someone took it upon him (or her) self to paint out the witches, and you can just make out the marks where they've been re-instated.

The words 'superstitious nonsense' spring to mind.

The 'Middlewich Witch' thing is, as far as we know, a simple pun on the similarity between the words wich, wych, or wyche and the word witch, and nothing more.

Something similar happened many years later when I was involved with local radio station Witch FM in Crewe. Word reached us from Middlewich that the same complaints had been made about our use of the word witch.

More superstitious nonsense.

And while we're on the subject, opinion seems to differ as to whether, as we have all always been told, the suffix 'wich' denotes a town connected with salt.

Some say that it simply means 'town' and that's why there are numerous wiches around the country with no connection to the salt industry.

Again, this could merely a coincidence brought about by the similarity between 'wich' and 'wych'. 
The latter word really does mean salt, as in 'Wych-house'.

This was originally published on Facebook on the 28th May 2011.

Here's the original FB feedback...

Sharon Mather Interesting stuff about the witches. I've never heard of this before. How funny! I was taught by Mr O'Neill in the 3rd year at Middlewich Comprehensive (1987-ish) that 'wich' means 'salt town' and that every single town that has 'wich' in its name is a salt town.

Dave Roberts He's not really to blame. Everyone was taught the same, and it's only recently that opinions have been revised. It's probably not as simple as I make it sound, either because Northwich, Middlewich and Nantwich have indeed always been known as the 'three wiches'. Perhaps they should be Northwych, Middlewych and Nantwych?

Gaynor McClelland What about Winsfordwich? We have salt too!

Dave Roberts Yes indeed. Winsford had more salt-works than anywhere else, lining the Weaver Valley. And of course the pit head for the salt mine is there - on the road to Moulton actually.It's been enclosed by a boring industrial building now, but at one time you could watch the pit wheels turning. It looked like a bit of a coal mine in the middle of a Cheshire field.

First published 30th June 2011
Re-formatted and re-published 25th November 2017


    Photo used with permission
    by Dave Roberts

    Middlewich has  been good at doing Christmas for many years now, and in 2017 the Christmas lights switch-on at 6pm on Friday 24th November was  truly something to behold. 

    This remarkable photograph was taken from the Church Tower by Steve Bailey, just after the lights were switched on by the Mayor of Middlewich, Cllr Samantha Moss, and a member of the Rose Queen's retinue, Fairy Queen Rose Stanton.

    Unfortunately the Rose Queen herself, Lois Ball, who was due to help with the ceremony, was poorly.

    The photograph which, astonishingly, Steve took on his mobile phone without any thought of creating anything particularly special, is bound to be a classic Middlewich photo for many years to come.

    It enables us to see the whole glorious spectacle in the Bull Ring and Wheelock Street as the people of the town throng the area, taking in the Street market lining the main street, the food and drink stalls providing festive cheer in the Bull Ring, and the entertainment in and around the amphitheatre provided by the Signal Radio Roadshow and Ronan Parke from Britain's Got Talent.

    Towards the bottom left of the photograph you can see the car belonging to our Town Clerk, though why he should have chosen to own a vehicle of that particular hue, is anybody's guess.

    So congratulations once again to all who worked so hard to make this event so memorable and thanks to Steve for letting us use his amazing photo.

    Merry Christmas one and all!


    Thursday, 23 November 2017


    Middlewich Vision/Middlewich Town Council
    Middlewich Vision/Middlewich Town Council
    Nicci Anthoney writes:

    There's lots going on, with our Mexon Market with over 40 stalls,  a carol concert in St Michael's church, Northwich panto stars including Ronan Parke, our very own Town Mayor with our Rose Queen switching on the lights, and of course a very special visit from Father Christmas as well as his tractor and trailer ride.


    Drinks & Bites at No 35 writes...

    We're not really bothered if you pop in for a drink with us for the lights switch on...

    We’ve got a temporary license for the weekend so we’ll be serving some of our faves!

    Glasses of Prosecco, Mulled Wine, Snowballs, Bailey's Hot Chocolate and Bombardinoes.

    Did we mention these were some of our favourites...?
    9am-8pm Friday night, don’t bother, yeah?


    Family Legal Solicitors writes...

    Please come help us celebrate the start of the festive season on Friday 24th November from 4 PM until 6 PM
    We will be serving nibbles and refreshments ( and maybe the odd alcoholic one)
    There will be a charity raffle with all proceeds going to local charity the Children's Adventure Farm Trust

    The Event will coincide with the Middlewich Christmas market and culminate with the Christmas tree lights switch on

    We do hope you can make it

    Kindest regards

    Julia and all the team


    For Ye Dogs...



    MELODY SMITH writes...

    We'll be there with our honey, hive products, craft and pet portraits.
    Painting commissions for Christmas still being taken.



    Cafe Bon Bon writes...

    We're open late today for the Christmas Market and Christmas Lights Switch On!



    Middlewich Town Council writes...

    Don't forget, some our high street retailers will be opening late today Charlotte Rose, Drinks & Bites, Cafe Bon Bon, Fashionista, Temptations and many more. 

    Come and support your local High Street retailers and enjoy our Light Switch On.

    Wishes you


    (YouTube link)

    Our special Masthead for the Christmas Mexon Market 2017


    A special report from
    our friends at the

    Steve Bailey's spectacular photo of the Christmas Market
    and Light switch-on, taken from the Church Tower

    First published 14th November 2017
    Re-published 23rd November 2017
    Archived 24th November 2017


    Just a short note of appreciation to everyone in Middlewich and further afield for your continuing support of the Middlewich Diary. We recently passed an important milestone - one million page views since we started in 2011. Daily page views are currently averaging around 600-800, which, as we never tire of saying, is quite amazing for a local blog like ours. People have told us they appreciate our mixture of local history, current events and the odd 'quirky' and, we like to think, unexpected digression. The Middlewich Diary wasn't planned to be like this. It just grew out of a simple desire to show people that this town - like every other town you care to mention - is more than just bricks and mortar. Middlewich, whatever its dwindling legion of detractors might try to tell you, is a lively, thriving and vital place which, despite its disadvantages (most of which are imposed on us by public bodies and organisations who ought to be helping us rather than hindering us) is improving. It's all down to the people who live here, whether 'born and bred' or welcomed from elsewhere. If you have an event coming up and you'd like us to publicise it, please email us, or post your information on our Facebook Groups. We'll be happy to help. And if you have memories of Middlewich or old photos you'd like us to feature, please don't hesitate to get in touch. Our email address is

    Dave Roberts

    Originally published on Facebook 23rd November 2017

    Wednesday, 22 November 2017


    Heading based on 'Alhambra After Dark' by Bill Armsden

    by Dave Roberts

    Friday, 22nd November 2013

    It would be difficult to tell this story without using some well-worn cliches and hackneyed language, so apologies in advance.
    The cliches about Middlewich and how it has changed over the years are part and parcel of the Middlewich Diary, and the cliches about the momentous happenings of  half a century ago have been with us and part of our lives all through the decades since the day a dream died in America while I was watching the antics of Charlie Drake in Middlewich, so the story wouldn't seem right without them.

    If you're venturing down to the Alhambra Chinese Restaurant tonight, try to imagine me, my Mum, my sister Cynthia and her friend Mary Moreton (of Moreton's Farm) sitting in that very same building 50 years ago to the very night watching what some now regard as 'a sixties classic' film, completely oblivious, in those days decades before the advent of mobile phones,  to the events unfolding over four and a half thousand miles away across the Atlantic.
    I was 11 and in my last year at Wimboldsley Primary School; Cynthia was 7 and at the same school. Mary was just a little bit older than Cynthia and also went to the same school.
    Oh, and Mum would be  44 - seventeen years younger than I am now...
    We were keen picture-goers in those days and rambled all over Mid-Cheshire following our favourites. Anything with Hayley Mills or Julie Andrews in it was fine by us.
    Two years earlier we had  trailed around the area watching Whistle Down The Wind in Middlewich, Northwich and Sandbach (probably in Winsford, too, I'm not sure).
    It was one of our favourites and we couldn't get enough of it, so the only way to see it more than once was to get on the bus and follow it as it did the rounds of local cinemas.
    We were luckier than some in this regard, as many of the local cinemas were independent and not tied to any particular distributor.
    In 1962 we had spent what seemed like several days at the Alhambra watching Lawrence of Arabia.
    All I can remember was thousands of shots of the merciless sun beating down on the arid Arabian desert, and desperately  hoping that the film would end soon.
    If you were going to get trapped in a cinema, though, the Alhambra was probably the one to try for. It was comfortable, clean, had a large and very clear screen with good projection equipment and sound and was a very pleasant place indeed to spend time.
    The only time the place took on the aspect of the more disreputable 'flea-pit' cinemas to be found in some towns was during the rare Saturday Morning Matinees when scratchy old Three Stooges shorts would be shown to the accompaniment of near-riots in the cheap seats at the front.
    These were my formative years and the years when I was learning what was funny and what wasn't (the Three Stooges  weren't, as far as I was concerned, but then again it was difficult to make out what was going on during a film shown in the turbulent atmosphere and ear-splitting rowdiness of a Saturday Matinee).

    The Alhambra (left), an early 1920s building with a beautiful art-deco frontage which has, mercifully, survived into the present day. At the time of this photograph, the early 1970s, the cinema had closed and Bingo reigned. The actual frontage (and most of the interior) were unchanged, though. Posters advertising the films showing or 'coming shortly' would be pasted on the boards on either side of the entrance (where the word BINGO can just be discerned). (photo: Paul Hough Collection)

    One such poster, which would have been seen on  the front of the cinema in November 1963 was this one for a 'comedy classic' which attempted to team up the knockabout clowning of Charlie Drake and the smooth urbanity of George Sanders and Dennis Price.

    We thought Charlie Drake was funny. We loved his slapstick style, his cheeky grin and his catchphrase.

    Charlie was one of the biggest comedy stars of the early sixties. We'd watched his antics in all sorts of TV Shows, for both children and adults.
    On one memorable night in 1961 we'd even seen him knocked unconscious during a live TV show, and watched as the show ended in silence and confusion.
    And that's why, fifty years ago this very night, we made the short journey down from King Street to Wheelock Street to see Charlie in The Cracksman.

    I don't remember being particularly impressed by the film. There was too much George Sanders and Dennis Price and not enough Charlie for my taste, but the film has, according to those who know about these things, stood the test of time, and is regarded as a minor classic.
    One scene in The Cracksman, where Charlie was putting his locksmithing skills to good use,  featured electronic sounds created by Delia Derbyshire of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, whose most famous creation was to make its debut on BBC Television the following night as  the theme music, written by Ron Grainer, for a new science fiction series for children. We'd no idea, of course, how these sounds had been produced, but we knew it was all very 'space age'.

    Having followed the somewhat predictable plot of the film to its conclusion, we walked out into the cold November air of Middlewich

    -a very different town in those days.

    Middlewich was going through what might be called its 'yellow' period.
    At night the whole of the town centre was suffused by a ghastly yellow glow from the sodium vapour street lamps (intended, according to someone from the Middlewich UDC, talking to me a few years later, to resemble 'sunlight'. If this was the intention it failed miserably).
    It seems to be impossible to capture that dismal and unearthly yellow glow either on film or digitally - it always comes out a kind of nasty red colour - but when it was mixed with fog, or rain or snow as it was in the winter time, it produced an effect  unsurpassed in its  dreariness.
    As a finishing touch, even the face of the Church clock had one of these yellow sodium lamps inside it, giving it a jaundiced and palsied look.
    There are still quite a few yellow street lamps around, but the effect has been toned down by the fact that new, brighter, white lights have been introduced, interspersed among the dreary yellow ones.
    Other than the street lamps, there were few sources of illumination.
    The pubs and clubs  kept themselves to themselves, with perhaps a couple of lights over their signs, or a courtesy light so you could find the door; there were no restaurants, no cafes, no wine bars, no Chinese or Indian takeaways, no kebab shops.
    In fact, nothing. Once the cinema and the pubs closed, the town went to sleep.
    Except, of course, for that marvellous northern institution, the fish and chip shop.

    We walked down Wheelock Street through the November gloom.
    Everything we all remember about our 'lovely little town' was present and correct.
    Beyond Wheelock Street in Pepper Street were the salt works of Henry Seddon & Co, simmering away in the darkness and getting ready to produce clouds of salty steam and dirty black smoke all over again on the following Monday.
     Beyond the Town Bridge, Seddon's other works in Wych House Lane and Brooks Lane, and Murgatroyd's Works nearby were all in the same state of suspended animation.
    The works had another three or four years to go before our  salt town days would be done.
    Lower Street was still intact in those days, with Vernon Coopers, Stanway's fish shop and Harold Woodbine (Radio TV & Electrical) all in place opposite Hightown with its Victorian Town Hall and shops still standing and still doing useful jobs.

    Lower Street shops as they were just before demolition in the early 1970s.
     The chip shop we used in 1963 is hidden behind Woodbine's shop

    Incidentally November 22nd 1963 was also the day on which With the Beatles was released and I ordered my copy from Woodbine's a few days later. It took weeks and weeks to arrive.
    Next to Woodbine's was an oasis of light and cheer - the chip shop which, I knew from my short-lived career as a choirboy in 1960, did a great cod and chips (the 'piece of cod which passeth all understanding').
    We walked in, and  were told the news which, as David Frost said the following evening on  That Was The Week That Was, was the most unexpected news ever.
    The last thing we expected to hear. The last thing anyone expected to hear.
    President Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas, Texas.
    I can still remember the feeling of bewilderment and disbelief.
    It was, as they say, a defining moment.
    We were all young, of course, and knew little about politics - any politics, let alone the politics of the American Presidency - but we all knew, instinctively perhaps, that President Kennedy was a good man, intent on doing good things and that, at that moment, evil seemed to have triumphed.
    It was the first time I can remember feeling that impotent anger which comes from being powerless to do anything except feel sorry.
    We hurried home, over the Town Bridge with the Trent & Mersey canal in the darkness below, coming to the end of its long commercial career and waiting for better times in the future with the advent of pleasure boating, past the Talbot Hotel and the Boar's Head, and the row of shops and houses leading up to Moreton's Corner (the place where the Middlewich Diary began its perambulations around the town in 2011) and turned left into King Street.
    Back at no 27 (later 33) our television was not, as would be the case these days, pouring out endless news reports and analysis on the tragedy, but quietly showing a programme about zoo animals ('a change from the advertised programme') as a mark of respect.
    Life went on, of course.
    The following day Dr Who, with Ron Grainer and Delia Derbyshire's amazing theme music, made its debut and, in the evening, we watched the remarkable tribute to the late President put together by David Frost and the TW3 team.
    On Monday morning our teacher at Wimboldsley, Miss Mason (my mother's cousin), was beside herself.
    She had only recently come back from a trip to the USA and, like so many at that time, was a fervent admirer of 'JFK'.
    Miss Mason knew, as we all knew, that an era had come to an end; an era that had promised so much.
    Nothing, to use another cliche, would ever be the same again.
    Of course the greatest cliche of them all is to say that everyone can remember what they were doing when John F Kennedy was assassinated.
    Well I certainly can.

    Footnote: The American Presidency was very much in the news in November 2016 when the election of Donald Trump concentrated minds all over the world. This is how we reminded Facebook followers of this grim anniversary fifty-three years on from the Kennedy assassination.

    'Time marches on, and now it's fifty-three years since our world turned upside down. We pause to look back at a time when the US Presidency was a cause for optimism and hope rather than fear and misgivings, and remember how, on a cold and grey November night in Middlewich we learnt how events thousands of miles away had blighted those hopes and quenched that optimism.'

    Photo montage: CBS News

     © Dave Roberts 2013

    First Published 22nd November 2013
    Re-published 22nd November 2016
    22nd November 2017

    The fiftieth Anniversary on Facebook:


    Jacqui Cooke I was 13 and had a paper round at that time. It was about this time that The Sun newspaper took over from the Daily Herald. But my biggest interest at the time was The Beatles!

    Dianne May I was 6!

    Gemma Collins I didn't exist.

    Rob Dykes I was one day old.

    Geraldine Williams I was devastated by the news of JFK's assassination. He had withstood all the anti-Catholic prejudice to become President, had a lovely young family (who could not have been moved by the sight of John Jnr. saluting his father's coffin?) and on the face of it the Kennedy dynasty was doing a great job in promoting the USA (although some history books may disagree!)

    Cllr Bernice Walmsley Thanks for posting that again, Dave. I enjoyed it. It captures perfectly the time and the events.

    Dave Roberts Thanks Bernice!

    Donald Jackson I had a paper round in Middlewich. I used to sell papers at the pictures, and then go round all the pubs and clubs.

    Peter Dickenson I was 19 at the time and working on the night shift at Foden's when I heard the news.

    Liz Corfield It's great to read how Middlewich was back then, along with your memories of such a poignant time in history. Thank you for sharing your memories. I enjoyed reading them.

    Dave Roberts Thanks Liz!