Tuesday, 24 April 2018


by Dave Roberts

Our somewhat enigmatic title probably won't mean a lot to non-railway fans, but those who take an interest in the history of our railways will probably know just what we are talking about.
As we explained here push-pull trains were really steam powered forerunners to the electric and diesel multiple unit trains of today and one of them, the renowned 'Dodger', worked on the Sandbach-Middlewich-Northwich line for forty-eight years from 1911 until the passenger service ended in the final days of 1959.
We're fortunate that we can date the two photographs in the diary entry exactly, and also attribute them to their original source, courtesy of railway author Alan Wilkinson who lived in Middlewich and has written extensively on the subject of railways, including the Middlewich line.
The information we have on these photographs comes from Alan's excellent 'Railways Across Mid-Cheshire' (Foxline [Publications] Ltd), published a few years ago.
Although the photographs we're featuring here were not included in Alan's book another one taken at the same time was, and so we feel safe in attributing these photographs as we have.
The occasion was a 'Pull and Push Farewell' railtour operated by the Locomotive Club of Great Britain (hence the LCGB headboard) on the 5th February 1966 and the engine is seen in the top picture  taking on water at Middlewich station.
To the left is Middlewich signal box and its coal bunker which survived into recent times as seen here.

In the second picture we can get a glimpse of the Crewe-bound platform and its waiting-room which was burned down, not too long after this picture was taken, by railway workers burning grass on the embankment behind the station.
Note the MIDDLEWICH signboard on the signal box. There were two, and one of them is in the safe keeping of the Middlewich Rail Link Campaign. Where the other one ended up remains a mystery, but it's highly unlikely that one sign would be saved and not the other.
The locomotive used for this railtour was, as can be seen, no 41286.
Her classmate, no 41229, was the regular engine on the 'Dodger' and continued to work on the  line until 1965, pulling a Crewe-Northwich parcels train each day.
She was finally withdrawn in 1966.

Update 24th April 2018:
When this diary entry was first published I  received a note from an old Crewe engine driver telling me that the Sandbach- Middlewich - Northwich motor trains were considered 'light duties' and were usually in the hands of drivers who were recovering from accidents or illness.

They even had their own local expression for someone thought to be 'swinging the lead' or 'not pulling his weight'. Such a person was said to be 'On The Dodger' - i.e. 'taking it easy'.

The push-pull apparatus, part of which can be seen at the side of the smoke-box of no 41286 in our main picture, is interesting.

 I keep finding reports that it was very often disconnected and the train controlled by 'a system of whistles', though quite how that would work I'm not sure.

I wonder if there was something in those old engine men which told them that their rightful place was on the footplate rather than in a passenger coach?

So it's possible that  these trains could have been worked by ordinary tank locos. 

Even so,  the locos based at Crewe were all fitted with the apparatus, even if it wasn't always used. 

MIDDLEWICH RAIL LINK CAMPAIGN (MRLC) The archived  Middlewich Rail Link Campaign website, including the story of the campaign from 1992 until it was relaunched in 2015 as the Mid-Cheshire Rail Link Campaign.


First published 24th April 2012
Re-formatted and re-published 24th April 2018

Monday, 23 April 2018


Before the Middlewich Diary and its predecessor the Salt Town Site came along, we posted photos and their descriptions direct to Facebook. Here's one from April 2011:

It is September 1972 and the people of Middlewich are up in arms about the replacement of the Town Hall, and the row of shops adjacent to it, by what was called 'The Piazza'; a monstrosity which could best be described as a kind of pink, yellow and white concrete blancmange. The buildings which this woeful concoction replaced at least had a kind of sombre dignity, and it's little wonder that people objected to the change. The protest meeting is taking place on what is now the car park of The Vaults (note the trendy 1970s 'Vaults' sign) - shortly before this it had been Dewhursts the butchers and a private house).I think the gentlemen with the smart grey coat, who appears to be in charge (to the right of the lady speaker) is 'Mac' Telfer, an excellent and much-missed Middlewich councillor. The gentleman with the clasped hands wearing a fawn raincoat also looks familiar, but I can't recall his name. To his right is, I think, Mr Stott the Chemist. Anyone recognise any of the others? We will be hearing, and seeing, quite a bit more of The Vaults on our journey into Middlewich's past. The pub has an interesting history which, I think, has been obscured by its recent 'youngster's pub' image. It has been much altered over the years and is a lot older than many people suppose.

23rd April 2011


Geraldine Williams  Is the gentleman in the fawn raincoat Jim Molloy?

Dave Roberts Yes, I think you're right.

UPDATE: The Piazza

Saturday, 21 April 2018


First published 9th April 2018.
Re-published 21st April 2018


10am - 3pm

Middlewich Mexon Market/Middlewich Vision/Middlewich Town Council

Quote of the month:

'Options for today...you could get in the car drive through one of those faceless coffee shops on your way to shopping hell at the Trafford Centre, or you could walk down to your little town and support local traders who care about what they do & sell.

It’s Middlewich Mexon Street Market today, the first of 2018 and all the shops are open, just for you!

We’re only here because you support us.

Let’s show those Facebook moaners that Middlewich is as great as the ‘good old days’!

Drink & Bites at Number 35

Middlewich Mexon Market/Middlewich Vision/Middlewich Town Council




Our special masthead for the April Mexon Market:

First published 18th April 2018
Re-published 21st April 2018

Wednesday, 18 April 2018


by Dave Roberts

Following a discussion on Facebook, Emma Westmacott of Nantwich Road has kindly allowed us to use this photograph of crowds in Wheelock Street, Middlewich on the 17th July 1946. They're all waiting for the arrival of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on the occasion of a Royal Visit to Middlewich that year.

Emma writes:

This is the photo I was talking about, Dave. On the back my Mum, Jenny Sant, has written:

'This photograph was taken just after the war, in 1946, in Wheelock Street, Middlewich.
We are all waiting for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth to pass by on their Royal tour.
Notice the rainy day fashions, the Co-op shop window display and the baby's pram!
I am the little girl holding my Mum's hand and a big flag!'

I think this is a newspaper photograph . I'm sure there are a few (very old) faces which people might recognise!

There's a much better known photo of the same occasion, which can be found in many 'Old Middlewich' photo collections:

Notice that even as long ago as 1946 Reg Taylor's Newsagent was well established and can be seen on the left of the photo. It's now the office premises of Carrie-Ann Sudlow's web-design consultancy, and to its right is the shop long known as 'Luther Walton's' which is now Chimichango's Mexican restaurant. Next to that is the fondly remembered 'Meadow Dairy', now the site of Betfred's betting shop.

Here's a slightly abridged version of Allan Earl's account of the Royal visit. The full version can be found in Allan's  Middlewich 1900-1950 (Cheshire Country Publishing 1994). See pages 180-182.

The highlight of 1946 was a Royal visit on July 17th, the first to Middlewich since Queen Margaret in 1459. Their route would be over Wheelock Bridge, Chester Rd, Wheelock St, Lower St, Leadsmithy St, Hightown, Wheelock St (to Whiston’s Garage) and Nantwich Rd. (to Wallange Bridge)*. Because of the expected crowds from the surrounding towns, footpath space was reserved for schoolchildren and elderly people and for ex-servicemen in front of the War Memorial. Before the day an arch was erected over the road from the Golden Lion in Chester Rd. to the cemetery railings. Across the top it said, “Loyal Greetings to their Majesties the King and Queen”. Coloured light bulbs ran underneath the length of the arch. On the day of the visit approximately 1,200 children from the Sandbach area were brought to Middlewich in two special trains and given reservations on either side of Chester Rd., from Wheelock Bridge to Williamson’s garage. The older citizens were given seating accommodation at Newton Bank and the Junction of St Anns Rd. and Nantwich Rd. and in Hightown, in the churchyard. In front of the war memorial stood several ranks of ex-serviceman, plus the chairman of the council (Mr Blease) along with other members of the UDC and officials. Sandbach U.D.C. members and Holmes Chapel and Byley parish councillors stood alongside. One hundred and eighty Girl Guides and Brownies lined Leadsmithy St. and Lower St., together with all the Middlewich schoolchildren and teachers, plus children and teachers from Congleton, Hassall Green and Brereton private school. A special place had been reserved for the children from The Manor, which was now a residential school for the deaf. The parish Church bells had been ringing at intervals since mid-morning but about 15 minutes before the King and Queen were due to arrive they stopped. The bell ringers also wanted to see the royal visitors and so had posted a lookout at the top of the church tower so that when the Royal cars came into view, in Chester Rd., he could dash down to the ringing chamber and give the news. The bells rang out again as the Royal cars made the return journey through the town.

* Can anyone please remind us just where 'Wallange Bridge' is? We ought to know, of course...-Ed


Allan Earl
Middlewich Heritage Trust

Tuesday, 17 April 2018


The first Middlewich 5K. 

Organised by Runmiddlewich

Direct links:

The Middlewich Diary wishes everyone involved in the first Middlewich 5K event the very best of luck!

Archived 23rd April 2018


by Dave Roberts

Well, they'll be familiar to many, we strongly suspect. Here are four photographs from prolific Middlewich Diary contributor Mike Jennings' Classic Collection. Mike originally posted the four photos on our Middlewich Diary Photo Group, always a good way of contributing to the Middlewich Diary. (You can also post them to any of our other Facebook Groups. We'll trim them and tidy them up for you if they look a bit the worse for wear. But please remember we can't perform miracles.)
All four of Mike's photos seem to date from the 1960s.
Picture One: The gentleman in this picture  has already been identified by Celia Burt as her cousin John Appleton.
He's astride a motorbike in the car park of the late lamented White Horse in Lewin Street. On the other side of that low wall is Niddrie's Toy Shop and the HQ of Niddrie's Coaches.
Across the road is a row of typical Lewin Street cottages and shops - no two the same - leading up to a very interesting building, to the left of Niddries as seen in the photo. This was the original frontage of St Paul's Methodist Chapel, later demolished to make way for a car park in front of the remainder of the building which was given a new, modern frontage. In 1998 the three Middlewich Methodist Churches - Chester Road, St Paul's and Cledford, combined together. Chester Road became the HQ of Bamford's Stationery, St Paul's became Dave's Angling Supplies and the Cledford Chapel was demolished to make way for an enlarged building combining the congregations of all three chapels.

Picture Two: ....and who's this cheerful lady, strolling down Booth lane on what looks like a lovely sunny day? Has she, perhaps just got off a bus from Sandbach or Crewe? To her left is the Booth Lane recreation area, then and now a children's playground and now also a skateboard park. In the background is 'Etta Mault's' chip shop which, we hardly need mention, is still going strong.

Picture Three: This gentleman has a strangely familiar look about him.
He's sitting on Booth Lane Bridge, which spans the junction of the Trent & Mersey and Wardle canals and carries the road from Middlewich to Sandbach. We know that the photo was taken after 1962 because the ICI Alkali Works behind him on the other side of the canal is in a derelict condition. Pochins, who took over the site (and are still there) have not yet arrived at the time of the photo. The King's Lock Boatyard and the ancillary businesses now to be found on that peninsula of land between the canal and the arm which once served the chemical works are nowhere to be seen. One link with the present day, though, is the canal signpost seen to the gentleman's right. In those days it was made entirely out of cast-iron, painted in British Waterways colours of blue and yellow and guided the last of the working boats to important destinations on the T&M and SUC. It still performs the same function today. mostly for pleasure boaters. The modern version of the signpost, restored in the 1980s, has 'fingers' made out of timber.
And talking of signs, look at the cast iron sign on the bridge. It can also provide a clue to the date of the photograph. It was originally headed BRITISH TRANSPORT COMMISSION, but the letters appear to have been chiselled off, meaning that the photo must have been taken after 1954.
But we knew that anyway, because the ICI Works was in full swing right up until 1962. 
There were signs like this on most of the local canal bridges in those days, including a very nice diamond-shaped one on Brooks Lane bridge just a short distance away. The wording was something like:


-that's just from memory. Perhaps someone could enlighten us as to the precise wording?
The gentleman in the picture has one of those 'Middlewich faces'. He seems happy to be photographed, unlike his dog which, as they say around here, appears 'not struck'.
Does anyone know the name of this gentleman?

Picture four. Actually we're not entirely convinced that this particular photo was taken in Middlewich. We certainly can't place the buildings in the background. Can anyone else?  Nevertheless the fact that this photo is among Mike's collection points to the ladies in it being from Middlewich. Perhaps they're on an outing somewhere? And sure enough, Celia Burt has identified one of them as Clara Cresswell.

Many thanks to Mike for letting us see these photographs. There's something very poignant about seeing these Middlewichers of long ago going about their business in (mostly) familiar places.

If you can identify anyone, please let us know.

Facebook Feedback:

Pam Leese The 4th picture is Sandbach. The white building is Brook's butchers across from the cobbles.

If this is your photo, please let us know, so that we can credit you properly.
Many thanks to Pam for coming up with the answer to this one. This photo proves the point that our Middlewich lassies were not in Middlewich at all, but just down the road in the estimable town of Sandbach. 

A very distinctive roofline, even if it does make the shop look more like the Alamo than a High Street shop. It's an excellent butcher's shop, by the way!

More excellent Sandbach photos at:

Monday, 16 April 2018


© Phillip Shales 2012 All Rights Reserved. With acknowledgments to Kerry Fletcher and Dave Thompson at Middlewich Town Council
By Dave Roberts

At this distance in time I don't suppose anyone will really object when I say that the first name that sprang to mind when I looked at this picture from the Phillip Shales Collection was Tommy Handley?

It's another photograph  taken from a folder simply marked 'Chairman's Sunday', without any specific year being mentioned, and follows on from this one.

The gentleman on the left would appear to be another one of those visiting chairmen from neighbouring local authorities and the gentleman next to him could quite possibly be the clerk to that same local authority.

They're standing in the same place on Hightown as the MUDC Chairman and his escort were in the first photo and were, presumably, in the same procession.

Although we can't, at present, tell you the exact year of these two photographs, we can tell you that they were certainly taken on the same day and probably only minutes, or even seconds, apart.

The clue is the chap in the flat cap standing outside the employment exchange. He's in exactly the same place in both photographs:

First published 16th April 2018
Re-formatted and re-published 16th April 2018