Wednesday, 28 February 2018


ICI MIDDLEWICH WORKS in Brooks Lane. Photo courtesy of John Bailey/Bill Armsden. Reproduced with permission.
by Dave Roberts

This photograph of the ICI Works in Middlewich is dated 1962 and has been restored to near-mint condition by Bill Armsden, who writes:

This photograph, taken in 1962, is of the ICI Works which could be seen from Booth Lane and was located to the right of where the Kings Lock Pub is.

Pochins now sits where this works was.

I have cleaned up and enhanced the picture and it is now almost mint. It is hard to believe that just over 50 years ago this dominated the view from St Anns and Kitfield Avenues.

Do you remember it? I do.

Bill says that the photo has the year 1962 written on the back, and was one of many copies given out to workers at ICI Middlewich when the works closed in that year. 

This particular copy belongs to John Bailey, who now lives in Knutsford.*

I have a vague feeling that this photo may have been taken before 1962, as the buildings and apparatus on the site don't look exactly as I remember them at that time. Then again, I was only a youngster in 1962, so I may be mistaken. 

Does anyone know if this is indeed how the works looked in 1962?

Here's a different view of part of the works, courtesy of Bill Eaton

And a late 1950s view of the SUC Middlewich Branch, also from Bill Armsden's collection, which includes a glimpse of the works.

Many thanks to Bill and also to John Bailey* for allowing us to feature this historic photo.

UPDATE (4th March 2018)

From Australia, Bevan Goodall writes:

'Thanks, Dave, for making this photo available.

I left ICI Middlewich in 1960 to emigrate to Australia, so I didn't receive a copy. 

I remember working one freezing winter thirty-odd metres up the side of the distillation plant, installing some removable panels.

I had my billy-can of tea laced with rum sitting on a steam-pipe nearby.

Harry Sandbach, the foreman - a lovely guy - was in the habit of helping himself to a drink when he came around to inspect what was going on.

He had a sip of my tea.

After a 'what the heck!' it didn't take him long to have another one!

Of course that wouldn't happen today with the current 'Health & Safety' regime...'

Many thanks to Bevan for this story, and how nice that he was able to get hold of his copy of the commemorative  photo of the works, albeit electronically, 58 years on -Ed.


* Sadly, since this diary entry was first published, John has passed away. -Ed

Bill Armsden writes:

'My dear friend John Bailey sadly passed away suddenly in September last year from a massive heart attack. It was always his intention to make a private video of 'his Middlewich' as he was Middlewich born and bred.
Sadly, that will never happen but we can thank him for the 8mm film shot in his car during the late 1960's whilst he travelled from St Annes Avenue through to Chester Zoo. The Middlewich Diary was given a copy of that film and John was very happy to do that.'

We were very sorry to hear of John's passing. Here's the link to that precious film -Ed

First published 28th February 2014
Re-published 28th February 2018

Monday, 26 February 2018


Chris Jones writes...

Hi Dave, I'm after some help researching my family tree and was wondering if the diary could help? I'm after tracing my maternal grandfather's family that I know nothing about.

He was George Moses born 17/09/1909 in Wheelock.

He lived on Booth Lane when he was young and St Ann's Road when married and he had two brothers and a sister, Ernest Moses, Phyllis Regan(Moses) and A Leach- maybe he was a half  brother?

I believe that their parents may have divorced. That's pretty much all I know.

Thanks in advance.


If you can help please contact us here at THE MIDDLEWICH DIARY and we'll put you in touch with Chris.

The Middlewich Diary
29 Queen Street
CW10 9AR

Tel: 01606 833404
Mob/text 07808 063921


Dave Roberts



Dave Costello I worked with George in the old Winsford Co op days. A very quiet man who always considered his answer before replying to a question. A true Gentleman. I believe he spent several years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during the 2nd world war. He had a daughter, Christine.(26.2.18)


Photo: Stafford Railwayana Auctions
by Dave Roberts

What price a little bit of Middlewich railway history? 

This token for the single-line section of railway between Middlewich and Northwich was sold at auction in Stafford in May 2016. 

What was it for?

Put simply, it enabled a train to run from Middlewich to Northwich without any possibility of meeting a train coming the other way. 
The token would be handed to the signalman at Northwich. If the next train on the line was running from Northwich to Middlewich, the driver would obtain a token at Northwich to be handed over at Middlewich. If, however, the next train was running in the same direction - Middlewich to Northwich - another M-N token would be issued.

 The tokens were locked into machines at Middlewich and Northwich (Sandbach Junction) signal-boxes, and the machines connected together (or 'interlocked') to ensure that if a token was being taken out at Middlewich, the ones at Northwich were locked in so that none could be removed, and vice versa.

The system also, of course, ensured that only one token at a time could be issued. So it was basically a case of 'no token, no journey'.

In practice the tokens were carried in pouches, attached to large  hoops, to enable drivers and signalmen to easily exchange tokens.

The link below contains a picture showing the Northwich-Middlewich token being handed over at Middlewich signal box.

A token machine. Photo: Railsigns
This photo, shows signalman David 'Jock' Myles talking to the driver of no. 41229 at Middlewich. Through the open door of the signalbox, right, can be seen the token apparatus and some of the pouches and hoops used to carry the tokens.

More on this photo here:

There were (and in some places still are) several different systems, involving tokens, key tokens, tablets, staffs etc.

The illustration above shows the closest machine I could find to the type I remember being in Middlewich signal box fifty or so years ago, and the tokens do resemble the Middlewich-Northwich one in our main picture.

However, it's possible that this machine is of a different type to the ones used on the Middlewich line. 

My purpose is just to show the general principle.

Middlewich signal box and closed station in 1963. The signal box was opened in 1892 and closed in 1980. Photo: H B Priestley
So what price this Middlewich-Northwich token of railway days past?

We know it's from British Rail (or British Railways) days and we know it can't have been used after 1980, as that's when the signal box closed and new colour light signals (themselves since replaced) were installed. 

What would you pay? 

Well, when this lot was auctioned at Stafford on the 28th May 2016, it went for £150

Sunday, 25 February 2018


Although the annual Middlewich FAB Festival has come and gone for another year, we're still collecting memories and reminiscences from 28 years of this pivotal Middlewich event.

The FAB 26 Guide 2016

If you'd like to contribute:

 See our Facebook Group

 You also can ring us on 01606 833404
                 and text us on 07808 063921

You can also write to us at:

The Middlewich Diary
29 Queen Street
CW10 9AR

First published 23/6/2015
Updated/Re-published 20/6/2016, 25/2/2018


Postponed from

MONDAY 26th February


Saturday, 24 February 2018


Here's an evocative bit of Middlewich ephemera. 'Number 28' on Hightown has in recent years  become so firmly established as a 'drop-in' centre run by the nearby St Michael & All Angels church - in effect serving many of the purposes of a church hall combined with a community facility - that it comes as a bit of a shock to realise that the building has had many previous lives since  its beginnings as one of  a plethora of Co-op shops established  in the town in the early part of the 20th century. 
Many will remember it as the second premises of Harold Woodbine Ltd, the first premises, not too far away in Lower Street, having been demolished in the early 1970s to allow St Michael's Way to be built. The original shop was approximately where the taxi rank opposite the Bull Ring bus stop now is. Even when the retail shop at No. 28 closed, Woodbine's electrical contracting business continued to occupy the rear of the premises. The business has now moved to Sandbach.
And for a short period starting in the mid-to-late 1990s the shop was part of the video lending boom, as can be seen from this membership card.
The fact that the shop's telephone number has a '1' in it shows us that the card must have been issued after the 16th of April 1995 (prior to that date all Middlewich numbers began 0606 83) but that doesn't, of course,  preclude the shop being open before that date.

In the 1980s and 1990s video, and later DVD, hire was popular in Middlewich,as elsewhere.
The huge, clunky VHS cassettes were invented in the early 1970s and and lasted until 2008 when DVDs, which started to become available around 1995, finally'overtook them in popularity.

VHS videos have vanished so completely from most people's lives that its probably necessary to remind everyone what they actually looked like.

The remaining lifespan of Apollo Home Entertainment almost exactly paralleled that of the VHS cassette.
The company, which was based in Sussex and  had branches all over the country, soldiered on, closing many branches each year, until the 30th of August 2016 when it was wound up. This was just a month after the very last VHS equipment was made. 

But can anyone tell us the year that the Middlewich branch closed?

Nowadays, of course, even the DVD has fallen from grace as the downloading and streaming of movies and TV programmes from the internet grows in popularity.

Many thank to Eleisha for permission to use her photo.

Number 28 in its current guise

Tuesday, 20 February 2018


The 'Tales of Wych & Water' CD, with reminiscences from people who worked in the Middlewich salt industry and on the waterways which served it, together with original music and song from local musicians, is available from Middlewich Heritage Trust.

'Tales of Wych & Water' was produced for Middlewich Town Council and Middlewich Vision in 2009 by Salt Town Productions.

Friday, 16 February 2018


Middlewich Town Council
Always a sure sign that the Middlewich year is well and truly underway, the Middlewich Oscars aims to recognise the many many people in the town who make a contribution. 
Community spirit is what makes any town interesting and worth living in.
And  Middlewich, whatever its critics might say, has community spirit in abundance.


First published on the 15th January 2018
Amended and re-published on the 16th February 2018

Thursday, 15 February 2018



An old friend of the Middlewich Diary, Carole Hughes, writes:

I hope you enjoy looking at these photos from Cerebos/RHM days.
I didn't work there, but my Mum, who is on the photos, did. Her name is Judith Sant.
Please feel free to tag anyone you know.

Many thanks to Carole for sharing these great photos, which all appear to date from the 1960s and 1970s.

As Carole says, please feel free to tag anyone you know (or yourself, if you're there!) on any of the Facebook groups and pages this finds its way to.

Alternatively, if you recognise any of the people in the photos, you can let us know the names by emailing us at the Middlewich Diary:

For convenience, we've numbered the photos so we'll know which one you're referring to.

Dave Roberts





Wednesday, 14 February 2018


Middlewich Town Council/Bare Bones Marketing



Get the news on this year's event as it comes through...

First published 9th January 2018
Updated and re-published 14th February 2018

Tuesday, 13 February 2018


Derek and Julie rippin' it up at the Middlewich FAB Festival!             Photo: Cliff Astles


 Derek and Julie Millington write

We started Middlewich Rock'n'Roll twenty years ago at the Middlewich Royal British Legion Club and from a small difficult beginning it developed into an accepted venue on the Rock'n'Roll circuit. 

All profits were donated to the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.

Seven years ago however, due to work commitments out of Middlewich, we had to hand over running of Middlewich Rock 'n' Roll to our then resident disc jockey Jivin' Jim Kiley, who has been running the events ever since.

Jim recently made the decision to move on.

We  therefore decided to take back the running of  Middlewich Rock'n'Roll as from January 2016, with the help of a small team of dedicated volunteers and sponsors and using the same successful format which has served us well over the last twenty years.

We have an excellent  live Rock'n'Roll Band and  great  disco each month and there is also frequently a 1950's gear stall where you can buy everything from 1950s dresses for the ladies to crepes and drapes for the gents. 

Our first gig 'under new (old) management'  was on  Saturday 9th January 2016  and featured Juke Box Jive from Bradford - appropriately, the group we
booked for our first gig twenty years ago. 

JBJ was supported by one of Stoke-on-Trent's best disc jockeys, Cadillac Dave.

We're proud to be continuing the tradition of donating any profits to the Poppy Appeal.

(More FAB pictures from CLIFF ASTLES)

13th JANUARY 2018
14th JANUARY 2018
13th FEBRUARY 2018


Middlewich historian and Clerk to the Middlewich UDC Charles Frederick Lawrence was a prolific collector of poetry and verse, particularly when it pertained to the town of Middlewich.

Here, for Shrove Tuesday, is a famous poem about the pancake bell which Mr Lawrence says in the publication Bygone Middlewich (Electro Bleach Club, Scientific Section, Middlewich, 1921) only ceased to ring, along with the Curfew (or 'Curfue') Bell within his 'recollection'.

So we're probably talking about sometime in the early to mid 19th century.

The Pancake Bell was rung to remind the people of Middlewich that it was time to gather all the ingredients together to make pancakes for the great feasting before the fasting period of Lent began.


by The Rev'd Charles O'Niel Pratt, formerly Curate at Middlewich

What sound is that which greets mine ear,
As it sweeps along through the sky so clear?
Of millions of chickens it rings the knell,
For I wot it is the Pancake Bell.

Full many a farm-yard cock hath crowed,
And tender love on his wives bestowed,
But over her brood has waved the spell,
As sure as she hears the Pancake Bell.

And the housekeeper goes to the huxter's shop,
And the eggs are brought home and there's flop! flop! flop!
And there's batter and butter and savoury smell,
While merrily rings the Pancake Bell.

And with frizzle and fizz the condiment's tossed,
And dished, and dusted with sugary frost,
And the youngsters at home the fun can tell
That follows the sound of the Pancake Bell.

And into the batter will mistress fling
That mystic token, the marriage ring,
And the bosom of many a maid will swell
With hope as she hears the Pancake Bell.

For if smiles and loving looks be true,
Someone may whisper a word or two,
And when Lent is over, then Easter will tell
Its old, old story - the Wedding Bell.

Monday, 12 February 2018


 by Dave Griffiths.

When I joined the Middlewich Diary Photo Group a couple of years ago I posted these photographs of the beginning of work on the foundations for the Park Road Junior School, together with a scanned copy of the  programme for the opening of the  School in 1954, a document which was among my Mother's possessions when she died.

In the photos I can identify some names - Clive (my brother) with the glasses (and my arm stretched to his shoulder). Peter Bannaghan, Desmond Spilsbury, Norma Maddock, Joyce Coppenhall - not sure of any others. Please identify them if you can.

Regarding the Opening programme, it's interesting to note that the total cost of land, building, furniture and playing fields was the princely sum of £60,000. Happy days!

Many thanks to Dave for allowing us to share this. If you can help with any other names in the photos, please let us know either by email at

or via our Facebook Photo Page

Our main photo also appears as the cover photo on the Northwich & Mid-Cheshire Through Time Facebook Group, of which Dave is also a member.