Thursday, 30 August 2018

THE ORIGINS OF 'FOUNTAIN FIELDS'

'Fountain Fields' in its 1960s heyday  (Photo courtesy of Elaine Carlin)
by Dave Roberts,

I'm writing this on the eve of the long-awaited re-opening of Fountain Fields on the 31st August 2018. The Middlewich Diary has had a grandstand view of the re-building of the 'park' over the last few months and watched in fascination as what is now for the most part a much-enlarged children's playground has taken shape. We've even taken a few photos of the work, and these will be added to this diary entry when time allows..

Many people have expressed curiosity as to the origins of the name of our recreation ground and there was even, for a time, a proposal to build a 'fountain' of sorts as part of the new facilities, but this was later dropped in favour of a Middlewich-themed sculpture.

(See 'Windows of Middlewich' below).


In our usual slapdash fashion we gave the world the benefit of our own theories as to how the name came about. In fact we can tell you exactly what we said in reply to one correspondent:

As far as I know, the name Fountain Fields was dreamed up in 1952 when the Middlewich UDC had the recreation ground built (it was opened just a couple of months before I was born). Prior to this the area was known as 'The Sandhole', a somewhat mundane name which wouldn't have lent itself to such a facility. There used to be a children's paddling pool on the strip of land behind the bowling hut which is now the private access road to the houses further down towards Wheelock Street. Perhaps this was the origin of the idea that there once was an actual 'fountain' there? Of course I may be wrong - perhaps there really was a fountain there at once time? If anyone knows, I'd love to hear about it. Incidentally, I earlier used the term 'recreation ground' advisedly. Although it's sometimes called 'the park' it was never really a park as such. Just the closest we could get to such an amenity. There was a time when the flowerbeds there were very attractive*, but this aspect of Fountain Fields has been rather neglected in recent years.
* See our main photo -Ed

I've absolutely no idea quite why I should have replied to the query in this way, missing out the information on the town's water supply which I had, of course, known about since at least the early 1980s when I was one of the founders of the Middlewich Heritage Society. In fact I quoted a Heritage Society source in an earlier Middlewich Diary entry:

... if you're wondering where Fountain Fields gets its name from, it seems that  in the 19th Century the area was a source of water for the town. There were three wells, feeding into two storage tanks, one of which was called 'The Fountain'. These tanks, in turn, fed water into the 'Town Spout'. We're grateful to the Middlewich Heritage Society for this information. 

Well hastening to put us right in his own inimitable way (and in no uncertain terms) is none other than 'Harry Random' (also sometimes known as 'It's Random'), the scourge of our local politicians.

Here he is setting the record straight (and not being able to resist having a little dig)

I have read much about the history of Fountain Fields but much of it has been speculation and lacking any real supporting evidence. Dave Roberts recently put a post on Facebook stating "....Perhaps this was the origin of the idea that there once was an actual 'fountain' there? Of course I may be wrong - perhaps there really was a fountain there at once time? If anyone knows, I'd love to hear about it.".
So here are some 'facts' which can easily be confirmed and expanded upon with just a little bit of research:
Middlewich Fountain Fields park is believed to have got its name due to the evolving history of the well that was once located under the huge Tesco sign* at the junction of Queen Street/St Annes Walk (now also known as the service road which runs alongside the 5-a-side pitch). This was a very important well in Middlewich and was in use even before the 1870s.
Many public wells were later updated to become manually operated water pumps and with the advent of water mains some of these wells were turned into public drinking fountains. The land which is now the park has never been developed so in time it became known as Fountain Field or Fountain Fields even though the well and later drinking fountain are both long since gone.
The sand pits which have been mentioned previously in relation to Fountain Fields now lie under the majority of the Tesco delivery yard and storage area appear to have been first used during the late 1870s and early 1880s and but by 1898 this area was referred to as the location of an "old sand pit"


Harry Random

Note: We do, of course, know 'Harry Random's' real name, and his other aliases, and so does everyone else. We'd be happier using that real name, but we'll settle for treating 'Harry Random' as a pen name.

*now gone, along with 'Big Tesco', although the framework survives and will in due course be sporting a new and different supermarket sign -Ed


The Orchard Works which, until the 1970s stood on part of the car park which is part owned by Cheshire East and - at the time of writing - Tesco. Fountain Fields is away to the right, behind the trees, and the sand pits which 'Harry' speaks of would at one time have been out of shot to the left where St Ann's Walk meets Southway and St Ann's Road. It's possible, of course, that those sand pits once covered a much wider area.
The Tesco roadside sign in Queen Street which disappeared on the 18th August,  the night 'Big Tesco' closed. Was this the site of one of the wells/water pumps which gave 'Fountain Fields' its name?

The goods entrance to the former Tesco store  at the top of Southway. Was this the site of the original 'sand pits' which gave 'The Sandhole' its name?




A rare example of a 'successor' local authority giving credit to its predecessor. This plaque, erected by Congleton Borough Council in the 1970s, has survived and now adorns the gate of the 'new' Fountain Fields

The original MUDC sign. Adding weight to what 'Harry' says is the fact that the entrance to Fountain Fields (or 'Field' as the original sign says) is just a few steps away from where one of  the original wells, or pumps, was situated on Queen Street (or, at least, what was to become Queen Street). We'd always, for some reason, imagined that it was nearer to where  the former Tesco supermarket now stands, making it closer to the town centre.



Special MD Masthead for re-opening day

Note: This diary entry is based on this earlier entry
Fountain Fields Signs 1952 and 1974

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