Monday, 17 September 2018

HEAR YE! HEAR YE! DEVLIN HOBSON, TOWN CRIER!

FIRST PUBLISHED: 11th JUNE 2014
UPDATED AND RE-PUBLISHED 17th JULY  and 17th September 2014
RE-PUBLISHED 17th SEPTEMBER 2018 (FOUR YEARS ON)

UPDATE:
On the 17th September 2014 it was announced that, after a gap of a hundred years, Middlewich was to have a new Town Crier and that Devlin Hobson had been appointed to the post.
Congratulations to Devlin and his wife Jenny. We look forward to seeing you both at events in Middlewich for many years to come!
Dave Roberts, Editor.

Below is our original Diary entry on Devlin which was put together to publicise the idea of reviving a Town Crier for Middlewich. You'll note that, at this point, we didn't know that the idea was for Devlin himself to become our MiddlewichTown Crier.

DEVLIN and JENNY HOBSON Photo: Devlin Hobson

Just before the Middlewich FAB Festival of 2014 the question of whether or not Middlewich should revive the tradition of  having a Town Crier arose and, after initial scepticism and doubts, the idea was enthusiastically embraced by people seeing a great opportunity for this symbolic figure to help in promoting the town. Any lingering doubts were swept away at the festival itself when Devlin Hobson, Kidsgrove's Town Crier, came along to show us all how it should be done.

Here's Devlin's biography:

I'm 59 years old and been a town crier since July 2013. In my first competition in Nantwich I was placed 5th out of 13 criers and at the British Championship Huddersfield 2013 I achieved 15th place out of 24 criers. I have also  won best content of cry and, with my Escort, best dressed couple, both of these at Garstang 2013. Given the short time that I have been a Crier this was a pleasing achievement. I keep involved with my town and enjoy putting Kidsgrove on the map with the competitions.
I had an unusual job before I retired, I was a High Security Papermaking Technician I made it and you spent it Banknotes.
I was a Samaritan for 7 years 5 of which I spent in Prisons supporting inmates and staff. I helped to organise and train inmates for Listener scheme's which operate in prisons. I became part of a regional team which looked after 13 prisons in our area. I have seen and heard many things. I found this very fulfilling work and to see that you actually make a difference to someone is a fantastic feeling.
On retirement I moved to Nantwich and was able to attend St Marys Church regularly, I am now a sidesman and do duties every 6 weeks.
I take my Town Crying seriously and enjoy being a member of both The Loyal Company and The Ancient and Honourable, which enables me to promote the ancient art of Town Crying and my town of Kidsgrove throughout the country.
(from visitchester.com)
After a little research we were able to establish that Middlewich did indeed have its own Town Crier right up, it would appear, to the start of the First World War (and quite possibly beyond).

ORIGINAL DIARY ENTRY (JUNE 11th 2014)



by Dave Roberts

An extra special guest at this year's Middlewich FAB Festival is Kidsgrove's Town Crier, Devlin Hobson, who will be here on Saturday 14th to enliven the proceedings and make sure everyone knows what's going on and where.

There's been talk lately of Middlewich having its own Town Crier once again and reviving a tradition which was, surprisingly, still carried on in the town as late as 1906. Devlin will be here as a sort of trailblazer for the idea, as an ambassador for Town Criers in general and also, I imagine, as an additional blow to the Keep Middlewich Miserable Brigade, members of which desperately try each year to pretend that the Festival is not happening around them as they try to go about their same-old same-old business.
As you can tell just by looking at his photo, Devlin will be a hard man to ignore.
Watch (and listen) for him on Saturday.


When the idea of a new Town Crier for Middlewich was first mooted I was, at first, sceptical, being (to my eternal shame) under the impression that Middlewich had never had such an official in its long history and feeling uncomfortable with the idea of 'inventing tradition'.
This misconception is a little hard to understand as Allan Earl, invariably our first port of call for information on Middlewich history, mentions him  in Middlewich 900-1900 (Ravenscroft Publications 1990), a book which is required reading for anyone interested in Middlewich and its history and one which I have pored over numerous times over the years. 
Old age creeping on and causing memory lapses, perhaps?

On page 170 of the above publication Allan is talking about C.F Lawrence becoming Clerk to the Middlewich UDC in 1904 and says:

Mr Lawrence would have known the town crier of this time, a man named Peter Jackson. His nickname was 'Crutchy P' because he was crippled in both legs and had a humped back, but managed to get along on crutches. He would stand in the Bullring under the centre gas lamp, ring his hand bell and shout 'Oh Yes! Oh Yes!' and then announce such things as a crockery sale at the White Bear, giving the date and time. This type of bell man followed the bell man of earlier years who announced parish meetings, declarations, changes in the law, victories or defeats in war etc.

On the left of this old view of Middlewich Town Centre is the gas lamp where 'Crutchy P' would announce the local news all those years ago. The Parish Church in the background gives us a clue as to what the scene looks like now.

Allan Earl's Middlewich 1900-1950 (Cheshire Country Publishing 1994) also mentions the Town Crier who was still around in 1905/6 (and was, presumably still 'Crutchy P' although Allan doesn't say so) and was able to announce the building and completion of the Council Schools in King Edward Street.

The foundation stone of the new Council School was laid on Wednesday January 3rd (1905) by Col. France-Hayhurst and by the following November 1906 the building was completed and opened.....The new Council School was designed to accomodate 288 junior and 297 senior (pupils). The Town Crier was still operating at this date and he would have announced the school information as well as the dates of bazaars, smoking concerts etc.
The Council School in King Edward Street, now Middlewich High School and still going strong.
Paul Hough Collection

And having thought about the idea of Middlewich having a new Town Crier, I'm all in favour of it. Not only would it be a quite legitimate revival of an old tradition, it can serve a very useful purpose, particularly at events like the FAB Festival where a crier could act as an audio Notice Board, telling people what's going on.
A kind of human PA system (only much more entertaining and authoritative) which doesn't need batteries or electricity.

We'll leave the last word to Devlin....
(Please note that, in this instance, the use of capitals is not intended to denote SHOUTING!!!!! but merely talking in a loud, well projected, voice)

'I WILL BE IN MIDDLEWICH ON SATURDAY, HELPING WITH THE FESTIVITIES! IT'S A GREAT EVENT! COME ALONG AND ENJOY A GREAT DAY!'

Acknowledgments:Kidsgrove Town Council
                                     Devlin Hobson
                                     Jenny Hobson
                                     Margaret Poniznik (whose idea it was to revive a
                                     Middlewich Town Crier)
                                     Allan Earl


Facebook Feedback:

Geraldine Williams Great piece about the history of Town Criers in Middlewich, Dave - and a timely reminder of the days when the world was populated by 'Crutchies', 'Stumpies' and many other non-PC names for anyone unfortunate enough to have a physical or mental disability.

Dave Roberts Absolutely Geraldine. I don't care what people say, we now live in a much more compassionate and caring society than we did before. And what a lot of people refer to as 'political correctness gone mad' is, in most cases, just plain common decency.


Photo: Devlin Hobson
UPDATE JULY 17th 2014

Devlin (extreme right) and Jenny (extreme left) with a whole host of colourful Town Criers at the National Town Criers' Competition in  Lichfield, 2014
The competition was held, appropriately enough, at Lichfield's Speakers' Corner. 
Devlin in full flow. He was placed a very respectable 5th out of 12 contestants
Devlin and Jenny enjoy the company of  fellow town criers including, in the background, Shrewsbury Town Crier Martin Wood (in red and blue and sporting a white beard) who, at 7ft 2ins, is the world's tallest Town Crier!




 Although he's only been in office for a year, Devlin Hobson is already a veteran of quite a few competitions. Here's a particularly good report on the 2013 Nantwich event from our friends at the CREWE NEWS, featuring many photographs and even a video:

NANTWICH TOWN CRIER COMPETITION 2013

Devlin and Jenny can be seen at this year's  Montgomery event on July 19th, and at the Nantwich Competition on July 26th. They'll be back in Middlewich for the Makers' Market on the 30th August.

You can find out more by going to Devlin's Facebook Page:


And, assuming that Middlewich embraces the idea of a Town Crier, which it surely must, how long will it be before we have our own Town Crier competition?

We're guessing not too long...

(UPDATE: In fact after Devlin had arranged for a National Town Crier Competition to be held here in 2015 the first Middlewich Competition was held in 2016. The contest is now a permanent fixture on the Middlewich events calendar each year. - Ed.)




(ARCHIVED)

Sunday, 9 September 2018

SALT TOWN RADIO: HIGHLIGHTS FROM 'MEMORIES OF A BOATWOMAN'



'Homeground' programme three brings you highlights of 'Memories of a Boatwoman' featuring the late Maureen Shaw of Wardle Lock Cottage in Middlewich.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM 'MEMORIES OF A BOATWOMAN'

Now also available on our YouTube channel:

YOUTUBE VERSION


With grateful thanks to Kerry Kirwan

Saturday, 1 September 2018

THE FOUNTAIN FIELDS PADDLING POOL, EARLY 1970s.

 Photographs of the paddling pool which once lay behind Fountain Fields are very rare indeed. In fact it's very often forgotten that the  facility ever existed. Chris Koons, who now lives in America with her family, but was in a former life Christine Sant, daughter of David and Miriam Sant of King Street,  has kindly sent these precious snapshots showing the pool in around 1973 or 1974. That's Christine in blue on the left, with her sister Karen. The spot where they were playing all those years ago is now the private access road which runs alongside Fountain Fields to Wallcroft Gardens and ultimately to Wheelock Street.
The pool was behind the still existing 'bowls hut' on Fountain Fields, now used as a base for Cheshire East's maintenance workers. You can see the roof of the building on the top left of the photo. There were at one time public toilets behind the brick wall, and the pool, together with a children's slide were in a sort of 'annexe' to Fountain Fields, reached by a gate alongside the bowls hut. To try to get our modern-day bearings, we can point out that the building on the extreme right is the present-day High School Drama Studio (originally the school gymnasium). And now we come to one of those little mysteries which infuriate and delight us all. To the right of the brick wall should be what were at the time the tennis courts on Fountain Fields*, and the uprights for the wire netting seem to be present and correct. But why are those cars parked there? The access road to the car park and supermarket is not in place yet (and neither are the car park and supermarket, come to that). Beyond the tennis courts, certainly until the late sixties, was the  putting green which, along with bowls and tennis, was the sum total of  Fountain Fields' attractions until more recent times. So where do those cars fit in? All information, as always, gratefully received.

*one of the tennis courts survives in modified form as a  five-a-side football/basketball court.


And here are Christine and Karen again having a paddle with their Grandma, who was visiting from Manchester. Behind them is the original spiked fencing, which was first modified to avoid injuring would-be trespassers and then replaced completely about twenty years ago. Beyond the fence is the bowling green, which has just been replaced by all that lovely children's playground equipment, and beyond that can be seen the Congregational Church (the 'Cong's') in Queen Street, now known, of course, as the United Reformed Church. The building looks very much the same today,except that the Victorian ventilators on the roof have disappeared. Two doors away the top of the original Middlewich Police Station can be glimpsed.
If you look directly behind Grandma, you can just make out a wooden building. This was the original France-Hayhurst clubhouse later replaced, following a fire, by the modern brick building next to the 'bowls hut'.

Many thanks to Chris for giving us the chance to show you these photos of a long-vanished Middlewich attraction. If you have any photos of this, or any other, Middlewich scene from the past, or can add to the information in this Diary entry, please don't hesitate to get in touch. For example, was the slide the only facility on the site, apart from the pool, or were there also swings there? Can you remember?


Update: See the Facebook Feedback below. It's obvious that the 'annexe' to Fountain Fields was a fully-fledged children's playground in its own right, complete with paddling pool and separate from the Fountain Fields main site. It was only in later years that the playground equipment began to encroach on the main site (necessitated, no doubt by the sale of the land where the paddling pool and other playground equipment once stood). I myself was a young man in my twenties in the early seventies, and not interested in children's playgrounds, which explains why I can't remember how things were. Many thanks to everyone for their memories.

Dave Roberts

Editor.

Facebook feedback:

Chris Koons I’m pretty sure there were swings there, too, and another access gate to the annexed area via a gate from the alleyway close to Nana Dean’s.
Also, the putting green was still in operation in the mid-late 70s because I remember playing on it when I was seven or eight, and I was born in 1969. 

Gaynor Smallwood There were two big swings at the top, together with two baby swings, then the big slide. The paddling pool was at the bottom. On the grass was the roundabout and a big red horse that rocked. I spent every day in the summers of 1975 and 1976 on the park. The boys (Steve Smallwood, Alan Bowker and John Price) would get us girls at the top and run us down into the pool! We would need to change into dry clothes three or four times a day! Happy, hot days, with no worries.

Anita Hough I remember the paddling pool too. It was the mid eighties, as that's when we moved to Middlewich. It wasn't filled that much then which was a shame. I remember the swings, MASSIVE slide and the dreaded roundabout that we used to make ourselves dizzy and almost sick on. The access gate is still there near Nana Dean's. The bowling green was still used in the mid eighties as well, as I remember sitting watching them play and being fascinated by it.

Sylvia Burrows I used to take both my children there when they were little. They really enjoyed it!

Jayne Latham There were two swings and a baby swing. Then a rocking horse that would head butt you if you went too fast and had about 6 seats on it. Then that steep slide that used to get greased with bread paper so you would slide quicker and if you were unlucky you would end up in the pool.
I am sure the other end of the very slippery pool had a two-tier concrete fountain on it. This was removed as the kids would climb onto it, so it wasn't safe. Then you would run through the gate behind it and run right through the gardens to the toilets either side of the putting hut, as we called it. The best person to tell you all about this is Alan Sant, who lived across the road from the school on King Edward Street. His Mum, Joyce, who was the school cleaner, said he played in that pool in any weather in all his clothes! I'm going back over fifty years, now. Thinking back, the original toilet was in the hut. The other toilets were added years later. There was a big greenhouse looking at the right hand side of the hut. Also there was a sunken garden to honour someone or something - sorry, not sure who or what* Good memories.

*This would be the France-Hayhurst family. The sunken garden is still there, but rather neglected. Ed.


Lynda Lever I moved to Middlewich in 1988 and had my kids in 1992 and 1994. I vaguely recall there being a small playground area and pool, though I'm not sure if the pool actually had water in it. I don't recall my son actually going in it, but perhaps he was too small.

Jacky Connell Cottam I remember it very well. I used to go there often, but sorry - no pics!

Susan Johnson I remember it well. I used to spend weekends and school holidays there all the time in good weather.  |Many families took picnics and spent all day there. The park was always packed. The putting green and tennis courts too. Also the bowling green and the hut they used. There used to be an attendant in the building next to the toilet block.. You could hire putting clubs, tennis rackets etc. Happy days and happy memories.

Lynne Towers Happy days; long, hot summers! I remember Mrs Dean's ice-cream van and that massive slide!

Tim Morton I remember slipping over and hitting my head on the floor of this pool.

Pete Berry I've still got the scar on my chin! It had a bit of a divot in it. Turned the pool red! My parents still have photos of the pool. I remember seeing them a few years ago. I'll ask them if they can try to find them.


Barbara Cooper I remember this pool. My Mum and Auntie Freda used to take our daughters Louise and Angela  there. Happy days!