Saturday, 9 November 2019


'....each a glimpse, and gone forever...'
                                         -Robert Louis Stevenson

by Dave Roberts

Courtesy of Bill Armsden and John Bailey here's a rare chance to see a few fleeting glimpses of Middlewich and Winsford as they were towards the end of the 1960s, captured on 8mm cine film and digitised so that we can enjoy them today. The scenes we see here are just part of a longer film chronicling a family day out at Chester Zoo, circa 1968, and offer us the chance to see our town at the very end of what we like to call its 'salt town days' (the open pan works all having closed in 1966/7) and before major housing development and 'gentrification' started in earnest. There are also some glimpses of Winsford taken at the same time.

Watch it here:

Or Watch it on YouTube

Here's what you'll see:

We start in Booth Lane, and ahead of us is the bridge over the canal junction. To the right is that long-gone building which once stood at the junction of Booth Lane and Brooks Lane (currently causing much controversy as drivers choose to ignore the 'one way' restrictions on the bridge). For many years the building housed a bakery, but the Lyons Maid ice cream sign shows us that this film was made in the period when the shop was operated by Clarence Costello and his wife Mary. Costello's had shops in various parts of the town, including Kinderton Street and Wheelock Street, at various periods in the town's history.
If you inspect the Booth Lane side of the bridge today, you'll see that the wall once curved round to join the canal-side wall of the shop.
Next we leap ahead to Lewin Street, and get a glimpse of the CofE Infant School on the right. 
And this is where we know we really are in the past because, instead of bearing right to go down into Leadsmithy Street and the Junction with St Michael's Way, we go to the left to pass over Hightown and thus into the town centre.
Dead ahead is the old Town Hall and a row of shops where the amphitheatre is today.
In the town centre we see Dewhurst's butchers shop and, to its left and set back from the road, the Vaults, the sign for which can be seen on the end wall of the shop next door. Those two shops are still there,and are now both hairdressers. The one on the left we made famous a few years ago as 'Sharon's Cafe'.
We turn into Wheelock Street and again we know instantly that we're looking at a scene from many years ago, as the traffic is travelling both ways.
Notice, on the right, the Davies School of Motoring in just one of the row of shops which are now given over completely to the justly famous Temptations business.
Ahead of us to the right we can see a building which spent many years as Brooks & Bostock, after its move from just across the road. On its end wall can be seen another long-vanished Middlewich sight, the billboard advertising the many delights of Belle Vue.
Now to Chester Road, and, on the left, where now we find Morrisons, is Middlewich Motors with its Mobil Garage. Beneath the Mobil sign you might be able to catch a glimpse of another sign saying Boosey's Nurseries.
Next we're on Spital Hill, climbing towards Winsford. Of all the locations in this short film, this is the one which has changed the least.
Next we're approaching the bridge just before Winsford Station (or, as older people will know it, Gravel).
Here we turn right for a pit stop at the Railway Hotel, which once sported a sign depicting a slightly wonky looking Stephenson's Rocket, and is now known as the Brighton Belle.
And next we're in Winsford High Street, before the dual carriageway was driven straight through the heart of the town. Unfortunately for us, the camera concentrates on the right hand side of the road, showing us the Brunner Guildhall and other buildings which are still very much with us. There are, though, tantalising glimpses of the now-vanished left hand side of the High Street.
And so this all too brief glimpse into the past comes to an end as we take the old road out of Winsford and head for Chester and the delights of its famous zoo.
You'll notice the road signs, which give us a clue as to the age of this film. This type of sign, so familiar to us now, was only introduced in the early to mid-sixties, so would have been quite new at the time of filming. They look a little incongruous here, surrounded as they are by much older road infrastructure.
Of course we have to remember that the scenes of Middlewich and Winsford seen here - all of them just a few seconds long - were just 'setting the scene'. They were included in the finished film (which was, don't forget, a record of a Middlewich family's trip to the zoo) to show where that family travelled from on their day out. There was no thought of capturing Middlewich and Winsford 'for posterity'. At least we don't think there was.
Apart from anything else 8mm cine film was very expensive and the majority of it would have been saved for filming the animals at the zoo.
But aren't we glad the cameraman/woman* decided to expend just a little of that precious film on the journey?
* Apparently it was either John Bailey himself, or his wife doing the camera work.

Here's the film again, in slow motion

Watch it here:

Or Watch it on YouTube

Our thanks to Bill and John for going to the trouble (and not inconsiderable expense)
of rescuing this rare film for posterity and also granting the Middlewich Diary the privilege of bringing it to you.

VIDEOS © Bill Armsden/John Bailey 2017

First published 19th January 2017
Reformatted and republished 9th November 2019
Vimeo videos replaced by YouTube versions.

Friday, 8 November 2019


Photo: FBS Images
Now would seem to be a good time to go back 77 years to the original unveiling of our town's main War Memorial in the Bullring. 1934 is surprising late for the erection of such a memorial. Most of them were erected in the 1920s, a fact that probably accounts for Messrs Curson & Hurley in Middlewich - Images of England (Tempus Publishing 2005) captioning photos of the occasion as happening in 'the early 20s'.
As always, Allan Earl in Middlewich 1900-1950 (Cheshire Country Publishing 1994) has the truth of the matter. The unveiling was on the 18th November 1934 and a full account of the occasion is included in Allan's book (Pages 139-141).
The memorial (or 'cenotaph' as it is referred to by many locals) stayed in this position for 38 years until, as part of the 'Piazza' redevelopment of 1972, it was moved closer to the churchyard and re-dedicated as shown in the series of slides we've been featuring over the last few months.
In 2005, as we have seen, the area was redeveloped again but the memorial stayed more or less where it was.
Appropriately, the War Memorial bears a quotation from Middlewich historian Charles Frederick Lawrence:
'Through all eternity their names shall bide,
Enshrined as heroes who for Empire died'
The War Memorial as it was in 1972 after re-dedication in its new position on the 'Piazza'.
To the left of the picture the Talbot Hotel in Kinderton Street can be seen.

Facebook Feedback:

Chris Koons Wow! Who knew there were so many people IN Middlewich?

Dave Roberts Amazing isn't it? We have a good crowd every year for Remembrance Day, but I don't think there's ever been anything on that scale since the 1930s.

Geraldine Williams Interesting to see the Brauer Opticians and Pharmacy shop.
Miss Brauer was Brown Owl of the Middlewich Brownie pack for many years and her sister, Mrs Margaret Hall, was the Girl Guides' leader. Mrs Hall was also a pharmacist and dispensed at that shop.
After the shop was demolished she did some locum work at various chemists.
The shop, presumably, was owned by their father.
And what an amazing turnout. Those people standing near the church wouldn't see, or hear, any of the service. It's a sobering thought that just five years later additional names would start to be added to the Memorial. I imagine no one at this dedication service was anticipating that.

First published 10th November 2011
Re-published 8th November 2019

Sunday, 3 November 2019


Aerial View: Britain From Above/English Heritage
 by Dave Roberts,

Today we're returning to our 'core business' to indulge in what was recently and very memorably, referred to as '...the regurgitating of random, boring, local facts' as we take a look at one of the aerial photographs of our town now made available by English Heritage on the site
The 'Britain From Above' collection contains hundreds of high definition photographs taken between the years 1919 and 1953 and thus, in the case of Middlewich, giving us an invaluable view of our town in its salt town heyday.
What's more the site is asking everyone to help annotate the photos in the collection so that future generations will be able to identify just what it is they're looking at and enjoy them all the more. If we've missed anything out of our interpretation of this, or any of the photos we'll be featuring in this series, please let us know.
Our own notes on the photo above are appended to the version below, and we would as always be pleased to have any additional information and/or corrections.

We're starting with this excellent view of the area around the still-thriving Big Lock pub (and, of course, the lock it is named for) as it was (we estimate) some time in the early 1920s. We've given the open pan works in the top left hand corner of the picture its original name on opening in 1892, but by the time of this photograph it would be under different ownership and partly disused, as was the custom during the open pan era, when pans were opened and closed as demand for salt fluctuated.
There's an intriguing structure on the far bank of the river (right next to the little blue aeroplane). We're wondering if this has any connection with attempts to screen the salt works from the Upper Crust at Croxton Hall Farm, as mentioned here (with diagram) by Frank Smith.
The building we've circled and called a 'salt warehouse'  survived well into the early 1970s, finding various industrial uses, as discussed here. On the other side of the Trent & Mersey Canal lies the River Dane and the spot where the River Croco, running alongside the canal through the town, joins it, can also be seen.
The top right hand corner of the photo shows us Harbutt's Field, long known for its connections with the Romans and long marked on maps as Roman Station (Condate). It would be the 1980s before the fact that this modest and unassuming field had, in fact, been the  site of a fully-fledged permanent Roman military fort was confirmed by modern geophysical techniques. We are, though, dealing with the world of archaeology here, and not all is sweetness and light as the name 'Condate' for Middlewich is still disputed among academics, as, for that matter is 'Salinae'.
On the right a public footpath ran, and still runs, from bridges over the canal and River Croco to join King Street at the top right hand corner of the field. The land on the other side of this footpath, now given over to housing, was studded with brine shafts and the remains of previous salt workings.
On the opposite side of the canal from the Big Lock is the old lock-keeper's cottage, perched precariously between canal and river and  threatening  always  to subside backwards into the Croco. We discussed the sad fate of this building here.
Every year, come festival time, bands perform on the patch of ground where the cottage once stood (with the audience, somewhat unusually, standing on the other side of the lock), a use for the area which those lock-keepers of old could never have foreseen in their wildest dreams.
Taking centre stage is the impressive bulk of the Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Factory (later part of Nestle, and later still a silk and man-made fibre factory).
It goes without saying that this little corner of Middlewich has, like many others, now been covered in modern housing.
In the bottom right hand corner, along Webb's Lane, is 'Swiss Cottage', which gets its name from the fact that it was built to house the Manager of the Anglo-Swiss works.
The Milk Factory closed in 1931 and the buildings were converted for use as a silk factory which opened in 1932 and closed in the early years of the 21st Century.
Finney's Lane itself is all present and correct, although its course has changed through the years and it now takes a more direct route towards the Big Lock, where it joins Webbs Lane. 

Aerial View: Britain From Above/English Heritage
Swiss Cottage, Webbs Lane as it is today

First published 12 August 2014
Republished 3rd November 2019


Fun for all the family at the Victoria Hall in the run-up to Christmas, and all in aid of our local charities fund!

Direct link for ticket sales:


Official Trailer (YouTube link)

EXCLUSIVE! On an (unofficial) visit Lynne Hardy, Mayoress of Middlewich, calls in at SHAUN THE SHEEP`S Blackpool HQ to make sure all is well for the FARMAGEDDON Middlewich Premiere on the 14th!

This also appears on THE MIDDLEWICH YEAR

30th October 2019
3rd November 2019

Thursday, 31 October 2019


Photo: Cliff Astles
by Dave Roberts

Here's a striking image which Cliff Astles sent to us a while ago and we thought might be appropriate for Halloween.
Behind all the 'ghosties and ghoulies' and the rather unpleasant fake blood and plastic daggers and silly masks and so on lies the real Halloween, or Eve of Hallowtide, which was celebrated on the 1st and 2nd of November in Medieval times.
Hallowtide (or, in Ireland, 'Samhain') has (or had) little to do with the supernatural (and absolutely nothing to do with blood, horror and screaming skulls and the like - that's an American invention which only came into being when Hollywood started to get a grip of people's imaginations in order to promote its cheap blood and gore horror films).
It was a Christian festival and a time of feasting and celebration of the start of winter.
It later became linked with All Saints Day and All Souls Day, again celebrated on the 1st and 2nd of November, in which the church celebrated its saints and martyrs and the departed souls of all who had gone before.
In England, until recent times, Halloween was regarded simply as a time when the 'spirit' world was closer to the every day world than usual.
Now, like Christmas and Easter, Halloween serves as another chance to make money for big business with sweet manufacturers and makers of novelties cashing in more and more with each passing year..
Good fun for the kids, of course, but a world away from its origins in the mists of time when people would pause for a while in their busy lives to remember those who had passed beyond the veil into unknown realms which we can only wonder about.

Halloween in Middlewich in the late 1950s and early 1960s was a fairly low-key affair, as it was elsewhere in Britain before the blatant commercialisation of the festival took hold.
We certainly made lanterns, but not out of pumpkins, which only went on sale here in recent years.
Our lanterns were  hollowed-out turnips with candles inside them, and they used to reek to high-heaven when they got hot.
In actual fact we were following a tradition which went back a lot further than the Americans' pumpkin carving. 
The original English medieval  Halloween tradition involved making lanterns from turnips and we were, whether we knew it or not, following that tradition.
I have vivid childhood memories of listening to ghost stories broadcast by AFN (the American Forces Network) on long-ago Halloween Nights over fifty years ago. They were broadcast on medium wave to the many American soldiers stationed here and all over Europe in those days.
The static and crackling and Radio Luxembourg-style fading in and out of the signal only added to the atmosphere.
Occasionally, but only occasionally, someone would organise a Halloween Party.
One such took place, I recall, in the late 1950s at the Manor, when it was still inhabited by the Willing-Denton family. As we were living in Nantwich Road at the time, it was just a matter of walking down the road and under the aqueduct to Manor Lodge, then making the arduous journey along the carriage drive to the Manor itself.
Once there, we were introduced to such quaint American customs as 'bobbing for apples'.
'Trick-or-treating' was discouraged because of  stories which reached us from America of people giving children apples with razor-blades in them and other such horrors. The stories were mostly complete nonsense - urban legends designed for the credulous. In fact, as far as we can gather,  there has only ever been one recorded instance of anyone trying to cause harm to trick-or-treating American children. The woman in question poisoned some candy and was later found to be insane. No one came to any harm.
But true or not, these gruesome stories put us off the idea of going from door to door asking for sweets, and the idea has only taken off in fairly recent years along with the rest of the Americanisation of Halloween.
Halloween in those days was just a distraction. Most of our energy was spent on preparing for the much more popular Bonfire Night a few days later.

Cliff's picture is made up of  images taken in and around Middlewich on two separate occasions. If you are wondering where the tree is, here, taken from his original comment on this entry, is what Cliff has to say:

As you pass the newly built houses along Warmingham Lane, look at the fields on your left hand side as you are going out of Middlewich (into Moston). After about 200 yards you will see the tree, just over the hedge and about 50 yards into the field.

- but please bear in mind that the rapid rate of housing development in Middlewich as in towns all over the area, means that the tree, and indeed the field, may not be there for much longer
Special Middlewich Diary Masthead for Halloween 2017

Our 'Three Witches' motif has been borrowed from the Middlewich Salt Company's letterhead.
Halloween has always had a particular resonance in the Cheshire salt towns, in all likelihood simply because 'wich' sounds like 'witch'. Carnivals and parades, particularly in Middlewich, always featured at least one 'Middlewich Witch'. This association was exploited by the Middlewich Salt Co. when it adopted as its trademark 'Middle-Witch Salt'.

Here's the full letterhead, this version of which dates back to 1946:

and here's a link to the Diary entry which, since we started in 2011, has always been our most popular entry:


...and  finally, here's a genuine Middlewich Witch at the 1973 Carnival in company with a lady advertising RHM's 'exceedingly good' Mr Kipling cakes...

First published Halloween Night (31st October) 2014
Revised and re-published Halloween Night 2016
 Halloween Night 2017
Halloween 2019 ('Not Brexit Day')

Thursday, 24 October 2019


Photo reproduced by kind permission of Joan Smith

by David Roberts

We're very grateful once more to Middlewich Diary contributor Bill Eaton who has sent us another item from the collection of the late Frank Smith of Ravenscroft.
And we're fortunate in this case that the scan we received from Bill includes Frank's original caption to this view of Wheelock Street.  It reads as follows:

1983. A...view...taken from the church tower. The small red brick building in the left foreground was the Fire Station of the Middlewich Local Board

Obviously that first Middlewich  fire station, which we looked at here was the focus of Frank's attention at the time. He was one of the people who tried to save it from demolition and was instrumental in ensuring that the terra cotta work mentioned in our earlier diary entry was saved for posterity.

There is, however, much more of interest in this photo: for example, it's startling to think that the Middlewich CofE Infants' School survived as late as 1983 though its forlorn look in this picture show that its days are clearly numbered.. The 'Square One' shop to its right is also still there.
We're used to thinking in terms of all those buildings between Leadsmithy Street and Middlewich DIY being 'swept away in the 1970s' but, as we can see here, it didn't happen quite like that.
Seddon's Wych House Lane works  along with the Central Methodist Chapel  had  disappeared quite a few years before this picture was taken (presumably by Frank himself on one of those church tower open days which Jack Stanier and I also took advantage of a few years earlier).
The MUDC road maintenance depot on the canal side of the site had also been and gone by this time, which was well into the Congleton Borough era, but on Lewin Street, opposite the library (just out of shot to the right) the site of the former Seddon's waggon repair depot (later used by the MUDC) appears to have only just been levelled.
In the left  foreground Lex House is still housing the doctors' surgery and solicitors' offices and  Gibbins' Newsagents (formerly Challinor's) is still in business in the centre foreground.
Both these buildings still exist in 2012, but are empty and awaiting new tenants (apart, of course, from the flats above and to the rear of the newsagents).
Above the roof of the infants' school can be seen the new building housing Oates Builders Merchants which replaced the old Co-op shop fronting onto Lewin Street opposite the bottom of Civic Way.
Out on the skyline, beyond the remains of Seddon's Pepper Street works, is prime Cheshire farmland waiting for the industrial estates yet to come.
We look forward to seeing more from the Frank Smith collection

Here's the photo again with a key to the buildings: 1 Lex House 2 Old Fire Station 3 Newsagent's (Challinor/Gibbins/Tams) 4 CofE Infant School 5 Square One Hardware 6 Site of Seddon's Waggon repair shop and various other buildings in Wych House Lane, including the first Catholic Church 7 Oates Builders' Merchants Warehouse (now Jewson's) 8 Andersen Boats 9 Council Yard (site of Seddon's Wych House Lane salt works) 10 Site of Seddon's Brooks Lane salt works 11 Maidenhills (now a housing estate) 12 Stott's Chemist (now Jennie Edwards).
Update 16/1/2014: Both Lex House and the newsagent's shop (1 & 3) have now been bought and are undergoing refurbishment. The newsagent's is, apparently, to become a funeral director's headquarters.

UPDATE (24th October 2019): The shop did indeed become the headquarters of Peter Forshaw's funeral business, and Lex House has, in the interim, become the Water's Edge G.P. Surgery. Older readers will remember that part of this building was dedicated to the same purpose some years ago before the Oaklands Surgery in St Ann's Walk was built.

First Published 1st June 2012
Revised 16th January 2014
Updated and re-published 24th October 2019

Wednesday, 23 October 2019


Middlewich & District Round Table

The Mayor and Mayoress will be there on Friday evening at 8pm to open the festival, and Linda Boden, our new Deputy Mayor, will also be there with her husband John, making her first public appearance in her new role.

Jack Roberts writes:

First off,  the drink - the most important bit of the weekend.

We have over forty ales, ciders and gins to try. Some locally sourced and some from further afield. Beer and cider are priced at only £2.50 a pint and a double G&T is only a fiver! We haven't skimped on tonic either as we are providing Fevertree!

Over the weekend we also have The Pie Guys providing you with some lovely pie, mash and peas.

Friday evening's entertainment will be provided by The Bohemian Kings.

As this year our Chairman is Scottish we are asking you to come along in your best tartan (Scottish theme)

Saturday afternoon, as usual, is a little bit more subdued (thankfully as we are normally a bit tender after Friday).

We have music by Dave Speakman Music and Deep Waters, both fantastic artists and we guarantee you will be entertained.

Lastly, on Saturday evening, we have our resident DJ, DJ Dizzy giving us a blast through the decades. The Saturday evening we are also asking you to dress in your best Halloween outfits.

We hope to see you all this weekend supporting our amazing Beer Festival. We have lots of awesome beer for you to try!

We still have tickets on sale at The Middlewich British Legion, Chisholms Newsagents and online at

This also appears on THE MIDDLEWICH YEAR