Sunday, 16 June 2019


by Dave Roberts

This photo first appeared on Facebook, not as part of the regular 'Middlewich' series, but on Father's Day 2011 as a tribute to my Dad, Arthur Roberts, who was a foreman electrician at Cerebos Salt Ltd (later to become part of RHM Foods) from the late 30s until his retirement through ill health around 1969. Dad is pictured here in the generator room at Cerebos in (we think) the late 40s/early 50s. He had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the generator plant and its controls and, when he had to retire, was retained as a consultant and driven up to the works at weekends by Percy Wrench in the works van to check that everything was OK. The Cerebos generating plant was very efficient for its day, as the steam used to run the generators was not released into the atmosphere but recycled to provide heating and hot water for the whole factory, as well as for a very unusual salt pan which can best be described as a giant 'electric kettle'. The steam heated a giant element in the pan which, unlike the coal fired pans at Seddons and Murgatroyds, could be kept going for days and weeks on end, making it far more productive than most salt pans. A lot of the power produced, went to run the vacuum salt plant, fore-runner of the one now in use at British Salt which produces the greater part of the country's salt requirements.

Salt plants and electrical generators are, of course, run with the help of computers these days, but in Dad's day, all the knowledge was, literally, in his head. He taught himself electrical engineering in his spare time by correspondence course.

see also QUEEN MUM

First published on Facebook, Father's Day, July 11th 2011

Republished June 15th (Fathers Day) 2014

Republished June 19th (Fathers Day) 2016

Republished June 18th (Fathers Day) 2017

Also June 17th (Father's Day) 2018

June 16th (Father's Day) 2019

Friday, 14 June 2019


Middlewich & District Round Table
The Middlewich Folk & Boat Festival Quiz tradition continues, under the good offices of the Round Table!

First published Thursday June 13th 2019
Archived Friday June 14th 2019


by Dave Roberts

Looking rather like warlords at a medieval jousting tournament this group of civic dignitaries shelters from the sun, and the great unwashed, under their personal awning at the Middlewich Carnival in 1973, which was, as we've already learned, held at Manor Park, not far away from where I'm typing this.
They are (left to right) : Julie and Derek Millington, then (I think) Sandbach Councillor David Lloyd Griffiths(can anyone confirm this?) the then MUDC Chairman Frank Bailey, Mrs Bailey and another lady who may possibly be  Mrs Lloyd-Griffiths, separated from her husband so that Cllr and Mrs Bailey can take centre-stage and make a pleasingly symmetrical picture. Behind them is another tier of lesser dignitaries, consigned to the shadows.

Derek Millington was one of our livelier and most effective councillors and I spent long hours talking to him in various local hostelries. I'm sure he won't mind me passing on just one of his recollections of life as a councillor:

Derek was a member of the Middlewich Cemetery Committee (known, at that time as the Burial Joint Committee, or something similar) and it was the policy of members to make periodic inspections of the cemetery.
One evening, after a prolonged period of heavy rain, the committee was inspecting a newly-dug grave which was half-filled with water. 
'A very good, idea,' said Derek, 'what you might call a fail safe. If the poor bloke we're burying  isn't dead  we can make sure he doesn't cause any trouble by drowning him.'
A shocked and offended council issued a stern letter of rebuke to Derek.

I could sympathise, having once received such a letter of rebuke  myself  for the heinous crime of 'delivering rent books on a Sunday' - a clear case of  'if the Good Lord doesn't get you, the Council will'.

Nowadays Derek and Julie are leading lights in the Middlewich Rock & Roll Dancers, which are always well worth seeing in action. They all dance brilliantly and look fabulous.

Councillor Bailey was  the last Chairmen of the UDC and the first Mayor of Middlewich. He remains, to date, the only councillor ever to have chased me up the road after a long and heated argument in the Golden Lion. We were discussing the council's policy of attempting always to have 'the lowest rates in Cheshire' which, I said, was all very well as a policy, but had also led to the council having the lowest number of amenities in Cheshire.
The row got out of hand and culminated in Mr Roberts racing off up Chester Road with Councillor Bailey in hot pursuit. You couldn't make it up, could you?

Facebook Feedback:

Geraldine Williams Not sure it would be Mrs Lloyd-Griffiths - unless it's his mother!
Edna Bailey used to work at St Mary's, as did Betty Telfer so the school featured highly in the league table of consorts, or lady mayoresses, or whatever the term is. If I remember correctly, Frank Bailey died at home on the morning of Edna's funeral. What greater devotion could there be.

Dave Roberts The poor woman hasn't any discernible chain around her neck either. She should have been relegated to the back row, among all the other chainless wonders. But do we know if that is Mr Lloyd-Griffiths in the line-up? I can't find any images on the t'internet for comparison. Edna chased me up Chester Road, too, on that memorable occasion, exhorting her husband to 'hit him, Frank!' Such larks!

Geraldine Williams Hope he wasn't wearing his chain of office at the time.....!!

Jonathan Williams Looks like DLG with embryonic handlebar moustache and grandee beard to add. Yes Frank did die on the morning of Edna's funeral. He was indeed the last Chairman of the MUDC and the first Town Mayor of Middlewich; a unique accolade. Frank was a great help to this young pup when he started, and of course he, like several of the Councillors had known me since I was a boy. Nice tent though. And to think; only today we were wondering whether we could afford to put carpeting and banqueting furniture in the Civic Marquee at the Roman Middlewich Festival in September !! Plus ca change !

Dave Roberts I'm almost sure it is he. Who else would have looked like a young Gerald Nabarro at that time? Interesting to know that Frank bridged the gap between MUDC and MTC. I took another slide of Frank and Edna together on the same occasion, and the fact that he was the last UDC Chairman must have prompted this. Unfortunately the slide got slightly damaged in circumstances which may be revealed at a later date.

...and here is that slide showing  Frank and Edna Bailey and taken on the same occasion as our main photo. As pointed out, Frank was the last Chairman of the UDC, and the first Mayor of Middlewich

And, actually, now I have taken a closer look, I think I may be wrong about the lady on the right not possessing a chain. The old clicking and double-clicking trick shows that she may indeed have a very fine and delicate chain with small medallion attached, putting her firmly back in the civic dignitary category. It would be nice to know her name.

In fact, if you look even more closely, at the bunting-festooned guy rope on the right, there is a gentleman hidden among all the flags. What's the betting this is the Chairman of Sandbach, or Winsford, or Northwich UDC and our mystery lady is his consort, or whatever the correct term was? 

First published 17th August 2011
Updated, re-formatted and re-published 14th June 2019

Saturday, 8 June 2019


There will be all the usual stalls: Cakes, Fancy Goods, Toys, Tombola, White Elephant, Toiletries, Plants and a Bookstall. Refreshments will be served throughout the afternoon. There will be a raffle for adults and a children's Tombola. There will be Pluck the Chicken for the children and games to play. Adults 30p Children under 12 years free.

First published Monday 27th May 2019
Re-published Saturday 8th June 2019
Archived Saturday 8th June 2019

Wednesday, 15 May 2019


Courtesy of JOHN CURRIE

John Currie writes:

On Saturday the 18th May, St Michael and All Angels will be open between 11.00am and 3.00pm for the Heritage Trail.

Learn about the town horse and the Moston Dragon and lots more interesting history.

St Michael & All Angels website

First published 9th March 2019
Updated a re-published 15th May 2019


by Dave Roberts

In May 2019 'Harry Random' (a pseudonym) emailed The Middlewich Diary suggesting a 'Middlewich Riddle' which might intrigue people and generate a lot of interest. And it most certainly did...

Here's 'Harry's' original message:

This would make a fantastic (and completely non controversial) question for the Middlewich Diary, and I can promise you the answer will generate a huge amount of local interest.

Six inches can make a lot of difference, but it seems that since 1971 something in Middlewich seems to have officially reduced in size without some visitors and many residents even noticing.

Can you guess what the answer is?


'Harry' also provided a clue to the riddle:

'It's very important, very topical and everyone in Middlewich has seen it and knows what it is.'

I hadn't a clue, save for the fact that 'Harry's' mention of 'visitors' made me think that there might be a canal connection.

So we put the conundrum to the people of Middlewich via the Middlewich Diary and, as 'Harry' prophesied, created an awful lot of interest.

Here's the answer:

'Harry' writes:
I can't remember where online I found the black and white photograph below, but it was described as having been taken in 1971. The bit that I caught my eye was the height of the aqueduct is shown as 12'.0", yet the photograph that was taken in 2011 shows the height as 11' 6".

So what has happened to the missing six inches? - Has the bridge sunk, the road surface risen, was the old height measurement just an estimate, or is there another explanation?

The Aqueduct in 1971 - Max. Headroom 12 feet.

The Aqueduct in 2011 - Max. Headroom 11ft 6 ins.
So what happened to the missing six inches? Surely the road cannot have been re-surfaced so many times in forty years that it's risen six inches? And surely the aqueduct, besieged and battered though it may be by errant truck drivers, can't have sunk six inches? Or, as 'Harry' also suggested, was the height of the aqueduct measured incorrectly at some point, and the figure corrected in 2011?
'Harry' of course, never stints on research, and copied his original email tp Paul Cassell, who's a retired transport manager and consultant.

Paul offers us an expert view of just why that vital six inches 'disappeared'. While he's at it Paul also gives us his considered view of just what is causing the current problems with HGVs striking our poor, beleaguered aqueduct:

Dear Harry,

Thank you for the enquiry from yourself and Dave Roberts, I think I have the answer for you both. Nothing as dramatic as the aqueduct sinking or the road surface rising sadly, just a legacy of Britain joining the European Economic Community as it was known back in the 70’s!
As part of EEC road transport harmonisation in the early 80’s we were allowed to increase vehicle gross weights in line with those of most European countries, the most notable being the increase from 32.5 tons to 38 tonnes for maximum weight articulated vehicles with five axles. To ensure safety on the UK roads every road bridge was re-assessed for both weight carrying capability and appropriate signage for weaker bridges. As a ‘belt and braces’ approach weights were actually assessed for up to 44 tonnes+ as this was always on the horizon and is of course today’s maximum weight threshold.
Bridge heights also came in for scrutiny as many had either never been properly marked or hadn’t been checked since resurfacing may have reduced the height clearance or just not very accurately measured in the first place! The EEC regulations demanded clearance heights be marked in metric to one decimal place for visiting European drivers who only understood metric measurements and who had metric height warning signs in their cabs. We insisted that our old feet and inches measurements also remained as vehicle travelling height signs in feet and inches were a legal requirement inside cabs for driver information in the UK. Hence why all UK bridges now have both a metric and imperial sign either on the bridge or on the approach to it.
Arch bridges are also marked with ‘goalpost’ signs whereby the stated height is at the upper corners of the goalpost although the centre line through the arch will of course be a little higher, as is the case with Nantwich Road bridge. This is obviously to accommodate square bodied trucks although I know of one vehicle operator who could creep under the canal aqueduct with a milk tanker as long as he kept to the middle of the road!
The checking and re-signage exercise involved an element of calculation ‘rounding down’ which knocked a few inches off the exact conversion calculation particularly at high risk bridges. Originally at 12 ft the Nantwich Road bridge would have been 3.6m, but presumably on checking the height and observing the score lines in the brickwork, a decision was probably taken to round down to 3.5m which is 11 ft 6 inches.
Once all bridges had been assessed for load bearing and height clearance, computerised routing systems, truck-specific satellite navigation systems and good old trucker’s atlases provided by the Freight Transport Association and Road Haulage Association to their members were updated to (hopefully) prevent bridge strikes and collapses!
The problems now experienced at the Nantwich Road aqueduct, in my opinion, are because truck drivers are relying on ‘car’ sat nav systems, not helped by the fact that some mapping software used shows the road going over the canal at that point!!
Well you did ask……………………!!!!!!!!


Many thanks to Paul for taking the trouble to give us this highly professional reply to 'Harry's' question, and to 'Harry' for posing the riddle in the first place.

Congratulations to everyone who got the answer right, and especially to RUTH DUCK who seemingly came up with the answer within minutes of  the riddle being posted.

Thanks to the many people who 'had a go'. There were hundreds of highly original and ingenious answers, and quite a few people were 'on the right track' right from the beginning, even if they didn't quite get there!

Dave Roberts