Friday, 17 January 2014


by Dave Roberts
Here's an extraordinary picture, originally posted on Facebook by Bill Armsden and used here with his permission, showing the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal just a few years before its rural nature was changed forever by housing development.
It's very unusual to see a picture of bygone Middlewich which hasn't been going the rounds for years, and our band of Middlewich Diary experts were soon on the case to pinpoint the location and add additional information, making any further comment from me superfluous. I have, however added an illustration from Google Maps putting the picture into its modern day context. Here, then is Bill's original description from facebook, followed by the feedback which tell us all we need to know.

Bill writes:
Here is another picture of old Middlewich. I think it was taken around 1957 and shows Ernie Paxton and his daughter Josie fishing on t'cut.
It is the horizon that got my attention. The taller building to the right is the old ICI works and the two chimneys could be part of the salt works on Brooks Lane.
But, where was the picture taken? I think it is the Shropshire Union Canal (Middlewich Branch-Ed) and the first bridge is St Ann's Road bridge with Sutton Lane bridge further down.

The present day scene as viewed from above, courtesy of Google Maps. The Long Lane Bridge is just out of the picture to the left, and  Ernie and Josie would probably have been sitting on the towpath just to the left of the location of the boat. Centre right is the St Ann's Road bridge with, uniquely for Middlewich canal bridges, a footbridge alongside, added in the 1960s when Hubert Drive and other housing development took place, presumably to give easier pedestrian access to the town centre. On the extreme right is Sutton Lane Bridge. It's interesting to note how the two bridges are skewed at different angles - something which is not immediately apparent from the towpath. Although this stretch of canal is now more semi-rural than rural, it's still a delightful and picturesque place to visit and is always a great favourite with photographers. - ed

Facebook Feedback:
Cathy Prince A great picture. Taken, presumably, before the houses on Hubert Drive were built on the right?
Bill Armsden That is what I was thinking. In the picture Ernie and Josie are very close to Long lane Bridge, so opposite where they were sitting would be the site where my parents built a detached house, no 27 Long Lane, in 1961.
Robert Sheckleston Yes, it is opposite what is now Hubert Drive, I think.
Cliff Astles The farm building by the bridge was where Joey Berrington lived at that time. He had a donkey which lived around the house and garden. The land was owned by Derbyshires and was used for a variety of root and wheat crops. The Orchard (off St Ann's Road) was a mix of apple and pear trees which were all picked when ready (except for the ones we nicked!) and, on the other side of the orchard was more land that was farmed with differing crops.
And yes, this is where Chris Earl first built houses for less than £15,000, and the reason why I left the Big Smoke to come back to live in Cheshire - Housing! And to marry Barbara Elaine Evans in 1962.
The chimneys are all on ICI land; on what was originally the Brunner Mond factory. The Seddon's works was further away to the left, out of shot.
Bill Armsden Quite right, Cliff. Brooks Lane is a way off to the left of this picture's location.

Editor's note: Yes, those chimneys are indeed part of the ICI works, as evidenced from their location and also from the fact that they are round, whereas Seddon's chimneys were always of square construction. It's very unusual to see a view of the ICI works from this particular angle, particularly in its working days. The works closed in 1962.

Many thanks to Bill for letting us share this photo.

Thursday, 16 January 2014


This entry was first published on 1st June 2012
Revised and amended 16th January 2014

Photo reproduced by kind permission of Joan Smith
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.

First Published 1st June 2012
Revised 16th January 2014

Tuesday, 14 January 2014


Another Middlewich tradition which was revived a few years ago. Middlewich has always had a strong and thriving Scottish community and once boasted its own Caledonian Society, as mentioned here.


Friday, 10 January 2014