Friday, 29 May 2015

WHAT'S ON 2015

Once again this year Middlewich Town Council has published its handy colour guide to the many and varied events happening in the town this year. 
The guide, which is available at outlets all over the town, contains an introduction by Jonathan Williams. This is a special year for Jonathan, as he celebrates 30 years as the  Clerk to Middlewich Town Council. We'd like to add our own congratulations to the many which Jonathan haas received on reaching this milestone. As he says, 'I am more proud than ever to serve this, my home town, and this very special town of ours'.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015


by Dave Roberts

Here’s a shot  taken from the Church Tower during one of its periodic open days, this time in 1972, revealing a long-vanished but still vividly remembered version of Lewin Street. These open days were always hugely popular, with people clamouring to take otherwise unobtainable 'aerial views' of the town.
As far as I can recall the last of these trips up the tower took place in the 1990s, during the early years of the Folk & Boat Festival. Quite possibly Health & Safety concerns have put paid to them (there was always an awkward little jump to be made to actually get onto the roof itself, and this might have something to do with it).
It's a pity, because it would be wonderful to be able to take some modern-day pictures of these streets, with the vastly improved equipment we have today, for comparison.
I wonder if there is any way these  open days could be revived?
The buildings on the left-hand side of the street, and heading in the direction of Sandbach are:
Gibbins Shop (extreme left) - this shop later became the premises of J&M Print and even later (2014) the premises of Peter Forshaw, Funeral Director.
Next comes the CofE Infants School, Square One, the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel and Seddon's Workshops. All these buildings, together with the Wych House Lane Seddon's Salt Works behind them, were replaced in the 1990s by Salinae and its grounds. Beyond that is the still extant Middlewich DIY.
On the right, the building with the square white roof is the then new Middlewich Library.
Above that is a small row of cottages with Yearsley's Menswear Shop at the top
(now replaced by Longcross Court) and then the Crown (now the 'Narrowboat')
Further on still is what is now Middlewich Post Office and then the huge bulk of
the Victoria Building with the Civic Hall attached. These buildings have now, quite rightly, been re-christened 'Middlewich Town Hall'
Update: From 2016 the former Civic Hall was re-christened the Victoria Hall.
Notice the relative absence of traffic (and the total absence of heavy trucks) in what is now our town's worst traffic blackspot. But, to be fair, appearances are, once again, deceptive. Even in those days heavy industrial trucks were very common in Lewin Street, it being the main route from Sandbach and the industries along Booth Lane to Winsford, Northwich and Merseyside. We seem to have caught the road at a quiet time. Perhaps it was a Sunday...?

Dave Roberts

(Description updated 27th May 2015 and 4th July 2016))

First published 10th June 2011
Revised and re-published 27th May 2015

Monday, 25 May 2015



Theresa Kay writes:
The Middlewich Rose Fete will be holding a Talent Competion for children aged 3-17 years. This 'Salt Stars' contest welcomes all talents, singers, dancers, actors, variety etc.
There will be 3 age categories- 
Mini Stars: 3-7
Junior Stars: 8-12
Senior Stars: 13-17

The Winner of each category will take home a Salt Stars Trophy and certificate.
Entry to the talent show will cost £1 per child with all money raised going towards the Rose Fete and Leighton Hospital Childrens Ward.
To enter, please arrive for registration at 12pm on Monday 25th May.
The show will commence at 1pm.

If you are providing music to perform with, please ensure this is available in CD format.
Please note, all types of performers welcome. 
mini stars may perform nursery rhymes if they wish.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015


by Dave Roberts

The name Tannery Alley probably won't mean very much to those who haven't been Middlewichians for very long, but when we substitute Southway and mention Tesco things may start to become a little clearer.
Tannery Alley is, or was, the public footpath which runs from St Ann's Road and joins Wheelock Street alongside the former Bargain Booze off-licence (now blessed with the not much more dignified name The Booze Centre). 
Tannery Alley was long ago re-christened Southway.
Slightly confusingly the row of shops behind Drinks & Bites at 35 is also called Southway, as is the pathway running from Wheelock Street and up the steps to the strange 'pagoda-like' structure which advertises the presence of Tesco's supermarket to people approaching from that direction.
As Malcolm Hough, who sent us this photo, reminds us the alley did,  at one time, have a third, unofficial, name. 
When the Alhambra was in business as a cinema the locals christened it 'Picture Alley', as it formed a short-cut to that popular establishment for those coming from St Ann's Road and 'Newtonia'.
Of course many who were young at the time will remember that the rear door of the Alhambra was (and still is) down a little alleyway off what became Southway, and it was a relatively easy job to sneak through this door behind the cinema's screen, risking the wrath of 'Torchy', who, we think, was named after Torchy The Battery Boy, a popular puppet TV star of the 1950s. Or did his nickname pre-date this early Granada star?
Malcolm suggests, rightly, that this photo is just begging for a 'Now & Then' comparison and we'll be doing this just as soon as we have time to take a shot of that 'pagoda' which is approximately where these houses once stood.
Unless one of our many photographer friends would like to oblige?
To make our modern day bearings even clearer, the much-admired Barclay House is out of shot to the left. The prospects for this lovely old building are looking brighter now that Tesco has decided to dispose of all the property it bought up for its aborted Middlewich mega-store plan.
We have seen the old buildings in the photo before, again courtesy of Malcolm Hough, when we published this picture:

We first published this picture  here in 2011 under the title 'Mystery Picture' as we weren't entirely sure of the location at that time, although the 'mystery' was soon solved. That's one end of the former Orchard Works to the right and Barclay House is immediately to the left of what is obviously the building in the picture above. We can now see that there appear to be three houses here - two cottages and a fairly substantial house, the main entrance to which was probably at the front facing Wheelock Street.
Were these, perhaps, a couple of workmen's houses and a 'manager's house', relating to the vanished tannery which gave the alley its original name?
The other obvious question is, where did the name 'Southway' originate?
Incidentally, the resemblance between this little section of Tannery Alley and
White Horse Alley is quite striking.

We'll be returning to the scene with some 'Now & Then' shots soon.

Note: We've dated this photo provisionally as '1950s' due to the quality of the photography, although we're open to argument and correction on this. Was that building still standing in the 1960s?

With thanks to Malcolm Hough

Monday, 4 May 2015


by Malcolm Hough
Here is another post card of the church, which I have not seen before, and bought recently off eBay for £4.50. Worth every penny!
I don’t have a date for it , but it is likely to be the early 1900’s (see below - Ed).
The rear of the postcard  states that the postage cost is a Half-Penny for inland and One Penny for foreign destinations.
There is also a dividing line to separate the address from the communication and I believe this line came into use around 1905, according to a post card collectors site I was looking at a few years ago.
Bottom left you can  see where lines have been drawn, or scratched, to write the Middlewich name on the front of the card before printing.
I remember the very talented sign-writers doing something similar with chalk at Foden’s before the use of transfers.

I'm not exactly sure where the picture was taken from.
To me it does not look like it was taken at ground level. You can just about make out the Kings Arms pub sign; half way down left-hand side and you can also see the gap in the shadow where the entrance to Queen Street is. 
The trees are quite small as well.
Editor's Note:
I think Malcolm's estimate of the early 1900s as a date for this postcard is correct. Look at this view which was taken from the end of Lewin Street, looking towards the Church and Town Hall, and we know to date from 1906.
Hightown 1906. From Middlewich 1900-1950 by Allan Earl (Cheshire Country Publishing 1994)

The Church (or what we can see of it) and the old Town Hall to its left appear to look exactly the same in this photo as they do in  Malcolm's postcard, so I think 1906 is about right. Incidentally, on the photo from Allan Earl's book you can just see, behind the cluster of buildings around the churchyard, the top of one of the chimneys at the Pepper Street salt works belching out black smoke.

Returning, briefly, to Malcolm's postcard, it's also interesting to note that the entrance into the Churchyard seems to be a lot further away from the church than it is at present. Is this a trick of perspective? Or were there two entrances in this section of wall in those days? just below the Town Hall you can see what might be the present day entrance (these days minus its gate) in the form of a distinct 'V' shape in the wall. You'll also notice that the arrangement of the churchyard itself is also a lot different. Of course,we know that the current layout, with its pathways made from old headstones and gravestones only dates back to the early 1970s.
But take a close look at the Town Hall in both pictures. Here's an enlargement of part of Malcolm's postcard.

It's the old Town Hall all right - the one which was demolished in the early 1970s and stood on the ground next to the churchyard where the 'Roman Amphitheatre' is now, but it appears to have what's known as a colonnade - a row of pillars at the front of it.
Here's the Town Hall as we remember it...

...and from this we can see that the gaps between those arches appear to have been  filled in at a later date to form a door and two windows. Did this occur, perhaps, in the early 1930s when the rear part of the Hall was demolished for road-widening and the Urban District Council moved its offices to Victoria Building (now, somewhat ironically, itself re-christened 'Middlewich Town Hall'?) It would be interesting to get hold of a clearer picture from the early 20th century of the front of this venerable building to see just what the entrance really looked like before these alterations. - Dave Roberts

Friday, 1 May 2015


by Malcolm Hough and Dave Roberts

A friend of mine, Maurice Weedall of King’s Crescent, recently brought me six post cards to look at, featuring scenes of Middlewich.
Some we have seen before, but two of them are new to me. 
What I find interesting is that five out of the six are from the well-known Lilywhite series and have the original copyright number on them. They appear to belong to the same set.
I was wondering if it might be possible to track down a full set of these cards? They are all top quality and enlarge well on the screen - Malcolm Hough

Editor's Note: Lilywhite Ltd of Brighouse were only one of many firms producing postcards of thousands of locations all over the world. Macolm appears to be right in saying that these cards are part of a Middlewich series, as can be seen by the index numbers MDH 57/MDH 25 and so on on all but the last one, which seems to be from a different publisher. Internet searches bring up long lists of postcards from Lilywhite and other publishers, but little about the postcard manufacturers themselves. We'd be grateful for any information about this fascinating source of pictorial history. -Ed.

This postcard shows the Parish Church with the iron railings still in place*, and also showing railings over the river Croco (extreme left, abutting the Town Bridge parapet).
Maurice told me that in this photo, by the Church’s rear gate, one of the two gentlemen in waistcoats, is his grandfather (who died before 1944 when Maurice was born). He is probably the one pushing the trolley, or push chair. The child is Maurice’s elder brother Barry about 1940/41.
The graffiti 'artists' were also about in those days - see the town bridge wall.
Also visible in this photo are the corks on the overhead wires to stop birds flying into them, mainly the racing  pigeons which were, and still are, so popular in this and other parts of the north. Maurice thinks that the mounds in the Churchyard are freshly cut grass left to dry on a hot Summer day, possibly to supply horse feed with it being wartime. - Malcolm Hough

* which, obviously shows the photograph to have been taken  during the earliest days of the Second World War when, in common with similar railings from all over the country, they were removed to provide scrap metal for the war effort. In fact very little of the metal collected was ever used for the war effort and a lot of it, particularly in London, was quietly dumped at sea. The exercise was chiefly valuable as propaganda, making people think that they were making sacrifices to win victory. It's a pity the church's railings couldn't have been returned or replaced after the war. However, on a brighter note, Middlewich's beautifully ornate cemetery gates in Chester Road were spared and were recently restored to their former glory. To the right is Middlewich's long-vanished, and still much-missed, Victorian Town Hall -Ed.

This one is very well-known and crops up repeatedly in many a collection of Middlewich pictures. It was on sale in local newsagents right up until the early 1970s for those who had taken the novel step of holidaying in Middlewich and wanted to let the folks at home know of its glories. The picture itself appears to have been taken in the early to mid 1950s.
We're standing on the other side of the Town Hall shown in the previous picture, in The Bullring, and looking along the still very recognisable Wheelock Street, the main points of reference being the now beautifully restored White Bear Hotel on the right,and, in the middle distance, the distinctive facade of the Alhambra Cinema which, despite the vicissitudes of the years, still retains all that ornamental decoration and, almost miraculously, its name.
The building on the extreme right is now the site of the Vaults car park and the building visible between it and the White Bear is now home to two hairdressing establishments and the former home of the celebrated Sharon's Cafe.
The Vaults itself is set back from the road, and lurking between these two buildings waiting for the day, many years later, when it would emerge into the open to be the first building on that side of Wheelock Street.
Out of shot on the extreme right is the start of Pepper Street, meandering away from the town centre to join Webbs Lane and giving access to Henry Seddon's Pepper Street Salt Works along the way.
The buildings on the left have now disappeared to make way for what is now Tesco Express and the former Pineland Shop. - Dave Roberts

We have definitely seen this picture of King Street before, and it has featured in a previous Middlewich Diary entry, which you can see here. This is King Street, Middlewich, either during or just after the Second World War. The car looks to be of 1930s vintage but in those 'make do and mend' days may well have kept running throughout the war and beyond. The large tree, centre right, marks the spot where King Street curves to the right to cross over the railway line and then start its climb up Ravenscroft Hill. The huge poles along the left hand side of the street are part of the somewhat Heath-Robinson style electricity supply to King Street, in which the cables were strung along the street like telephone cables. The lower part of King Street even used to have wooden electricity poles which had street lights screwed to them, Part of this now antiquated system still survives.
We can date this photo as being from the 1940s by the two houses on the right, which were built by my Grandmother and my Mother's cousin Harry  in the late thirties and were the only houses on that side of this stretch of the road until building began again after the war. -Dave Roberts

Another rather familiar postcard view, this time pure 1920s suburbia as Nantwich Road makes its genteel way down to the aqueduct. The entrance to Mill Lane is to the right. Notice the elaborate telegraph pole - just one of millions which used to line nearly every road and railway line at one time - and the small road sign; all that was necessary to control traffic in the days before the world went motor-car crazy. We think this picture dates from the 1940s. Notice how spick and span everything seems. - Dave Roberts

I was looking at this postcard of Chester Road and noticed that  the name of the landlord on the Golden Lion pub sign is  F. A. Egerton. According to Middlewich Hospitality, the new book by Ken Kingston,  he (Frank Egerton) was the landlord from 1929 to 1944. So as with the St Michael's photo, this one was probably taken in  the early  years of the  war, which  may explain why all the roads are quiet. It would be nice to find a full set of these postcards.
The shop with the Gold Flake sign in the window was also a cafe in those days. I remember it being a shop in the 60’s but not a cafe. - Malcolm Hough

This photo is the 'odd one out' among Maurice's  postcards, as it is not  part of the Lilywhite Series. It does, though, appear to be one of a set of Middlewich cards as it bears the index number MDW4. It's titled 'King Street Schools' which dates it as pre-1920s when the 'deviation' from the original line of the road was developed and this section of King Street became 'New King Street'. The aerial view of the two roads below, which is taken from Google Earth, shows how New King Street aligns perfectly with the top part of King Street (as shown in the postcard above).Presumably the 'New' prefix was given to what is actually the old section of road so that there would not need to be a change of name as the new alignment met the old. Notice the lovely old gas lamps along the street. This scene has not altered very much over the years, although the building on the right, which was St Mary's Primary School, is now St Mary's Parish Hall. - Dave Roberts
The yellow line follows the route of New King Street from St Mary's Church to the foot of the railway bridge to show how it aligns with the 'top' section of King Street. Before the coming of the railway the road would have continued along the side of Harbutt's field and, probably, made its way along the riverbank before turning to bridge the river and resume its northerly course towards Northwich and Warrington. The green cross marks the position of St Mary's Church and the former school, and the red cross is the site of the houses in the 'King Street' postcard above


With many thanks to Malcolm Hough and Maurice Weedall.