Tuesday, 23 August 2016



A nostalgic look at Middlewich's salt town days in old photos,
with musical accompaniment by Iris Dement.
A Salt Town Production

Watch it here:

Or watch it on YOUTUBE(recommended)

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Debs Johnson That was lovely!

Patrick Collins That's brilliant, Dave!

Pauline Butler Wow! That was an amazing watch! So many memories of old Middlewich - well done, Dave!

Catherine Wilson Aww...Really enjoyed watching that.

Celia Burt Memories! You can't beat them! Lovely song!

Philip Stephen Appleton Well worth watching...

Sarah Burrows That is brilliant. I really enjoyed it x

Lorraine Yearsley Wonderful! The sun won't set on Middlewich while we have Dave Roberts to keep it alive!

Susan Johnson Brilliant and well done, Dave!

Angela Healey Fab walk down memory lane!

Helen Beardmore Brilliant! Thanks! xx

Chris Thornton I don't come from this town, but I found it very enjoyable.

Barbara Cooper My Auntie Annie used to live in the middle cottage, and I slept over quite a few times with her when I was a little girl. Happy memories!

Gemma Louise Barthorpe Lovely.

Ann Appleton Yes, I can remember parts from when I was little.

Gillian Willox That was great - thank you!

Andrew Bebbington  Thank you!

Nicola Such What a great video. Some fabulous memories of Middlewich xxx

Mark Concar That's great. Well done Dave.

Fiona Boote Well, that's really brought a tear to my eyes. How you forget! I remember watching those chimneys fall. So very well put together, and I loved the song! very well done! x

Elizabeth Moreton Absolutely brilliant! Brought a tear to my eye. So many lovely memories. Thank you, Dave.

Lorraine Yearsley Great photos, great production, but English folk music would have been more to my taste.

Dave Roberts Mine too. But My Town sums up exactly what I had in mind for this video so well that there was no real alternative - at least, not one that I could find.
When I come across a song by an English group which expresses that yearning for the past, that sense of loss, and that intangible feeling that this town, however imperfect it may have been, was, at least Our Town; when I find a song that can recapture that lost (and quite possibly illusory) feeling of 'belonging' to a town half so well as Iris Dement's song does, I'll remake the video with an alternative soundtrack. Until then, though, I don't think this can be bettered.

Lorraine Yearsley Still a lovely memoir of Middlewich. Thanks!

Originally published 23rd August 2015
Re-published (with additional feedback) 23rd August 2016


Thursday, 18 August 2016



Middlewich Vision/Middlewich Town Council
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(see 2015 winners Sandbach Tyres in action)
(courtesy of Trevorley Cope)

2016 Winners Middlewich Round Table are pictured here with Town Mayor Pam Farrell

Tuesday, 16 August 2016


By kind permission of  DAVE GRIFFITHS
by Dave Roberts

We're much indebted to DAVE GRIFFITHS for permission to use this fine old Middlewich postcard which he recently came across and posted on the Northwich & Mid-Cheshire Facebook Group.
Dave was looking for information as to the scenes depicted here, and also to the approximate date of the postcard. 
As to the date, we were able to help almost immediately, as this postcard is one of many featured in the collection which Geraldine Williams loaned to us a few years ago and which we will be featuring in the Middlewich Diary soon.
Geraldine's copy was sent from 39 Booth Lane, Cledford, Middlewich on November 27th 1911 to a Mrs J Twiss in Sandy Lane, Lymm.
Middlewich postcards, like other postcards of the time, had a very long 'shelf-life'. This card would, in all probability, still be on sale in the town twenty years later, until the changes of the early thirties, including the replacement of the old Town Bridge by the current structure, rendered it obsolete.
Of course, most of the scenes pictured here were also available at the time as individual cards.
Here's a coloured version of the Town Bridge postcard, from the afore-mentioned Geraldine Williams collection (follow the link for a comparison with the view in the present day).
And here, courtesy of Kath and Barry Walklate, is a photo of the Bullring, as shown in the centre of Dave's postcard, at around the same period. That famous gas-lamp, though, where our Town Crier used to stand, seems to be different in each photo.

by kind permission of DAVE GRIFFITHS
Dave also took the trouble to scan the other side of the postcard, thus giving us even more insight into the time it was produced, and posted.
If you look carefully at the extreme left-hand side, you'll note that the card was published by 'W. Clarke, Stationer, Middlewich' which gives us a clue to its local origins. Remarkably, though, if you look at the top right hand side, in the square reserved for a postage stamp, you'll see that the card was, unexpectedly perhaps, 'printed in Saxony', an ancient area of Northern Germany, famous for its printing expertise. 
Presumably the Great War which came a few years later will have put paid to this connection
And so to the  actual message on the postcard. 
It's addressed to 'Miss Maggie Bailey' and comes from her 'affectionate Mother', who appears, from what she says, to come from one of the mill towns of Lancashire or Yorkshire.
She says it it is 'Right(?) country here, not many shops but no mill chimneys'. Which could be considered strange because the one thing Middlewich had in abundance between the late nineteenth century and the late 1960s/early 1970s was factory chimneys. 
In fact, for a small industrial town, it had more than its fair share. At the time we are speaking of, there would have been at least twenty at the various salt works around the town.
Dave Griffiths says that the writer may well have been specifically referring to 'mill chimneys', which were usually a lot taller and more imposing than salt works chimneys.
Or, it may have been that the writer of the postcard was staying not in Middlewich, but somewhere on the outskirts, and so missed out on seeing our chimneys?
On the other hand,she does say that she will be visting the Wesleyan Chapel that evening, and that was quite definitely in Middlewich.
There is one further possibility, which we'll put forward, even though it might sound a little fanciful: Although many of the salt works in Middlewich were, for historical reasons, close to the town centre, it might have been possible to visit the town, and even spend a night or two here, without noticing them. Some of them were in Brooks Lane and would have been inconspicuous if you didn't venture as far as the Town Bridge; the Pepper Street Works would have been  hidden behind the shops in Wheelock Street and might also only have been apparent to someone venturing away from the town centre.
The same thing might apply to the other works which were, at the time, dotted around the town - on the Sandbach Road, off King Street and close to the canal in Webbs Lane.
But it still seems a little odd for someone to have actually spent any amount of time here, in what was a very industrialised little town, and not seen them. Or, indeed, noticed (and smelled) that all-pervading sulphurous coal smoke which was a hallmark of this town right up until the late 1960s.
Just a thought. 
We welcome your comments and observations on this fascinating piece of local history.

Nick Colley adds (on the Northwich and Mid-Cheshire Group):

Just to add a little to this, the back of the postcard shows that it was published by W. Clarke, Stationer, Middlewich.

This was William Clarke who was a newsagents and stationer at 2 Leadsmithy Street. He was certainly there for the 1901 census and 1911 census and in the 1910 Kelly's Commercial Directory all of which ties in nicely with the 1911 date already suggested,.
Maggie Bailey's mother must have gone into the shop on Leadsmithy Street to purchase the postcard. 
Also the little box where the stamp goes has 'Printed in Saxony' this confirms the date as being pre WW1 as of course once war broke out British postcard publishers stopped using printers in Germany!

Sunday, 14 August 2016


This excellent photograph by Jack Stanier will help us clear up any remaining confusion about the Vaults and its car park. On the  extreme left is the building currently housing two hairdressing shops - Razor Sharp and J et Cie. Immediately to the right , and set back from the road, we can just see the frontage of The Vaults. The part of the building fronting onto Wheelock Street at that time was an off-licence, and beyond that were the notorious 'Black Bar' and, at the end of a long corridor, the vaulted bar which gave the pub its name. Alternative access to the pub was provided by a passageway which ran from  Pepper Street (behind the Dewhurst building) to the pub's back door. 
(Editor's note: According to Bill Eaton (see comment below) this is incorrect and there was no back entrance to The Vaults at that time. So the current back entrance to the pub must only have been created in the 1970s, after the demolition of the surrounding buildings.)
The next right, of course, is Dewhurst's butchers and its associated house (it is not clear whether the house was accomodation for the butcher or under separate tenantship). Then we can see the very narrow Pepper Street which led away from the town centre to Seddon's Salt Works, Powell's clothing factory, the telephone exchange and, ultimately to Webb's Lane. The Dewhurst's block was demolished to make way for The Vaults' car park.
Then came Vernon Cooper's TV, Radio and Electrical, a close rival in every sense of the word for Harold Woodbine TV and Electrical which was only a few doors away until it moved to number 28 Hightown in what is now the Church of England's 'drop in centre'. The  business,by the way, is no longer there,but now operates from Sandbach.
There are many points of interest in the Vernon Cooper Shop. Firstly, it is obvious from comparison with older photographs that this is the same building as the old 'Black Bear Inn' - the distinctive window over the 'Vernon Cooper' sign being the chief indicator. 
The Black Bear in 1900
(illustration from Middlewich 900-1900 by Allan Earl - Ravenscroft Publications 1990)

There are signs on the outside of the building advertising long-lost brands from the golden age of domestic TV and Radio - FERGUSON is one and EKCO Radio & TV another - EKCO being a contraction of EK Cole, a radio manufacturer of Southend-On-Sea.
If you look carefully into Vernon Cooper's window you can see why we have been able to pin this photo down to the year 1970. An advertisement there reads 'BACK HOME', the slogan of that year's England World Cup team and goes on to say something  like 'Choose Us For Colour' or 'Cheer Us In Colour'.  Does anyone know exactly what it does say? Colour TV had started three years earlier, in 1967,on BBC2 and in 1969 on BBC1 and Granada.
Finally, it would be nice to know something of Vernon Cooper himself. I recall hearing many years ago that he had something to do with motor racing, but present-day Googling brings up nothing but talk of Welsh Rugby Union Players.

First Published 14th August 2011
Updated and re-published 14th August 2016

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Monday, 8 August 2016


Middlewich's sister salt town celebrates its heritage...

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Saltworkers by John McKenna.        Photo: Droitwich Spa Civic Society
by Dave Roberts
As dedicated readers of 'The Middlewich Diary' will know, there's only one Middlewich. Or is there? I was talking recently to one of our local councillors who mentioned the fact that, despite the fact that Droitwich Spa in Worcestershire hasn't produced salt commercially since the 1920s, the town still makes much of its connections with salt.
There aren't any salt works there now, and haven't been for many years, but the town celebrates 'Salt Day' every year, and is still Britain's only salt water spa town. Droitwich also shares with our neighbours at Nantwich the rare distinction of possessing swimming baths fed by natural brine springs.
The discussion brought back something I remember being told years ago, in early Heritage Society days. Someone told me then that  'Middlewich' was used  by Droitwich salt makers at one time as a name for one of the town's three brine springs.
This information has been lurking at the back of my mind ever since then, so today I decided to do a little bit of internet research, and what I found out has revealed that Droitwich was once a kind of parallel universe, where a microcosm of the Mid-Cheshire salt industry existed.
There were indeed three brine springs in Droitwich, and they were called Upwich, Middlewich and Netherwich, forming a miniature Northwich, Middlewich and Nantwich in the middle of Worcestershire.
Even today Droitwich claims that its Roman name was Salinae, which will, I'm sure, ring a bell locally.
This lends credence to the alternative theory that neither of the towns was actually called Salinae, but that the Romans labelled all places of salt manufacture with the name, which just means 'salt workings'.
Tales are told of Middlewich salt workers having a good laugh at poor old Droitwich when, in the last days of its dying salt industry, it was reduced to bringing in supplies of brine by road tanker. Anyone can tell you that's not the way to do things.
On the other hand, the attractive Worcestershire town can teach us a thing or two about promoting our own heritage.


BBC Long Wave Transmitter at Droitwich    Photo: Arquiva/BBC Engineering Information
Droitwich's other claim to fame is the Long Wave radio transmitter which broadcasts BBC Radio 4 throughout Europe on 198kHz. And even this national institution owes its existence, or at least its location, to salt. The transmitter site at Wychbold was chosen because the underlying salt deposits make a good 'ground' for the transmitter and help produce a good clear signal (this property of salt was also exploited by the pirate radio ships of the sixties who could reach large areas of the country with relatively low powered transmitters because of the 'ground wave' produced by the briny waters all around them).
We all know, of course, that the benefits of salt are many and varied, but how many people knew that it also helps bring us the Shipping Forecast?

Facebook feedback:

Mally Mal 'helps bring us the Shipping Forecast'....until the valves conk out.

Dave Roberts Yes indeed, But that's another story.

Mally Mal Indeed.

(What Mally is referring to here, is the fact that the Droitwich transmitter is living on borrowed time. It uses glass valves which are no longer manufactured, and when the last one blows, it's goodbye to Long Wave - Ed.
UPDATE: (December 2014) This turned out to be something of an over-simplification. During 2014 extensive engineering work was carried out on the Droitwich transmitter ensuring that it would be in service, according to a BBC spokesman, 'for at least the next ten years, and probably longer').

Published 2nd December 2011
Re-published 8th August 2016