Monday, 27 February 2017


Ryan Mottram is a talented local photographer and we've already seen some of his local work in his new Facebook page Middlewich Photos Past & Present.

Ryan also specialises in images of wildlife and nature. Here's a link to his Nature photography page.

Sunday, 26 February 2017


We believe this image to be out of copyright. If you own the copyright, or know who does, please let us know
by Dave Roberts
This diary entry has been revised several times as I tried to reconcile what I thought I knew (and remembered) about Murgatroyd's  Works with what is shown in this photograph from the Carole Hughes Collection.
The Murgatroyd's Salt Works in Brooks Lane is  familiar  to those who study the history of the local salt industry, but what concerns us here is that part of the works in the centre of  this aerial view alongside the railway line.
When Murgatroyd's closed in 1966 (the first of the four then remaining open pan works to do so) the works as we knew it consisted of the buildings in the lower middle of the picture and a few ancillary buildings including the wagon repair shop and, of course, the building housing the no 2 brine pump, which is being preserved to stand as a representation of the town's long history of salt making. Incidentally the pdf document about the brine pump which we have linked to includes a plan of the site at its fullest extent, but  with no date.
In the 1980s the Cheshire Museums Service published a poster featuring a cut-away diagram of the works showing how it was constructed and how it operated.
The poster can be found on page 37 of Wych & Water (Middlewich Vision 2009) by Tim Malim and George Nash.
This book, incidentally, is a must for anyone who wishes to learn about the Middlewich Salt Industry - and the canals which served it - and is available for purchase from Middlewich Town Council.
The County Museums poster shows the works as it was at the time of its closure and includes the buildings seen in the section of our main photo shown below:
We believe this image to be out of copyright. If you own the coyright, or know who does, please let us know
This section of the photograph is remarkable similar to the view of Murgatroyd's in the Cheshire Museums poster; so much so that the diagram must have been based on the photograph.
But the poster is titled 'Murgatroyd's Open-pan Salt Works Middlewich 1889-1966' and there is no indication that we are only looking at a part of the works.
So when was that large section of the works running along the railway line built, and when did it disappear?
Turning once again to Wych & Water and the invaluable series of maps showing the comings and goings of the various salt works in Middlewich over timewe can see that it  appears in the 1898  OS map (dated as 1889) and is  included in the 1909-14 and 1939 OS Maps.
So it must have been built some time between the years 1889 and 1898 and been closed some time after 1939.
It may well be that the remains of this part of the works was still there in the 1960s, but I can't remember them.
Another interesting point is this: what has happened to the network of railway lines which are shown on all the OS maps from 1898 onwards?
There were, from the late 19th century (possibly from the earliest days of Murgatroyd's), connections to the LNWR Sandbach-Middlewich-Northwich branch line, (via The Salt Siding from 1918), serving the ICI Mid-Cheshire Works and Murgatroyd's.
In fact the works (the part which survived until 1966) was, at one time, circled by railway tracks in a way which irresistibly reminded us of a model railway layout, as shown in this section of the OS map of 1907/8 (with additions to 1938):
The tracks in question must have been removed  before 1966, possibly during the 1950s (Murgatroyd's were certainly using road transport during that period) or even earlier, leaving only the connection to the ICI Works, running behind the Scout Hall, across what is now 'Road Beta' and through the wrought iron works gates, which survive to the present day as part of Pochin's premises.
The ICI works itself was closed in 1962, but the rusting railway tracks lingered on for a few years after that.

Which puts the date of our main picture somewhere after 1939 and before 1966.
So what is intriguing me is this: was that  vanished  section of Murgatroyd's Salt Works still there as late as the 1960s?
When did it actually close down, and when was it demolished?

Facebook Feedback:

Geraldine Williams: See what you mean about the likeness to a model railway layout. It also strongly resembles the 'paperclip' pattern made by the planes when they are put 'on hold' at Manchester!
I was also intrigued by the 'Roman Road (site of)' shown on the OS map. Has this featured in any of the Roman Middlewich literature?

Editors Note: It appears that Newton Farm (later to be the site of Murgatroyd's Works) had well recognised Roman connections, and that may be the reason why Murgatroyd bought the site, possibly reasoning that the Romans must have identified a source of brine nearby. Follow the link to 'No 2 brine pump' for more on this from Kerry Fletcher's Middlewich Heritage site.

We're grateful to Kerry for the following additional information:

Kerry Fletcher

Just a couple of notes for you. The last salt lump at Murgatroyd's was produced in December 1966, Manchester Evening news came to take photographs of the last shift.

Demolition was in 1968 with the famous Common Pan Chimney coming down in April 1968.

The Open Pans were in operation for 76 years almost to the day, as the first salt lump was produced as the New Year of 1890 was seen in.

I don't know the exact year of when the railway side buildings disappeared, I'll find out for you but it must have something to do with the fact that the Common Salt Pans were last used in 1962-3. I have a picture of common salt being tipped into the wagons below from those buildings. As vacuum salt was being produced at the main factory I suppose those buildings wouldn't be required for anything.

I've discovered quite a few photographs taken around Seddons and Murgatroyd's, some taken by people who worked there, some publicity shots taken by local but now closed photography businesses, some by the papers and the aerial shots were by airview of Manchester or similar company. hope that helps.

Here's one of the photos mentioned by Kerry:

Last 'Baggin' time' at Murgatroyds. Left to right: Jack Clarke, Tom Gallimore,  Bob Peach, Bill Challinor. Photo Manchester Evening News (attrib.)

First published 29th February 2012
Re-formatted and re-published 26th February 2017


Saturday, 4 February 2017



For 2017, the Middlewich Rose Fete has moved away from its links with the FAB Festival to become yet another separate  event for Middlewich - the Middlewich Rose Fete and Children's Festival! 

DIrect Facebook Page link:

The Festival itself takes place on
20th May 2017

First published January 2nd 2017
Re-published February 4th 2017

Thursday, 2 February 2017


by Dave Roberts

On the 12th May 1937 Middlewich joined with the rest of the country in celebrating the Coronation of King George VI, and we assume that this picture was taken, if not on the day itself, on a day very close to it..
The Coronation marked the end of a turbulent time for the British Monarchy. Edward VIII had reigned for less than a year before he was forced to abdicate rather than give up his relationship with Mrs Simpson.
He was never crowned  and  by 1937, when Edward had been succeeded by George VI, the Monarchy was keen to mount an occasion to remember, in order to restore Royalty's somewhat tarnished reputation.
The town rose to the occasion, as it traditionally did when it came to Royal occasions.
Middlewich had always considered itself to be a 'Royalist' town, from the days of the civil war, although by 1937 this will have been more a matter of custom and practice than of any deep-seated emotional attachment to the Crown.
Nevertheless, for the 1937 Coronation, Middlewich pulled out all the stops. Among the many events were no less than three processions through the town, a bonfire and firework display, and sports on the football ground in Seddon Street.
All these things, and more, were recorded on film for posterity by members of the Mid-Cheshire Amateur Cinematography Society (MCACS) and the films subsequently shown to the public in the Alhambra Cinema.
The Coronation 1937 film is now preserved in the North-West Film Archive at Manchester University, as part of the Roberts Collection.
The film, with the original opening titles restored, can be seen on the Salt Town Productions YouTube channel. Please follow this link.

Another feature of Middlewich's  celebrations for this momentous Royal occasion was the erection of arches bearing patriotic messages across some of the streets.
There was one in  Kinderton Street, one in Kitfield Avenue, and one in Hayhurst Avenue. ICI built one in Lewin Street close to the White Horse
And there was the one shown here, erected by the Independent Order of Oddfellows, who were based at the Golden Lion, just out of shot to the left, proclaiming


This arch also features in the Coronation 1937 film and, fortuitously, when the MCACS cameraman (in all probability Clifford Ridgway) came along to film it, he did so from the other direction, and so we know what it says on the reverse  side:


 a quote which is attributed to Charles Frederick Lawrence, Clerk to the MUDC, historian and poet.

He was, of course, alluding to that old Royalist rhyme from the days of the Civil War:

Middlewich is a pretty town,
Seated in a valley,
With a church, a market cross,
And eke a bowling alley.
All the men are loyal there,
Pretty girls are plenty;
Church and King and down with the Rump,
There's not such a town in twenty

In the background Middlewich Motors can be seen, draped with bunting for the occasion, and with another of those superb vintage cars parked outside, complete with spare wheel carrier.
Under the arch itself a gentleman who looks very much like a postman is passing the time of day with a local resident.
(with acknowledgments to Middlewich 1900-1950 by Allan Earl (Cheshire Country Publishing 1994)

First published 10th March 2012
Updated and re-published 2nd February 2017