Friday, 28 July 2017


Here's another of Carole Hughes' collection of old bills and everyday documents. It dates back, as can be seen, fifty-eight years to 1954 and gives us cause to revisit a couple of photographs we've seen before..
Gater's was a rather high-class pastrycook and confectioner situated next door to what was then the Crosville Bus Garage in Wheelock Street, more recently home to the Mococo Cafe and soon to become 'starter' flats for young people.
Gater's shop can be seen in the photograph below to the right of the cafe.

Despite being empty for many years, the appearance of the shop remains very much the same as it always was, with its distinctive 'gate' across the entrance (although the gate itself looks to be  a replacement for an earlier, slightly higher, one, as seen in the third photo (below) from 1987 when T&M. Autoparts occupied most of the premises. 

Gater's shop was, evidently, in use at the time but it's very difficult to see what was being sold. Can anybody shed any light on this?

UPDATE (23rd July 2016): By 2016 all had changed again with the closure of the Mococo Cafe and its replacement by flats (still, though, under the auspices of the Middlewich Community Church).

 Gater's former shop was included in the conversion and the shop front with its plate glass window and gated entrance finally disappeared, to be replaced by ordinary windows. Interestingly, the black fascia board seen in the above photo was retained, presumably because of the difficulty removing it would have caused, and so at least one clue to the building's former use remains.

Here's the scene on the 28th July 2017, a wet and dreary Summer day in Middlewich. The cafe's gone and the flats have been created. Gater's shop window has been replaced by the three plastic windows, but that tell-tale black fascia is still there betraying its origins as a shop. No doubt this will eventually disappear during some future refurbishment, and the very last trace of Gater's will have gone.

The bill itself, for 30 teas at 3s 6d each, adding up to a grand total of £5. 5s 0d (or, to put it another way, five guineas) has something of an air of melancholy about it.
The teas were actually funeral teas and were sold to local undertaker Len Dean to be consumed by those attending a funeral in the Sant family.
But the slight  air of glamour which hung around Gater's is reflected in the  unusual and rather sophisticated  typeface used on its paperwork.

First published 23rd July 2012

Updated and re-published 23rd July 2013,
23rd July 2016 and 28th July 2017

Saturday, 22 July 2017



Hot on the heels of the Artisan Market (June 2012 - March 2014) and the Makers Market (April 2014 - May 2017) comes a brand new and this time purely local venture, the Middlewich Mexon Market!


From Middlewich Town Council:
Middlewich Town Council, Middlewich Vision, partners and volunteers would like to announce the creation of a new market for Middlewich. The market will be a not-for-profit venture and all proceeds will be used to sustain the market over the coming months. It will take time to develop but we hope that you will give it your support to make it a success and a welcome enhancement to our town centre.


Find out more about the Middlewich Mexon Market at:


Middlewich Heritage Society   Photo: Salt Town Productions July 2017

There's a long history of markets in Middlewich, stretching back to at least the 13th century (our first Market Charter was granted in 1260), and the Mexon website features an article with information from Allan Earl giving a brief run-down of that history and explaining where the name 'Mexon' comes from. 
 'Mexon' doesn't appear in the OED, so it may be that the word is obsolete. Or it may be a word of purely local origin, like 'Lompon'.

Photo: Bill Armsden

Historical note: This is not the fIrst time that the name 'Mexon' has been revived. In the 1970s local businessman Steve Wells used the name The King's Mexon for a restaurant in Wheelock Street, where the Blue Ginger Indian Restaurant & Takeaway currently (2017) is.


And here's our celebratory MD Masthead for July 2017 featuring the advent of this

great new venture...

We wish the new Middlewich Mexon Street Market every success!


First published 14th July 2017
Re-published 22nd July 2017

Friday, 21 July 2017


We're back in Middlewich Town Centre in 1974. The black & white building to the right is The White Bear and framed in its ornate gateway is Luther Walton's shop, which I remember as a mixture of high-class confectioner and travel agent. Next door, to the left, was Reg Taylor's Newsagents and next to that Samuel's Ironmongers, with Skellern's shoe shop on the corner of Wheelock Street and Dierden's Terrace completing the row. Walton's has now become the 'Kandi' Bar*, and for most of the 80s it was, as Colin Derek Appleton reminded us, Tempter's Wine Bar, referred to by social climbing Middlewich newbies as 'The Wine Bar In The Village', thus making it the inspiration for a poem about old and new Middlewich which will probably find its way here before too long.. Does anyone remember any other uses the building had between then and now?

* Update: In early 2012 the Kandi Bar was transformed once more and became 'Chimichango's Mexican Restaurant'.

First published on Facebook.

Original Facebook feedback:

Natalie Sant Then it was shops and a cafe, about six years ago.

Colin Derek Appleton I think the shops and cafe were in what was Reg Taylor's old newsagents?

Geraldine Williams Luther Walton's brother used to run a sweet shop higher up Wheelock Street (wool shop area) and in the days of rationing my family used to pool its sweet coupons and spend them at that shop for a once-monthly binge. Luther's was also an ice-cream parlour at one time.

Dave Roberts Yes, the shops and cafe were at Reg Taylor's, next door. It was called Middlewich In Shops and the cafe was at the back. A very pleasant spot, but short-lived. It was later incorporated into the Kandi Bar premises as the Choklat Bar. Luther Walton was ahead of his time with his travel business where you could buy brain and coach tickets.

Ian Bailey And ex juke box records!

Melanie Edwards Don't forget Cafe Bar M 2002-2007

Update (July 2017)

By 2017 Luther Walton's had become CHIMICHANGO'S MEXICAN RESTAURANT 
and Reg Taylor's Newsagent MAGGIE FINN'S TEA-ROOM

Chimichango's (photo Bill Armsden)

The Choklat Bar (photo Bill Armsden)
First published on Facebook 3rd May 2011
First published in The Middlewich Diary 21st July 2011
Revised and re-published 21st July 2017

Wednesday, 19 July 2017





from 8am until 4pm.


Maggie Finns Website

Facebook Page

'Here at Maggie Finns we pride ourselves on our quality and service...

We always use only the best ingredients, sourced locally whereever possible, prepared with care and reasonably priced.

We can accommodate most dietary requirements and intolerances...please ask.

Business meetings, parties etc.. any special occasion - ask about our party food and catering services.'

Contact number for catering: 01606 869062

Find out more from our friends at the


First published 7th April 2017
Updated and re-published 19th July 2017


Monday, 17 July 2017


by Dave Roberts

I've always wanted to be an entertainer, and some day I might be. Here's an early attempt, at Wimboldsley school in the early 1960s.

 At the risk of sounding like a name-dropper, that's me with Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse. Next to me is David Bradley, with Pinocchio and what looks to me like either Pinky or Perky. 
The girl on the left is Judith Whittingham, but I can't remember the other girl's name. 
What's intriguing me is this: who's the tall dude with the puppet and paintbrush? 
He looks worryingly like a young businessman who's wandered in off the street. He'd look more at home on 'The Apprentice'.

Can anyone supply the missing names?


Sunday, 16 July 2017


Author's note: This article was first published in the Middlewich Chronicle in October 1987. To set the article in its period: it was twenty years since the open pan salt works had closed and fifteen years since the coming of St Michael's Way; the first Folk & Boat Festival was still three years away and the Heritage Society had been founded, by myself among others, only two years previously. The start of the Mid Cheshire Rail Users' Association's campaign to re-open Middlewich Station was five years in the future (although efforts to start such a campaign had already been made in the 60s and 70s). We were all still tickled to death that Middlewich could boast a wine bar and an Indian Restaurant (in fact there must have been more than one, even then) and we were getting annoyed at newcomers who tried to boost their social status by referring to our town as 'the village'. We were, of course, administratively still part of Congleton Borough, a fact which still sounds strange, even today. It is,  remember,  twenty-four years since this was written. I think it still stands up quite well, though bits of it are rather embarrassing. But isn't it odd how things taken for granted will change almost without us noticing? That 'tall, slender, metal chimney-stack' at British Salt, for example, has gone and been replaced by another chimney of a different design. We must be vigilant if we want to keep up with things. 'Church and Chimney' was the name I originally gave to this piece, and I'm glad to be able to restore it here. As you'll know if you've ever had dealings with newspapers, it is a matter of honour among sub-editors that, however perfect and fitting a title might be, they must change it. In the original newspaper, the title is 'Some dim and distant dream-time a mere twenty or thirty years ago'. Perhaps they were thinking of entering a 'clunkiest title for a newspaper article' competition? Those same sub-editors also inserted the sub-headings, which I've kept intact. So here we go, with a double nostalgia whammy - the nostalgia for 1987 when Middlewich was emerging as a pleasant 'dormitory town' and the nostalgia for the time twenty or thirty years before that when smoking chimneys were the order of the day - Dave Roberts July 2011


A nostalgic look at the recent past 
by Dave Roberts

Let me take you back to a time when Middlewich was something more than a massive housing estate with a church and a few shops in the middle.
A time before the great gash of the dual carriageway disfigured the town centre; a time before piazzas, Indian restaurants and Wine Bars; a time when Middlewich and its natural allies Winsford and Northwich formed a kind of mini Black Country dumped into the middle of lush, green, ever-so-posh Cheshire like some kind of joke.
I am not talking about some dim and distant dream-time, but a mere twenty or thirty years ago.

Field Day

Middlewich, then, was a very different place. L.S. Lowry would have had a field day. There were enough dreary, smoky vistas for a hundred sombre and dramatic paintings.
Just a few yards away from the very heart of the town sprawled the Pepper Street works of Henry Seddon & Sons, salt manufacturers. The square, brick-built chimneys of these works dominated the town centre and belched clouds of grey-black smoke over everything.
Keeping your washing clean was murder, but no one ever complained. This was a salt town, you see, and smoke and dirt were a part of life.
Venice had its bell-towers, Clydeside its cranes, Kent its oast-houses and Middlewich its salt works chimneys.
This was the natural order of things; the way things had always been and, we used to think, the way they always would be.
You could never accuse Middlewich of being a beautiful town but it had a certain style all its own; a character and atmosphere which largely disappeared in the early 1970s along with those gaunt, forbidding chimneys.
Some people are pleased to refer to this ancient Royal Borough as a ‘village’. Pardon me while I snort derisively. Let me tell you that when I was a little lad I thought that Middlewich was nothing less than a city.

Awe and Wonder

Filled with awe and wonder, I was trundled around its post-war austere little shops and might have been in Manchester or Liverpool for all I knew. I was perched on the railway bridge in Holmes Chapel Road to watch the black steam engines shunting wagons full of coal or salt, and concluded that Middlewich must be a great railway centre, like Crewe or Clapham Junction.
And I was taken once to Seddon Street to watch the only football match I have ever seen, and thought myself at Old Trafford.
The game was between Middlewich and, of all places, Congleton and all the days of my life I will remember the catchy little jingle the Middlewich Athletic supporters were singing:

Congleton Down The Drain,
Middlewich Pull The Chain!

Not exactly Shakespeare, of course, but it still has the power to cheer me up when the rates bill arrives from Congleton.
At that time, of course, we didn’t really know where Congleton was. It was just a town near Macclesfield, as far as we knew. We’d heard some talk about a bible and a new bear, but events on the other side of the county held no fascination for us. Certainly no one we knew had ever actually been to Congleton. After all, why should they?


In those far-off days, long before the creation of the pseudo-Borough of ‘Congleton’ our civic affairs were looked after by the Middlewich Urban District Council, which boasted a Chairman with a greater aura of Municipal Majesty than any mere Lord Mayor. Contrast the present pallid name ‘Town Mayor’ with the resounding title, ‘Chairman Of The Urban District Council’ and you get some inkling of our sense of lost glories.
You could see the council’s initials everywhere. Even the grid-covers in the streets had M.U.D.C. stamped on them and, when I was really tiny, someone told me that the letters stood for ‘Mud Company’ and that there were men down the grids whose job it was to stir the mud all day long. It all seemed perfectly logical to me.
We were never sure what precisely the M.U.D.C. was for, but it was part of the town and part of our lives.
Two or three decades ago it was still possible to get an idea of Middlewich’s former importance from the smoke-blackened buildings and the general air of workmanlike and unglamorous efficiency.
The whole atmosphere of Middlewich shouted ‘THIS IS A WORKING TOWN’ at the top of its voice and there was an air of drab self-confidence about the place before the bulldozers moved in to rip its heart out.

Another tower

If you stood in Lewin Street and looked down towards the Town Bridge you could see a sight which no one in this world will ever see again. From this angle the Parish Church appeared to have sprouted another tower.
This tower smoked. In fact, it wasn’t really a part of the church at all; it just seemed so from that particular viewpoint. What it actually was, of course, was another of those tokens of Middlewich prosperity, a salt works chimney, looming over the heart of the town. If anyone tried to spoil the townscape in this fashion today, hands would be thrown up in horror, but then it seemed perfectly natural – the town’s two symbols side by side, church and chimney.
So much of dirty, old-fashioned Middlewich has gone, and quite right too. A lot of it deserved to be consigned to oblivion. The air is cleaner now, and so is the washing. Much has been gained but, in the process, many things have been lost; among them a sense of continuity and history.
The Urban District Council was abolished in 1974 and we are now governed from that obscure little town near Macclesfield. What was it called again?
Many of the little tumbledown shops and houses are gone. Some to make way for new developments but many – too many – to create those weed-filled, rubble-strewn waste grounds which no self-respecting town should have to put up with.
We are becoming a ‘dormitory’ town where the new breed of commuters can while away the evenings on the new estates after a hard day’s work in Crewe or Manchester.
Undoubtedly, Middlewich is fast becoming a more pleasant place to live in. In time the waste grounds will be built on; the wine bars, restaurants and bright new shops will spread and that other, older Middlewich will be just a memory.
I was walking around the town the other day reflecting on the changes of the last few years when, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed something which made me think that, maybe, the more things change the more they stay the same.
It was the tall, slender, metal chimney-stack of the British Salt works. Wherever you go in Middlewich you can see it, standing out on the skyline, a sort of modern, high-tech version of those old brick chimneys of former days.
Middlewich is still making salt, after all. A new generation of wallers is carrying on the old tradition up there in Cledford Lane.
Who know, there may even be a few ex-M.U.D.C. mud-stirrers still lurking in the dank darkness under Wheelock Street.
If you see one, give him my regards.

First published in The Middlewich Chronicle
Thursday October 8th 1987
© Dave Roberts 2011 

First published in 'The Middlewich Diary' 11th July 2011
Re-published 16th July 2017 to mark 30 years since first publication in the 'Chronicle' and fifty years since the end of open-pan salt making in Middlewich

Editor's note: Looking at this in 2011 I find it interesting to note the deliberately provocative language which I occasionally used: 'A massive housing estate with a church and a few shops in the middle' was never actually how I thought of Middlewich, but it would have been a good starting point for a discussion should anyone have wanted to take me up on it. And the digs at the old CBC were also a Roberts trademark of the time; a one-man campaign which later included the 'Nigel and Bill' sketches, also published by 'The Chronicle' (albeit in the 'Letters To The Editor'section). It never made the slightest difference to anyone, but, if nothing else, it gave everyone a bit of a laugh

AmandaLynne Music said...

I especially enjoyed the references to the rates bill and the Mud Company.

Dave Roberts said...

Actually, looking back into the archives, I find that the 'Nigel and Bill' saga actually began two years before this, in 1985, with the 'Congleton Borough Council Hanging Basket Sketch'. What larks!

Saturday, 15 July 2017


It started ten years ago as the Middlewich Transport Festival and has now become a firm fixture on the Middlewich calendar. 

Congratulations to all concerned with the continuing success of this great event!



First published 13th July 2017
Re-published 15th July 2017

Monday, 10 July 2017


by Dave Roberts

Long before the days of Waterside Way, the modern housing development which occupies part of the boggy land lying between Croxton Lane and the Trent & Mersey Canal, a short terrace of houses stood in the middle of a field in the area, looking rather incongruous, almost as though it had been dropped there by mistake.

The houses were of traditional Victorian design and had 'front' doors in the usual fashion, although there was a footpath rather than a roadway for them to open onto.

This was 'Seddon's Row', built by the local salt manufacturer to house some of their workers.

Although the area had been used from time to time for making salt, as we've seen here, and Ralph Seddon's Kinderton Works were a short distance away across the canal and River Croco, it is not entirely clear which of the works the houses were intended to be associated with.
Possibly the Seddon family just owned the land on which they were built (which was, incidentally, much closer to Croxton Lane than it was to the canal).

With regard to the above photograph, when I think back on the circumstances in which it was taken I remain convinced that, when challenged by the demolition gang and asked what I was doing there, I replied that I was from 'the Heritage Society'.

But this can't possibly be true, because we didn't start the Heritage Society until eleven years later, in 1985. A clear warning for us all not to take what we think we know, or remember, as fact. The human mind, and memory, can play tricks on us all.*

*Thinking back on this, I'm wondering if I told them I was from 'The Council'? They'd have to be a bit dim to swallow that one, as my camera was a Kodak Instamatic - not at all the sort of thing you'd expect an official Council photographer to be using!

UPDATE (10th July 2017)

Here's a view of Seddon's Row from Mike Jennings' collection which shows the setting of the houses.

This photo attracted quite a lot of interest on Facebook.

Mike Jennings asked if one of the end houses in the row had been a shop at one time, and his mother Mary replied that there was no shop in the row.

However Peter Dickenson, who said he had lived in Seddon's Row (his house can be identified by the fourth window from the right), told us that there had been a shop in the area, 'approximately where you turn for Waterside Way and Meadow View'.

Ron Evans asked if the photo showed the front of the houses as viewed from Croxton lane and Peter replied that it did, in fact, show the row as seen from the canal side over a field belonging to his grandfather.

So not only were the houses in the middle of a field, they also faced 'the wrong way ' or, at least, in a direction opposite to what you might expect.

Perhaps there were plans for more housing on the site, and a roadway in front of this row?

Ron Evans also reminded us of the existence of a large 'pond' between the houses and the canal where he used to go to catch frogs!

In response to another query from Mike Jennings, Peter told us that Hector Davies lived in the second house from the left.

Here, from Facebook, is Peter's partial recollection of the names of the  families living in Seddon's Row when he lived there.

'From left to right (as far as I can remember) it was: Farrington, Davies, Carter, ?, Bratt,?, ? George Dickenson (my Dad), ?, Rex Dickenson, Frank Gaffney.
If anyone can fill in any gaps please don't hesitate to get in touch!

Ian Buckley says: 'My wife tells me that her father's family lived in one of the houses. Surname Clarke, forenames Fred, Frank and Bob. There were also two sisters, but their names have been forgotten'.

One final note: Although I refer to this row of houses as 'Seddon's Row' and have always, almost without thinking, given it that name, this was never the 'official name' of the row.
As Peter Dickenson confirms, these houses were actually part of Croxton Lane, and the house where he lived was simply '28 Croxton Lane'. In fact, he can't ever recall the houses being referred to as 'Seddon's Row'

Similarly, there's a row of houses not too far away in Webbs Lane which was always called 'Yoxall's Row' and was owned by private landlords Mrs Yoxall and Mr Henshall (Mr Henshall was actually a near neighbour of ours in King Street in the 1960s).

The Middlewich UDC bought this row of houses in the late 60s/early 70s and took them into their council house stock.

 As relief rent collector it fell to me to collect the first 'council rents' from the tenants, many of whom complained bitterly at the vastly increased amount they were asked to pay.

 From memory the increase was something like 100%. They'd been paying about 50p (ten shillings) per week and the council were charging them just short of  £1*

It was all a long time ago.

Certainly the highest weekly amount I can ever remember collecting from any council tenant before I left the council in 1972 was £3.50.

Now these houses are just a part of Webbs Lane and I'm sure that almost no one except me can ever remember their past lives as part of 'Yoxall's Row'.

The name has passed into history and so, too has 'Seddon's Row'. 

In the latter case, of course, even more completely. It's been wiped off the face of the earth.

*actually my failing brain has got the story slightly wrong. The rents first 'shot up' to 10/- and it was only after the council carried out structural improvements that they reached the astronomical heights of 19s 6d. The Yoxall's Row story is told here.

First published 15th November 2011
Republished with revisions and additions 10th July 2017