INDEX

INDEX

Thursday, 27 December 2018

HIGHTOWN and MIDDLEWICH TOWN HALL 1960s

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 photograph from the Paul Hough Collection shows one of old Middlewich's most missed buildings, the Victorian Town Hall which stood on Hightown until the early 1970s. The clue to its position lies in the metal church gatepost on the right which is still there and is just a few yards away from the town's main war memorial.
The Town Hall appears to be quite small from this angle but, in fact, extended a long way back across the whole width of the churchyard and had its back door on Lower Street, just where the 'Town Bridge end' of the amphitheatre is now. Until the early 1930s the Town Hall was even longer but it was shortened to enable the widening of Lower Street. A sizeable portion of the churchyard was also removed for the same reason.
There is a lot of nostalgia for Middlewich's lost Town Hall. People remember it as the venue for the Saturday Night dances of their youth with Percy Bailey's Band; older residents go back further, to the wartime dances organised for (and sometimes by) the American servicemen stationed at nearby Byley airfield.
The St Michael's Players, the local amateur dramatic group, also used the hall.
I have one vivid memory of the Town Hall which goes back to 1968 when I was 16 and still at school.
I spent one late Summer afternoon sitting in the Church yard wondering, as 16 year olds will, what I was going to do with my life (I will be 60 next year, by the way, and I'm still wondering).
In the adjacent Town Hall someone had set up a record-player and, through an open window throughout that sunny afternoon, played the same record over and over again:


'SUNSHINE GIRL' by HERMAN'S HERMITS (1968)

The following year the Town Hall was replaced, for entertainment purposes at least, by the Civic Hall, tacked onto the back of the council offices in Lewin Street.
But in its day, the Town Hall was more than just an entertainment venue; it also served at various times as the town's library, MUDC offices and court room.
The reason given for the demolition of the hall was that the upstairs room, where the entertainment took place, had an 'unsafe floor'.
I've been told since that that unsafe floor had, in fact, been replaced not too long before the hall was closed, but no matter - by the early 70s this ornamented and castellated building had had its day.
By this time, also, the shops further down Hightown were also looking decidedly dilapidated and the whole block was swept away to produced an open space in the heart of the town which, after a time as the windswept and forlorn looking 'piazza', now provides a superb outdoor performance area suitable for events such as the MFAB Festival and Santa's visit with his reindeer each year.
On the left of the photograph, we can see Hulme's Grocers*, with its pyramids of canned goods. This building is now the Accord Clinic.
P.S. When I was doing  a little research for this article on the internet I was puzzled to find that, despite the fact that Middlewich Town Hall disappeared in the early 1970s, people were still visiting it. Or claiming to, that is.
Peter Moore Dutton of Tushingham went to 'Middlewich Town Hall' in December 2001 to pick up copies of Tim Strickland's Roman Middlewich book; Cheshire & Warrington CVS were advertising concerts 'featuring Slipstream, Crash Test and Taking Liberties' at 'Middlewich Town Hall' in June 2011 and  November's Sincerely Abba concert was also, according to 'Welcome to Cheshire and Chester', held at 'Middlewich Town Hall'.
Pardonable mistakes, of course. The Victoria Building and the Civic Hall are, to all intents and purposes, now 'Middlewich Town Hall', and you can quite see how people from outside the area might make that assumption.
Indeed, by 2015, after taking over  responsibility for the Civic Hall and Victoria Building, the Town Council had made the sensible decision to formally name Victoria Building  'The Town Hall' and the former Civic Hall the 'Town Hall Entertainment Suite'.
UPDATE (2016) A short time later, the 'Town Hall Entertainment Suite' was re-christened 'The Victoria Hall', an even more fitting name.
*Geraldine Williams has told me that a true Middlewicher would use the expression 'Grocer Hulme's'. But, technically, I'm not a true Middlewicher.
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Editor's note:
You will have noted that we have credited this particular photograph to the Paul Hough Collection. It does, however, also appear on page 83 of  Images of England - Middlewich by Brian Curzon and Paul Hurley (Tempus Publishing 2005) - although their version of it is not as clear as the one we have used.
Other photos from the collection also appear in the book.
Messrs Curzon and Hurley's book is based on 'a collection of slides bought at an auction' with additional pictures from Brian Curzon's own collection.
The Paul Hough Collection, which we are using with his permission, was passed on to him by a friend:
They were scanned from a mate's photo album; he was the previous owner of Middlewich Auto Spares in Wheelock Street. A photographer was taking photos of his premises, apparently stables of yesteryear (Doctor's Surgery?) and sold him the prints. That's as much as I know about them. So I thought it was the correct thing to share them!! 
It seems obvious that there is more than one set of prints/slides of these photographs and their exact origin and copyright holder may never be known.
However, if you have any information as to the original source of these excellent photographs, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

First published Boxing Day 2011
Re-published 27th December 2018


Saturday, 22 December 2018

THE MIDDLEWICH DIARY CHRISTMAS QUIZ 2018




Many thanks to everyone who took part in this year's Middlewich Diary Christmas Quiz.

Sadly, we didn't make an enormous amount of money, but this was largely due to administrative difficulties owing to illness.

However, we have donated £20 to the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal (including a donation of £5) and £20 to Help for Heroes

Original text of this Diary entry:

The 2018 Middlewich Diary Christmas Quiz will be held at the Boar's Head on Thursday 20th December. Proceedings begin at 7pm with  Christmas music to get you - cliche alert - 'in the Christmas spirit', and the Quiz itself  will follow somewhere around 8.30 pm - the traditional Boar's Head Quiz time!




Prize made and donated by Mrs Pauline Harmer of Queen Street, Middlewich. This is a limited edition of 1. He's an EleFunk and is sporting patriotic red white and blue colours. He's been created especially as a prize for our Christmas Quiz. His full name is 'Mr Salt Town Funk' and he's unique!




Mrs Lynne Hardy, whose son Luke was in the Parachute Regiment. served three tours in Afghanistan, was military advisor on the feature film Kajaki and has been an Ambassador for Help for Heroes, has donated these prizes. 

 PRIZES:

Special 'red white and blue' Christmas hamper, pictured, assembled and donated by Mrs Lynne Hardy.

Bottle of Hardy's 'Nottage Hill' wine, pictured (in the post-box), donated by Mrs Lynne Hardy

Thornton's chocolate 'Cheeky Elf' (pictured) donated by Mrs Lynne Hardy.


Framed photo of Middlewich Town Centre, donated by The Middlewich Diary/The Boars Head.

Framed photo of the Old Town Hall, Middlewich, donated by The Middlewich Diary/The Boars Head


Bottle of Cava, donated by The Boars Head

Sadly our quiz organiser, Peter Cox, has been ill in recent weeks and has not been able to perform his usual task of gathering prizes and helping publicise the quiz.
Get well soon, Peter!

If you'd like to donate a prize, please bring it along to the Boar's Head tonight. Your donation will be gratefully received and recorded here in the Middlewich Diary.


Remember that EVERY penny collected tonight will go towards the two charities, Help for Heroes and the British Legion Poppy Appeal. The proceeds will be split 50-50.
Your Quizmaster,
'Quality Dave' Roberts


The rounds for the quiz will  be:

1: CHRISTMAS IN MIDDLEWICH. 

Christmas, and the run-up to Christmas, with the annual switch-on of the town centre Christmas lights, has become one of the town's most popular  happenings -  up there with the FAB Festival and the Rose Fete. And the Middlewich Diary has chronicled what's been happening in recent years (well, some of it at least). So you'll find all the answers here in these very pages...

2: CALL MY CHRISTMAS BLUFF.

Call My Bluff, based on the long-running TV show,  has for many years been one of our most popular quiz rounds. It gives you a chance to pit your wits against Mr Roberts' ever more enfeebled brain, as he gives you three definitions of obscure words, one of which is true, and two of which he's made up, the silly bugger. And because it's Christmas, all the words this time round have a festive feel to them.

3: CHRISTMAS MUSIC

No Middlewich Diary Quiz is complete without music, and here in all its cheesy glory, is the kind of Christmas music which makes pretentious musical pillocks despair. You just know that one of the answers is going to be Fairytale Of New York, so there's one point, right there,  before we even start... And there'll be loads more Christmas music throughout the evening, whether you like it or not. Your chance to start grumbling about all the songs being 'before your time'. A lot of them are before our time too...

4: CHRISTMAS NIGHT WITH THE STARS

Recordings of famous entertainers talking, singing and joking about Christmas. Loosely based on that old-time BBC TV favourite Christmas Night With The Stars but with a few more recent stars also thrown in. And so they should be. 

5: CHRISTMAS PICTURE ROUND

Pictures of well-known people at Christmas. One of them is bound to be Father Christmas. So there's another point, completely free of charge. Don't say we never give you anything.

Entry fee £1 per player. Additional donations gratefully received.

Teams can consist of as many people as you like, but we recommend about four.

The quizmaster's decision is final, even when he's wrong. And he usually is.

We're always on the look-out for more prizes.

If we find we have more prizes than needed for the quiz, a draw will be held for the extra ones.

We're after the usual quiz-type stuff; bottles of wine, boxes of chocs, all of that stuff.

You can get in touch with us through our usual Facebook Groups,  email us at

MIDDLEWICHDIARY@AOL.COM

or ring us on 01606 833404.


Alternatively, just bring your prizes along to the quiz!

Thank you for your time!

Dave Roberts

Editor.


First published 12th November 2018


Revised and re-published 20th December 2018 and 22nd December 2018


Archived 22nd December 2018





Friday, 7 December 2018

DERELICT HOUSE IN NANTWICH ROAD SEPTEMBER 2011

We only caught this one at the very last minute. Less than a week after our photo was taken this derelict house in Nantwich Road was reduced to a pile of rubble. It stood  just a few yards away from the aqueduct, and at the very top of the unadopted road which runs  along the top of the steep embankment above the roadway and provides access to the houses which adjoin the school playing fields. It could also be seen from the top end of Hannah's Walk, near the point where it joins the canal towpath, and from the towpath itself.
It lay derelict for many years, with its garden very overgrown and, as can be seen from the photo, was vandalised and eventually gutted by fire.
I noticed that something was happening  in the middle of September. Workmen were on site clearing the dense vegetation and building bonfires to burn it and some of the remaining timber from the house. I took the above photo and, the next time I was in the area the bulldozers were on site and had knocked the house down, leaving only a pile of rubble.
Passers by who were watching the demolition told me that they'd heard that local builder Andy Clarke had bought the house and land.
No doubt quite soon a new house and garden will occupy this spot*. In the meantime, does anyone know anything of the history of this house? From its location, and from the style of the house, it must have been a luxurious home in its day. The photograph below shows what appears to have been a fishpond, complete with rustic bridge, in what remains of the garden; a testament to happier times and better days.

* More than one, in fact. See Facebook feedback, below

Facebook feedback:

Stephen Koralski
We used to go in there as teenagers and the electricity still worked. It was where I met a lot of friends - shame on who ever burnt it down,it was a nice place!

Stephen Dent
Outline planning permission was granted in 2009 to build 6 new detached houses on this land which was formerly 123 Nantwich Road. Go to http://www.doc.macclesfield.gov.uk/AnitePublicDocs/07046239.pdf to see the detail

UPDATE: As can be seen from the above FB Feedback, Andy Clarke sold the land on and a planning application was made in 2018 for the six houses on the site.
This was refused because of problems over access (proposals were made to cut an access road into the bank below the houses on Nantwich Road, which would have been practically impossible to build and to use.

The site was put up for auction in December 2018.

DEVELOPMENT SITE UP FOR AUCTION (Winsford & Middlewich Guardian link)

Originally published 13th October 2011

Re-formatted and re-published 13th October 2017
Updated and re-published 7th December 2018

Saturday, 1 December 2018

THE FOUNTAIN FIELDS PADDLING POOL, EARLY 1970s.


 by Dave Roberts

Photographs of the paddling pool which once lay behind Fountain Fields are very rare indeed.
In fact it's very often forgotten that the  facility ever existed. 
Chris Koons, who now lives in America with her family, but was in a former life Christine Sant, daughter of David and Miriam Sant of King Street,  has kindly sent these precious snapshots showing the pool in around 1973 or 1974. That's Christine in blue on the left, with her sister Karen. The spot where they were playing all those years ago is now the private access road which runs alongside Fountain Fields to Wallcroft Gardens and ultimately to Wheelock Street.
The pool was behind the still existing 'bowls hut' (or 'putting hut') on Fountain Fields, now used as a base for Cheshire East's maintenance workers but at one time the place where you would go to hire bowls, golf balls and putters to enable you to  use the Fountain Fields amenities.
In my first job, with the Middlewich U.D.C. (1969-72) one of my duties was to visit the hut and collect the pennies and half-pennies which locals had paid during the week, and take them back to the office.
You can see the roof of the building on the top left of the photo. There were at one time public toilets behind the brick wall, and the pool, together with a children's slide, were in a sort of 'annexe' to Fountain Fields, reached by a gate alongside the bowls hut. To try to get our modern-day bearings, we can point out that the building on the extreme right is the present-day High School Drama Studio (originally the school gymnasium). And now we come to one of those little mysteries which infuriate and delight us all. To the right of the brick wall should be what were at the time the tennis courts on Fountain Fields*, and the uprights for the wire netting seem to be present and correct. But why are those cars parked there? The access road to the car park and supermarket is not in place yet (and neither are the car park and supermarket, come to that). Beyond the tennis courts, certainly until the late sixties, was the  putting green which, along with bowls and tennis, was the sum total of  Fountain Fields' attractions until more recent times. So where do those cars fit in? All information, as always, gratefully received.


*one of the tennis courts survives in modified form as a  five-a-side football/basketball court.


And here are Christine and Karen again having a paddle with their Grandma, who was visiting from Manchester. Behind them is the original spiked fencing, which was first modified to avoid injuring would-be trespassers and then replaced completely about twenty years ago. Beyond the fence is the bowling green, which has just been replaced by all that lovely children's playground equipment, and beyond that can be seen the Congregational Church (the 'Congs') in Queen Street, now known, of course, as the United Reformed Church. The building looks very much the same today,except that the Victorian ventilators on the roof have disappeared. Two doors away the top of the original Middlewich Police Station can be glimpsed.
If you look directly behind Grandma, you can just make out a wooden building. This was the original France-Hayhurst clubhouse later replaced, following a fire, by the modern brick building next to the 'bowls hut'.

Many thanks to Chris for giving us the chance to show you these photos of a long-vanished Middlewich attraction. If you have any photos of this, or any other, Middlewich scene from the past, or can add to the information in this Diary entry, please don't hesitate to get in touch. For example, was the slide the only facility on the site, apart from the pool, or were there also swings there? Can you remember?



- and here's the proof that there were indeed swings and a slide on the site in those days. The paddling pool was beyond the slide seen here.
 Photo added 1st December 2018.

Update: See the Facebook Feedback below. It's obvious that the 'annexe' to Fountain Fields was a fully-fledged children's playground in its own right, complete with paddling pool and separate from the Fountain Fields main site. It was only in later years that the playground equipment began to encroach on the main site (necessitated, no doubt by the sale of the land where the paddling pool and other playground equipment once stood). I myself was a young man in my twenties in the early seventies, and not interested in children's playgrounds, which explains why I can't remember how things were. Many thanks to everyone for their memories.

Dave Roberts

Editor.


The same area in October 2018. The access road to Wallcroft Gardens now runs through the site of the playground. The brick building in the centre of the picture identifies the site. 
Photo added 1st December 2018

Facebook feedback:

Chris Koons I’m pretty sure there were swings there, too, and another access gate to the annexed area via a gate from the alleyway close to Nana Dean’s.
Also, the putting green was still in operation in the mid-late 70s because I remember playing on it when I was seven or eight, and I was born in 1969. 

Gaynor Smallwood There were two big swings at the top, together with two baby swings, then the big slide. The paddling pool was at the bottom. On the grass was the roundabout and a big red horse that rocked. I spent every day in the summers of 1975 and 1976 on the park. The boys (Steve Smallwood, Alan Bowker and John Price) would get us girls at the top and run us down into the pool! We would need to change into dry clothes three or four times a day! Happy, hot days, with no worries.

Anita Hough I remember the paddling pool too. It was the mid eighties, as that's when we moved to Middlewich. It wasn't filled that much then which was a shame. I remember the swings, MASSIVE slide and the dreaded roundabout that we used to make ourselves dizzy and almost sick on. The access gate is still there near Nana Dean's. The bowling green was still used in the mid eighties as well, as I remember sitting watching them play and being fascinated by it.

Sylvia Burrows I used to take both my children there when they were little. They really enjoyed it!

Jayne Latham There were two swings and a baby swing. Then a rocking horse that would head butt you if you went too fast and had about 6 seats on it. Then that steep slide that used to get greased with bread paper so you would slide quicker and if you were unlucky you would end up in the pool.
I am sure the other end of the very slippery pool had a two-tier concrete fountain on it. This was removed as the kids would climb onto it, so it wasn't safe. Then you would run through the gate behind it and run right through the gardens to the toilets either side of the putting hut, as we called it. The best person to tell you all about this is Alan Sant, who lived across the road from the school on King Edward Street. His Mum, Joyce, who was the school cleaner, said he played in that pool in any weather in all his clothes! I'm going back over fifty years, now. Thinking back, the original toilet was in the hut. The other toilets were added years later. There was a big greenhouse looking at the right hand side of the hut. Also there was a sunken garden to honour someone or something - sorry, not sure who or what* Good memories.

*This would be the France-Hayhurst family. The sunken garden is still there, but rather neglected. Ed.


Lynda Lever I moved to Middlewich in 1988 and had my kids in 1992 and 1994. I vaguely recall there being a small playground area and pool, though I'm not sure if the pool actually had water in it. I don't recall my son actually going in it, but perhaps he was too small.

Jacky Connell Cottam I remember it very well. I used to go there often, but sorry - no pics!

Susan Johnson I remember it well. I used to spend weekends and school holidays there all the time in good weather.  |Many families took picnics and spent all day there. The park was always packed. The putting green and tennis courts too. Also the bowling green and the hut they used. There used to be an attendant in the building next to the toilet block.. You could hire putting clubs, tennis rackets etc. Happy days and happy memories.

Lynne Towers Happy days; long, hot summers! I remember Mrs Dean's ice-cream van and that massive slide!

Tim Morton I remember slipping over and hitting my head on the floor of this pool.

Pete Berry I've still got the scar on my chin! It had a bit of a divot in it. Turned the pool red! My parents still have photos of the pool. I remember seeing them a few years ago. I'll ask them if they can try to find them.


Barbara Cooper I remember this pool. My Mum and Auntie Freda used to take our daughters Louise and Angela  there. Happy days!

JULIE CORT has pointed out that there was a similar paddling pool in one of the childrens' playgrounds in Cledford. Does anyone have any photos of this pool?

First published 1st September 2018
Revised and re-published 1st December 2018.




Tuesday, 27 November 2018

BIG LOCK COTTAGE 1974


The lock-keeper's cottage at the Big Lock in 1974.  

For some reason this slide is undated but it's likely that the cottage was knocked down before it fell into the River Croco which is directly below its rear wall at the bottom of a sheer drop.

The cottage always had a precarious existence and. Messrs Curzon and Hurley confirm that it was 'demolished before it collapsed in the 1970s'.

An overflow channel from the pound above the lock runs into the river near the back of the cottage. An attractive garden associated with the Big Lock pub 
has replaced this building.

For more on this see this entry

First published 10th June 2011

Revised and re-published 27th November 2018

Sunday, 25 November 2018

WHERE AND WHAT IS SNJ?




When this was first published on Facebook at the start of June 2011, we presented it as a bit of a 'puzzle picture'.


 Here's the original description:

A bit of a puzzle picture today. Where is this sign? There are various clues: one is the blue brick to which the sign is attached; another is the pleasingly traditional design of the sign and a third is the lettering which does, in fact, tell you exactly where the sign is if you know what 'SNJ' stands for. Despite its rather old-fashioned look the sign hasn't been there very long (probably about 7 or 8 years) and, finally, thousands of people pass it every day.


This picture was first published on Facebook on 2nd June 2011. Below is the original feedback. If you haven't seen this before, why not try to figure out what 'SNJ' means before reading on?


Tim Moon  S stands for Staffordshire, J for Joint?

Dave Roberts Sorry, Tim. No and no.

 ‎...but I think you're on the right...er...track...

Tim Moon North Junction?


Dave Roberts Correct, Tim. So you've only the 'S' to figure out. You obviously already know what kind of sign this is.


Sherry Hill-Smith Sandbach north junction in 3 miles & 935 yards? But where it is - don't know. Can't come up with a blue building is it a train sign or a canal sign?


Dave Roberts Very good, Sherry. 'SNJ' is indeed 'Sandbach North Junction' (Sandbach South Junction disappeared many years ago). The blue brick is the brickwork of the Holmes Chapel Road bridge, close to where the old station was and, indeed, close to where the new station will be. I've always thought it odd that this sign, which is obviously for the benefit of railway personnel, should be on the 'road' side of the bridge rather than the 'railway' side. Railway distances are still measured in miles, yards and chains, btw.

 ‎...oh, and '12' is simply the number of the bridge, of course.


Tim Moon Bridge plates are often on the outside as maintenance staff would often travel to a site on the road.

Dave Roberts In fact, there are at least two of these signs on the bridge; the one shown in our picture, and one on the 'Northwich' side of the bridge at track level. This can just be made out on the photo included in the 'Subterranea Brittanica' link below.


First published 7th July 2011
Re-formatted and re-published 25th November 2018

Thursday, 22 November 2018

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS SWITCH-ON AND MEXON MARKET 2018 (ARCHIVED)







Route for the parade:


from Jacks car park, into St Ann’s Road, then Newton Heath, down Darlington Street then up Wheelock Street to the Bull Ring (many thanks to Nicci Anthoney for this information).

FULL DETAILS:

SCHNITZEL HOUSE
Today we will be joining Middlewich once again for its fantastic Christmas light switch on 4-8pm.We will be situated by the Vaults pub.

Pop along and see us for some tasty Bratwurst and Schnitzel.Even a kids deal  £3.50
________________________________________________

DRINKS & BITES AT NO. 35
HAPPY MASSIVE FRIDAY!!!
It’s lights switch on day & we are going for it!!! We’ve got: Slutty Brownies both PB & Oreo, Cookies, Choc/Orange cupcakes, Snowy Road, Rocky Road, Choc/Orange GF DF Brownies, MINCE PIE MONSTER SPONGE...& all your faves!!!
Hot choc with Baileys/Amaretto, Mulled Wine, Bakewell Fizz, Prosecco, Bombardinos & Peroni!!
We cannot wait!!! Let’s make it a fantastic day!!! Support your local business in YOUR TOWN!!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------


From five years ago...our Musical Christmas Card!


MERRY CHRISTMAS!


The (new) Annals Of Middlewich:

2018 - Kerry Katona fails to make an appearance at the Switch-on to plug the Northwich panto she's appearing in. End of civilisation as we know it. Rioting in the streets. Council confirms that, as per their publicity, she wasn't due to switch on the lights (that was the Mayor and the Rose Queen) and wasn't going to be paid (and neither were any of the other guests who appeared).
Keep Middlewich Miserable brigade welcomes two chances of having a good moan: one moan because KK was invited in the  first place, and another moan because she wasn't there..

Monday, 12 November 2018

SOUTHWAY 1987 and 2018


Southway in 1987 (photo by Diane Parr). The dirt track (with rudimentary pavement ) leads to the rear of the buildings to the left, including the Alhambra Cinema (or Bingo Hall as it was at the time the photo was taken). This area was mostly used for car parking. The original Southway (or 'Tannery Alley' to give it its time-honoured name) is the footpath to the right which leads from Wheelock Street to St Ann's Road.
Middlewich's first real supermarket, Gateway, is being built in the background.


Thirty-one years later and the scene is still recognisable, though much smartened up. Southway still runs up the right hand side of the photo, on its way to St Ann's Road but the buildings to the left have been incorporated into Wheelock Street's shopping area, with a hairdresser and florist where that rather grim looking industrial building once was. The recently refurbished and hugely successful Drinks & Bites At No 35 is on the left. The grim-looking oversized 'lamp post' is one of the town's CCTV facilities, forever looking for trouble in Wheelock Street, and the 'pagoda' in the middle distance  welcomes Wheelock Street shoppers to what has now become Tesco's 'superstore' - or, in Middlewich parlance, 'Big Tesco'. (MD Photo)

Update: Once again the changing Middlewich shopping scene renders our information out of date. From October 2018 the sign on the 'pagoda' (and the signs on the store) read 'JACK'S', a low-cost supermarket which is, we're assured, 'part of the TESCO family'.

First published 1st April 2018
Updated and re-published 12th November 2018

Thursday, 8 November 2018

MIDDLEWICH IN AUTUMN, 2018, photographed by Rebecca Page


'Of the three wiches, Middlewich is rather a hag, unredeemed, uncouth and disfavoured...'

- J.C. Walters, 'Romantic Cheshire' 1930

by Dave Roberts

Poor old Middlewich, eh? That's telling us, J.C.! 

To be fair, though, he did go on to say, '...nor is her dark visage today a discredit, for Middlewich knows the meaning of hard toil under conditions which give her little chance of any cheerful display.'

If you'd approached any Middlewichian in the 1930s and talked about 'the beauty of Middlewich', you'd have been looked at askance and met with hollow laughter.

And poor old Middlewich's dark and gloomy visage lasted for another thirty-seven years until, in 1967, its remaining open pan salt works closed.


An accident of industrial history  resulted in Middlewich being an unredeemed, uncouth and disfavoured hag for so many years. 

In most of the local salt towns the salt industry was, for various reasons, situated away from the town centre, enabling those towns to preserve at least a little bit of civic pride. 

Not so in poor old Middlewich, where the sprawling Pepper Street Works was just a matter of yards away from Wheelock Street, and the Wych House Lane Works backed onto Lewin Street.

The penny-pinching ways of the salt works owners, who only used the cheapest coal they could find to fuel their salt pans, ensured that Middlewich was a grimy old town indeed.

After a rather grim interim period in the 1970s, when it seemed that half the town was being torn down, a much more pleasant  and attractive town slowly began to emerge - the modern day Middlewich which prospective new inhabitants, putting to one side our horrendous traffic problems and lack of amenities, fall in love with.

Rebecca Page has been out and about with her camera, capturing the beauty of Middlewich in Autumn in 2018.

And no one's laughing.

The photo above shows a stretch of the Trent & Mersey canal between the Big Lock and Town Bridge. Fifty years ago this was a very industrialised stretch of waterway, with Seddon's Pepper Street works to the right, just beyond the overhanging trees in the centre of the photo - the area is now the site of 'The Moorings' - and, to the left, Middlewich's gas works, once dignified with the elaborate title of the Middlewich Gas Light & Coke Company Ltd.


Taken from underneath our utilitarian and almost brutalist early 1930s Town Bridge, the resplendent Autumn colours on the canal bank mark the spot where the gas works once stood. The River Croco runs in a culvert on the other side of the canal bank, stretching from Brooks Lane to Harbutt's Field where it joins the River Dane, and acts as an overflow for the canal.

Beyond the Big Lock and heading in the direction of Northwich we see the new housing to the left which has replaced the old Nestle Condensed Milk Factory, in more recent years British Crepe's silk works.

Beyond that, many years ago, stood the Dairy & Domestic salt works, one of many open pan works which have been dotted around the town over the years.

Opposite, and beyond  the trees to the right, is the place where the Croco meets the Dane.

The field on the extreme right is Harbutt's Field, the site of Middlewich's Roman fort.

Middlewich's swan population is thriving as never before and you'll find these magnificent creature in several locations along our waterways.

You can find out more at


...and now we're back where we started, but heading in the opposite direction, towards the Big Lock.

The Newton Brewery Inn and its large gardens are out of shot to the left, and to the right, on the other side of the canal and the River Croco, where yet more housing development has taken place in recent years, is the area we all knew in childhood days in the fifties and sixties as 'Down Bill Hewitt's'.

This was a huge area of scrubland which had, years before, been the site of yet more traditional open pan salt works.

A brine shaft, rudimentarily fenced off, could be found at the far end, close to Harbutt's Field. 

This has now been permanently capped and few will even know of its existence.


Many thanks to Rebecca Page for permission to use these photographs showing the beauty of this part of our town in Autumn 2018.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

PEPPER STREET , EARLY 1969 (2)


Once again we find ourselves in Pepper Street in 1969 with a picture which should help to make the layout of things clearer.
(The white 'flashes' to the left, by the way, are caused by damage to the original Kodachrome film, illustrating all too clearly why we need to preserve this collection wiihout delay). The houses to the left are what now makes up modern-day Pepper Street. For the first time, at the end of the row, we can see the side wall of Seddon's office building. On the right of the picture is the end of the row of cottages which have been replaced by our famous 'grass verge'. What's the building to the left of them with the tall, central chimney, just above the Robin Reliant?



This photo was first published on Facebook on 26th April 2011. 

The original Facebook feedback is below:


Geraldine Williams Oh yes! that side wall of the Seddon's offices was the perfect place to hone one's twosie, or even threesie, tennis ball skills! Not sure about the other building. Some demolition had obviously taken place where the chain-link fencing stands (and the forlorn figure sits!) so it's a bit out of context for my recollection.

Dave Roberts I've been waiting for someone to tell me it's not a Robin, but a Regal Supervan or something.
Colin Derek Appleton Is that building the pub that was called the Lord Hood ?

Geraldine Williams
Yes, according to Google.


(Editor's note: In fact subsequent research indicates that the Lord Hood actually stood on the waste ground where the Reliant car (can be seen).

Colin Derek Appleton Cool! cant take all the credit though, my dad told me the locations of all the vanished pubs when i was a boy !!

Geraldine Williams I understand that the pubs near the salt works used to open at 5.00am to enable nightshift workers to re-hydrate after working on the open pans.

Colin Derek Appleton That's very possible. My Grandfather worked on the pans in the Pepper Street works as well as working for Seddon on his fleet of boats.

First published 10th July 2011

Reformatted and re-published 3rd November 2018

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

PEPPER STREET/LOWER STREET JUNCTION, EARLY 1970s

If you own the copyright on this photograph, please let us know



Looking almost impossibly narrow and confined, this is the junction between Pepper Street and the area where Lower Street became Wheelock Street. It's very early in the 1970s - quite possibly 1970 or 1971.
In fact it's rather difficult to say which particular street Pepper Street is joining here - Wheelock Street is to the right, and Lower Street to the left.
Perhaps it might be more apt to say that this is where Pepper Street meets The Bull Ring.
Across the road is the then brand new building built by the Co-operative Wholesale Society Ltd and known as the Co-operative Superstore, reflecting its purpose as a place where all the previously scattered Co-op departments in Middlewich were, for the first time, gathered together under one roof.
It's rather disconcerting to note that the shop's entrance wasn't always on the left hand side, as it is now that Tesco Express rules the roost there. The right hand part of the building,  occupied for many years by Pineland Ltd, was at this time the Co-op's chemists department.
The windows in the building on the left belong to the flat above Vernon Coopers' Radio, TV and electrical shop, and the brick wall on the right was part of the house next to Dewhurst's butchers shop.
This junction, together with the reverse side of that ridiculously tall (for sighting purposes) STOP sign can be seen in this entry
VERNON COOPERS, STANWAYS AND WOODBINES

as it appeared from a camera position looking in the opposite direction from just underneath the Co-op's long vanished canopy.
As Seddon's Salt Works was in Pepper Street it might be thought that this cramped and inconvenient junction might cause problems for vehicles wanting to reach the works but, in actual fact, the entrance and exit for carts (and later lorries) taking loads of salt from Seddon's was further down Lower Street, next to the gas showroom near Town Bridge.