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


Wednesday, 26 December 2018

INTIMATIONS OF DISASTER




UPDATED 8th April 2015: PLEASE SCROLL DOWN THE PAGE

by Dave Roberts

 Like most people I have never seen a railway accident, and hope I never do but, many years ago, on a bitterly cold evening in the winter of 1962-3 the Roberts family witnessed something  which we couldn't at first account for, and the explanation for which only became clear to us as the story of a disaster unfolded before us on our TV screen.


'...caused by the last coach of the Birmingham train rearing up and
striking the overhead wires'.
Photo: Middlewich Rail Link Campaign
It was Boxing Day, Wednesday the 26th December 1962, and we were all huddled around our ten-year old black and white television set. 

Snow had started to blanket the country just before Christmas and the famous Big Freeze would set in in the New Year, lasting through until March without a break. Almost the whole of England and Wales was frozen solid for weeks on end, bringing the country to a virtual standstill (and, incidentally, delivering a crippling blow to the canal carrying industry).

On this night, which was clear and very cold, we hadn't drawn the curtains on our living room window, which overlooked our back garden, Middlewich gasworks and Seddon's salt works.

 A few miles away, beyond the town, were the outskirts of Winsford where the West Coast Main Line ran on its way from Crewe to Liverpool and Scotland. The line had only recently been electrified and brand new colour light signals, some of them automatic, controlled the new electric and diesel hauled trains.

Suddenly, shortly after six o'clock, we saw a vivid  flash of light in the night sky above the salt works.We  were all stunned for a few seconds and at a loss to account for what we'd seen. It was rather like a flash of lightning, but, it seemed to us, about ten times brighter and a deep, vivid blue in colour.

We had to assume that it was some kind of strange meteorological phenomenon. There seemed to be no other explanation, but the experience was, somehow, deeply unsettling.

We continued with our television viewing (I'd love to know what programme was on that night. We only had a choice of two channels - BBC TV and Granada (with ABC TV at the weekends). I wonder what we were watching?)

I do know that, about an hour after we'd seen the bright blue  light in the sky, the programme was interrupted by a newsflash - something which doesn't seem to happen often in these days of 24 hour news but was a fairly common ocurrence back then when something really important happened. It was always rather nerve-wracking, especially when the NEWSFLASH caption was kept on screen for several minutes before any announcement was made.

This particular report brought us dreadful news.

A diesel-hauled Glasgow to Euston express had run into the rear of a Liverpool to Birmingham train at Coppenhall Junction, near to the former Minshull Vernon Station, just four minutes away from Winsford (drivers on the road to Nantwich pass close to the site when they cross the bridge a few yards away from the Verdin Arms).

Frozen points at Crewe had caused delays and the Birmingham train had been halted at a red signal. The driver of the London train had also been stopped by a red signal further down the line but, fatally, decided that this was a fault with the signalling (he had tried to phone the nearest signal-box but couldn't get through). He moved forward and, failing to see the train in front of him, crashed into it at about 25 miles per hour.

The bright blue flash we had seen just after six o'clock was caused by the last coach of the Birmingham train rearing up and striking the overhead wires. Eighteen people were killed and 34 injured in the crash.

This, it has to be remembered, was the time of transition from steam hauled trains to diesel and electric ones (although there were still plenty of steam-hauled trains on this and other lines in the North-West where steam wasn't phased out until August 1968) and the drivers and signalmen involved were all from an older tradition where things were done rather differently. 

The driver of the London train was used to steam locomotives which could not 'make up for lost time' as easily as the new diesels and electrics, and was thus very anxious to be away. 

The fact that the next signal ahead was at red should have told him that there had to be another train there but, unfortunately, this changed to a yellow as he approached. The brightness of this yellow signal apparently made it difficult to see the tail lights of the train in front. These factors, coupled with the atrocious weather conditions, had conspired to cause this terrible accident on one of the safest railway systems in the world.

The 1962 Minshull Vernon crash was the first major British railway accident which did not involve a steam locomotive.

It wasn't the first time that disaster had struck this section of railway. It had happened before, in 1948, and was to happen again (though with much less serious consequences) in 1999.

But none of us will ever forget that strange vivid blue flash in the sky all those years ago.

A more detailed account of the crash can be found here (pdf file) on the Railways Archive site,  and the definitive accounts of both this and the 1948 Winsford accident are featured in Disaster Down the Line by J.A.B. Hamilton (George Allen & Unwin Books 1967)


Facebook Feedback:

Philip YearsleyAs we had got off the train at Winsford after returning from Runcorn, I have often wondered about the facts of this accident.
I seem to recall hearing that a soldier on his way home on leave was travelling on the first train, and, as he lived in the Minshull Vernon area, pulled the emergency stop cord, then fled off over the fields.
Thanks for the info, Dave.



Geraldine Williams Yes, that was the tale we heard Philip. It must have been a rumour that spread round Middlewich. Glad to know it wasn't true.
Dave Roberts Sadly the story of the soldier is true, but it relates to the 1948 crash and not the 1962 one (the Winsford area has had three train accidents, 1948, 1962 and 1999). The soldier was coming home on leave and, realising that he was near his home in Winsford but that the train was not scheduled to call there, pulled the communication cord to stop the train. He then ran across the fields to his home. He later came forward and owned up. All he was trying to do was save himself the additional journey from Crewe Station back to Winsford. But he didn't cause the crash. A train brought to a standstill like this should be perfectly safe, but the train crew didn't take the necessary precautions to protect it and the crash happened. That soldier must have blamed himself for the rest of his life, but the train could have been stopped for any number of reasons. It was a million to one chance that his actions should have resulted in disaster.

Lindsey Daniels Thank you for publishing this story. I didn't know about it and found it an interesting read

UPDATE (2013)

Richard Maund contacted us during 2013 with a link to more information on the circumstances surrounding this tragic accident (see 'comments'). Here's a direct link to that information:

http://www.railwaysarchive.co.uk/documents/MoT_Coppenhall1962.pdf






The Ministry of Transport report, 1963

UPDATE (DECEMBER 2014):

Following our re-publication of this diary entry on Boxing Day 2014 (the 52nd anniversary of the accident), Geraldine Williams wrote:

...this brought back some memories. We lived in Kinderton Street at the time and Jonathan (Jonathan Williams, the current Middlewich Town Clerk - Ed) was only seven months old. Father Down, our Parish Priest, called to see us on his way back from the Post Office. He'd just arrived when the Newsflash came on, so he had to rush off back to the Presbytery, as he was expecting he would be called out to the scene of the crash.

Facebook Feedback (2014):

Darren Roberts That was a good read and very interesting. I'll admit I've not heard about this before. It just goes to show how easily mistakes can be made in bad conditions on the railways as well as the roads.

Facebook Feedback (2015):

Joan Barnes I remember this train crash well, as I worked at Northwich Telephone Exchange when it happened. it was awful.

Jacqui Cooke I was only 12 years old, but my brother worked at Winsford Station signal box at the time.

First published 26th December 2012

Updated and re-published 26th December 2014, 8th April 2015, 26th December 2016, December 17th 2018. Re-published 26th December 2018












Monday, 24 December 2018

CHRISTMAS EVE - A MIDDLEWICH CHRISTMAS TALE



EDITOR'S NOTE

For Christmas Eve  we have something very special for you, courtesy of Bill Eaton, who is custodian of a lot of photographs and written material by the late Frank Smith of Ravenscroft.

When the Middlewich Heritage Society started in 1985 and I found myself in the role of Newsletter Editor my main, and best, source of material was Frank, who had an enduring interest in the town and its history. Frank wrote many articles for the Newsletter and kept up a reliable and seemingly inexhaustable supply of unfailingly interesting material.

This tale of old Middlewich has, to my knowledge, never been published before and gives us just a glimpse of Middlewich as it was in the 1920s.

It was written, in 1989, in Frank's distinctive and very evocative style, and would, as Bill Eaton says, have been particularly interesting for older residents who may just have remembered some of the places mentioned.

I'm delighted to be able to bring you this story, so very appropriate for Christmas Eve, and hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I did.

My thanks to Bill Eaton for passing this on, and to Joan Smith for permission to publish it.

Dave Roberts
Editor
Christmas Eve 2012

UPDATE (CHRISTMAS 2018):
It's nearly thirty years since 1989, when Frank wrote this  atmospheric little tale of a Middlewich Christmas in the late 1920s. 

Even then he was recalling a time sixty years before and, in 2018, it's worth remembering that he's talking about things which happened (or may have happened)  ninety years ago - way beyond the recall of nearly everyone alive today.

As I said in the original introduction (above) in 2012,  back in 1989 Frank's story would, for some people, have been an exercise in nostalgia; a few - a dwindling few -
people would have remembered the names of the shops and shop-owners which Frank artfully inserts into the text, giving those with long memories a trip back in time.

Now, of course, it's all history and we can't really expect anyone to remember all those Middlewich traders of the 1920s. So please don't worry if you don't recognise any of those long-gone names. Almost no one else does either.

Still, we may, when time allows, take a look at a Middlewich Directory of the period and see if we can correlate the names in the story against its pages.

And despite all the changes over the years, Middlewich is still recognisably the place Frank describes in his story.

Wheelock Street is a remarkable survivor, and its basic structure would still be familiar to those citizens of the 1920s if they could return and see it as it is today. 

That's why we've been able to include the photographs (some of them relatively modern) showing just where Frank's mysterious old man went on his travels all those years ago.

So please enjoy Frank's story, and take it for what it has become - a piece of Middlewich history, somewhat romanticised, for us all to enjoy, now and into the future.

Merry Christmas!
Dave Roberts
Christmas Eve
2018




CHRISTMAS EVE

by Frank Smith



As the North-Western bus pulled away from its stop near the bottom of Darlington Street a rather old man in well-worn clothes appeared among the passengers who had alighted.
It would be hard to give a description of him, as everything about him seemed indeterminate. The only two details that seemed positive were that he seemed very old and by the bright lights from Hodkinson's Greengrocery it was evident that he had a white beard.
He stood for a moment looking at the fruit and vegetables and the tinsel that was draped over them. He moved on to Wilson's Fruit Shop and looked over the half-door which was closed to keep out some of the chill air which gave promise of snow before morning. He sniffed appreciatively at the aroma from the barrel of Canadian Dr Mackintosh apples with their purple tissue paper wrappings before he moved on and gazed over the heads of a group of children who were standing, gazing with looks of desire and excitement at the display of toys, garlands and silver stars in Ward's Toy Shop window. He hardly seemed to notice the rather mundane display of crockery in Niddrie's shop.
Before crossing the road he watched a smiling, rosy-cheeked Mrs Atkins serving a customer with a 1lb box of Red Rose chocolates. Obviously a Christmas present for a loved one.
He paused in front of Walker's shop, but there were many blank spaces in the display where boxes of toys and games had been removed to meet the requirements of parents in their Christmas Eve rush to fulfil promises to their children.
There was, however, one box which had not been moved from its pride of place in the centre of the display. It was a large doll in a magnificent silk dress, with the lace of a petticoat peeping below the hem. Its porcelain face was almost too beautiful to be true, especially with the long eyelashes of its moveable eyelids. How many little girls must have yearned for it as a Christmas present, but the price label of 18s 6d effectively put it beyond the range of many people.

Heathcote's was the next shop to catch his eye. They seemed to have made a special effort to show off their confectionery skills. There were several Christmas cakes with their robins and holly decorations and, even as the old man paused, the largest of the cakes, complete with Santa, his sleigh and reindeer, was lifted from the shelf for a beaming customer within.



The Alhambra Cinema, despite its bright lights, did not seem to impinge on his consciousness. Obviously Buster Keaton held no attraction for him. 
What appeared to have caught his eye were the ducks, geese and fowl hanging outside Butcher Mountfield's shop, but strategically placed in the centre of the row was a large, beautiful turkey with its black/bronze feathers glinting in the gaslight. A few more paces and he mounted the steps and looked over the half-door of Cauley's shop. He looked in admiration at the kissing bush which hung from the ceiling. Inside the paper decked hoops hung a fairy, complete with wand, who moved gently in the incoming air. It was almost impossible to see her for the pink sugar pigs and mice, the sugar pocket-watches and the sugar birdcages with their white lace mesh. A small boy stood near the counter, enraptured by the magic of it all, almost forgetting what he had come for when Mrs Cauley asked him for the second time what he wanted.

It seemed strange that the people who passed in front of the old man never heeded or spoke to him even though they cheerfully wished each other a 'Merry Christmas'. 




The Meadow Dairy window seemed to outshine all the other shops with the intensity of its lighting, and many of the highly-coloured slab cakes on display seemed almost garish in the harsh light. The Christmas cakes seemed to be rather overdone with coloured, piped icing and, while they didn't appear to be of the same standard as Heathcote's, their prices of 4s 6d and 5 shillings were somewhat lower.

The display of chocolates and sweets in Paul Whittaker's held his attention for a few moments, as did the tall glass display jars with their spiked glass tops as they dominated the shelf at the back of the window. A burst of laughter and some cheerful back-chat between friends across the road indicated that Brown's Vaults were helping to capture the Christmas spirit. As the old man moved on he saw the harrassed staff in the Co-op attending to the needs of their customers while two of the counter-hands were busy making up final orders while the delivery man stood impatiently by, grabbing the order as soon as the cardboard box  was filled, and almost before the counter-hand had time to write the customer's name on it in indelible pencil.



Butcher Hulme, too, was busy as he dealt with a steady stream of customers.
Kinsey's also seemed to have its fair share of customers, although the atmosphere seemed somewhat calmer than the Co-op. The old man seemed intrigued by the overhead arrangement whereby the customers' cash and bills travelled in little wooden pots to the cashier, and the receipt and change returned to the counter.
Although it was only eight o'clock the smell from Gatley's Chip Shop indicated that soon the first house from the Alhambra would be coming on to the street, and they were ready to catch the trade.



The new premises of Fitton's butchers was making the most of the opportunity and they had put on a very creditable display. The right-hand side of the shop seemed to have its rails full of all types of poultry, a few hares, some rabbits and several turkeys, which seemed to indicate that it was becoming a popular Christmas choice. The rails on the left-hand side of the shop were hung with carcasses, mainly beef and pork.
The window displays were of various cuts and joints of meat, but centre-stage in each window was a pig's head with an orange in its mouth.
Opposite, Brauer's the Chemist were closing their shop and it was just possible to see all the exotic perfumes, bath cubes and other toiletries before the lights were switched off.
Pegrams, too, was busy, and the open spaces in the shelves where the dried fruits were kept indicated that many people had been busy preparing their mincemeat, puddings and cakes for the festivities.
Next door, at Hulme's, the fragrant smell of fresh ground coffee floated on the air, but the old man appeared not to notice.


The sound of music floated on the air as Bailey's Band began to tune up in the Town Hall for the Christmas Eve dance which was due to start. This was apparent from the number of young men in their bowler hats and navy blue serge suits, and the young women in their 'flapper' dresses with small brown paper parcels containing dance shoes under their arms, entering the Town Hall.
At the bottom of Queen Street the two small shops, a butcher's and a greengrocery belonging to Wright's were still open but, perhaps due to their position on High Town, didn't seem to be so busy.
Perhaps the magnificence of Fitton's was drawing away much of their custom.

The rest of Hightown and much of Lewin Street seemed rather less busy, although there were plenty of shoppers about.

At the top of Wych House Lane Robinson's Chip Shop was advertising its wares by the smell drifting across the road on the East wind. 


Opposite, the pyramidical displays of fruit in T. Oakes window hardly merited a glance from the old man.


He seemed to be tiring and walked as if every step was an effort.
He turned up to the Market by the Fire Station, and paused as if to gather his strength.
Again it seemed strange that no one seemed to notice him.
By the guttering light of the naptha flares it was possible to see from the haggard look on his face, and his deep sunk eyes, that he was ageing quickly.
Despite this he looked at the different stalls; the fish stall with the fishmonger almost giving his wares away, as he knew that tomorrow (Wednesday) being Christmas Day his unsold fish would be a dead loss as he had no facilities to keep them saleable until Friday.
The stall selling cheap German toys for a few pence; the glass birds with glass fibre strands for their tails which would decorate Christmas trees along with the gaudy glass baubles and the coloured wax candles.
Finally, he turned and painfully dragging his feet between the stalls, walked to the darkness of the Vicarage Field.
A small boy, who appeared to be the only person to see him, ran after him and called, 'who are you?'
As the figure disappeared into the gloom the boy heard an old voice say,
'I am the year 1928...'

Frank Smith
Ravenscroft
1989
© Joan Smith 2012

Originally published CHRISTMAS EVE 2012
Re-published 16th DECEMBER 2013
and CHRISTMAS EVE 2014

Revised, reformatted and re-published Christmas Eve 2016

Revised and re-published Christmas Eve 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





Wednesday, 12 December 2018

CHRISTMAS GREETINGS FROM THE NAVIGATION INN 1917

Pat Nancollas/Malcolm Hough



Here's a small reminder of how Christmas cards looked  a hundred years ago. This card which was sent from the Navigation Inn in Middlewich  by Mrs Ida Malpass is tiny, measuring only 10cm by 7cm (approximately 4 inches by 2 1/2 inches), but its lack of size is made up for by the elaborate way it has been made.

Its sentimentality is, perhaps, partly explained by the fact that the Great War was in its penultimate year. Many postcards of the same era also carry similar messages showing a collective yearning for some sort of security after long years of war and the heartbreak of separation and loss.


A card such as this would have been very expensive to produce and to purchase and only the relatively well-to-do, or people 'in trade', such as Mrs Malpass, and her husband George (landlord of the Navigation from 1903-1928) would have been able to afford such extravagances.




We're grateful to Malcolm Hough, who runs the House Of  Feathers in Wych House Lane for passing these items (along with many others which will see the light of day in the Middlewich Diary in due course) to us.


Pat and her husband Derek are regular customers of the House Of Feathers and Pat, knowing of Malcolm's interest in the history of Middlewich, lent him the Christmas card and the photo of Ida, who was Pat's great-grandmother. 

According to Malcolm, Ida's husband George was also landlord of the nearby 
Talbot Hotel in Kinderton Street for a time.

We have looked at the Navigation Inn before in the Middlewich Diary, notably in this entry:


NAVIGATION INN circa 1894

The pub, which was in Mill Lane, off Kinderton Street, was, according to Ken Kingston ('Middlewich Hospitality', Middlewich U3A Local History Group 2014), at one time called The Coffee House, then the Canal Coffee House, the Canal Inn, the Bridgefoot and finally, from around 1816, the Navigation.

The Navigation Inn, on the corner of Kinderton Street and Mill Lane around 1894. Middlewich Town Bridge and the Trent & Mersey Canal are behind the building
Paul Hough Collection

Acknowledgments:
Malcolm Hough
Pat Nancollas
Ken Kingston

This was the first Middlewich Diary entry produced in Queen Street,
Christmas Eve 2015

First published Christmas Eve 2015
Revised and re-published 23rd December 2017, 12th 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.