Wednesday, 31 January 2018


Our masthead for February features a beautifully evocative photograph called Shroppie Sunset which we found on the Fuel Boat Halsall's Facebook page and have reproduced here with their permission.

Fuel Boat Halsall is a historic narrowboat trading on the Shropshire Union, Staffs and Worcs and Trent & Mersey canals, as well as on the River Weaver. The boat is a frequent visitor to Middlewich.

Find out more here:


Here's the original photograph.

Photo courtesy of Fuel Boat Halsall / Four Counties Fuels


Photo: The Branch Line Society

The Sandbach-Middlewich-Northwich railway line is no stranger to special charter trains, usually designed to give railway buffs a chance to travel on routes not normally used by regular passenger trains. 
One such train, organised by the Branch Line Society, is running on the 14th June and once again gives people a chance to travel on our local line and to take some memorable photographs of the route before the now inevitable day when it is upgraded for regular passenger use.

Here are the full details, courtesy of the Branch Line Society....

The Branch Line Society is delighted to announce an exciting loco hauled charter train in conjunction with Railway Children, operated by Direct Rail Services (DRS), traversing unusual lines in the North West, with a leg stretch break and photo stop at Reddish South! The train will have five First Class open coaches available for passenger use and will be hauled by three DRS Class 37s operating (2+1) in top 'n tail formation, subject to availability. As usual, there will be an on train raffle with proceeds donated to Railway Children. There will be a buffet service of hot / cold drinks and light snacks, and the opportunity to purchase hot breakfast rolls. Note that the service terminates at Crewe. All bookings via the Branch Line Society (link below). The train is strictly limited to a maximum of 210 passengers.

Our ROUTE, validated and bid to Network Rail, is as follows:

Stafford P1 08.30 (PU) - Dn Slow - Basford Hall Dn Fast Independent - Sorting Sidings North Jn - South Yard Bypass - Crewe P12 09.00 (PU/RM) - Crewe PAD No.2 Road (RM) - Dn Manchester Independent - Stockport P4 - Dn Fast - Manchester Piccadilly - Ordsall Curve - Manchester Victoria 10.30 (PU) - Ashton Moss North Jn - Denton Jn - Reddish South (break) - Heaton Norris Up Goods Loop - Stockport - Hazel Grove - Buxton (RM) - Buxton XYZ Sidings (RM) - Peak Forest - New Mills South Jn - Dn Cheadle Loop - Northenden Jn - Altrincham - Northwich - Sandbach - Up Manchester Loop - Crewe P1 17.00( SD)

Timings and routing are provisional and subject to confirmation through the Network Rail planning process.


BLS member First Class fare with a complimentary hot drink and snack £59.00

Accompanied under 18s benefit from a £5.00 reduction in all fares whilst non-members are subject to a £12.00 surcharge. Please note that we are unable to accept bookings from unaccompanied under 18s.


P.S. If you're wondering where the train gets its unusual name from, we're assuming that 'nosey' comes from the use of the vintage Class 37 diesel locos, noted for their bonnets or 'noses' and 'peaker' from the fact that the train is visiting the peak district around Buxton and New Mills, the whole thing being a slightly laboured pun on 'nosey parker'.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018


It's time for another of our little journeys back in time to see what Middlewich had to offer in terms of shopping twenty-five or so years ago.
This photo from the Carole Hughes/Diane Parr collection shows us that the town's efforts to provide something rather more 'upmarket' than the norm is nothing new.
This shop, offering a delicatessen and 'high class provisions' was owned and operated by husband and wife V.T. (Trevor) and E. (Enid) Williams who also had a somewhat larger establishment in Holmes Chapel during this period*.
Later, part of the premises  was turned into a sandwich bar to cater for the increasing amount of people who worked in shops and offices in the town and wanted to buy a lunchtime snack.
Trevor was also the owner of the splendid Georgian house at the top end of Southway which once boasted a swimming pool in the garden.
We met one of Trevor's daughters, Fiona, here during her time as a member of the original Middlewich Youth Theatre in the 1970s.
In the present day this shop, externally largely unaltered, is home to the Paragon Cantonese Takeaway.

The Paragon as it was in October 2012

On the extreme right we can just see part of Farrall Cleaners which also appears to be in a similar condition today. Even the signboard looks the same.

*see information below from Diane Russell and Geraldine Williams-Ed

Diane Russell says, 'the shop in Holmes Chapel belonged to Trevor's brother who had a son called Fred (real name Dorian). He was in the same class as myself and your sister (Cynthia).
Blue Ginger *next door to Paragon used to be a furniture shop which belonged to Enid's parents. They lived in the large house in Southway next to Barclay House called The Poplars.

 The house could also be reached by going through the furniture shop and out of the back, as I did on a couple of occasions with Fiona, who was also in the same class as myself and Cynthia.
And Geraldine Williams told us: 'Enid's parents, who owned the furniture shop, were Sammy and Barbara Moss. Enid and her elder sister Maureen used to attend the school run by Mrs Plant at Ravenscroft Hall, which boasted a very smart uniform!'
Diane adds, 'Maureen owned the whole block where Forshaw's and Cynthia's are now and ran a hairdressers there. She lived above the shop. Her husband Alan still lives in Middlewich'

Many thanks to Diane and Geraldine for this additional information.

Facebook Feedback:

Bill Armsden Great Dave. Love the links to and from the current users of that building too. Makes The Middlewich Directory a current part of the Town's trading history.

*Blue Ginger, as we've seen elsewhere, was also at one time Franco's restaurant, and before that, The King's Mexon, owned by Steve and Barbara Wells - Ed.

First published 26th January 2013
Revised and re-published 30th January 2018

Saturday, 27 January 2018


RAIL Magazine is published fortnightly by Bauer Media, Peterborough. It's available at all good newsagents, supermarkets and other outlets.

by Dave Roberts,

It's gratifying to note that RAIL Magazine, Britain's leading railway journal, continues to take an interest in our campaign to re-introduce a Crewe-Manchester passenger service via the Sandbach-Middlewich-Northwich line, and to build new stations at Middlewich and Gadbrook Park.

Paul Stephen's article (illustration above) is just the latest in a whole series of articles and features examining  in detail the proposals for this 'simplest of all rail re-openings' and coming down, not unnaturally, on the 'yes' side.

Paul's article reports that Rail Minister Paul Maynard, 'in response to lobbying from the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and local MP Esther McVey (Conservative, Tatton)' has now 'instructed the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to create a working group to examine proposals for re-opening, including the construction of new stations at Middlewich and Gadbrook park'.

It goes on to say, 'the campaign received a further boost on November 30th when Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling said he was 'sympathetic' to the idea of restoring scheduled passenger services, and that he had asked Transport for the North (TfN) to consider its inclusion in TfN's Strategic Transport Plan and long-term investment programme once it becomes a sub-national transport authority in April.'

MCRLC chairman Stephen Dent paid tribute to our three local MPs Fiona Bruce (Congleton), Esther McVey (Tatton) and Mike Amesbury (Weaver Vale) for their persistence in keeping the proposals before Parliament and the public and in bringing them to the attention of the Secretary of State.

He says, 'my view is that we have done our job now in getting (the proposals) passed over to the proper authorities. We will continue to work in partnership with them and keep local stakeholders informed of further developments.'

That last sentence is important. Arguably the campaign could be said to have done its job when we published and widely distributed the business case for the re-opening a few years ago.

In fact we could be said to have done our job when the second of our feasibility studies was published in 2009, showing beyond any doubt that the re-opening was  an eminently practical proposition with a cost:benefit ratio of an astonishing 1:5 (this fact alone, by the way, should, in the opinion of many in the rail industry, have ensured that the proposals were given serious consideration).

But as we all know, there can be no resting on laurels  when you're pushing for something as vitally important to the local area as this scheme.

The campaign can only really end when the first train runs, and I'm sure that day can't be too far off now. 

For a while now I've been telling anyone who was prepared to listen (and many others besides) that the re-opening of this line to passengers and the building of the two new stations is a matter of 'when' rather than 'if'.

My congratulations to Stephen and Samantha and to all the many people who are working hard to bring this much needed service back to Mid-Cheshire.

Dave Roberts

Dave Roberts is the Hon. President of the Mid-Cheshire Rail Link Campaign.





(Paul is RAIL Magazine's Assistant Features Editor)

Friday, 26 January 2018


The Narrowboat Inn writes:

On Friday 2nd February The Narrowboat presents our first live music night of 2018, and it's going to be big!

Featuring three local acts, we aim to raise as much as we can for a local Cancer Research UK funding drive. 

The evening is hosted by the fantastic Jake Roberts and we are showcasing not only his talents, but also the hauntingly beautiful vocals of Lydia Bradbury and the power vocals of acoustic duo Resonic.

Great music šŸŽ»Drinks promotions šŸ·Bucket of Beck's - 5 bottles £10, Bucket of Bulmer's - 4 bottles £10, or a pitcher of one of four cocktails for - you guessed it - £10!

A warm welcome awaits one and all at The Narrowboat, Middlewich!

9pm start, until late...

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

NOW and THEN:REID'S BAKERY 1987, 2012 and 2016

by Dave Roberts
Another of Carole Hughes' collection of photos of Middlewich shops twenty-five years ago, taken by her friend Diane Parr.
We've been thinking about publishing this one for a while, and our theme was going to be something along the lines of: 'here are two businesses which are still going strong twenty-five years on'.
However, another one of those shock developments which seem to be a feature of the Middlewich shopping scene these days has put a whole new complexion on this now vintage scene.
Ironically, on Saturday 30th June, on the very day that the Artisan Market hit town, bringing hopes of a revitalisation of Wheelock Street as a shopping area, Mike Jennings was passing Reid's shop and took this photograph:

Reid's shop on Saturday 30th June 2012
A different colour scheme, and a very different sign over the shop (In fact I've a very strong feeling that there were a few variations on that sign between 1987 and 2012. The small inset window bearing the exotic wording PATISSERIE, however, remained the same.

But what really caught Mike's eye was this notice in the shop's window:

Yet another blow to the Middlewich shopping scene.
There's nothing to be said really.
All we can do is thank Reid's for serving the town so well for all those years and leave you with a few more of Mike's images of yet another piece of old  Middlewich we've had to say  farewell to...

Another Middlewich landmark bites the dust.  I wonder who had the last steak pie?
 My Cousin Albert worked there making those steak pies for over 40 years. I must catch up with him to see what his recollections are, and maybe ask him for the recipe? - Mike Jennings

Facebook Feedback:
Sharon Barnard I can't believe it. My brother worked there for years. I worked there myself in 1986-1987. Gutted!

Ruth Duck Oh, that's such a shame. They had lovely stuff for sale. The rhubarb slices were divine.

Wendy Sproston And their Bavarian slices!

NOTE: In August 2012 it was announced that the shop would be re-opening under new management as a gluten free bakery.


Photo: Bill Armsden

The PATISSERIE sign finally disappears, but we've a strong feeling it may still be there, hidden by the HOME-POTTERY-GIFTS sign

First published 5th July 2012 as 'Now & Then: Reid's Bakery 1987 and 2012'
Revised, re-titled and re-published 24th January 2018

Monday, 15 January 2018


A real asset to our town is GO LOCAL, the magazine which is distributed eight times a year to over 6000 homes and businesses in Middlewich.

And now, if you're unlucky enough to live outside the magazine's circulation area, or have simply mislaid your copy, you can view the electronic version online by clicking here.

The magazine includes features of interest to everyone living in our town.

This month in MIDDLEWICH'S HERITAGE Julie Elizabeth Smalley is looking at the roads and pathways which radiate out from St Michael & All Angels church in the town centre, and have done since medieval times. The enigmatic name Leadsmithy Street becomes an obvious choice if you study the town's history. Lewin Street is a little more problematical. The answers are all in Julie's excellent article.

The DID YOU KNOW? page  never fails to provide some fascinating esoteric and off-the-wall information. This month is a Valentine Special

There are also full listings of the many and varied events taking place here month after month throughout the year in the WHAT'S ON section .

On top of this,  GO LOCAL is crammed with advertisements  which will be useful to anyone in Middlewich who wants to find a local business or service. 

There's also a READY REFERENCE section with contact details for all the vital services in the town you may need.

And for this month there a several new features including GARDENING TIPS, #MIDDLEWICH (a blog about life in Middlewich) and PCSO REPORT written by the Police Community Support officers who cover Middlewich.

And it's all delivered FREE to your letterbox!


The FEBRUARY issue is out now.

If you've had a copy of GO LOCAL through your door and never bothered to look at it, take a look now! It always repays inspection!

(includes electronic version of the magazine)

Sunday, 14 January 2018


MIDDLEWICH AERIAL VIEW circa 1967 Photo courtesy of MIDDLEWICH TOWN COUNCIL(used with permission)
by Dave Roberts
This astonishing aerial view of our town has been supplied by Dave Thompson of Middlewich Town Council with the information that it was taken in 1968.
So the first thing we have to do is correct the date, on the grounds that, as can be seen, Seddon's Salt Works in Pepper Street was still in operation at the time of the photograph, so the very latest the picture can be dated is 1967, which was the year that the Pepper Street works, along with the Brooks Lane and Wych House Lane works, closed.
This is just one of the aerial views which the council has let us borrow, and we'll be considering earlier and later ones in future Diary entries.
But, for now, let's concentrate on this one.
Of all the birds-eye views of Middlewich I've seen, this one is by far my favourite because it shows the town at the very end of what I like to call our Salt Town Days, just before the open-pan works closed and production was concentrated at the new British Salt Works in Booth Lane, built in 1969 and still going strong.
(In truth, our Salt Town Days, aren't really over, but the time when the works were a part of the fabric of the town are long gone.)
This is the town I and my contemporaries grew up in.
A dirty, grimy, workaday town with no pretensions to be anything else.
It was in 1967 that the terminally snooty Cheshire Life magazine published a very patronising and sneery  article about Middlewich, wondering where all the up-market antique shops, bistros and posh clothes shops their readers would expect in a Cheshire town were, for all the world as if we'd been offered these things and turned them down in favour of dirty, smoky factories.
It didn't go down well.
In the 1980s, in my capacity of editor of the Heritage Society's Newsletter I took a look back at this notorious article and marvelled at the writer's apparent inability to grasp the concept of a town which worked for its living.
Middlewich has featured in the Cheshire Life a few more times since the 1960s, and our progress from slatternly working class manufacturing town to bustling, lively 'town of festivals' can be charted by reading some of those articles.
The Church of St Michael & All Angels, dominates the sixties scene, as it has always done and still does today.
At this time the Churchyard had not been tidied up and the gravestones which now form pathways around the building are still in their original places.
To the right of the Church is the old Town Hall which, along with adjacent buildings, was demolished in the early 1970s to make way for first the nightmarish 'piazza' and then the much more stylish and attractive 'amphitheatre'.
To the right of the church, and just across Lower Street (now absorbed into St Michael's Way) sprawls Seddon's Pepper Street works. Clouds of white steam from the salt pans show that the works is still in operation.
There has long been speculation as to why the salt works should be in Pepper Street. The general consensus is that when the Council came to name the road they were in 'playful mood', which is as good an explanation as any.
'The Moorings' now occupies most of this site.
Across the Trent & Mersey canal is Middlewich gas works. The two round structures are the main and subsidiary gas-holders, still containing coal gas in those pre-North Sea Gas days.
The pipe bridge taking the gas supply into Middlewich can be seen crossing the canal.
Below the Church in the photograph is Middlewich Town Wharf, still awaiting its rebirth as 'the Gateway to Middlewich', but in those days witnessing the last days of commercial canal traffic and the first glimmerings of the tourist trade which, among other things, has helped put Middlewich back on the map.
To the left of the wharf are those huge buildings in Lewin Street, the Church of England Infants School and the Wesleyan Chapel.
Across Lewin Street from the Chapel is a building we haven't looked at yet - the Centenary Sunday School, by this time in use as the local Valuation Office. Middlewich Library now occupies the site.
Below the vast bulk of the Wesleyan Chapel can be seen part of Seddon's Wych House Lane Salt Works and, to its left the old Seddon's waggon repair shop, with its ramshackle collection of sheds and workshops incorporating Middlewich's first Catholic Church and School.
Moving upwards, just above the Sunday School is the Victorian police-station in Queen Street, now replaced by a small box-like brick building.
Above this, on the extreme left of the picture we can just see part of the bowling green at Fountain Fields.
Above that is the present site of Tesco's main Middlewich store, and above that the wooded area is the land between Southway and Darlington Street which Tesco bought up as part of their now-abandoned expansion plans.
Also notable is the Town Bridge which looks in this picture like some kind of motorway flyover, flung across the Trent & Mersey on a huge concrete raft.
It must have looked very strange indeed in 1931 when it was first built, replacing the original little bridge which had been there since the late 18th Century.
To make the picture easier to understand, here it is again with a key and explanatory notes:


1: St Michael & All Angels Church
2: The Churchyard before alteration. Part of the Churchyard was removed in 1931 to widen Lower Street when the new Town Bridge was built.
3: Middlewich Town Hall. In the same way, one end of the Town Hall was demolished to make room for a wider Lower Street.
4: Seddon's Salt Works in Pepper Street
5: Middlewich Gas Works. Originally built by the Middlewich Gas Light and Coke Company. Most of the original works had gone by this time, but the two gas-holders were still in use.
6: The gas-pipe bridge which carried gas from the works into Middlewich. The offices of the North-Western Gas Board were in Lower Street close to the salt works yard.
7: The Town Wharf with its large warehouse building, wharfinger's cottage and wash-house for the boaties. Fronting onto Leadsmithy Street above are the public conveniences, built on stilts to bring them up to road level, which Cheshire East are currently (May 2013) trying to close.
UPDATE: This Middlewich Guardian item sheds more light on the Town Wharf and Public Conveniences issue
8: The Talbot Hotel in Kinderton Street. Behind the pub, and running at right angles to the main road, is a small terrace of cottages called Flag Alley.
9: The Town Bridge. Built by Cheshire County Council in 1931.
10: The CofE Infants School. The land occupied by this building, the Wesleyan Chapel (11) and Seddon's Salt Works and workshops (13,14) are now the site of the Salinae Centre and associated lawns and gardens.
11: The Wesleyan Chapel.
12: The Centenary Sunday School (Valuation Office). The library stands on this site now. To the left of this enormous building is a long, low building. This was the Conservative Club. The access road to the car park behind the library now occupies the site.
13: Seddon's Wych House Lane Salt Works.
14: The first Catholic Church and School, incorporated into Seddon's Workshops.
15: The Police Station in Queen Street.
16: Fountain Fields bowling green
17: Site of Tesco store in Southway.
18: Land between Southway and Darlington Street, home to several beautiful houses, including Barclay House. Now gone to rack and ruin. The future of this site is uncertain.
19: Webb's Lane - a continuation then, as now, of Pepper Street.
20: St Ann's Road.
21: The White Bear in Wheelock Street.
22: Pepper Street. Now just a short row of houses (where our '22' is) but once linking Webb's Lane with the town centre. The large building at the end of the terrace is Seddon's offices.
23:  Seabank car park.

So that was Middlewich in the late 1960s.
As those days recede further and further in time, it gets harder and harder to believe that our town once looked like this.
It's fascinating to look back on the way Middlewich used to be, but this is the grim reality of that 'lovely little town' which everyone thinks they can remember.
Once the works were closed and  demolition started in earnest, poor old Middlewich was a sorry sight indeed to behold.
Truly the past is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there.

© Dave Roberts 2013

P.S. (January 2018) This occurred to me when revisiting this entry in January 2018. On the annotated version of the picture look at the Town Hall (now the approximate site of the 'amphitheatre') (3) Now look at Pepper Street (22). There seems to be a lot of space between the two. The next time you find yourself at the 'amphitheatre', look across at Pepper Street. How far away does Pepper Street seem now? All a matter of perception, of course -Ed

UPDATE: JANUARY 14th 2018:
Photo courtesy of Elaine Carlin.                                        Reproduced with permission
Our thanks are due to Elaine Carlin who kindly sent us this additional aerial view which we think was taken at the same time as our main photo (i.e. circa 1967) as once again steam can be seen coming from at least one of the salt pans in Pepper Street. Elaine dates it as 1969. From this slightly different viewpoint we can see the shops in Lower Street (Vernon Coopers, Woodbines etc) and how Pepper Street linked the town centre with Webbs Lane. In the bottom left hand corner you can see the humble row of cottages in Queen Street, one of which is now the HQ of the Middlewich Diary.  In this photo there are many clues to the way 1960s Middlewich developed into the town of today, and we'll shortly be adding an annotated version to show exactly how the coming of the  'Middlewich Inner Relief Road'- aka St Michael's Way - altered the old street layout. For example, the telephone exchange which now fronts onto St Michael's Way is already there in this photo. Can you spot it?

Facebook Feedback 
(in our introduction to the Facebook link to this entry, we suggested that people who lived in Middlewich in 1967 might 'sigh with nostalgia' when they saw this picture)

Geraldine Williams OK, I'm sighing - but nostalgia ain't wot it used to be! The photograph doesn't show much of Kinderton Street, but we had to leave in 1967 as the house was being compulsorily purchased for the widening of the road.
However, it clearly shows the much-discussed cottages, and their gardens, which ran at right angles to the road at the side of the Talbot. Great picture, and it shows what an industrial place Middlewich was, and how short of greenery we were......!

Michelle Game This is great. I spent ages trying to work out where I live. It's amazing how a town can change over the years. Thanks for this.

Geraldine Williams I've just been revisiting this Diary entry, and in your excellent commentary you mention the Centenary Sunday School (no 12 on your plan). I can't picture the building, but I do remember there being a Conservative Club on that site. Was it in the same building, or adjacent to it?

Dave Roberts The Conservative Club was a long low building to the left of the Sunday School. It was where the road leading to the car park behind the library is now. It's featured in the Coronation 1937 film with an illuminated sign saying 'Long Live  Our King And Queen' Look out for it at 01:48. There are day time and night time shots, and in the day time one you can just make out the roof of the Sunday School on the extreme right.

Geraldine Williams That's Brilliant. Thank you

First published 17th May 2013
Revised and re-published 14th January 2018



by Dave Roberts.

...or, if you're one of the many people who opposed Tesco's plans for expansion in Middlewich,  perhaps The End of a Nightmare might be a more apt title.
The sheer size of  the proposed store and its accompanying car park is absolutely staggering, as can be seen from Tesco's official plan (above). The existing store is shown as a purple oblong.
I have to admit that my first reaction on hearing the news that Tesco had decided not to go ahead with this scheme was one of horror.
I described it as 'a complete and utter disaster', which was, of course, an over-reaction to the totally unexpected news.
The likelihood is that the carrying through of this project would have been the real disaster.
But living in Middlewich for any length of time (and I have been here for sixty years) is very likely to produce a pessimistic outlook and a tendency to clutch at straws.
Despite the best efforts of our councillors, at  both Town and Borough levels, poor old Middlewich always seems to miss out on all the things that most towns take for granted, and have done for years.
We'd all love to have a swimming pool but the chances of one ever being built seem remote; a railway station is more likely, but it has taken so many years to make the scheme even a possibility that people can be pardoned for wondering if it will ever happen in their lifetimes.
And there's a general feeling that Middlewich has to fight tooth and nail for any improvements to the town to come about.
I recently found myself wondering why getting anything done always has to be as the result of a 'campaign' rather than coming about as part of the natural course of events as in other towns.
The recently formed RAMP organisation, which campaigns for the upgrading of Middlewich's parks and play areas, is a case in point.
Why are these things not done by the council whose responsibility they are without such prompting?
So when Tesco began buying up  property between Darlington Street and Southway with a view to expanding their store many of us welcomed the idea in a weary 'anything's better than nothing' sort of spirit.

BARCLAY HOUSE, WINTER 2011 Photo: Salt Town Productions
We objected, of course, to the impending destruction of some beautiful properties including everyone's favourite, Barclay House (above), but consoled ourselves with the thought that we would at least be able to boast a 'proper' supermarket giving us a much bigger choice of goods than the present Tesco store offers.
This was the straw we were all clutching at in our usual 'beggars can't be choosers' Middlewich way.
And, we reasoned, surely  all the new trade brought into the town by the new store will mean a revival for Wheelock Street?
The jury, of course, was always out on that one. Even the much-lauded Artisan Market has divided opinion: Right from the start the market was hugely popular with the public but not necessarily with all the businesses on Wheelock Street, some of whom claim to have seen a decline in trade on Market days.
There would, though, have been one indisputable benefit for Wheelock Street in that one of the town's greatest eyesores, the former Dave's Angling Supplies shop, would have been transformed into a coffee shop (or, more likely given its current parlous state, knocked down and a coffee shop built in its place)

This shop  was once, as older residents will know, two shops with a central entrance porch and doors set at an angle.
The left hand one was Bill Cotterill's barber's shop and the right hand one  the original premises of Brooks & Bostock, the jewellers, who are now just across the road at the end of Lawrence Avenue.
We'll be reminiscing about Cotterill's barbers in a later Diary entry.
Incidentally one of the entrances to the new Tesco car park would have been just behind the car in the photograph.
(for more on the future of this building, see the update below - Ed)

To all outward appearances Tesco seemed to be hell bent on building this new store.
They submitted several planning applications, arguing the toss with councillors and officials about the undoubted problems the development would cause, and tried to quell people's worries about the decidedly dodgy delivery access in St Ann's Road and the traffic problems it would cause (or, to be precise, make worse - the goods entrance to the present Tesco store is in the same place)
And they tried to win hearts and minds, placing huge explanatory posters in the existing store explaining the proposals to the public.
SELLING THE IDEA TO THE PUBLIC 2011  Photo:  Salt Town Productions
The only cloud on the horizon as far as Tesco was concerned was rival supermarket group Morrisons who were threatening to build a new store on the site of the old Boosey's Garden Centre in Chester Road.


The Morrison's store is now a reality and opens its doors, according to reports, on Monday  the 28th January.
(although, as the opening date drew nearer, the Middlewich Guardian reported that Morrison's had had to apply for retrospective planning consent for the store because a number of conditions relating to highway improvements had not been met. Thus, just days before the doors were due to open, frantic efforts were being made to improve the road network near the store and build pedestrian crossings on Newton Bank and in Chester Road.
Nothing ever happens in Middlewich without 'unforeseen circumstances' coming into the equation, it would seem)
Is it just co-incidence that Tesco's announcement that it intended to pull the plug on its ambitious plans came at precisely the same time as Morrisons announced its opening date?
Finally, on Wednesday January 16th, just twelve days before the store was due to open its doors, the needed planning permission was granted by Cheshire East and the local newspaper was able to confirm the opening date.
Even then more chaos was in store for Middlewich as Newton Bank was closed to traffic over the weekend of 19th-20th January to enable contractors  to work  frantically to complete the necessary road improvements.
Somewhat ironically, this made access to Lidl in Chester Road a problem for many and we also heard reports of local residents as far away as Webb's Lane being woken up early on the Saturday morning and being asked to move their cars so that heavy trucks could get through and  work could continue on the roads.


But was Tesco's  big new idea just smoke and mirrors all along? Was the object of the exercise just to frighten Morrisons (and any other retailer which might have had similar ideas) away?
Or has Tesco merely revised its plans as a resuilt of a commercial decision?
How much trade would it have lost during the closure of its store for rebuilding?
Clearly the existing Tesco store, and its two Tesco Express satellites in The Bullring and Warmingham Lane will lose a lot of trade once Morrisons opens its doors.
Anyone who was in Morrison's Winsford store on Saturday afternoon (Jan 13th) would have seen many people from Middlewich giving themselves a preview of what the new company has to offer.
It's hard to imagine them trying out the new Morrison's and deciding to go back to  Tesco, unless Tesco pulls something out of the bag.
What about a good old-fashioned price-cutting war?
If that happened the shoppers of  Middlewich could be on to a winner.
Meanwhile Tesco has something else to consider: what is going to happen to all that blighted property right in the heart of our town?
Are the houses now beyond redemption? If so what will take their place?
Middlewich's much anticipated 'Store Wars' have resulted in a defeat for Tesco, almost before a shot was fired.
In the long run this is probably a good thing for Middlewich, but we now eagerly await the next move from Tesco.
Will they help us build a Town Centre we can be proud of? Or will they simply sell off  all the land they bought up and leave us in the lurch?

© Dave Roberts 2012
(Revised January 2013)

Facebook Feedback

Bill Armsden Excellent, Dave. I also agree with your conclusions.

Lizzie Rosenfield Very good piece, Dave! You speak for a whole lot of us...thank you!

William Cooley Warning signs that the Tesco plan for Middlewich might be disingenuous could be found in the financial press as early as January 2012 when Philip Clarke, Tesco boss, revealed a scaling back of expansion plans in the UK, instead focusing on driving the sale 'of clothes and non-food items online as the internet plays a bigger role for customers'.

It was always going to be a dodgy business putting all your eggs in one basket, not to mention putting your trust in a multi-national. I see this as a lucky break for Middlewich. One that could be turned into a golden opportunity to get a town centre fit for the 21st century.

Karl Jamieson I have been in touch with the town council. They will be speaking to Tesco to see where they can go from here.

Steve Dean Well said, Mr Roberts!

Feedback below is from the 'Middlewich Superstore Info' Facebook page:

William Cooley Some people think that the Morrisons store is big at 2,448 metres gross. Tesco's was going to be 5,091 metres gross - i.e. twice as big, and taller. Madness.

Steven Doyle It's tiny. Have you see the car park? There's room for about 100 cars, I reckon. That's if you can even get near it. The traffic's crazy around that way at the moment, and will be worse when the store opens.

Dave Roberts Which opens up the possibility that Tesco is still in the game and waiting to see what kind of impact Morrisons has on local shopping patterns before deciding what to do. After all, they did (eventually) get planning permission for their mega store and can, presumably, keep renewing that permission as many times as is necessary until the time is right. Perhaps the 'Store Wars' aren't over after all?

Steven Doyle That's a likely possibility, Dave.

Here's a link to the Middlewich Guardian's report on Tesco's decision. The comments made by Middlewich people are of great interest, and there seems to be a general feeling that the 'Store Wars' are indeed not over yet. Several raise the possibility of the Town Council talking to other retailers about moving into the town.



On the 16th January the Middlewich Guardian reported that Tesco were 'still committed to demolishing derelict buildings and tidying up the land it owns between Southway and Darlington Street' and that buildings such as Cheshire House (Darlington Street) and the old Dave's Angling Supplies building (see above) would be demolished. The process of demolition was due to start 'before the end of January'.

So it now remains to be seen what happens to the land that Tesco owns. Will they hold on to it, to prevent the building of another rival supermarket? Or will they sell it off, with the proviso that any future retail development on it  would not be in competition with them?

It is unclear whether Tesco intend to make improvements to their existing store in Southway, but the battle to win over Middlewich shoppers is already in full swing with Tesco donating new kit and training equipment to Middlewich Town FC's under-eights squad and organising a 'free family fun day' at the Southway store and the Tesco Express in Wheelock Street on January 19th.
(with thanks to David Morgan at the Middlewich Guardian)


UPDATE (14th January 2018):

In December 2017 McCarthy & Stone and Henderson Homes submitted a joint planning application to develop the land in question.

The developers promised '50 high quality Retirement Living apartments, a range of 29 new homes, three retail units (fronting onto Wheelock Street) and areas of public space'.

Following meetings with local councillors the developers agreed to hold a public meeting to address residents' concerns

Here's the Middlewich Guardian's report on the planning application and its reception:

First published 16th January 2013
Updated and re-published 5th February 2013 and 14th January 2018