Wednesday, 12 January 2022



FOR 2022


External Committee  – 1st February 2022

Internal Committee  – 3rd February 2022

Full Council  – 21st February 2022

Meetings start at 7.15pm

Venues to be confirmed

For full and detailed information about our Town Council visit:

Tuesday, 11 January 2022




Monday, 10 January 2022



MTC Heritage Officer Kerry Kirwan writes:

A new year and a new start. Middlewich's new heritage offering, Murgatroyd's Brine Pumps at Brook's Lane, will be open for it's first full year as a restored site and off the heritage at risk register. We are improving the site year by year, this year is no exception and if the funding bids go well, we'll be able to deliver more opportunities to the community. Watch this space...
Our 2022 dates will be circulated from this point forward, the open days are free entry and will remain so. If anyone wishes to book a group tour then please get in contact with me

Saturday, 8 January 2022


As promised, here, for the benefit of those who couldn't make it to our first Middlewich Diary Quiz, is the picture round, kindly compiled for us by Cliff Astles from his own photo collection.
Everything here can be found within the environs of Middlewich (although one picture may just be outside the actual Town Council boundary).
To ensure that the  round wasn't too difficult, I asked Cliff not to tell me the answers when he first supplied the pictures, but to let me have a go myself.
Thankfully, I got them all right.

Dave Roberts,

Diary entry first published 26th June 2012

Re-published 8th January 2022

Tuesday, 4 January 2022



Photo: Frank Smith/Bill Eaton

by David Roberts,

This is a companion photo to this one, almost certainly taken on the same grey, cold, winter day. This time we're facing in the opposite direction, looking towards the bridge carrying Sutton Lane over the Shropshire Union's Middlewich Branch which wends its way through ten miles of  pleasant Cheshire countryside to Barbridge Junction where it joins the main line of the Shropshire Union.

The Wardle Canal is behind us.

But thoughts of pleasant Cheshire countryside are far from anyone's thoughts as a group of men watch motor boats and buttys attempting to negotiate the thick ice in the canal in what must have been bitterly cold weather.

It isn't clear whether they are canal employees or just bystanders. The dog, though, appears to have lost interest and decided to go for a wander.

The buildings immediately to the left of the bridge are of interest. Like the earlier photo of Wardle Lock, this photo originated with Frank Smith. His description of this one is very short and to the point:

'Shropshire Union Canal, Middlewich. Looking West.

Sutton Wharf. The buildings in the background, to the left of the bridge were originally Washington's Tannery'.

The word 'formerly' is a little ambiguous. It's not clear from Frank's text  whether the buildings were still in use as a tannery at the time of the photo.

Sutton Wharf will have been to the left of the boats in the photo.

Many people will remember these buildings as Sutton Lane Engineering. They were certainly in use as such from the 1960s until the mid-1990s, in latter days erecting a long, low, metal industrial building in the place where the wharf once was.

This, together with the original tannery buildings, was swept away in 1996 when a start was made on building Water's Edge Mews on the site. The last of the houses on the site were built in 2002/3.
Road sign at the junction of Sutton Lane and Water's Edge Mews

Water's Edge Mews, January 2022

The area's industrial past is commemorated in the name of the two cottages which stand at the junction of Sutton Lane and Water's Edge Mews.

Looking rather in need of a little TLC, Tannery Cottages in January 2022
Water's Edge Mews can be seen to the left
Inset: The ornate nameplate in the centre of the two cottages.


A general view of the area from Sutton Lane Bridge in January 2022, with Wardle Lock and its famous cottage centre/centre right


Diary entry first published 4th January 2022

Sunday, 2 January 2022



Photo: Frank Smith/Bill Eaton

by David Roberts

Courtesy of Bill Eaton, here's a photo from the collection of the late Frank Smith of Ravenscroft showing the working days of the Wardle Canal, which links the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union to the Trent & Mersey.

These days it's very much a part of the canal network's new role as a part of the leisure industry and sees many boating tourists passing through as they negotiate the 'Cheshire Ring'.

To help you get your modern-day bearings; if Wardle Cottage wasn't there, you'd very likely be able to see the Kings Lock pub (and the Kings Lock itself) at that time dwarfed by the massive ICI limestone crushing machinery and buildings.

Wardle Cottage, to the right of the photo was, of course, the home of 'Auntie' Maureen Shaw.

The Middlewich Diary has a collection of articles and photos of Maureen and her lock. Here are links to a few of them.





Frank's picture, though, shows Wardle lock and its environs in very different times. We've been trying to pinpoint the probable date of this photo and, because of something which Frank says in his own caption, we've been able to narrow it down to some time between 1929 and 1952.

We're wondering if the snow on the ground and the huge amount of ice in the canal, means that the scene pictured could possibly have been captured in 1947, a year which saw a very hard winter indeed and fits comfortably within our time-frame.

Here's Frank's caption, which he helpfully wrote on the back of the original photo:

Shropshire Union Canal, Middlewich

Looking East.

Sutton Wharf, Wardle Lock. The works in the background was ICI (formerly Brunner, Mond & Co). This closed in 1962.
The chimney served the finishing machines which 'roasted' the bicarbonate of soda at high temperature converting it into carbonate of soda.
The cloud of steam on the left of the picture is from the works shunting engine (not visible) named  

We're very fortunate indeed that that little shunting engine chose the very moment that the shutter was pressed to release its steam into the atmosphere, because Frank's sharp eye and encyclopaedic knowledge has enabled us to show you just what that diminutive engine looked like, and something of its history.

Photo: I.R.S. Richmond Collection/Alan Wilkinson

This photo was borrowed from 'Railways Across Mid-Cheshire' by Alan Wilkinson (Foxline Publications. ISBN 1 - 870119-66-5)

Alan writes:

All ICI's Mid-Cheshire works were shunted by diminutive Borrows well tanks, Dalton and Moulton arrived from Kerr Stuart in 1929. Moulton was scrapped in 1957 while Dalton went to Winnington in 1952. Dalton is seen (here) in the mid-thirties. Northwich crews endured many vicissitudes when transferring such 'mini powers' between works over main line tracks!

(Dalton was named after John Dalton, 1766-1844, the chemist, physicist and meteorologist)

Diary entry first published 2nd January 2022

Friday, 24 December 2021



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
Christmas Eve 2012

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


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 Atkin 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
© Joan Smith 2012

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

Revised, reformatted and re-published Christmas Eve 2016

Revised and re-published Christmas Eve 2018. Re published Christmas Eve 2019, 
Christmas Eve 2021