Thursday 23 May 2024





Sunday 28 April 2024


 This page is reserved for members of the organising team of the Middlewich Folk & Boat Festival 2022 to explain just went wrong with the Festival and what steps were taken to avoid the eventual disastrous outcome.

You can email us on 

We'll publish whatever you send to us, completely enedited, unexpurgated and in full. -Ed

To explain the situation a little more fully, here's a comment I made on the Middlewich Residents' Association FB Group in response to a comment by Cllr Mary Monroe:

I'm always very keen to place the blame for the 2022 Folk & Boat Festival Disaster fairly and squarely where it belongs; with the then town council and the 'contractors' it employed. People tell me that when I bring this up I am 'not being very nice'. Well I don't consider that it was 'very nice' for a team of 'organisers' to wreck our town's premier annual event and lose £100,000 plus on the event, causing the council to escape going into special measures by the skin of its teeth. Although an enquiry was instigated and established exactly how this money was lost and the Festival trashed, we have yet to hear a single word of explanation, apology or contrition from any of the people involved. The current organisers have taken the Festival back to its community roots and have vowed that never again will the Festival have to rely on a council which has no business trying to organise such an event. The Folk & Boat Festival is now once again self-supporting, though it welcomes help from all quarters. FAB makes such a lot of money for local businesses and provides such great entertainment for visitors and residents alike, that it would be strange indeed if those who want the best for the town didn't help it survive. And while I'm here, if anyone thinks I'm being unduly harsh about all this, I can remind everyone that there's a permanent offer to anyone and everyone involved with running the 2022 FAB Festival to tell us what happened and explain why we shouldn't feel the way we do. I have a page on the Middlewich Diary standing by to publish anything that those organisers want to tell Middlewich people. I promise not to alter a word. You can call me all the names under the sun. I'll still publish it. If you can convince me, and the people of Middlewich, that we've got it all wrong, and that things didn't happen the way we think they did, then I for one will be ready to humbly apologise and wear sackcloth and ashes for the rest of my days. I've been accused of 'telling lies' - something I try not to do, so it stands to reason that I've got things wrong somewhere. Please help me tell the real truth, so that I can let everyone know what really happened. 

Dave Roberts.

Sunday 10 March 2024


by Dave Roberts
I'm sure most people won't object to a little self-indulgence today of all days. 
This picture first appeared on the Middlewich Diary on Mother's Day 2012 and has appeared every Mother's Day since.

Dad, incidentally, made his first appearance here on Father's Day 2011. 


And Mum, like Dad, played her part in Middlewich history at the height of our salt town days.
Mum was born in 1919 in neighbouring Moston and went to school in Elworth which she always said was  'a lovely place until Fodens ruined it'.
Her Mother, our Grandma Hodgkinson, was at one time in service with the Foden family.
Mum lived all her adult life in Middlewich and, like so many young women in the town, worked at Cerebos.
In 1936, when she was 17, she was crowned 'Salt Queen of Cheshire'* and our picture shows her wearing the beautiful dress which was specially made for the occasion and which, amazingly, still survives in the possession of the family.

* That was the title we were always told Mum held all those years ago, although there do not seem to be any records of any 'Cheshire Salt Queen' event. The 'Salt Queen of Middlewich' has proved equally elusive, although the local press has carried reports about a proposed revival of the 'Salt Queen of Winsford' title. Could that be the title that Mum held all those years ago?.

Whatever the truth of the matter, and whatever her actual Regal title was all those years ago, Mum, like all Mums, was a true Queen.

Mum passed away on Easter Sunday, April 16th 2006.

Mothers Day 2012

First published Mothers Day 2012. Republished Mothers Day 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024

Tuesday 13 February 2024


by Dave Roberts

Middlewich historian and Clerk to the Middlewich UDC Charles Frederick Lawrence was a prolific collector of poetry and verse, particularly when it pertained to the town of Middlewich.

Here, for Shrove Tuesday, is a famous poem about the pancake bell which Mr Lawrence says in the publication Bygone Middlewich (Electro Bleach Club, Scientific Section, Middlewich, 1921) only ceased to ring, along with the Curfew (or 'Curfue') Bell within his 'recollection'.

So we're probably talking about sometime in the early to mid 19th century.

The Pancake Bell was rung to remind the people of Middlewich that it was time to gather all the ingredients together to make pancakes for the great feasting before the fasting period of Lent began.

Shrove Tuesday does not occur on the same day every year. Like Ash Wednesday and other Christian 'moveable feasts', the date is determined by the date of Easter which falls on
the first Sunday after the first ecclesiastical full moon that occurs on or after March 21st. The beginning date, March 21st, was chosen because it is usually the vernal equinox (generally, the first day of spring). That is why this diary entry was published on the 13th February 2018, and the 5th March 2019. It will be interesting to see how the dates differ as the years progress.


by The Rev'd Charles O'Niel Pratt, formerly Curate at Middlewich

What sound is that which greets mine ear,
As it sweeps along through the sky so clear?
Of millions of chickens it rings the knell,
For I wot it is the Pancake Bell.

Full many a farm-yard cock hath crowed,
And tender love on his wives bestowed,
But over her brood has waved the spell,
As sure as she hears the Pancake Bell.

And the housekeeper goes to the huxter's shop,
And the eggs are brought home and there's flop! flop! flop!
And there's batter and butter and savoury smell,
While merrily rings the Pancake Bell.

And with frizzle and fizz the condiment's tossed,
And dished, and dusted with sugary frost,
And the youngsters at home the fun can tell
That follows the sound of the Pancake Bell.

And into the batter will mistress fling
That mystic token, the marriage ring,
And the bosom of many a maid will swell
With hope as she hears the Pancake Bell.

For if smiles and loving looks be true,
Someone may whisper a word or two,
And when Lent is over, then Easter will tell
Its old, old story - the Wedding Bell.

First published on Shrove Tuesday, 13th February 2018
Re-published on Shrove Tuesday, 5th March 2019, 25th February 2020, 16th February 2021, 1st March 2022, 21st February 2023, 13th February 2024

Sunday 4 February 2024



Mr Graham Sivills is interviewed, in typically shambolic style, by Mr Roberts and points the way to the future of folk music in Middlewich and the World. Or something. Much has been said about 'putting the folk back into the Folk & Boat', but on Sunday afternoon at the Kinderton Hotel we managed to put the Folk & Boat Festival right back where it belongs. If you have a long memory you'll remember those magical Festival Sunday afternoons in the marquee, where we were all demob happy and up for it after all the stress and hard work of organising the Festival. We managed to recreate that wonderful Sunday afternoon feeling this year as we paid tribute to the Festival we were all a part of creating back in 1990. Right from the very beginning, the F&B has been supported by Middlewich Town Council and we invited along some of the Civic Dignitaries of yesteryear to enjoy the fun. Gracing us with their presence were: Dorothy Kelly-Hughes (aka Dot Roberts), who was Mayor of Middlewich in 1990, with husband Colin; Peter Cox (original F&B Committee member and Mayor in 1992) with son Ian, ex-Cllr Jim Basford and, representing the new breed of councillor, Mr Garnet Marshall. Other pioneers of the F&B present included Rita O'Hare (Secretary) with husband Mike, Mike Hough (Artistic Director), not forgetting Festival founder Richard Devaney and the man who guided the Folk & Boat from the very beginning, Dave Thompson. There were so many stories about how the Festival started and how it has managed, with the help of the MTC to survive and prosper for thirty years. And the music was the Real McCoy - the authentic and original sound of the Middlewich Folk & Boat Festival. Craig and Freddie Moores joined with Dave T to kick of the proceedings as The Salty Dog Blues band; Musical and Comedy genius Stanley Accrington came back to Middlewich to show us just how things were back in the day when we built up a great reputation for presenting comedy folk to the people of Middlewich. The Hayes Sisters from Stockport contributed a fabulous set, representing the younger folk sound which the F&B has always been careful to nurture. Local hero Snagger The Balloon Man was on hand to delight the kids with his amazing creations and Sarah Pearce was there to add some sparkly face-painting magic. And, of course, there were the Middlewich Paddies: Richard Devaney, Dave Thompson and Graham Sivills, the band that started the Festival all those years ago. It was my honour to introduce the whole show, just as I did in June 1990, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. There were so many well-wishers from the old days there, expressing their appreciation of the way we'd managed to recreate the magic of the Festival's early years. Many thanks to everyone who came along and helped us make it an occasion we'll always remember. If I've missed you out, don't hesitate to give my addled memory a nudge and let me know and I'll include you in this account..

Monday 8 January 2024



Tannery Cottages as they were in the late 50s/early 60s. Although we refer to old photos of this public footpath as depicting 'Tannery Alley' in fact the name was changed to 'Southway' a very long time ago. Certainly those of us born in the early 1950s can't remember it being called anything else. What the name 'Southway' is supposed to mean is anyone's guess. It's one of those exquisitely meaningless names which local councils love. You can find out more about the area in this Diary entry, written during the 'Jack's' era: 


Southway as it was in January 2024,  and the huge bulk of the Home Bargains store dominates the scene as it has done since the early 1980s. This building, which started life as a Gateway/Somerfields supermarket and later became Tesco and then the short-lived Jack's, looks relatively unaltered from the way it was in the early 1980s, but was in fact comprehensively rebuilt before Home Bargains moved in. The earlier semi-rural feel of Southway has largely disappeared. On the other side of the wall on the left-hand side, great changes have taken place; The much lamented Barclay House and the other prestigious homes in the area have all disappeared to be replaced by new housing, still at the time of writing under construction. Even further to the left, in Darlington Street, the hotch-potch of old industrial buildings, garages and flats which once formed one side of the street, have been replaced by Roman Court a retirement development built by McCarthy & Stone.

Monday 11 December 2023


by Dave Roberts
Have you ever wondered why Cerebos Salt's catch-line was (and still is) 'See How It Runs!' illustrated by a picture of a child throwing salt onto a chicken's tail?
The wording is easily explained, because the fact that the salt was in 'powder' form and could be poured from a container was the product's great selling point.
Prior to its introduction people would buy salt in much the same way as they did sugar - i.e. as a 'salt loaf' - and scrape off what they needed.
This was known as 'cut lump salt' and was the major product of the Seddon's and Murgatroyd's works, and their predecessors, in Middlewich, although some works had crushing machinery to create bagged versions of the product
This kind of salt, however, was very prone to 'caking' as it absorbed moisture from the air and had to be dried out frequently.
In 1892, so the story goes, a French chemical engineer was advised to give his sick son calcium phosphate in order to add strength to his weak infant bones and, to make the substance 'more palatable', he added salt (obviously he had no sugar to hand). 
The chemist noticed that the chemical in the mixture had the effect of preventing caking of the salt.
The child's  restoration to health was attributed to the calcium phosphate and salt mixture, leading to the idea that the salt and chemical mixture had 'health giving properties'.
Note: There are  different versions of this story with the details (and the additives) varying and the chemist even changing nationality a few times, but the basic premise remains the same, with the actual salt itself always being given credit for the miraculous 'cure' rather than any of the additives.

UPDATE (March 2015)

The above account of the creation of 'enriched salt' was culled from various accounts on that fountain of truth and wisdom, The Internet. It was the disparities in the different accounts which led me to err on the side of caution and to follow suit in being rather vague about the truth of the matter.
However, Maurice Baren, in his excellent book How Household Names Began (Michael O'Mara Books Ltd 1997), is much more authoritative and his version has the ring of truth about it:

"George Weddell was born in 1855 and later became a chemist with Mawson, Swan and Weddell in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. As his daughter was a poorly child, George decided to add something to her diet to strengthen her bones and teeth. Although vitamins and trace elements were unheard of at this time, he mixed small quantities of magnesium carbonate and calcium phosphate with the family's household salt. He was so pleased with the result that he felt it would be good to supply this 'enriched salt' to the general public".

Given that, according to Maurice Baren, George Weddell later became chairman and managing director of Cerebos Salt, I think we can take this as the definitive account. It's interesting to note that Maurice doesn't seem to think that the claims about enriched salt being 'healthy' were in any way spurious. It would be useful to hear the opinion of a present day chemist on this, particularly in the light of the dire warnings issued by health professionals about the dangers of 'too much salt'.

The book also features a neat little rhyme, which I haven't heard before,  about the origin of the company's name:

'Ceres' is Greek for the goddess of grain,
'Cerebrum' stands for the best of the brain,
'Bos' is an ox, and 'Os' is a bone -
A rare combination, as critics will own.

Thus free-running salt came into being and 'enriched salt' started to be manufactured by a new company, Cerebos (the name, as indicated above, being derived from Ceres, the Roman goddess of the wheat harvest, and 'os', a French word for bones').
The idea that this new type of salt was, somehow, 'good for you' led to some rather quaint claims for Cerebos Salt, which look a little strange in this day and age:

So the phrase 'see how it runs' is a simple reference to the free running qualities of the new table salt.
For what it's worth, I always had a vague and unresolved idea that it was somehow related to the nursery rhyme Three Blind Mice (see how they run), but how the  child sprinkling salt on a small bird fitted into that idea was anyone's guess.
In fact it is related to a nursery rhyme, but a completely different one.
There's an old wives tale which claims that if you sprinkle salt onto the tail of a bird it will be unable to fly, making it easier to catch.
Quite why isn't clear. 
One theory is that the salt makes the bird's tail feathers heavier and thus he is unable to get off the ground.
A likely story, of course.
And there's an old saying associated with this which says, 'If you are close enough to a bird to put salt on his tail, you're close enough to catch him'.
In other words, the whole exercise is rather pointless.
The idea of using salt to catch birds was immortalised in the nursery rhyme Simple Simon who, you'll recall, met a pie man going to the fair.

...went to catch a dicky-bird,
And thought he could not fail,
Because he had a little salt,
To put upon its tail.

So the energetic young gentleman shown on the Cerebos packaging through the years is really there just to demonstrate that consuming Cerebos salt gives you energy and strengthens your bones, enabling you to chase small birds and sprinkle salt on them, should you wish to do so. Your sprinkling will be made easier if you use Cerebos, of course..

In this ornate (and probably highly collectable) version of the Cerebos packaging the small boy appears to be very young indeed, and looks very close to catching the chicken.

In this chic French version, complete with accents on the Es and a highly stylised rendering of the drawing, he's grown up a bit and obviously slowed down a lot as the bird, which by now is no longer a chicken and could be a canary by the look of it (or is it one of the Three French Hens?), looks like it is getting away from him.

On this modern packaging we see the 'classic' version of the boy managing to get a fine flow of Cerebos out of his salt cellar. It's hard to see what the bird looks like. Perhaps he's smothered it in salt and it has breathed its last.

In this very up to date version from South Africa adorning modern supermarket packaging the boy has been simplified. He's lost his scarf and his baggy shorts are now slimline as he scores a direct hit on the unfortunate bird. Since 1995 South African law has made it compulsory for all table salt to be iodised (or 'iodated' as it says on this package). This is part of a world-wide initiative to combat iodine deficiency, particularly in children.

The original Cerebos factory was in Greatham near Hartlepool.   Middlewich's long association with Cerebos began when the company bought the Middlewich Salt Company after World War II. For many years the Greatham and Middlewich works worked together in developing new products and manufacturing and packaging them.
There was even, as can be seen from comparing the picture below with this one, a sort of 'family resemblance' between the two factories.
Like their Middlewich counterpart the Greatham works were found to be surplus to requirements and were closed in 2001.
In 2011 the buildings were in such a bad state of repair that the Greatham Salt  Works, like the Middlewich Works before it, inevitably passed into history.


11th December 2023

Here's a Cerebos Salt package from 2023. If you look carefully you'll see that the Cerebos branding is mostly cosmetic. It's actually a Premier Foods brand. A peep round the back shows both boy and chicken in full flight and still going strong.


Cerebos Salt Works, Greatham, under demolition in 2011
Cerebos Salt, however, is alive and well and is one of the most recognisable and well-known brands all over the world.

                                                           CEREBOS SALT PACKAGING 2004

First published 1st May 2013
Re-published (with updates) 1st April 2015
Re-published 30th November 2016 (to avoid anyone taking a feature dated '1st April 2015' as an April Fool joke!)
Updated and re-published 11th December 2023