Sunday 31 July 2011


'Salt Works Sunset' 1971
 by Dave Roberts

I was so pleased with this fortuitous evening shot taken in 1971 that I gave it the title Salt Works Sunset and, when presenting slide shows, always used it as the last slide in the show. I've always thought of it as a nostalgic, moody picture which somehow, I hope, captures the feeling of the end of an era in Middlewich.
Now, you may have noticed, it forms the basis of  our Salt Town Productions logo.
The chimneys are at Seddon's works in Pepper Street.
Originally I had this picture dated as 1972, but gradually came to realise that it must have been taken earlier, in 1971.
My Dad died, aged 66, in 1972 and he and I and the rest of the family, together with friends and neighbours from all over King Street, watched the demolition of the Pepper Street chimneys from our grandstand seats in the garden of no 33.
From the late fifties to the early seventies the view from that garden was pure L.S. Lowry, with the gasworks very prominent, but overshadowed by the smoking chimneys of Seddon's across the canal.
In fact I passed my O-level art exam with a picture of Seddon's Works.
Interestingly my art teacher was Robert Westall, later to find fame as the author of such classics as The Machine Gunners.

(first published on Facebook on 11th May 2011. The original feedback is below.)

Geraldine Williams Can't Get 'Matchstick Men' out of my head now!

Dave Roberts I often wish I could take some of the country's 'professional northerners', who seem to slightly despise Cheshire as 'too posh', back to those days and show them what this particular part of the county was like.
There's an old story about an official from the National Union of Mineworkers who came to Middlewich to see the conditions which salt workers had to endure. He told his hosts that there was 'no way' that miners would ever have put up with them.

Geraldine Williams Many children from the Webb's Lane area used to go 'cinder picking' amongst waste dumped by the salt boats, to keep their home fires burning.
Imagine this generation doing the same!

(revised and reformatted 19/1/2012)


 Photo:John Page, via Dick Gilbert’s Classic Buses Website.

by David Roberts

Having tried without success to find an actual photo of the famed 'Niddries Biscuit Tin', we've come up with the next best thing, following a tip off from Geraldine Williams. Dick Gilbert's Classic Buses website is a vast collection of photographs and information on buses of all kinds. It may sound odd to be searching out pictures of transport from days gone by, but the pangs of nostalgia you get when you see a picture of the type of bus or train you travelled to school, work etc on are very real. It's like meeting up with an old friend from years ago that you thought you'd forgotten about. As I've said to Dick Gilbert, Middlewich has had quite a few dealings with buses and coaches over the years, with Crosville, North-Western, PMT, Niddries, Byley Coaches and even National Express featuring in the story, so we'll probably be getting back to him in due course to see if we can identify more local buses of the past..
In the meantime, take a look at this bus, which is of the same type as Niddrie's Biscuit Tin.
It's a Morris Z no: TW6936 of 1927. Try to imagine it with NIDDRIES on the side and full of happy schoolchildren all singing the 'Niddries Biscuit Tin Song' (the words of which will be featured here shortly, by the way).
Ann Hough tells us that the NBT was painted blue, incidentally.
And here's a link to Dick Gilbert's fascinating site:

(Note: This link takes you to the vintage
section which contains the Morris Z.
Go to the home page to view the rest
of the site -ed)


Saturday 30 July 2011


Our trusty colleague Professor Franklin has had a lot to do with making
this shot at least tolerably fit for the internet. The original was very dark,
having been taken in the gathering dusk of a winter’s evening in 1972.
The building on the left is the former offices of Henry Seddon & Sons
in Pepper Street and the road in front of it is the last remnant of that stretch
of Pepper Street which led into the town and joined Lower Street between
Dewhurst Butchers and Vernon Coopers. To the right of the salt works
offices is now the entrance to ‘The Moorings’ and, adjoining them to the
left but out of shot, is the row of cottages which still exist and make up
modern day Pepper Street. The offices weren’t demolished immediately
but had a few year’s stay of execution in the hands of another company.

There's a much earlier view of Seddon's offices in their 1920s heyday here

First published on Facebook on 1st June 2011

Friday 29 July 2011


A puzzle picture, showing one of Middlewich's lesser known canal bridges. The year is 1972 and the houses in the background are in King Street. This bridge could easily be seen from the Town Bridge and carried neither people nor vehicles. So what is it and where was it?

Well, when this was originally posted on Facebook as a 'puzzle picture' (hence the original, enigmatic caption, above) Jonathan Williams immediately identified it as the strange structure which once brought Middlewich's supply of Town Gas from the gasworks across the Trent & Mersey Canal and River Croco to a spot behind the gas showroom and offices in Lower Street. Presumably this bridge was built because to put the pipe in a tunnel underneath the river and canal would have been too costly. You can see this kind of arrangement all over the place, but mostly in an industrial setting - there are bridges like this, for example, at Lostock Works.
I'm not sure what my idea was in photographing this from such an odd angle. Perhaps, all those years ago, I already had it in mind that it would one day make an interesting 'puzzle picture'.

More of the bridge can be glimpsed here: SEDDON'S YARD PEPPER STREET

Thursday 28 July 2011


 Here's a slide from 1974 which shows just how close to the town centre the Pepper Street works of Henry Seddon actually came. The building to the right is part of the loading bays where salt would be put onto a horse and cart and taken to Middlewich Station which was only a matter of half a mile or so away at the top of Kinderton Street. We are, of course, looking out onto Lower Street, which by this time had become part of St Michael's Way..

First published on Facebook on 23rd May 2011. The original feedback is below

    • Geraldine Williams My husband was one of the gang of lads who clung onto the back of the cart hitching a lift up to St Mary's School on King Street. The driver never spoke or looked over his shoulder to acknowledge that they were there but simply flicked his whip backwards so that they would let go.....!!!!
      23 May at 10:55 · 

    • Geraldine Williams Apparently the driver's name was George Capper but the horse's name is unknown....!!!! haha
      23 May at 11:28 · 

    • Dave Roberts Perhaps he was named 'Henry' after the boss? 
      23 May at 19:25 · 

    • Dave Roberts Returning to Seddon's horse and cart; this was kept at Chadwick Fields, the home of the Seddon Family. There's a description of how the salt was transported in 'Tales of Wych & Water', the CD which I compiled and edited for Middlewich Vision a couple of years ago. I'll look it out.
      23 May at 19:30 · 

    • Dave Roberts 

      Here we go: I got the basic story right, but some details wrong. Just goes to show you should always go back to the source...'There used to be a bloke called Charlie Capper that had two shire horses up at Chadwick Fields, where Mr Roland Seddon lived, and they used to come down every day and pick the cart up at Pepper Street, then they used to load this common salt,as they called it, onto the truck and then they used to run it up to the railway station and there they had railway vans which were for the lump salt and the open trucks were for this common salt. There's be two or three blokes at the railway yard who'd chuck it into the railway waggons and this is how they got rid of all this common salt' (From 'Tales of Wych & Water')

Wednesday 27 July 2011


Dotted throughout these photographic memories are shots of what I like to call 'Middlewich personalities' (largely for want of a better word) and here's one of them; George Robinson gave me some slides early in the 1970s of himself and his cronies from the dustbin gang (refuse disposal operatives, I mean) messing about in the in the sacred confines of the Council Chamber. Here George wields the Chairman's gavel. Ironically, he actually did become a councillor in later years. For those who have not yet penetrated this Holy of Holies, the window behind George is the back window of the Council Chamber, and the roof glimpsed through it is that of the Civic Hall.

First published on Facebook on 30th May 2011. The original Facebook feedback is below:

    • Jonathan Williams Not sure that's allowed. Mutiny on the Dustcarts?! Sacrilege; and a Dastardly thing to do. Maybe it was Muttley on the Dustcarts ! Wouldn't happen in my time.
      30 May at 11:30 

Tuesday 26 July 2011


As promised previously, we're hot on the trail of 'Niddrie's Biscuit Tin', the ancient school bus which used to run  Catholic children from Holmes Chapel and from Cledford to St Mary's School. We've tracked down a source for all the words (both sacred and profane) of the Niddrie's Biscuit Tin Song (we're even taking along some recording apparatus   to capture a performance for posterity in our sound archives) but what we'd really like to know is what this ancient relic actually looked like. The closest we can get, so far, is 'small and rickety, with a bonnet', which sounds more like someone's Grandma than a bus.
What would be ideal, of course, is if someone could come up with a photo of the actual vehicle but, failing that we'd love to see a photo of a bus of the same type. Or can someone make a drawing to help point us in the right direction? 

On Facebook Geraldine Williams said:

According to my guru, if you bring up 'Special Vintage Gallery No 1 (Vol 2), there's a Morris Z TW6936 (Burnham & District) bus which is a dead ringer for Niddrie's Biscuit Tin.

Thanks for that, Geraldine. That  is exactly how I've always imagined 'Niddries Biscuit Tin'. If anyone else wants to take a look, here's a handy link. The photo is the tenth one down.


Today we're back in our old haunt of Kinderton Street. It is 1969 and the row of shops and houses leading up to Pool Head Farm and the junction with King Street (left) is yet to meet its fate. We're standing outside what is now the Kinderton Hotel and the Boar's Head can just be seen on the extreme right (note that, even before the alterations to the roadway, there was at least room to park a car outside the pub). Although some people long for the 'old Middlewich', by this date parts of it, including this row, were crumbling and semi-derelict. It's nice to see what the town used to be like, but perhaps we shouldn't mourn the passing of such places too much. To the right, in front of the Masonic Hall is the premises of Earl's Builders. There was a much larger wooden building to the right of this (out of shot) which we saw here

First published on Facebook on 8th May 2011. The original feedback
is below:

Geraldine Williams: Oi! Who left that caravan in our back garden....???!!!

Jonathan Williams: I did previously indicate that we used to live on the plot directly opposite the shop until 1967. In a house...not a caravan. No lure of ice cream or fags can ever alleviate the trauma of having your house pulled down around you. Nor indeed the proximity of the Boar's Head (although this was remedied to good effect in later years!)
    • (revised and re-formatted 4/12/2011)

Monday 25 July 2011


This photo shows Earls Builders and Builders Merchants , Kinderton Street, in 1973, proving the old saying that the builder always has the worst house in the street. The waste ground in middle of the shot is awaiting a blue plaque indicating that our Town Clerk once lived there. There are some interesting shots of Kinderton Street in 'Middlewich' by J Brian Curzon and Paul Hurley ('Images Of England' Series, Tempus Publishing 2005) but, unaccountably, at least one of them is labelled as 'Leadsmithy Street'.

First published on Facebook on 19th May 2011. 

The original feedback is below:

    • Bernice Walmsley Thanks Dave - this is fascinating for me (an 'incomer' of only 12 years residence in this great town) - I peer and peer at your photos, following your comments to figure out just where these places are now.

      Geraldine Williams  Haha! Yes, just about the second post from the right please.....

      Dave Roberts That waste ground is now, of course, home to the highly popular Factory Shop

      See also

Friday 22 July 2011


This picture was originally posted on Facebook on 22nd July 2011, just for a laugh. We were interested to see if anyone could identify one of the children, now a very well-known Middlewich 'Personality',  at Wimboldsley School (or 'Occlestone' as many called it) on a far-off day in the 1950s. It stirred up quite a bit of interest, so we've decided to include it here..Below is the original caption, together with the Facebook feedback and (of course) the answer.

We'd be grateful if anyone could help us identify the other people in the photo.
Second from the left is David Bradley, and I'm on the extreme right; the identity of the little chap  third from left is about to be revealed, but who are the other two?

 Original Caption
Just for fun, for all you Middlewich aficionados, here's a picture taken at Wimboldsley Primary in the 1950s. The cheeky chappie on the right is, of course, me, as evidenced by the fact that I haven't changed a bit. But there's one other famous - or infamous - Middlewichian amongst those present. Any ideas?


  • Mally Mal The little chappie second from the right looks familiar, but I'm not sure why...

  • Dave Roberts He's not the one I mean, Mal. To my shame I can only remember the names of two of the people here (three if you include me). It would be nice to name everyone, of course. But one of these mini-scholars is very well known in Middlewich.

  • Lizzie Rosenfield That wouldn't be a train set you are playing with there would it Dave?? MMM! Enough said!!

  • Dave Roberts Of course. Lone Star Railways. That's a diesel shunter on the table.

  • Dave Roberts Here's a clue: If you were to replace one of the wooden sticks they're holding with a tin whistle, you might get closer.

  • Lizzie Rosenfield Trampas!!?

  • Dave Roberts Correct. It is young Mr Woodbine (third from the left)

  • Geraldine Williams Yes, of course it is. Blindingly obvious once you know.......!!

  • Geraldine Williams Bet Wimboldsley didn't know it had an embryo folk group in its midst!

  • Dave Roberts I sometimes think that's where the whole Middlewich 'folkie' thing came from. We had to do country dancing (my partner was Margaret Jones) and also dance round the maypole (where I was one of the few to master the art of 'plaiting'), all to the accompaniment of Jimmy Shand 78s. Dave Thompson went to Wimboldsley as well, I think, a few years later.

  • Geraldine Williams Can you refresh my memory about Wimboldsley School? I'm sure we used to call it 'Occlestone'. Was it just a village school or was there an element of 'private'? I know there was always a long waiting list for places and that quite a few Middlewich children attended there - presumably before catchment areas set in!

    A lot of people did, and do, call the school 'Occlestone' - Occlestone Green is a short distance away down typical leafy Cheshire lanes. As far as I know it was always just a state school, run by the Cheshire Education Committee. And I think it had (and has) many Middlewich pupils because Wimboldsley is a parish within the District of Middlewich. -ed.

    Mystery Middlewichian revealed! Well done to Liz Rosenfield for correctly identifying Michael Woodbine in his formative years. Most people call him 'Trampas', but I don't. To me he's always plain Michael.