Tuesday 12 July 2011


by Dave Roberts

An unexpected and hidden Middlewich delight - 'Poppityjohns' (said to be a possible corruption of 'Property John's' or 'Poverty John's') in 1973. This footpath ran from Brooks Lane, past the ICI Works (by this time replaced by Pochins and the ERF Service Centre) along the edge of the ICI lime beds to reach Cledford Lane near 'The Villas'. At this time it was quite a pretty spot, despite its industrial origins, but when British Salt (whose then four year old works can be seen in the left background) acquired the land they bulldozed a straight and very utilitarian roadway through the lot, so that dumper trucks could reach the top of the lime-beds to dump salt scale there. The other more substantial chimney to the right of centre belongs to Steventon's Pottery Works (now Ideal Standard but soon, alas, to be no more)*. More about the limebeds, and Poppityjohns, soon.

*Editor's Note: In July 2011 the local newspapers reported a ray of hope for the ex-Ideal Standard works with news of negotiations for its sale to 'a Japanese bathroom manufacturer'. Let's hope this comes to fruition and that we can update this posting soon with some good news (posted 13th July 2011).

Update: Yes we can! In November 2011 the local newspapers reported that the works would shortly be re-opening under the ownership of Imperial Bathrooms- ed)
(posted 16th November 2011)

UPDATE: After several uncertain years Middlewich's 'Potbank' ended its days under the ownership of 'OURS Bathrooms'. In late 2015 the site (with the exception of the office block) was being cleared for its controversial new role as a waste-transfer site for Cheshire East under the ownership of ANSA (a company owned by Cheshire East)

(Posted 29th September 2015)


This photo was first published on Facebook on 30th April 2011 . 

The original Facebook feedback is below:

Carole Hughes I had many happy walks here with my cousins who lived at 1 The Villa :)

Dave Roberts Really? What were their names?

Dave Roberts ‎...and you're quite right, Carole, it was 'The Villa' not 'The Villas'

Colin Derek Appleton Pop John was the farmer who's land this path cut accross before the days of ICI and the lagoon !!!! He would let kids play football on his land and would provide the football for them but he would take it back if he heard any swearing !!!

Carole Hughes They are Steven, Peter,Christopher and Paul Farrington, and uncle Len and Aunty Kath x

Sherry Hill-Smith Ian and I used this path on our walk to Holmes Chapel a couple of times. The Farringtons just sold that place a few years ago - I had no idea it was theirs. x

Carole Hughes Yes they did :) they now live on St Ann's Road,sadly Len and Kath passed away many years ago.

Dave Roberts Carole, ah yes. I thought as much. I know them very well, and I worked with Steve at ERF Middlewich for 27 years. Small world.

Dave Roberts ‎...in fact Steve gave me some more recent pictures of 'Pops' a while ago. Of course, its peculiar charm has been lost for ever now that the bulldozers have made it into a roadway.

Dave Roberts That's 'No 1, The Villa', on the extreme left of the photo. Steve had quite a pleasant walk to work, as the ERF Service Centre was just behind the camera. Later, when ERF moved to their new, pretend 'factory' (which was really nothing of the sort) he just had a short walk down Cledford Lane (under the railway bridge), through a farmyard and across a field.

Roy Clinging We used to go for walks and play up on PoppityJohns when we were kids. It seemed such an odd name I started to wonder of I had remembered it wrong.

Dave Roberts

Roy, somewhere I have a picture of the official Middlewich UDC street sign for'POPPITYJOHNS' (at least I hope I've still got it). When ERF opened their Service Centre on part of the old ICI site, they insisted on a more 'sensible' name, for their address, and so the stretch from Brooks Lane to the lime beds was paved and became 'Road Beta' (odd, because there never was a 'Road Alpha'). To his credit the then surveyor, Donald Stubbs, also had a sign made with POPPITYJOHNS on it, which was placed at the start of the remaining footpath part to Cledford Lane. The sign wasn't there long, and I'm wondering if it still exists somewhere?

Dave Roberts ‎...and ERF never used the name 'Road Beta' for their address. It was always just 'Service Centre, Middlewich' Perhaps they concluded that 'Road Beta' was just as odd as 'Poppityjohns' which does, at least, have history and tradition behind it.

Roy Clinging This is really interesting Dave - brings back a lot of old memories.



First published 12th July 2011

1 comment:

  1. i remember the farringtons, i used to be a good freind of chris and spent many a happy childhood at 1 the villa...paul


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