Sunday 14 August 2016


This excellent photograph by Jack Stanier will help us clear up any remaining confusion about the Vaults and its car park. On the  extreme left is the building currently housing two hairdressing shops - Razor Sharp and J et Cie. Immediately to the right , and set back from the road, we can just see the frontage of The Vaults. The part of the building fronting onto Wheelock Street at that time was an off-licence, and beyond that were the notorious 'Black Bar' and, at the end of a long corridor, the vaulted bar which gave the pub its name. Alternative access to the pub was provided by a passageway which ran from  Pepper Street (behind the Dewhurst building) to the pub's back door. 
(Editor's note: According to Bill Eaton (see comment below) this is incorrect and there was no back entrance to The Vaults at that time. So the current back entrance to the pub must only have been created in the 1970s, after the demolition of the surrounding buildings.)
The next right, of course, is Dewhurst's butchers and its associated house (it is not clear whether the house was accomodation for the butcher or under separate tenantship). Then we can see the very narrow Pepper Street which led away from the town centre to Seddon's Salt Works, Powell's clothing factory, the telephone exchange and, ultimately to Webb's Lane. The Dewhurst's block was demolished to make way for The Vaults' car park.
Then came Vernon Cooper's TV, Radio and Electrical, a close rival in every sense of the word for Harold Woodbine TV and Electrical which was only a few doors away until it moved to number 28 Hightown in what is now the Church of England's 'drop in centre'. The  business,by the way, is no longer there,but now operates from Sandbach.
There are many points of interest in the Vernon Cooper Shop. Firstly, it is obvious from comparison with older photographs that this is the same building as the old 'Black Bear Inn' - the distinctive window over the 'Vernon Cooper' sign being the chief indicator. 
The Black Bear in 1900
(illustration from Middlewich 900-1900 by Allan Earl - Ravenscroft Publications 1990)

There are signs on the outside of the building advertising long-lost brands from the golden age of domestic TV and Radio - FERGUSON is one and EKCO Radio & TV another - EKCO being a contraction of EK Cole, a radio manufacturer of Southend-On-Sea.
If you look carefully into Vernon Cooper's window you can see why we have been able to pin this photo down to the year 1970. An advertisement there reads 'BACK HOME', the slogan of that year's England World Cup team and goes on to say something  like 'Choose Us For Colour' or 'Cheer Us In Colour'.  Does anyone know exactly what it does say? Colour TV had started three years earlier, in 1967,on BBC2 and in 1969 on BBC1 and Granada.
Finally, it would be nice to know something of Vernon Cooper himself. I recall hearing many years ago that he had something to do with motor racing, but present-day Googling brings up nothing but talk of Welsh Rugby Union Players.

First Published 14th August 2011
Updated and re-published 14th August 2016

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  1. dave let me correct some of the comments i was the butcher boy at dewhursts and
    also worked there for over a year after leaving school sid and mabel hough and daughter barbara lived in the house along with mabels sister and her husband george jones there was no back entrance to the vaults then the gate you can see on the pepper street view is the entrance to the slaughter house
    and yard but used as prep room in my time there hope this helps


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