Friday 2 September 2011


An evocative. if, sadly, rather low quality, picture of a float from the 1973 Carnival.
The float was put together by volunteers from Steventons, the fore-runner of Ideal Standard at the 'Potbank'. On the lorry's headboard are the words: STEVENTONS YOUNG ENTERTAINERS. The girls at the back of the float seem to be wearing some kind of uniform, and among them are at least two holding ventriloquist's dummies and one who seems to be dressed as another one of those 'Middlewich Witches'.(Editor's note: No she isn't! See Facebook feedback from Geraldine Williams below). Are you one of these young entertainers? Or do you know any of them? We'd be pleased to hear from you.
This float, from the days before everything was seen as a marketing opportunity, has a pleasingly home-made and traditional carnival look about it. Hours must have been spent on making the decorations and fixing them to the lorry. Nowadays, of course, such floats, if our Health & Safety culture allows them to be used at all, are festooned with logos and slogans promoting local business. There was, of course, always an element of that sort of thing in local carnivals, but not to the same extent.
The house in the right background, by the way, is in King Street, at the top of the footpath which leads down past Harbutt's field to the Big Lock. At that time carnival processions started at the pub and made their way into town via Finneys Lane.
In the days before the Middlewich Folk & Boat Festival the Middlewich Carnival was THE big event of the year in the town. In fact the two events overlapped by at least one year and we have in our possession a programme for the Middlewich Carnival dated 1991.

Note: Ideal Standard took over John Steventon & Sons, makers of Royal Venton ware, in 1968, but it was only in this year, 1973, that the new parent company began to make its presence felt in Middlewich. The miners' strike meant that investment, mainly in the form of  generating equipment from America, was needed. John Steventon & Sons originated in Burslem but moved to Middlewich in the 1920s, to a site vacated by ICI. .
Some of this information is taken from Ideal Standard - The first 100 years, by Michael Evamy (Ideal Standard 1996)
UPDATE (3rd September 2016): Ideal Standard, of course, is long gone and, despite attempts to revive pottery manufacture on the site under OURS Bathrooms a few years ago, the pottery works is no more. At the time of writing the site is being readied for its new role as a waste recycling centre run by ANSA, an offshoot of Cheshire East Council. A strong local campaign has been mounted, led by independent councillor David Latham, to stop this happening.

UPDATE (3rd September 2016):
Ann Barber has contacted us to say that she's the blonde haired girl in the pink dress sitting in front of the ventriloquist's dummy to the right of the picture. She also mentions Diane Smith and Helen Robinson.

And Julie Morris says: I was one of the Steventon's Young Entertainers, but not on the float that day. The girl in the clown hat is Jackie Connell-Cottam and the boy is John Plumb. His sister, Shirley Plumb, is in the middle, on the back row. Next to her, on the left, is Christine Cotterill, who lived in Wheelock Street. Her dad was the barber. 
Jackie Connell-Cottam says, 'Joanne Riley and her sister Jane are on it. Also Jane Littlemore (I think) and Louise Preston. There are also a couple whose names I can't bring to mind, but I'm sure they will come to me!'
Karen Reynolds adds: 'I'm there,sitting in front of Jackie, the one wearing the clown's costume.' 

Facebook Feedback:

Geraldine Williams I think she's a Pierrot, not a Middlewich Witch, Dave.

Dave Roberts Yes, I think you're right. Do you think this was a case of 'witchful thinking?

Geraldine Williams Hahaha! The girl standing on the right looks familiar, but I can't put a name to her yet. Wouldn't 'elf 'n' safety' have a field day with the lack of any guard rails? We used to watch the Crewe Carnival floats jerk their way onto the field from West Street, and that was pretty hairy - even with better precautions.

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