Friday 22 September 2017


by Dave Roberts

A comparison of the Wheelock Street scene as it was in the early 1970s and as it is now ('now', of course, being a relative term - in  a few years our 'now' picture will be just as much a part of history as the 1972 shot. For the record, the 2011 picture was taken on the 2nd September).
The immediate thing we notice about the modern shot is the cars, which will always be a prominent feature of any new Wheelock Street photo, but we have to be fair: the 1972 slide was taken late in the evening, as can be deduced from the long shadows, and the 2011 picture in the middle of the afternoon.
Wheelock Street today, when compared with its 1970s counterpart, seems a lot brighter.
The 70s was a drab decade in any case, despite all the 'glam rock' and the Laura Ashley chintz, and Middlewich was going through a transitional stage, from salt town to dormitory town. There was no real incentive to shop here. There were no supermarkets (unless you count the 'Co-operative Superstore' at the other end of the street) and, from a retail point of view, the town was in the doldrums, a situation which has achingly slowly and painfully improved over the years, and is only now being addressed properly.
To the left is the former doctors surgery which was to become 'Jan's Cafe' and, in a more recent guise, the 'Cafe Med'.
Across the road, where the Co-op Travel Agency and the former Cheshire County Council 'Pace' office (now empty) and its associated car park are, there seems, in the 1972 shot, to be a long low wall or fence. Does anyone know what was on the other side of it?
Finally, a word about street lights. In the 1972 shot, to the left we can make out one of the old lamp standards erected by (or on behalf of ) the UDC. These were quite elegant and modern-looking for their day, but have now been replaced by cheap-looking efforts which look for all the world like glorified patio heaters (there's one in the 'now' picture, looking a bit like it's sticking out of the boot of the car on the right). A great pity because, for a short period, we did have some rather nice Victorian style lamps. Seemingly these did not give out enough light, so they were replaced by the ghastly ones we have today.
I think that street lamps are very important to the ambience and  atmosphere of a town. Take a look at the ones in Sandbach, particularly around the High Street area. They're traditional in style and very fitting for a historic area. Lamps like those would be much more in keeping with the traditional Victorian feel which Wheelock Street is supposed to be aiming for.
But at least one rather nice looking lamp has been provided, privately by the look of it, outside the Cafe Med.

Update (September 2017)
Those 'glorified patio heaters' were gone by the start of 2017, when nearly all of Middlewich's street lights were replaced by LED versions. Although an improvement on the 'patio heaters', the new LEDs can hardly be said to be traditional in style.

Facebook feedback:

Geraldine Williams When we lived in Wheelock Street we were directly opposite the area with the fence next to the PACE office that you were enquiring about. There used to be some sort of low building there, disguised by shrubs, with a public bench in front of it. This was the daily haunt of a local character, Tommy Wilton, who used to entertain passers-by with his comments!

Wendy Johnson Yes, Dave. The original Edwardian lamp outside what used to be the Cafe Med is part of said property. When we owned the cafe, we lovingly restored it by ridding it of the garish white, blue and red paint, replacing it with black and gold highlights. It was in full working order when we were there, but changing the bulb was a bit scary!

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    First published 22nd September 2011

    Updated and re-published 22nd September 2017

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