Monday 12 December 2016


by Dave Roberts
Today we're deep into Middlewich salt country as we delve once more into the invaluable archive kindly loaned to us by Paul Hough. It's a little difficult to date this particular photograph, although the buildings just discernible in front of Seddon's Brooks Lane works could be a clue. It's not too easy to make out, but the signwriting on the side of the brine tanks which reads  SEDDONS SALT WORKS seems to be partially obscured in this picture by a row of cottages, whereas, certainly in the 50s and 60s, it was possible to read the whole sign from this viewpoint.
And there are other cottages to the right of those, which survived until the end of salt making on the site. The Middlewich Tank Wash currently occupies the site of the cottages in question.
The picture was probably taken some time in the 1930s or 1940s. Perhaps someone with specialised knowledge of canal boats might be able to pin down the date more accurately by reference to the boats in the picture?
The chimneys dominating the picture are the same two which appeared in the background of our original STP logo

and the works itself appears in the background of this classic picture, which confirms forever my Middlewichian credentials and was taken in the days of too much hair and not much stomach, a situation which has now been reversed.
DAVE ROBERTS 1966 Photo: Salt Town Productions
Returning to the main photo, to the right of the Seddon's works can be seen the smaller chimneys of Murgatroyd's open pan works which closed in 1966, and on the extreme right of the picture is part of Seddon's Wych House Lane works.
Also just getting into shot on the right is another chimney which is in the wrong place to be part of the Wych House Lane works, and must be the disused chimney we were discussing here which my Dad took me to see when I was a little lad. Incidentally the colour slide from 1969 which appears in that posting and provoked the discussion on the chimney in question serves to illustrate how little things changed in this area until the end of the 1960s.
To the left of the works can be seen the bridge abutment we saw here, and there is another one on the other side of the canal and river. These could have been part of a bridge carrying a pipe line to bring brine into the works which formerly stood close by. Another possibility is that it was a footbridge, but this is unlikely; the abutments do not appear to have any steps incorporated into them and, in any case, a footbrige would not have been necessary, as the canal can be crossed by the lock a few yards away.
Our old friend the River Croco is on the left, confined in its gulley to serve as an overflow for the Trent & Mersey Canal. There had obviously been a lot of heavy rain just before the photo was taken, and the river is very swollen (the canal, too, looks very full).
The poor old Croco only really looks like a real river in these conditions. Most of the time it more closely resembles a drainage ditch.
Here's the photo again, with annotations. The red line is meant to indicate the possible course of the pipe line.

UPDATE (12th December 2016):

Photo: Northwich & Mid-Cheshire Through Time 
Here's a photo  taken from a lower viewpoint around the same time (or, possibly a few years later). The scene is very much the same, give or take a chimney or two, but the discrepancies might be explained by the difference in the camera angle.
This photo appears to have been taken from the Town Wharf, whereas our main photo was most likely taken from the Town Bridge. *
What is intriguing about this particular version of this familiar Middlewich salt town scene is the wording on the bottom which describes the waterway as the MERSEY AND WEAVER CANAL, a description we've never come across before.
The description is self-evidently wrong. As we all know, the canal is the Trent & Mersey, built to connect the Pottery industries of Saffordshire with Liverpool and the sea, and serving Middlewich's salt industry on the way.
Quite possibly someone at the photo laboratory or postcard company - perhaps someone as far away as that London - was asked to write a description and either misunderstood the instructions given to him/her or simply invented a plausible sounding name for the canal from his or her own sketchy geographical knowledge.

* You'd think so, wouldn't you? But no. A modern-day recce of the area proves this not to be the case. There's a definite curve in the canal, the start of which is just visible in the bottom right hand corner of the Mersey & Weaver Canal photo, and the Town Bridge actually looks out onto the Town Wharf and the  Salinae centre (or if you prefer,  the site of the Wych House Lane salt works.) 
This is evident from this celebrated photo by Cliff Astles which also shows the modern-day area in its summer finery, all dressed up for the FAB Festival:

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Dave Griffiths I would think that this photo is definitely pre-1950's. From memories as a child (late '40's / early '50's), the area on the right, between the end of Seddons and the slope up to the lock, didn't have the abutment shown, but was an area of overgrown air-raid shelters where we used to go blackberry picking. (December 2016)

Celia Burt My sister lived in the cottage, right of the lock. 1953...... (December 2016)

First published 11th December 2011
Updated and re-published 11th December 2016

11th APRIL 2020

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