Saturday, 31 March 2012


Our congratulations to Barbara and Cliff Astles who celebrate their Golden Wedding Anniversary today!

Cliff Writes:
On our 50th Wedding Anniversary Day, I thought the ladies would also like to see a photo of our Grandaughter, Lauren Elaine Astles, 'modelling' Barbara's 60s style short wedding dress. And YES, we do still have it. :)

Friday, 30 March 2012


This picture by Cliff Astles shows the Thomas Clayton  narrowboat Tay as it takes Maureen Shaw down the Trent & Mersey Canal for the last time on Friday 30th March 2012. The boat has just left the third and lowest lock in the Brooks Lane Flight.
The route, from St Ann's Road bridge on the SUC Middlewich Branch, through Wardle Lock and then down the T&M to Middlewich Town Wharf was thronged with people, all wanting to pay tribute to the lady known to one and all as 'Auntie Maureen'.
At the Town Wharf the coffin was transferred from the boat to a hearse for the final part of the journey to St Michael & All Angels Church, where the service took place at 11am.

This really was a very special occasion, not only for Middlewich but also for the whole canal community, and we are unlikely ever to see anything like it again

Many thanks to Cliff for permission to use these photographs.

You can see more by visiting Cliff's Facebook page where he has posted them 'for Middlewich people to view with fondness and good memories of a well-known Middlewich lady.'



MAUREEN SHAW 1935 -2012

Thursday, 29 March 2012


Photo courtesy of Diane Parr
We've looked at Southway before in our travels around Middlewich and it's interesting when comparing this 1987 view with its counterpart from thirteen years earlier... seen in this diary entry, to see that not a lot changed in this area in that thirteen years.
Southway proper - i.e. the footpath seen on the right hand side of this picture - still provided a shortcut into town for people in the St Ann's Road area, and the 'dirt track' with a rudimentary pavement to the left  which we now think of as 'Southway', and was used mostly for car parking in those days, also remained untouched.
That strange red lead painted building we encountered here is also still standing at the rear of the shop on the corner.
Photo enhanced

It's only when you look at the middle of the picture, and at what's happening at the end of that 'dirt track', that you realise just what is going on.
We're seeing the very start of Middlewich's slow-burning shopping revolution with the building of the Gateway Supermarket on the field where the Orchard Works had stood until a few years before.
The temporary fence, just to the left of the trees, which separates the building site from what will become the supermarket's pedestrian approach is the approximate site of that 'pagoda' structure which welcomed shoppers walking towards the supermarket from Wheelock Street first to Gateway, then (from 1994) to Somerfield and which currently (since 2009) welcomes them to Tesco. 
As we've said before, it all looks so familiar and yet so different.
You can learn more about the convoluted history of Middlewich's first proper supermarket here.


Photograph courtesy of  Diane Parr
by Dave Roberts
Regular Middlewich Diary contributor Carole Hughes has been given access by her friend Diane Parr to a brilliant collection of photographs showing Middlewich as it was twenty-five years ago. All the photographs are now safely filed in the 'Carole Hughes Collection' and we'll be bringing them to you from time to time during the rest of 2012. Many thanks to Diane and to Carole for letting us show you these photographs.
We're starting with this one because, just by coincidence, I was looking the other day at an old MHS Newsletter from September 1992 which was when the building shown here was finally demolished.
It started life as one of many Co-op shops in Middlewich and I have dim recollections of it as a dress shop (or, in Co-op parlance, a drapery department).
It had a glass display case in its entrance hallway, making it look very sophisticated and cosmopolitan. You could imagine the very best people buying their clothes there.
By 1987 it had become Oates Builder's Merchants (or, if the sign is anything to go by, Oates Builder  Me chants) and was looking a little the worse for wear.
In the early 70s, when I was still working in Middlewich UDC's Rates Office, I applied for a job at at this establishment, at that time called Thomas Eyres Ltd, and was interviewed by somebody who blew cigar smoke at me throughout the interview and I could never have worked with.
In those pre-computer days the job involved writing out orders for building materials on printed forms and handing them to this cigar smoking lunatic for processing.
'I hope you can write clearly!' he shouted at me, enveloping me in a choking blue cloud, 'I tend to get VERY ANGRY if I can't read things!'
Fortunately I wasn't offered the job. But it's interesting to note that if I had got the job my workplace would have moved a matter of yards across Lewin Street, and I could have gazed down on the windows of the rates office from one of those upstairs windows.
By 1992 Thomas Eyres had transmogrified itself into Oates which, in turn, had become Hall & Co. At this point plans were announced to demolish the building 'to improve access'.

Here's what I had to say about this in the September 1992 edition of the Middlewich Heritage Society Newsletter in a caption for the above photo:

Demolition begins on the showroom premises of Hall & Co in Lewin Street. There was something of an outcry locally over the destruction of this former Co-op shop, but the Heritage Society raised little objection, rightly concluding that whatever architectural merit the building had ever had had already been destroyed by mutilation of the shop front and the erection of the garish 'Hall & Co' sign which, we will record for posterity, was bright orange and blue.
Perhaps whatever replaces this building will actually be an improvement?

Of course at the time it never occurred to anyone that the building might be replaced by nothing more than a gateway into the builder's merchant's yard.

Just in case you haven't got your bearings precisely, we're standing at the bottom of Civic Way (that's the Council offices on the left of the 1992 photograph). The house to the left of the building still survives, as does that quirky little cottage on its right.

UPDATE: By 2012 this builder's merchants had changed hands  again and had become a branch of Jewson's

Facebook feedback:

Geraldine Williams I think your glasses may be a little rose-tinted in your memories of the Co-op drapery store, Dave. I seem to remember yards of net curtaining and tea-towels being on display but, to be honest,
my Mother didn't shop there so my only occasional visits were with my Gran on Co-op divi day!

Dave Roberts Ah yes! A case of distance lending enchantment to the view (a distance in time in this case). I think they also had one of those change-giving systems running along a wire connected to the cashier's office.

Geraldine Williams Yes, I think they did. I wonder if it was because the 'Management' didn't trust the assistants' arithmetic or the obsession in the old days with every transaction having to be written down? The only alternative was the fantastic Meadow Dairy verbal running total system which we discussed previously.

Dave Roberts Well, it seems my memory has served me quite well on this occasion. We've received a comment from Cliff Astles who appears to confirm my childhood impressions of this shop as something rather special. I'm reproducing Cliff's comment here as it's relevant to the history of the shop and I wouldn't want anyone to miss it:

This particular Co-op shop was the town's main drapery shop, selling clothes of all descriptions for both men and women.
They did have a spectacular glass entrance to the shop with windows at the front and each side with a glass central piece allowing for access each side of it into the shop. You could buy all types of material and cottons, lace etc.
It also had the latest technology with the accounts and tills upstairs! The money tendered for goods was whisked away upstairs by a circular 'vacuum facility' much like a drain pipe and the change was also sent back by the same method.
All goods sold in the Middlewich Co-op shops allowed for a 10% dividend to be paid out each year (I think) on the value of goods sold to that person.
This dividend was also paid out at this shop.
The inside of the shop was very 'Victorian' and if it was still with us today would be a place worth visiting.
The shop which is the 'Middlewich Fryer' today was also a Co-op Shop. It was a traditional butcher's shop from which I obtained meat for my mother on a Saturday morning, as she was working all day in her hairdressing business (behind Etta Mault's Chippy).
What a waste of a very good shop.
- Cliff Astles
(I think Cliff's last comment refers to the old Co-op drapery rather than the Middlewich Fryer. It goes without saying that turning any shop into a chip shop is never a waste... -Ed)

Geraldine Williams Thanks for not putting 'Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah Geraldine!' (as if...Ed) Ha ha. As I've said before, for all its altruism, which is not in doubt, there was something insidious about the Co-op movement, which had a finger in every pie, when seen through the eyes of other shopkeepers (like my parents) who were trying to earn a living. Which is why my family never frequented Co-op stores!

Dave Thompson  Happy Days! I worked there during school holidays when it was Thomas Eyre's, then full time when it was Oates Builders' Merchants.
The front building was a fitted-out showroom with bathroom and kitchen displays - I sold hundreds of Ideal Standard and Twyfords bathrooms from there!
I worked with Phil Flaherty there for about ten years, until I went back to ERF for more money - which lasted 14 months!

It's interesting to note that Dave, who's now the Town Council's Events Manager, actually did make that trip across the road (but in the opposite direction) from Builder's Merchants to Council offices. Took him a few years, though. - Ed

Wednesday, 28 March 2012


For the many people who have been asking about this, here's a message we've received from Ian Murfitt:
Hi Dave. Maureen's funeral is at 11.00 next Friday (30th March) at St Michael's. I have just called Pete Forshaw. 11.00 is the start of the service and before that she will come down the canal on a boat from HER lock. You may wish to post this on the Middlewich Diary, as I have been asked by loads of people. I hope they will erect a plaque at the lock afterwards. Ian.

Many thanks to Ian for the information. We assume that the boat will leave Wardle Lock at around 10am (can anyone confirm this for us?) and the coffin will be taken to the church from the Town Wharf.

UPDATE (28th March):
Jenny Roscoe tells us:
I've been told today that Maureen will be taken from St Ann's Road Bridge onto the canal at 9.30am travelling on a BW working boat, arriving at Wardle Lock cottage at 9.45, and then due at Town Wharf at 10.40am


We believe this image to be out of copyright. If you own the copyright, or know who does, please let us know
Here's a picture from the Paul Hough Collection of the celebrated 'Butcher Lee's' shop in the Bullring, Middlewich - an establishment we last caught a glimpse of  here.
This is, of course, a posed shot with the staff of the shop obviously proud to be photographed alongside their fine array of animal carcases.
That  ornamental gas lamp which appeared to be sufficient to light the entire area is not included in the photograph, but part of its base can just be seen on the the extreme left.
Messrs Curzon and Hurley feature this photo on page 103 of their book Middlewich (Images of England, Tempus Publishing 2005) and suggest that the ponies and traps in the picture may have been there to collect meat for one of the large houses in the town, which may well be so.
The caption for this picture as printed in the book in question suggests that the road to the left is Kinderton Street, but surely it would be Lower Street, even in those days.
Kinderton Street has always started on the Holmes Chapel side of the Town Bridge.
Something that never seems to be mentioned in connection with this well known Middlewich scene is that the left hand side of the building we're looking at is not actually part of  'Butcher Lees' but an entirely separate business which appears to be called the CENTRAL HARDWARE STORES.
As we mentioned when looking at Kath & Barry's fascinating old photo of the Bullring (link above) this building later became a bank before being demolished in the 1930s, together with the shop behind it, to make way for the railed area which was the first site for the town's war memorial (although it would appear that the actual site of Butcher Lees shop became an improved access road from Lower Street to Hightown).
And for those who like to know 'what's there now', this is the best we can do for the present:
'Butcher Lees' would be just behind the car on the left.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012


A slightly blurry shot of the former Middlewich station yard in 1989. The object of the exercise was to get a picture of that diesel loco which is trying to sneak by in the foreground.
By this date trains on the Middlewich Branch were getting rarer - during the sixties and seventies the line was very busy with freight, in particular with oil trains travelling from Stoke-on-Trent to Sandbach, via the Middlewich line to Northwich , then  from Mouldsworth on the Mid-Cheshire line to Helsby and thence to Ellesmere Port.
We've entitled the picture 'Middlewich Station' but in fact the actual station building had disappeared by this date.
 As can be seen in earlier Diary entries (see below) it was a single-storey wooden building much like many other buildings on London & North-Western stations.
In our picture a modest fence separates the railway from the site of  its former station, and a row of tall poplar trees has now grown up along the same line.
This is the  Northwich-bound platform. The now-vanished station building's counterpart on the opposite, Crewe-bound, platform was razed to the ground during the 1960s by workmen burning grass on the adjacent embankment.
This practice, long since abandoned for, presumably, health and safety reasons, was known as 'burning the batters'
As we have seen in those previous Diary entries by this time Martin's  was well entrenched on the station site and using the old goods shed and attached office as part of their business, which gradually moved from Bus and Coach sales to MOT Testing of commercial vehicles, a service the company still continues to offer not far away in Brooks Lane.

SEE ALSO MIDDLEWICH STATION EARLY 1990s and follow the links to various other pictures of the station and its surroundings over the years.

Monday, 26 March 2012


We believe this image to be out of copyright. If you own the copyright, or know who does, please let us know

by David Roberts

Today we're looking at two versions of another of those classic Middlewich Views - High Town, as seen from the end of Lewin Street in the early part of the last century.
From the invaluable Paul Hough Collection comes this well known black and white postcard showing, on the right, the shops which once stood in front of the church yard and the old Town Hall (then comparatively new) in the centre of the picture, with adjacent shops running down to the Bull Ring.
On the other side of the road the half-timbered roof of what is now the Accord Clinic can just be glimpsed together with  a thin sliver of the Kings Arms Hotel and the shops opposite, at the bottom of Queen Street (there were a few more in those days, and Queen Street was a lot narrower than it is today).
Most of the shops running towards the camera on the left-hand side still survive in one form or another, including Middlewich Carpets and Flooring.
There are quite a few Middlewichians in this postcard, including several children but, on this occasion, only a couple of them are taking any notice of the camera.
Middlewich, as seen in this view, looks a little shabby and down at heel, although part of this effect may come from the fact that the picture has been copied and re-copied over the years.
There is some evidence of re-touching, particularly on the Church tower.
Compare the rather bleak monochrome scene with this hand-tinted colour version from the equally invaluable Mike Jennings Classic Collection:
We believe this image to be out of copyright. If you own the copyright, or know who does, please let us know
Here the prospects are altogether brighter and more pleasing. Edwards shop (and we wouldn't be at all surprised if it called itself an 'emporium'), is resplendent in its covering of advertisements which are probably, like most things here, much brighter in the postcard than they were in real life. We can also see a little more of the shop than in the black and white version, which has been cropped slightly at some stage in its career. The re-toucher has been at work on the Church Tower, giving it a little more detail and has made free with the red brick frontage of the Town Hall making it look more like a stone building. There are welcome splashes of green here and there.
Above it all is one of those beautiful blue skies which have always been a Middlewich feature (when they could be seen through the smoke from all those chimneys).
Obviously, a lot of time and trouble went into colouring this picture, which makes it all the more remarkable that the glaring typographical error in the title was left uncorrected.
To save you a lot of scrolling backwards and forwards, here are the two postcards side by side for easy comparison:
We believe these images to be out of copyright. If you own the copyright  on either of these images, please let us know
Incidentally, Mike Jennings tells us that the seemingly nondescript piece of land which slopes up from Leadsmithy Street to Hightown was, according to his father, once dignified with the name 'Strawberry Hill' and the Middlewich Heritage Society (and Allan Earl) have also let it be known, by means of one of those black and white plaques, that it was at one time also known as Halfpenny Hill

Friday, 23 March 2012


It's the early 1970s in Middlewich Town Centre and the end is nigh for Dewhurst's Butchers Shop (not, you will note, 'Butcher Dewhursts' in this case. That form of address for such Middlewich shops is from an earlier era).
Vernon Cooper's shop which stood close by, as seen here, has already gone, its position marked by a Road Works Ahead sign, and the sad remnants of what might be called the 'town end' of Pepper Street linger on, soon to be absorbed into the short section of road which joins St Michael's Way to the end of Wheelock Street.
On the extreme right, partially hidden by the No Entry sign at the end of Hightown is Henry Seddon's office building and the only section of Pepper Street to survive to the present day is immediately to the left of it but hidden in our photo by the large bulk of the building at the rear of Dewhursts.
To the left of the butcher's shop, waiting to come out of hiding, is The Vaults with  its sign just visible. A larger 'Vaults' sign on the Pepper Street side of the building also indicates the presence of the pub..
When the butcher's shop and the large building behind it were demolished to be replaced by a new pub  car park that large sign was rescued and stuck on the side of the now exposed side wall of The Vaults, as can just be seen here.
Next to the Vaults, all present and correct, are Johnson's the Cleaners and Pimlott's (destined to become Sharon's Cafe in 1977) and the White Bear.
Note the bus stop sign and layby on the extreme left where North-Western and Crosville buses would pick up passengers for Northwich and Winsford and take them there via Wheelock Street and Chester Road in those pre-St Michael's Way days.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012


Artwork/photo © Wendy Johnson 2012
Local artist Wendy Johnson is selling five of her superb animal portraits, including this one of a British Blue and Cream cat.

Wendy says:
'These cat and dog portraits were drawn about fifteen years ago in chalk pastel, and have been kept framed, in a dry atmosphere and away from light for most of that time, so the colours are still as vibrant as when they were first drawn.
The cat portrait is sold on a 1.25" cream board mount and measurement overall (for framing) is 12" X 10"'

This is your chance to own one of these original artworks. You can see more of Wendy's work on this Middlewich Diary page, and here's the link  for the ebay listing.

Monday, 19 March 2012


We believe this image to be out of copyright. If you own the copyright, or know who does, please let us know
by Dave Roberts

As regular readers of the Middlewich Diary will know, our main problem when dealing with old photographs lies in finding something like an accurate date for each one. It's important because only by establishing the period in which a photograph was taken can we know what we're looking at.
On the other hand, the Middlewich Diary is not a historical treatise in any way, and our on-line format gives us the great luxury of being able to change and augment each Diary entry as new information comes to light.
So we're hoping that someone might be able to help us with the date of this particular photo.
The chemical works shown here will be recognised by many long standing Middlewich residents (although the buildings and industrial equipment on the site changed considerably over the years). 
It was originally opened by Murgatroyd's, at the time known as the Murgatroyd's  Ammonia-Soda and Salt Syndicate but later, in 1949, to become Murgatroyd's Salt & Chemical Company, just ahead of the opening of their new works at Elworth.
Murgatroyd's were owners of the adjacent salt works (out of shot to the left and between this works and the railway line).
The works suffered from the start from severe competition from Brunner Mond, who eventually took it over. Does anyone know the year of that takeover?
By the time of  its closure in 1962, the works was run by  ICI  but, throughout its life was always generally known as the Mid-Cheshire Works or Mid-Cheshire Alkali Works.
We think it likely that the above photograph was taken during the works' time as Brunner Mond, in the early twentieth century, but it's just possible that it might still have been  under Murgatroyd's ownership at the time. 
If you've seen this photograph before and can enlighten us, we'd be delighted, as always, to hear from you.
One clue may be that on page 127 of Allan Earl's Middlewich 1900-1950 (Cheshire Country Publishing 1994) there is a picture of this works taken from a different angle - possibly from what is now the Booth Lane children's playground between the ends of St Ann's and Kitfield Avenues - and the buildings and equipment look to be very much the same as in our photo. The picture is described in the book as being of Brunner Mond Works. Without going into all the complicated technicalities, Murgatroyd's processes differed from those used by Brunner Mond and it follows that the equipment used would also be different so it's possible that someone with real knowledge of such equipment might be able to tell the difference.
On the extreme right (of our photo), minding its own business, is the Kings Lock pub, and centre left is the start of that arm of the Trent & Mersey Canal which, in the present day, serves one of the local boatyards.
The part of the  chemical works site shown here is now home to Pochin Ltd and the land to the south covered by railway sidings in Chemical Works days was the home to ERF Service between 1971 and 2000.

Saturday, 17 March 2012


by Dave Roberts

Nothing illustrates the decline of the canal system and its subsequent revival as part of the leisure industry better than this picture postcard from the mid to late 1960s, which we've taken from the Paul Hough Collection.
The harsh winter of 1962-3 dealt a body blow to the canal carrying industry, with boats marooned in frozen waterways for weeks on end and precious revenue-earning cargoes having to be abandoned or very expensively transferred to road transport.
The use of the canals for carrying goods more or less came to an end at that time, although a few traders carried on into the 1970s.
Others began to look at the possibility of entering the new canal  holiday industry.
Ironically it was the semi-dereliction of the inland waterways at that time which attracted many people to them and there was a pioneering atmosphere in the early days of  canal cruising which has now disappeared as the waterways have been smartened up, a better maintenance programme introduced, and new facilities added.
A far cry indeed from the situation in the 1960s when people actually campaigned to have canals drained and filled in; something which would be unthinkable now.
Our picture catches the Kings Lock pub in that period of limbo between the end of commercial canal carrying and the burgeoning leisure boat industry really getting into its stride.
We've dated it as 'mid-to-late 60s' partly because of  its general air of  faded glory and partly because of the  ICI buildings just visible to the left of the pub.
The works closed in 1962 and these two buildings, along with many others, were demolished a few years later (a similar but larger building, out of shot to the left, was retained and put to use by Pochins Ltd when they took over the site at the end of the decade). So we think we're safe in dating the picture as we have.
On the lockside, in front of the pub, can be seen a small brick building used by lengthsmen to store tools and materials for the maintenance of the canals.
This building was later reduced in height and given a flat roof before suddenly disappearing altogether in the late 1990s, a few days before the Folk & Boat Festival one year.
According to Ian Murfitt:
'The little building on the lockside was originally a Toll house, which charged boats to go up 'Heart Break Hill' to Kidsgrove, where there is an identical building. When Billy Foden, the landlady, knocked it down, there was some confusion at British Waterways and a few days later a BW man arrived and asked for his shed back'.
The Kings Lock is another one of Brian Curzon's 'stack pubs', built on two levels; in this case to provide stabling and other facilities for boatmen and their families at the rear of the building.
Behind the pub's garden is a short length of canal which was built for industrial purposes but now leads to a boatyard, complete with slipway for the launching of new and repaired boats.
The Kings Lock was always a boatees' pub, although it also enjoyed, and still enjoys, a lot of patronage from local residents.
At one time it had just the tiniest of bars and a very small dining room but, in recent years, a genius of an interior designer has opened the place out and there is much more room than there used to be.
In the 1990s a new bar was built in the shape of a Narrowboat, closely resembling the one at The Shroppie Fly at Audlem.
The Kings Lock today takes full advantage of the tourists who pass through Middlewich on the canals.
 It played a big part in the Folk & Boat Festival almost from the start, and is still a major venue for the Middlewich FAB Festival.

                    ICI WORKS

Monday, 12 March 2012


by Dave Roberts
In 1995 the Middlewich Heritage Society Newsletter was pleased to announce that the Heritage Society 'had embarked on a programme of marking areas of special historical or architectural interest with cast metal plaques'.
This special one which, as can be seen, was put in place in 1998, was designed to fill the long-empty space where the original bronze plaque marking the opening of the 'new' Town Bridge in December 1931 had been.
What happened to the original is anyone's guess (unless anyone reading this can enlighten us?). The general consensus of opinion was that it was either stolen and sold for scrap or that the usual 'mindless vandals' had removed it and thrown it over the parapet into the Trent & Mersey Canal.
Personally, I'm inclined to believe the 'stolen for scrap' theory: vandals are notoriously mindless but also usually quite lazy and it's unlikely that anyone would want to go to the trouble of removing something like this merely for the pleasure of making a small splash. Then again, who knows just how pin-headed vandals' minds work?
The canal has been drained on several occasions since the original plaque went missing, and there have never been any reports of it being found.
I think it's much more likely that it was stolen and sold for scrap.
The replacement is actually rather more attractive than the original, and serves a dual purpose with its black-and-white colour scheme marking it out as a Heritage Society plaque and, at the same time, as a replacement for its long - lost predecessor.
The plaque, by the way, is actually completely rectangular, rather than wedge-shaped as it appears in our photograph.
This is the best I could do: to take the picture properly so as to give the plaque its correct shape would have involved crouching in the middle of one of the busiest roads in Christendom - a risk I wasn't prepared to take.
The grey area at the bottom of the photograph, where we have placed the credits, is  part of the pavement and is actually at right angles to the concrete bridge parapet.
For information about the Town Bridge itself, see this entry

Sunday, 11 March 2012


As a follow up to this entry here are a two more slides from 1968 showing a couple of the leading lights in the Middlewich Archaeological Society at that time.
In the top picture we see local schoolteacher Ken Laundon who, at first glance, appears to be scanning the horizon. In fact he is probably doing nothing more interesting than adjusting his glasses, or scratching his nose.
There would be no point in his  scanning the horizon from this location, anyway, as all he would be able to see would be his own house which, as we've already mentioned in our earlier entry, was just on the other side of King Street and a matter of yards away.
The second picture shows the then Surveyor of the Middlewich Urban District Council, Donald Stubbs, apparently explaining some obscure point about Roman history to a couple of youngsters.
The houses to the right of Donald are at the very end of Kings Crescent; the one between him and the combined lamp-post/electricity pole belonging to the Cheshire Constabulary.

Saturday, 10 March 2012


If you own the copyright on this photograph, please let us know
A happy group of workers at Murgatroyds Salt Works in Brooks Lane.
They are: Jack Clarke, Tom Gallimore, Bob Peach and Bill Challinor and they're all taking a well-earned rest from their labours and sitting on whatever is available to sit on, which includes blocks of salt.

This photograph has all the hallmarks of being taken by a professional photographer and could well have been taken during the last shift at the works before it closed.

As Middlewich Town Council's Heritage Officer Kerry Fletcher reminded us in a recent contribution:

The last salt lump at Murgatroyd's was produced in December 1966. The Manchester Evening News came to take photographs of the last shift. The open pans were in operation for 76 years almost to the day, as the first salt lump was produced as the New Year of 1890 was seen in.

So this might well be a photo of the last 'baggin' time' at Murgatroyd's.

Note the footwear. Clogs were the traditional footwear of salt workers, as they were able to stand the harsh corrosive conditions in the open pan works much better than traditional boots.
By this time a form of combination clog/boot seems to have been the style, but the cloth bindings secured with string which kept the abrasive salt out of the worker's trouser-legs can still be seen.

                    MURGATROYD'S SALT STORE ROOM

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Geraldine Williams 'Baggin' - now there's an expression I haven't heard for a long time. It seemed to disappear along with 'snap' and 'bait' presumable the Northumbrian pronunciation of 'bite') when the boring 'packed lunch' took over.

Dave Roberts At ERF we favoured the term 'brew time' and lunch time was ALWAYS 'dinner time'. As it was for the rest of Middlewich, of course. We got too hungry for dinner at eight...

Geraldine Williams But what would you have called food brought from home? Bet you had a staff canteen!

Dave Roberts We did have a staff canteen, but we of the lower orders weren't allowed into it. We used the adjacent works canteen, which was carefully screened from the staff canteen in case one of the poor dears should catch a glimpse of someone in overalls and have a fit of the vapours. Food brought from home was 'snap' or , simply, 'butties'. The works rules allowed for anyone using the word 'sandwiches' to be thrown out of the place immediately, and there was no appeals procedure in place. I once had a ploughman's lunch, but he made me give it back...

Geraldine Williams The old ones are the best!

Thursday, 8 March 2012


Here's a message from Middlewich Town Council's Events Manager, Dave Thompson:

HELP! my PC suffered a virus on Monday resulting in loss of all emails/contact lists.
I`m asking everyone to send out a short message (via their websites/blogs/Facebook etc) asking anyone who`s been in contact with me for this year's events to please email me again at the same address-

Many thanks in advance.

Dave Thompson
Events Manager
Middlewich Town Council
Victoria Building
Lewin Street
CW10 9AS

01606 833434
07765 025596


We believe this image to be out of copyright. If you own the copyright, or know who does, please let us know
by Dave Roberts
The 'Middlewich Lido', of course, being a slightly ironic term coined by Geraldine Williams when I gave her a sneak preview of this photo before publication.
This was her reaction: 'This is brill. Positively turns the spot into the Middlewich (albeit dangerous) Lido'.
Which is a fair point.
When we were all a good deal younger a favourite pursuit on a sunny Sunday afternoon was to go 'down the river'.
The river in question being the River Dane.
But our favourite spot on the river (for King Streeters at least) was on the other side of the railway viaduct and road bridge, on the stretch between Middlewich and Byley Bridge.
It was Ravenscroft Hall not Croxton Hall which gazed down upon our paddling and splashing and early attempts at the breast stroke.
But Croxton Hall and the 'Croxton Water Fall(s)' are from a far earlier era. We're grateful once more to Mike Jennings for supplying the above post-card which shows more of the 'water fall' itself than the previous one and shows us just what a substantial structure it was.
I can't resist another comparison with Jim Moores' recent shot of the river and weir:
Such a drastic change, even taking into account the amount of time between the two photographs. But there's something about those walls on the far bank of the river which just doesn't look right in the modern shot. Shouldn't the wall be sloping down to the left as it does in the old picture? Or is it simply that Jim's shot is taken from the opposite bank of the river -  that his shot is 'the other way round'?
Here's what Mike has to say about the post-card:
'I have come across this photo of Croxton waterfall in my collection. I don't know if you have seen this one?
I wonder who that lot are paddling in there? Judging by the trees and bushes it looks like this photo was taken at a different time than the previous one'.
And Mike has also been doing further research into Croxton Water Fall(s) on our behalf:
Hi Dave
I have been talking to my father who used to clear out the debris from the waterfall which by all accounts was connected to ICI Lostock. They used to do health and Safety surveys on it. I will gather more information from him. He also states that the building burned down at some point killing a number of people?
I will also get more info on this.

Many thanks to Mike and Geraldine and everyone else who has taken an interest in this topic. We await developments, as always.




This brochure is available now from Middlewich Town Council's offices at Victoria Building in Lewin Street, and features eight walks in and around Middlewich: The Croxton Trail, the Middlewich Town Trail, the Roman Trail, the 'Tales of Wych & Water' Trail, the Waterside Trail, the Six Locks Trail, the Kinderton Walk, and the Wimboldsley Walk.
The directional information in the brochure has been compiled by Alan Wrench of Congleton Ramblers Society and the heritage information by Kerry Fletcher, the Town Council's Heritage Development Officer.
Photographs are by Cliff Astles.
The brochure is now available free and Town Clerk Jonathan Williams says: 'There are plenty available for collection, so please come and collect one'.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012


Today we're back in the Brooks Lane of 1974.
Seven years after it closed down, quite a large proportion of Seddon's Brooks Lane Works is still standing, including that chimney on the left of the picture which we last saw here.
In fact, as we've had occasion to mention before, the Brooks Lane works, unlike all the other works still operating in Middlewich at the end of open pan production in 1967, never really disappeared completely and remnants of it are still discernible in Brooks Lane today as newer industries such as Tarmac Readycrete have opened in the shell of the former salt works.
Pleasingly, one computer firm we (almost) had dealings with earlier this year gives its address as 'The Old Salt Works, Brooks Lane, Middlewich'.
On the extreme left of the slide, next to the chimney, is the corner of Seddon's railway wagon repair shop - often mistaken for a railway engine shed, which it closely resembles - which has, against all odds, survived to the present day, albeit in a derelict condition.
On the other side of the chimney the dilapidated roof of one of the salt pans, with many of its roof panels missing, can be seen.
To the right are the two buildings, with their distinctive black tarred roofs, fronting onto Brooks Lane, which  are also evident in this slide from a few years earlier.
Beyond the grassy bank in the middle of the picture the River Croco makes its semi-subterranean way into Middlewich, running through tunnels under the road to meet the Trent & Mersey Canal at the lower of the three Brooks Lane locks, where it continues to flow through the town,confined in its channel alongside the canal, until it runs into the River Dane at the bottom  of Harbutt's Field.
The square structure in the foreground is part of a  railway  bridge.
We're actually standing on the public footpath which runs from Brooks Lane, under the railway and alongside the access road to the sewage works ('Prosperity Way'), to join the 'Middlewich Eastern Bypass' on Midpoint 18, shortly before that road gives up the struggle and  runs out of steam in the middle of a field.
It's interesting to note that this slide was taken from a point  just a few yards away from a suggested site for  the platform of the proposed new Middlewich Station.
When the new station is built, who knows what the future holds for this part of town?
That new Network Rail radio mast is on the embankment just behind the camera.

Facebook feedback:

Martin Gardener: When my Mum and Dad moved to Middlewich in the early 1960s my Dad was fascinated by the salt pans on Brooks Lane

Monday, 5 March 2012


 A familiar sight to travellers from Middlewich to Northwich along King Street, Ravenscroft Cottages were built in the mid-to-late nineteenth century to house workers on the estate belonging to Ravenscroft Hall, which  lies a distance away behind the trees in the background, overlooking the River Dane (the bridge carrying King Street over that River is behind the camera at the bottom of the hill).
These cottages should not be confused with the Lodge at the end of the driveway to the Hall, which is at the top of the hill.
King Street is, of course, much busier these days but most of its current traffic in the Northwich direction comes via Centurion Way and the Holmes Chapel Road roundabout, rather than the traditional way from Middlewich Town Centre via Kinderton Street.
Centurion Way and the section of King Street between the Dane Bridge and the Croxton Lane Junction currently form the B5309.
King Street becomes the A530 after it is joined by Croxton Lane further north.
All of which was very far in the future when this group of children took their leisurely stroll down the hill back in the days of Queen Victoria.