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.

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