Monday 18 March 2019


Photograph courtesy of Joan Smith
by Dave Roberts

We're grateful once again to Bill Eaton for sending us another pair of photographs from the collection of the late Frank Smith of Ravenscroft, reproduced here by courtesy of his wife, Joan.
During our previous Middlewich Diary excursions to Kinderton Street we've occasionally been able to glance briefly at this group of buildings at the junction of Kinderton Street and King Street, just up the road from the Boar's Head Hotel:
But Frank has managed to tease me with this photo. That huge wooden building which dominates the picture, as it dominated Kinderton Street at the time, is seen in  Frank's photo from a very unusual angle.
The brick building on the left looks like an ordinary house here (although it's obvious from the whitewash on the left hand wall that part of the building has recently been demolished), but it's actually Earl's distinctive office. The unusual curved front window, as seen in our earlier entry, faces away from the camera on the other side of the building.
The building in the distance on the extreme left seems maddeningly familiar.
In fact, it's the Catholic School (now the church's community centre), a few yards away down King Street  where that well known thoroughfare meets New King Street.
The ventilator on the roof, typical of so many Victorian schools, is the giveaway.
It will be noted that, by this time (the early 1970s), Chris Earl's name was  on the building, and obviously had been for quite a few years, although the redoubtable Ernie Earl had not been forgotten.
He certainly was still in the mind of  Earl's most loyal  employee, Billy 'Cocky' Wilkinson (aka 'Billy Wilk') who lived a short distance away in Seabank and regaled me night after night in the Kings Arms with tales of the doings of the Earls while blowing evil-smelling clouds of pipe tobacco over me and everyone else within reach.
We had many a Condor moment together.
Billy was a steadfast employee of the Earls, while, at the same time, remaining firmly of the opinion that they were all 'rum buggers'.
(Billy thought, even then, that I was also  a 'rum bugger', and it's quite likely that subsequent events have proved him right.)

Note (March 2019): Billy's nephew Stephen emailed us recently with the following information, using Billy's Sunday name:

Just a note to your words on C Earl.

William Wilkinson was my uncle and I now live in the house William lived in on Seabank.
Williams best mate was a man called Reg Manley.
William was gardener to the Earls for many years.

Stephen Wilkinson 

But the real revelation comes in the note which Bill Eaton has supplied with these photographs:

'Frank's notes say the big wooden building, prior to being Ernie Earl's workshop, was a drill hall. 
It's possible that local men trained there before and during the Second World War.'

Now there's something I didn't know. Frank's second picture (below), shows what an extraordinary building that old drill hall had become just before its final demise.

I also have a sneaking suspicion that the second photo is from a later date than the first, shows the old drill hall from the opposite direction, and that the modern building on the left is the building now enjoying  great popularity as the 'Factory Shop'.

Although I am, as always, open to correction.

Many thanks to Bill Eaton and Joan Smith for letting us see these photos.

Photograph courtesy of Joan Smith

First published 25th June 2012
Amended, re-formatted and re-published 18th March 2019

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