|Photo reproduced by kind permission of Joan Smith|
by David Roberts
We're very grateful once more to Middlewich Diary contributor Bill Eaton who has sent us another item from the collection of the late Frank Smith of Ravenscroft.
And we're fortunate in this case that the scan we received from Bill includes Frank's original caption to this view of Wheelock Street. It reads as follows:
1983. A...view...taken from the church tower. The small red brick building in the left foreground was the Fire Station of the Middlewich Local Board
Obviously that first Middlewich fire station, which we looked at here was the focus of Frank's attention at the time. He was one of the people who tried to save it from demolition and was instrumental in ensuring that the terra cotta work mentioned in our earlier diary entry was saved for posterity.
There is, however, much more of interest in this photo: for example, it's startling to think that the Middlewich CofE Infants' School survived as late as 1983 though its forlorn look in this picture show that its days are clearly numbered.. The 'Square One' shop to its right is also still there.
We're used to thinking in terms of all those buildings between Leadsmithy Street and Middlewich DIY being 'swept away in the 1970s' but, as we can see here, it didn't happen quite like that.
Seddon's Wych House Lane works along with the Central Methodist Chapel had disappeared quite a few years before this picture was taken (presumably by Frank himself on one of those church tower open days which Jack Stanier and I also took advantage of a few years earlier).
The MUDC road maintenance depot on the canal side of the site had also been and gone by this time, which was well into the Congleton Borough era, but on Lewin Street, opposite the library (just out of shot to the right) the site of the former Seddon's waggon repair depot (later used by the MUDC) appears to have only just been levelled.
In the left foreground Lex House is still housing the doctors' surgery and solicitors' offices and Gibbins' Newsagents (formerly Challinor's) is still in business in the centre foreground.
Both these buildings still exist in 2012, but are empty and awaiting new tenants (apart, of course, from the flats above and to the rear of the newsagents).
Above the roof of the infants' school can be seen the new building housing
Oates Builders Merchants which replaced the old Co-op shop fronting onto Lewin Street opposite the bottom of Civic Way.
Out on the skyline, beyond the remains of Seddon's Pepper Street works, is prime Cheshire farmland waiting for the industrial estates yet to come.
We look forward to seeing more from the Frank Smith collection
Here's the photo again with a key to the buildings: 1 Lex House 2 Old Fire Station 3 Newsagent's (Challinor/Gibbins/Tams) 4 CofE Infant School 5 Square One Hardware 6 Site of Seddon's Waggon repair shop and various other buildings in Wych House Lane, including the first Catholic Church 7 Oates Builders' Merchants Warehouse (now Jewson's) 8 Andersen Boats 9 Council Yard (site of Seddon's Wych House Lane salt works) 10 Site of Seddon's Brooks Lane salt works 11 Maidenhills (now a housing estate) 12 Stott's Chemist (now Jennie Edwards).
Update 16/1/2014: Both Lex House and the newsagent's shop (1 & 3) have now been bought and are undergoing refurbishment. The newsagent's is, apparently, to become a funeral director's headquarters.
UPDATE (24th October 2019): The shop did indeed become the headquarters of Peter Forshaw's funeral business, and Lex House has, in the interim, become the Water's Edge G.P. Surgery. Older readers will remember that part of this building was dedicated to the same purpose some years ago before the Oaklands Surgery in St Ann's Walk was built.
Revised 16th January 2014
Updated and re-published 24th October 2019