Sunday, 30 September 2012


The corner of  Wheelock Street and Southway as it was in the early 1970s when the  Alhambra,in common with so many  former cinemas at that time, was a part of the blossoming craze for bingo.
Like the cinema before it, this new incarnation of the Alhambra was very popular, with patrons being bussed in from as far afield as Stoke-On-Trent to take part in games.
At this time the building had not been radically altered for its new role and rumours abounded that the projection equipment had been left in place and could be brought back into use if required.
The projection room was situated high above the entrance, behind the middle window, and there is a local legend that one of the projectionists carried on a courtship with his girlfriend who lived above the chemist's shop on the other side of the street.
The entrance lobby was later altered to become an amusement arcade and a section of the upper part of the building became a snooker club.
Next door is  James Vernon and Sons' furniture shop,now home to  Drinks and Bites at No 35, and, on the other side of Southway, is the off-licence which later became part  of Bargain Booze before closing in 2013 and re-opening once more as an independent off-licence. At the time of the photograph it was, as can be seen, extolling the virtues of Watney's Pale Ale.
In the intervening years the bottom end of Southway (the former 'Tannery Alley') has developed from a mere access road to the flats above Vernon's shop, and the rear of the Alhambra, into a pedestrian walkway with  hairdressers and flower shops and the Wheelock Street entrance to what is now Tesco's main Middlewich supermarket.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

IAN HILL-SMITH -Id Illustrator

(entry updated 29/9/2012)

Here's a link to Ian Hill-Smith's Id Illustrator Facebook page, featuring drawings, cartoons and illustrations from this talented artist who lives in Pepper Street.

Ian can provide 'a unique and personal gift for a birthday, or an anniversary, or to commemorate an achievement. Perhaps something original to promote your business or event?
Whatever the occasion, if you would like some artwork, let's have a natter...' 

SEE ALSO: PUNTERS IN THE PICTURE (Middlewich Guardian report)


Thursday, 27 September 2012


WINGS OVER MIDDLEWICH: One of the highlights of Middlewich's second Wartime Weekend was a flypast by  one of the most potent symbols of wartime Britain, a Spitfire, at 2.55pm on Saturday 22nd September. Here's Bill's photo of the plane, suitably amended to give an impression of what it must have looked like in action. The title of this diary entry was chosen by Bill as a tribute to the Spitfires and their crews.

by Bill Armsden
Into the realms of Fantasy now with this picture with Photoshop fake gunfire... ahhh boys own paper stuff. 

However, here is the real history of the Spitfire that flew over Middlewich:

Built at Castle Bromwich and delivered to 9 MU Cosford on February 4th 1944.

Allotted to 443 (Canadian) Sqn on March 11th 1943 it carried the code 21-V. Used extensively on operations leading up to D-Day it was assigned to 83 Group Support Unit on August 8th 1944.
Then conversion to an instructional airframe at No 1 School of Technical Training at RAF Halton in October 1945 with serial 5690M.
In 1951 it was transferred to RAF Hawkinge for gate display duties carrying the serial M5690.
After some restoration work at 71 MU RAF Bicester in 1961 it was erected on a pole at RAF Locking for some years before allocation to the 'Battle of Britain' film unit at RAF Henlow in October 1967.
Carrying the spurious serials and codes N3328/AI-R & N3317/BO it was filmed at North Weald and Duxford.
Temporarily stored at RAF Henlow after the film on August 8th 1969 it joined the RAF Museum Reserve Collection based at RAF St Athan.
Over an 8 year period it was restored to flight on November 7th 1997. Joined the BBMF on November 14th 1997. Shortly to be temporarily based at RAF Barkston Heath, Lincs. while the runways at RAF Coningsby are renovated. The aircraft is presented as a clipped wing LF Mk IX and carries the only markings it ever wore operationally as 21-V of 443 Squadron RCAF. MK356 was flown in to Duxford in October 2007 for 6 months maintenance to be carried out by the Aircraft Restoration Company and will include a repaint, replacement of the MK500 Merlin engine with a M266 Merlin engine to return the aircraft to build standard, and a respar of the wings will be necessary (Major maintenance of the BBMF fighters will be carried out by the Aircraft Restoration Company (ARCo) based at Duxford near Cambridge, for the next 5 years with an option to extend to 7 years). The new paint scheme will depict a 601 Squadron aircraft based in the Italian theatre in 1943. Presented as UF-Q, MJ250 of No 601 ( County of London ) Squadron the aircraft of Flight Lieutenant Desmond Ibbotson DFC. She is now in a silver paint scheme used during late 1944 when the Squadron carried out fighter bomber missions over the Balkans from bases in Southern Italy.
A more detailed history can be found on the RAF's BBMF website.

(originally published on the Middlewich Community Group Facebook page)


Saturday, 22 September 2012



is a not for profit organisation who work with nearly 40 local children every week!

For details contact HELEN CLAYTON on 07868 663529 

Friday, 21 September 2012


At 2.55pm on Saturday 22nd September one of the enduring symbols of Wartime Britain, a Spitfire, flew over Middlewich as part of the Wartime Middlewich Weekend and Steven Doyle was on hand to capture this excellent picture of the iconic plane.

The spirit of wartime returned to Middlewich over the weekend of September 21st -23rd 2012 as  the second Middlewich Wartime Weekend hit town.
Details of the events organised can be found here.





Facebook Feedback:

Chris Frost: I have to say that I'm immensely proud of the efforts that Middlewich people put in to events like this. Organising something like the Middlewich War Weekend and the other events is no small feat and it says a lot about the dedication of those who work so hard to make these things happen. Outstanding. Thank you!

Jim Moores: I would just like to express my appreciation to all those involved in organizing this and all the other festivals (FAB, Roman, Norman etc) that we are very lucky to have in Middlewich throughout the year. Thank you very much!

Bill Armsden: Just thinking about the weekend we have just had in Middlewich! 
Wow, wow and wow again. To the hard workers who were responsible for planning and staging the event.... thank you. To all the people who took part and made it a success.... thank you. 
To the weather, thank you for a great Saturday and most of Sunday.
To a great big band night at The Legion with The Wych Band, stompin' heaven!!! 
And to all the venues in Middlewich putting on 40's entertainment...... Thank you.

Can we do it again? Soon....


Coming soon to The Middlewich Diary - The Guide to Middlewich Shops - Part One, Wheelock Street.
compiled by Bill Armsden.

Part Two will feature Lewin Street and Part Three Hightown.
Future plans include a directory of home businesses and much more. Please keep an eye on the Middlewich Diary for the latest news.

See what our friends at the

have to say about this new iniative.

and here's a progress report from Bill on the 27th September

The Middlewich shops directory for Lewin Street, Hightown and Wheelock Street is complete apart from topping and tailing some of the shops that open infrequently. Sad news announced in the last few days, after 33 years of trading in Middlewich, Ken and Shirley at Davies Tropical/Shirleys Wool shop have put their building/business up for sale. Good luck to them in their retirement and travels in their motorhome. Another business up for sale in Middlewich is Cash's Garage.

The Foodamentalist Gluten Free Bakery in the old Reid's Bakery is behind schedule for opening and the revised opening will be mid-November. Initially, they expect to open Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Middlewich is soon to loose its Conservation Area status soon due to amount of new building that has taken place.
Things are about to start changing in Middlewich.

Thursday, 20 September 2012


Another from Carole Hughes' collection showing Middlewich as it was twenty-five years ago.
Here we see a long, low building which still survives today and was, for many years, the home of Jaygee Fireplaces.
Built on a high bank overlooking the 'new' town bridge itself, this was the first building on the right hand side of  Lower Street as it led from the town bridge towards the Bull Ring.
Hidden behind the traffic signs on the right is a  brick  facade with the name of the firm on it, designed, probably, to give the building a more imposing look when viewed from the town bridge and Kinderton Street.
This facade has now disappeared.
The survival of this almost temporary looking building when so much in the area was demolished is probably due to its somewhat isolated position away from the main shopping area.
Never a particularly attractive building, it nevertheless lives on with a new roof and in a much smartened up condition as the Town Bridge Estate Agency.

Facebook Feedback:
Geraldine Williams: I don't know when Jaygee started trading, but we certainly had a fireplace from them when we were setting up our first home in Kinderton Street in early 1961!

Sunday, 16 September 2012



Nicola Holbrook writes:

Don't forget the Best of British Fair today on Tesco car park 10am - 4pm. Lots of stalls, kids activities, fairground ride, hook a duck and performances from Dancercise and the signing choir.
And bike etching by Cheshire Police, so bring your bikes down and get them security stamped:-)

 I forgot to mention the food van (apparently the best bacon butties around:-)) 
and Kandoo Coffee Van as well so no one will go hungry:-) 

Thursday, 13 September 2012


by Dave Roberts
This is one of a series of photographs taken after dark in Middlewich by Bill Armsden, Jim Moores and Tom Harry Johnson as they experimented with various lenses, filters and lighting equipment to produce some remarkable visual effects.
In this one we see the familiar face of the Alhambra building which started life in 1920 as a cinema and  served time as a bingo hall, snooker hall and amusement arcade before becoming a chinese restaurant.
The original Alhambra was a palace in Granada (the one in Spain, not Manchester) and the name translates literally as 'The Red Palace'.
The use of  the name for a Chinese Restaurant may seem a little inappropriate, but it has meant that the building has retained its original name and, just as importantly, the raised lettering on its frontage which has remained there throughout the building's changing fortunes, giving a pleasing sense of continuity.
Notice in the top right hand corner of the photograph how the street lamp adds a little touch of workaday reality to the scene and gives an idea of just how old the building really is, contrasting nicely with the glamorous coloured lighting at the front of the building.
The overall effect of the photo is, simply, stunning.


by Dave Roberts
The curious case of the shop which wrote its own epitaph. 'Prescription Port' established itself in one of the shops in the new  housing and  shopping development in Wheelock Street, opposite the White Bear (which can be seen reflected in one of the shop windows as it basks in the warm July sunshine) just a few months ago and closed after less than a year, leaving BetFred as the only surviving business in this rather prestigious looking row of shops.
'Prescription Port' itself is a bit of an enigma. There are (or were) branches in Ellesmere Port, Runcorn, Winsford and Sandbach and it is obviously, as the name implies, a firm of chemists.
But why it should be thought that there was room for a third chemists shop in this small town, with the trade so obviously firmly sown up by Rowlands, is not clear.
Then again perhaps the competition from Rowlands was not the real reason why the shop closed - that website address brings up the name DAVID STEARNE LTD, a pharmaceutical wholesaler which also owned a chain of pharmacies but was forced to go into receivership a short while ago.
The metal sign started to fall to pieces almost as soon as it was erected and, by the time the shop closed, the first part of it read, as can be seen in the photo, RIP.
Perhaps it would be a kindness if someone removed the other remaining letters?
On a lighter note, you will notice the poster for Peter Jolley's Circus in the window.
Whoever distributes these circus posters would be worth a fortune to any publicity firm. The posters end up almost literally everywhere, including places where most people don't even realise there are places...
Observant readers will be able to date this photograph exactly, because also reflected in the shop window is one of the stalls belonging to the Artisan Market.
Our picture must, therefore, have been taken on the 28th July 2012.

Facebook Feedback:

Jain Talbot: Such a shame, as the staff were really nice and you didn't have to wait ages!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012



by Dave Roberts
There's a perception in Middlewich - maybe it's more than a perception? - that the town is pretty hard done by when it comes to local government services and amenities.
It was, of course, ever thus. There are those who would say that, with the latest council re-organisation, Middlewich  merely progressed from being the 'forgotten town of Congleton Borough' to being 'the forgotten town of Cheshire East'.
Back in August 1985  the old Congleton Borough Council, of which Middlewich was an anomalous, unlikely and (as far as its people were concerned), somewhat unwilling part, was only eleven years into its thirty-five year history.
Many people thought that Middlewich was getting 'a raw deal' from Congleton, paying high rates (forerunner to the present Council tax) and getting little in return.
At that time, it so happened that I had recently been studying the art of comedy scriptwriting - the rhythmic sequence of a scene; conciseness, the importance of characterization and all the rest of it.
One of the exercises was, unsurprisingly, something along the lines of  'write a short comedy sketch involving two characters and tackling a topical issue in a humorous way'.
So I had a go, and Nigel and Bill were the result. In the first draft, they were called Neil and Clive, fact fans, but the names didn't sound authentic. 'Nigel' of course, is a name just made for local government and 'Bill' became his partner as an oblique reference (it says here) to the fact that 'Bills' were all you ever seemed to get from the council.
I was reasonably pleased with the result, gave it the title 'The Congleton Council Hanging Basket Sketch' and decided to send it to the editor of the Middlewich Chronicle (being careful, as always, to retain the copyright) to see what he thought.
To my (slight) embarrassment, rather than giving me his opinion, good or bad, said editor merely published the entire thing on the letters page.
The hanging baskets mentioned were an early attempt to 'smarten up' the town centre at, it seemed to me, minimal cost to the council.
Thus the council could be seen to be 'doing something' about the eternal shabbiness of poor old Middlewich.
The trouble being, of course, that the hanging baskets were the only idea they seemed able to come up with, and the town soon became festooned with the things. 'One trick pony' is the phrase that springs to mind.
The 'Hanging Basket Sketch' was just the first in a whole series of Nigel and Bill sketches published in the Chronicle, featuring ever more elaborate council schemes aimed at doing poor old Middlewich down and keeping all the money in Congleton. 
One sketch was written for radio and was recorded by myself and a member of the town council for broadcasting on community radio (this was long before the days of the now-defunct Cheshire FM).
But this is the sketch everyone remembers. At the time and ever since, when the subject of Middlewich and its place at the bottom of the Council pecking order has been raised, 'Send Them Some More Hanging Baskets!' was, and is, the cry.
To its eternal credit one department of the old Congleton Borough Council joined in with the joke and sent out Christmas cards featuring hanging baskets one year (presumably 1985). Or so I was told. I never saw one of these Christmas cards. If anyone has one, I'd love to borrow it.
So let's go back  twenty-seven years to remind ourselves that the more things change the more they stay the same,with the original sketch which kicked off the Nigel & Bill Saga:


(IT IS coffee time at the Congleton Borough Council. Nigel and Bill are talking of this and that.)

BILL: By the way, I've received another letter of complaint from Middlewich?

NIGEL: Middlewich?

BILL: It's a small town on the edge of the borough.

NIGEL: Oh yes, I remember. I thought we'd demolished it.

BILL: We tried, but they will keep building new houses.

NIGEL: Yes, it's a hard life in local government. What's their problem now?

BILL: They have this absurd idea that because they pay high rates they're entitled to the same amenities as the rest of the borough.

NIGEL: The very idea! Send them some more hanging baskets!

BILL: They say they're fed up with hanging baskets.

NIGEL: Ungrateful wretches! Those hanging baskets don't grow on trees, you know.

BILL: They say they'd rather have a swimming pool.

NIGEL: For Heaven's sake! Why?

BILL: Because they have two canals and three rivers running through the town. they think their children should have easy access to swimming lessons.

NIGEL: They do have a point, but think of the expense. Send them some more hanging baskets!

BILL: They say they can't get down Wheelock Street because of all the hanging baskets, and if we send any more they'll throw them in the river.

NIGEL: You know, Bill, I sometimes wonder why we bother. Anything else?

BILL: They want to know what we intend to do with all the derelict land in Lewin Street.

NIGEL: The Council has earmarked that land for a very special purpose. We're going to turn it into a nursery and grow lots of flowers.

BILL: What on earth for?

NIGEL: To put in the hanging baskets, of course. I do wish you'd think sometimes, Bill. Anyway, back to work. I've been asked to design a new logo for the council.

BILL: And what have you come up with?

NIGEL: It's an enormous great hanging basket on a blue background...

(All characters are fictional. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental)
First published in the Middlewich Chronicle on 22nd August 1985

©Dave Roberts 1985/Salt Town Productions 2012

Saturday, 1 September 2012


(This diary entry was originally published on 20th June and revised and re-published on 23rd August  and 1st September 2012)


The Sycamore Community Gardens in Warmingham Lane, which were originally due to be opened in June,  were eventually opened on Saturday September 1st at 2pm. The opening ceremony was performed by Deputy Town Mayor Bernice Walmsley.
As the name implies, this is a community initiative which has turned what was just a piece of waste ground into a beautiful garden for the benefit of pensioners living in the adjacent houses.
The main instigators of the scheme were Kath and Barry Walklate, themselves pensioners, who have been delighted with the help and support they have received, not least from the now  retired Assistant Town Clerk Stephen Dent who helped them obtain funding from the Big Lottery Fund via the Community Pride Group.
The grand opening  featured stalls, a tombola and live music.
The opening was based around no. 44 Warmingham Lane.
We'd like to congratulate everyone concerned with this wonderful project, not least Kath and Barry who have put many hours of unpaid hard work into it.