Tuesday 30 April 2013


by Dave Roberts
Well there's nothing mysterious about the inscription itself. It's a simple rendering of the name A GALLAGHER made with a penkife or some other pointed metal object a good few years ago from the look of it.
 It can be found (just) within the Middlewich Town boundary, but not in the town itself.
 The name is inscribed on a very hard stone, one of many in the vicinity, and must have taken quite a bit of painstaking work over quite a long time.
I've seen this many many times over the years, and it must have been seen also by many people walking their dogs or just taking a stroll, or even making use of an old but still popular form of transport..
It will have been seen in its time by many working people as well as thousands of leisure seekers.
Could the A GALLAGHER commemorated here be Albert Gallagher?
Our simple question is - where is it?

Monday 29 April 2013


A familiar sight to parishioners of St Mary's Roman Catholic Church in New King Street is this old cross, originally from the town's first Catholic Church and School in Wych House Lane, as featured in a recent diary entry by Malcolm Hough.


The cross, which dates back to the 1860s, was placed in the porch at St Mary's as a reminder of the Church's early days in Middlewich.

An explanatory plaque tells of the origins of the cross:

"This cross stood above the High Altar of the old School - Chapel in Wych House Lane. It is placed here to remind you to pray for the souls of the pioneer priests and parishioners of Middlewich"

Thursday 25 April 2013


We've been considering this early 20th Century Kinderton Street scene a lot lately, particularly since an alternative to our original interpretation of it in this diary entry was put forward. Thus we now have two contenders for the site of this picturesque thatched building and we bring you present day views of both to enable you to make up your mind.

This was our original suggestion; that the old postcard shows Seabank running off down to the River Croco and the Trent & Mersey Canal to the left of the picture with the present-day Kinderton Hotel on the extreme left. The thatched building would have been somewhere in the region of the shrubbery separating the car park from the main road.

The alternative suggestion was that the scene showed Mill Lane, just off Town Bridge, and that the thatched building was approximately where the bungalow, part of which can be seen in this April 2013 shot, is now.
This would mean, assuming that the original picture was taken prior to 1931, that the building on the extreme left was the old Navigation Inn which stood immediately next to the old Town Bridge, somewhere near the location of this fine display of blossom in the long-delayed 2013 Spring sunshine..

What do you think?

Friday 19 April 2013


by Malcolm Hough
(adapted from an article originally published in the Middlewich Heritage Society Newsletter)

This photograph of Wych House Lane in  Middlewich shows, on the right hand side, the cottages (nos  9 to 11) which were built some 300 years ago on the top of the bank of the River Croco. This was before the Trent & Mersey Canal was cut in 1777.  In 1979 these cottages were converted into one house (the 'House of Feathers' -Ed)  .
The building in the centre of the picture is Middlewich's original Catholic Church.
Ken Sumner, who supplied me with the photograph and some of the information, told me that his Great Grandmother Elizabeth Dunning was born in what is now number 11 in in 1850. Elizabeth is shown as a one year old in the 1851 census.
The gap between the houses and the chapel is where numbers 1, 3, 5 and 7 stood.
Nos 1, 3, 5 and 7 Wych House Lane
In 1851 the houses in Wych House Lane do not appear to have had numbers, so this gave me a fixing point for the route that the census enumerator travelled on that day, 162 years ago.
He came from Leadsmithy Street, close to St Michael's Church, via the Town Wharf and along the canal towpath, past the Robin Hood public house on the corner of Wych House Lane and then up the lane, past the salt works cottage (number 13, now demolished and then to numbers 11 and 9.
I have come to the conclusion that numbers 1 to 7 had not been built by 1851(this is only an assumption, and I have no proof), but they certainly were there ten years later and were covered in the 1861 census.
As mentioned above, the building in the centre of the main picture was the first Catholic Chapel in Middlewich, which was built in 1864. The town's first Catholic School was added in 1869.
The building behind the chapel with the unusual tower is the Wesleyan Chapel, and the roof to its left is the Centenary Sunday School in Lewin Street. This photograph dates back to the 1960s.
© Malcolm Hough 2013. Reproduced with permission.

We're very grateful to Malcolm, who is the brother-in-law of John Andersen of Andersen Boats and still lives in Wych House Lane, for this fascinating article, which solves another of our Middlewich Diary mysteries, first considered in July 2011 when we published this colour slide:

In this diary entry  we formed the opinion that the furthest building from the camera in this shot was too 'gimcrack and jerry-built' looking to ever have been a church, an opinion now proved way off course by Malcolm's excellent article
There's little real doubt now that the two buildings are one and the same and that Middlewich's first Catholic Church ended up as a ramshackle and tumble down part of  Seddon's waggon repair works, tacked on to the typical salt works buildings nearer the camera.
I did say in that earlier post that I had some dim recollection of the building in question having some 'vaguely ecclesiastical' looking windows', but couldn't trust my memory on the subject.
It seems that I should have.
Strange to think that this historic building was bulldozed and carted away along with the rest of the site's motley collection of brick and timber industrial sheds and workshops in the 1970s without, seemingly, anyone knowing, or caring, about its significance.
Unless, of course, someone knows otherwise. We'd be delighted to be proved wrong on this and shown that someone did care and took the trouble to at least make a proper record of this chapel before its destruction.
The modern Wych House Lane is still recognisable as the same thoroughfare, but is much altered.
 Here's a before and after feature showing the lane as it was in 1974 and 2011 and we'll be doing some more 'before and after' shots in the near future.- Ed

Monday 15 April 2013


We believe this image to be out of copyright. If you own the copyright, or know who does, please let us know
Here's another Middlewich postcard which is new to us and supplied by Mike Jennings. As you can see, it's captioned 'Stanthorne Mill Pool', but appears to show a section of the River Wheelock with, on the right hand side, what might be a mill race - i.e. a stream of water taken from the river and carried off in a narrow channel to power a watermill. - in this case Stanthorne Mill.
The presence of Stanthorne Mill might also explain the existence of the weir immediately adjacent to the bridge which carries the footpath from Nantwich Road to Stanthorne. Was that there, partly at least, to increase the flow of the River Wheelock towards the Mill? The fact that the mill no longer functions as such could explain why the weir itself has been allowed to go to rack and ruin over a long period of time.

Or is this a more credible explanation of Mike's postcard? 
Is Mike's picture (photo 1) an earlier version of the scene shown in Jack Stanier's slide from the 1970s (photo 2)? The weir is indicated by a red arrow in each picture. Is that Mill Lane snaking down from top right to top centre, before the houses, such as 'Three Willows', between Nantwich Road and the river were built? Certainly the bridge over the weir is quite distinctive and its curved abutments (as seen in photo 3) might be discernible in both photos. This would mean that 'Stanthorne Mill Pool' was not actually at Stanthorne at all and that the weir, as we've suggested, was there to ensure a good and strong flow of water to the mill, several hundred yards away.
It is, of course, very difficult to make out the actual course of the River Wheelock in any photos taken since the first world war because of the profusion of trees along its banks.
Photo number 4 dates back to the 1960s when the area was not quite so overgrown and shows the 'mill pool' looking from the weir towards the Shropshire Union Canal Middlewich Branch which runs on its embankment behind the trees at the top of the picture.
(originally published 10th April 2013, revised 15th April 2013)

UPDATE (16th April):
Edward O'Hare writes: 
Hi Dave, my Mum and Dad have just confirmed your alternative theory as they both remember the small stream by the side of the river.
Also, the tree that is seen on the right hand river bank eventually grew right over the river, so that you could cross over from one side to the other without getting wet - most of the time!
(Edward is the son of Mike and Rita O'Hare, who live in Nantwich Road, close to the area shown in these photos. Many thanks to him and to Mike and Rita for confirming this for us - Ed)



Here's great news for Middlewich's many fans of Northern Soul!


Sunday 14 April 2013


by Dave Roberts
Here's a photo from Mike Jennings, who tells us that his mother knows the names of everyone pictured in this Whit Wednesday walk in Hightown in the early 1950s.
It took us a while to arrive at a proper description for this photograph. At first we thought it might have been a May Day procession (and my description, when the Facebook link was created for this entry talked of a 'maypole', largely because of the ribbons; it reminded me of the maypole we had a Wimboldsley school in the 1950s which I myself used to dance expertly around, if anyone can imagine me doing such a thing), but the obvious religious flavour of the occasion made us think again, particularly when Geraldine Williams said, 'Is it definitely a May Day procession? It's obviously a church group (check the surplice on the fellow holding up the pole); and it's a bit short for a maypole - he would be in great danger of strangulation once the dance got going unless there's an extension somewhere! And is it my imagination or had they caught the short straw in the order of procession and were following a horse-drawn vehicle (judging by the state of the road!)'
Geraldine also had some ideas on who some of the people in the picture might be: 'I think I recognise the tall girl in the centre, who has allowed the compulsory hair ribbon with bow to slip down to a more flattering position! I also think I know the second girl from the left, but I'll await Mrs Jennings' verdict.'
Cliff Astles also recognised at least one of the people in the picture: 'One of them, for sure, is my wife Barbara Elaine Astles, nee Evans of 6 Cross Lane. She is on the far left of the picture'.
Barbara added, 'It was a St Michael's Church event and took place every Whitsuntide. We would walk from the church along Wheelock Street, stopping a number of times to perform a maypole dance - winding in and out of the ribbons. I can't remember if we went back to the church, but there were always crowds of people watching the procession as we went along Wheelock Street'.
The setting will, of course, be familiar by now to even the newest Middlewich newcomer, partly because it's still very recognisable with Fitton's butcher's shop and the Natwest Bank (then known by the rather more dignified title of the 'Westminster Bank' and soon to be just a memory) to the right.
Finally, Mike Jennings got back in touch to say: 'Hi Dave, I've just checked the original photo of the "May Day Parade". It was sent as a letter to my mother who was serving with the ATS in Singapore at the time. The information on it confirms that it was 'The Whit Wednesday Walk 1949'.
We'll be re-publishing this entry soon with Mrs Jennings information about the people in the picture, along with some additional photos of other Whitsun walks in Middlewich which have come to light..

Tuesday 9 April 2013


by Dave Roberts
The publication of this well known Middlewich picture arises from this diary entry in which we were debating  the location in Kinderton Street of that old thatched building which we originally identified as being where the Seabank Car Park stands today.
An alternative interpretation was put forward by Glen Leigh which would have made the building on the extreme left of that picture the Navigation Inn, seen here in or around 1894.
To my delight my old school mate Andrew Craig got in touch to say that his family has a copy of the above photograph and it shows members of his family from that period.

Andrew writes:
My Great Grandparents Charles and Hannah Dean ran the Navigation Inn from 1890 to 1896. Great Auntie Nancy (born 1892) is holding Charles' hand, Hannah is in the doorway at bottom right. The other children could be Grandfather Percy (born 1888) or Great Uncle Fred (born 1886) and Great Auntie Lizzie (born 1885). I can't find any other identities.

We're able to say for certain that  this photograph  was  taken in or around 1894 because that was the year that Charles Frederick Lawrence's celebrated History of Middlewich was published.
The advertisement below was taken from that book

Advertisement from 'The History of Middlewich' (1894) by C F Lawrence
The Navigation, like the still extant Big Lock and Kings Lock pubs was a 'stack pub' - i.e. it was built on two levels, with the lower storey on the canal and the upper one opening out onto Kinderton Street/Mill Lane.
Like the Big Lock the Navigation provided groceries and provisions to the people working the boats and it is an indication of the isolated lives, away from normal society, that the boat people led that it was worthwhile providing a service here, so close to the town centre.
The fact that this facility and the one at the Big Lock, just a matter of yards away, could both thrive shows how busy the canals were at that time with commercial traffic.
The advertisement also informs an eager public that the premises had recently been 'considerably enlarged' and our second photograph (below) enables us to see how the pub looked before and after that enlargement.

After reading Andrew's contribution, Geraldine Williams wrote:

My sister Eileen, who sadly passed away recently, had been following a genealogy course with the U3A and, in one of the last conversations we had, was excitedly telling me that she had discovered that our Grandmother, Harriet Lannon's father (William Bull Whittaker) had been the licensee of the Navigation. Now there seems to be proof that the Deans were there from 1890-96. However, our Grandmother, who,lived in Seddon Street at the time of her wedding, was married in 1912 so, counting back, she could well have grown up at the Navigation at some point. I do so hope that Eileen was correct.

This photograph, then, must have been taken some time before 1894 and shows the Navigation in unrebuilt form with Mill Lane (which in the present day leads down to Town Bridge Motors) running off to the right between the pub and the shop with the interesting old lamp on it, where now stands that bungalow adorned with solar panels..
St Michael's Church also helps give us our present-day bearings. 
Kinderton Street at that time passed over the Town Bridge (just beyond the Navigation) and then made a right turn before resuming its course and becoming Lower Street (now incorporated into St Michael's Way), running alongside the churchyard.
This unexpected dog-leg was the renowned 'Awkward Turn To The Lompon' which puzzled us for so long.
Just over the bridge we can glimpse that shop with the parapet frontage we've seen before..
The buildings on the left are on what is now the Seabank carpark and disappeared, along with everything else in this picture (except the Church, of course), in 1931 when the old Town Bridge was demolished to make way for the present structure.
Incidentally, this picture is featured on page 95 of Images of England - Middlewich (Tempus Publishing 2007) by J Brian Curzon and Paul Hurley but is labelled (by Brian ) 'Mill Lane looking towards Town Bridge from the direction of Sandbach'

Finally, here's our standard reference Town Bridge/Kinderton Street picture which, though taken a long time ago, before one half of Kinderton Street was demolished, can still be used to indicate the sites of long-lost buildings. The place where the Navigation stood all those years ago is circled (rather inelegantly) in red..
It will be appreciated that it is difficult to be sure about the precise location as road alignments were considerably altered when the new Town Bridge replaced the old.
For a description of this picture see this posting.

Many thanks to Andrew Craig and Geraldine Williams for their help in compiling this entry

Sunday 7 April 2013


Hopefully dispelling once and for all the old myth that 'nothing ever happens in Middlewich' is this very impressive booklet from the Town Council listing just what is happening in Middlewich this year.
Everything from the Artisan Market to the FAB Festival, the Classic Car & Bike Show (formerly the Transport Festival) to the Annual Middlewich Show, the Middlewich Beer Festival and the Town Bonfire right through to the Christmas Fayre. And those are just a few of the events going on this year.
There's also information about the Roman Trail and the Wych & Water Trail, and a lot more, including a list of community websites (including this one!) and a guide to the shops, businesses and services in Middlewich Town Centre.
And if you think the booklet looks great, wait until you seen the online version:


Tuesday 2 April 2013


This Middlewich Diary entry was first published on 5th April 2012 and  re-published on 23rd April 2012 and 2nd April 2013.(see below)

by Dave Roberts
This is another of those classic  postcards which Middlewich people old and new will recognise instantly from books full of photographs of 'Old Middlewich' or framed copies on pub walls.
And as soon as we look at it we have a vague feeling that we know the exact area it represents (admittedly the 'Kinderton Street, Middlewich' caption is a major clue).
That picturesque half-timbered group of cottages has to be where the Seabank car park is in the present day, with Seabank itself running off on the left down to the River Croco and the canal, just as it does today.
That would make the building on the extreme left the present-day Kinderton Hotel.
But what is the building on the extreme right? It's certainly not the Talbot Hotel which would be further down the hill on the other side of it.
And that piece of wall is very reminiscent of the one that ran along King Street past Moreton's farm and around the corner into the top end of Kinderton Street, which probably indicates nothing more than the fact that the two walls were built by the same local builder in his own distinctive style.
As late as 1948 there were buildings all the way down this side of Kinderton Street to the Town Bridge, as seen in this rather blurry enlargement from one of the pictures in the Phillip Shales collection
I can never remember there being any buildings between Costello's shop and the Talbot, from the late fifties until demolition of every building on that side of the street from the Talbot to Moreton's farmhouse in the mid-seventies (except for Flag Alley which was behind the right hand side of the Talbot and at right angles to it) so the buildings we can glimpse here must have disappeared sometime in the early 1950s.
Is that large one on the extreme right the same building shown on the right of our main picture?
Note that even in 1948 the other side of the street appears to have been cleared and become a car park, so our picturesque thatched cottages and the building(s) next to them were long gone by then.
Returning to the main picture, we can also note, to the right, the usual  bystanders looking at the photographer in the  usual suspicious way. I'm not sure what the contrivance standing next to them is. Could it be a motorbike?
And on the left is another example for Geraldine Williams' collection of interesting Middlewich street lamps.
If you look carefully to the right of it, there's someone lurking underneath that tree with a ladder.

Facebook Feedback:

Geraldine Williams I can remember the buildings rext to The Talbot and thought that they existed until the early 60s. One of the families was called Bland, and there was also  a Mrs Something (hyphen) Bailey.
Flag Alley was also in existence then and I always assumed that the land between them and Costello's shop formed their gardens (there was some cultivation), But when you think about it, the clue's in the name 'Alley' and presumably the land was the site of  the big building which had been demolished.

Dave Roberts It's difficult to remember now, but we moved to King Street in (I think) 1959. Our route in and out of town was always Kinderton Street, and I don't remember those buildings ever being there. I may be wrong, of course. What we really need is some clear pictures of that side of the street before demolition, but the only ones I've ever seen show The Talbot and the row which began with Costello's shop with a huge gap in between the two, which is how I remember it.


This has been received from Bill Eaton:

The building on the right is the gable end of the three cottages that joined onto The Talbot public house. At the end of the wall near to that building were steps leading to two more cottages that faced towards Costello's shop with gardens at the front.
(This will be what I remember as 'Flag Alley'. I delivered rate demands there when i worked for the Middlewich UDC - Ed.)
 Wilkinson's lived in the first one and, at the top of their garden were two more cottages which faced onto Kinderton Street.

Bill Hewitt, a local coal merchant, lived in one. He had access to the rear of the buildings and he kept his cart and stabled his horse there (the building behind Costello's shop?). The entrance to the other ran to the rear past Costello's outside loo. (see this entry, and associated links - Ed) I hope this helps in some way.

We've tried to reply to  Bill's e mail, but unfortunately our email provider won't allow us to for some obscure reason. If you're reading this, Bill, many thanks -Ed.

Geraldine Williams writes:

This has thrown up a lot of questions in my mind.
That certainly looks like a motorbike, which could put the picture just before the turn of the century (see  'An Awkward turn to the Lompon' for a picture of  another motorbike not too far away - Ed).
There only seems to be a twopenny-ha'penny bridge on Seabank, which could only have crossed the Croco.
Wouldn't there have been a means of crossing the canal there?
I wonder when the thatched cottage disappeared? I can understand that going to the wall, but the building next to it seems to have been quite substantial. Would it have survived until the rebuilding of the Town Bridge?
And wasn't Moreton's Farm in an unusual place - i.e. tacked onto a row of houses with virtually no land? I know Bert Moreton used the land behind the houses in King Street, but even so...
Perhaps the mill pool was formed later than the farm?

UPDATE (2nd APRIL 2013):

On Facebook Glen Leigh writes:

Hi Dave, I was reading the comments about the location of this image and a member of my family born in Middlewich 1940's is 99% sure that the large building on the right is the early Talbot before extension. So the left turn could have been a route to the old gas works where Town bridge motors area is today.

Thanks Glen. An interesting theory. This would make the building on the extreme left the Navigation Inn, immediately next to the old town bridge.

 I wonder what other people think? We welcome further comments - Ed.

(see also Glen's comment, below)