Saturday, 27 July 2013

Middlewich FABrication

Here's another wonderful legacy from the 2013 FAB Festival.
Middlewich FABrication is a short but totally mesmerising animation created by Melody Smith Animation and children and grown-ups at this year's festival.
Here's a chance to see some of those familiar Middlewich people and landmarks as you've never seen them before.
The video, together with  a lot of information on the project and the techniques of animation can be found here:

Oh, and the music's good too...

Thursday, 25 July 2013




Wednesday, 24 July 2013


Nissed as Pewts: Neil, Josie, Shereen and Peter

'Nissed As Pewts' were the winners of the second Middlewich Diary quiz at the Boar's Head on the 18th July, during which £84 was raised for the Mayor's charities - St Luke's Hospice, Middlewich Clean Team and Middlewich Young Uniformed Groups.

In a closely fought contest, Nissed as Pewts managed to beat off all opposition  and, to round off their achievement, scored 10 out of 10 in Cliff Astles' 'What & Where In Middlewich' picture round.

The above photo by Peter Cox will now be used as the basis for a caricature by local artist Ian Hill-Smith who kindly donated his services to produce a brilliant prize for the quiz.

The two Middlewich rounds will be featured here on the Middlewich Diary in due course.


Monday, 22 July 2013


Following the success of our first Middlewich Diary Quiz,  we were back at our old stamping ground, the Boar's Head in Kinderton Street, for another evening of fun and fundraising on the 18th July 2013, this time raising money for causes closer to home with all proceeds going to this year's Middlewich Town Mayor's Charities. The 'Middlewich Past & Present' Round was based on The Middlewich Diary, with all the answers to be found here.

The main prize was something really special

We were offered a fantastic prize for the quiz by local artist IAN HILL-SMITH who  created one of his brilliant caricatures of the winning team in the Second Middlewich Diary Quiz from a photo taken on the night by Peter cox.

A  great chance for the winning team to be immortalised by this excellent local artist.

Ian was the man behind this image, along with many others:

- A very flattering likeness, I can assure you!

Ian's caricature will be framed and presented to the winning team and will also appear on the Middlewich Diary.

The questions and answers from the Middlewich Round and also Cliff Astle's 'Middlewich What & Where?' round will also appear on the diary soon.

In the meantime, if you'd like to take a look at some of Ian's other work, just click on the link below:


Cllr Bernice Walmsley, Mayor of Middlewich, writes:

"A brilliant quiz, which raised £84 for the Mayor's Charities. Thanks to Dave, Peter and Liz for organising, to Ian for donating his caricature prize, and to everyone for coming along and making it such a good night!"

Editor's Note: The first Middlewich Diary Quiz, in June last year, raised £75 for Water Aid, bringing the total raised for charity so far to £159.


Monday, 8 July 2013


by Dave Roberts
These photographs from the Mike Jennings Classic Collection were originally going to form the basis of a series showing the proposed site of the new Tesco Superstore at the  time when its days as an industrial site were coming to an end, and its new life as part of Middlewich's 'retail sector' were in prospect. 
We've kept them on the back burner for a while as we waited for the situation over the future of the site to be resolved.
For a while it looked very much as though the existing supermarket and its car park were going to be transformed by Tesco into a gigantic 'superstore', with adjacent land on the other side of Southway being given over to a car park to service the new store; the only fly in the ointment as far as Tesco was concerned being plans by Morrisons to build another supermarket in Chester Road.
Eventually, after much controversy, and after Morrisons had built their new store, Tesco announced that the plans had been dropped. 
This appears to have been more as a result of a change of policy nationally than being due to local conditions. 
It's very often forgotten that Fine Fare were the first supermarket group to look at Middlewich. They considered the Southway site as well as the old WMC Motors site (now the home to Lidl) and another site near to Middlewich Town Football Club in Finney's Lane. 
By the time planning permission was obtained for the first  supermarket in Middlewich,the company had become Gateway as explained here, with the Somerfield name being introduced a few years later.
These photographs, together with the ones in the above link and also this one show the area in 1987 as it was when it was on the verge of becoming the site of the  town's first real supermarket.
And it's worth pointing out once again that Middlewich now has three medium sized supermarkets, all within
easy walking distance of each other - something which many towns of this size can only dream of.

The Orchard Works 1987. The long, low and utilitarian building was a sewing factory owned and operated by F Coupe and Sons, who also ran the Lily Works across the road in St Ann's Road (now the site of Newton Court) making clothes for babies and children. Notice that, although the F Coupe & Sons sign has been removed, the yellow Orchard Works sign still remains. Quite possibly the company thought it could re-use a sign saying F Coupe & Sons, whereas the Orchard Works  one was surplus to anyone's requirements.

Here we see the sewing factory in its entirety, looking on helplessly as the mechanical diggers start to prepare the site for a new era. On the extreme left are some derelict industrial buildings which, as far as we know, were never part of the Orchard Works. They appear in this Diary entry and a clue to their origin may lie in the old name for Southway, Tannery Alley. Our old friend the St Michaels Church Tower, which has helped us find our way around many a lost Middlewich location, can be seen peeping over the centre of the building's roof. From most parts of Tesco's car park this is now hidden by Wallcroft Gardens, the housing development which connects Wheelock Street with the road connecting King Edward Street to the other end of the car park (or would, if access was not restricted for the general public).

Whether Mike Jennings had inside information about the actual location of the new supermarket only he can tell us, but in this final shot he managed to pinpoint the site exactly. The buildings in the background are still there, the one on the right being the former home of Trevor Williams the delicatessen owner and his family. The land to the right of this house, between Southway and Darlington Street, with access from Wheelock Street,  was to have been the location of the car park serving the new mammoth Tesco store which would have replaced the existing store and its car park. Notice that the all-enveloping greenery which is now such a feature of Middlewich has not yet begun to flourish.
The closest we can get to a present day comparison is the photo below, taken on the 10th July 2013.

The buildings in Mike's 1987 photo are hiding behind Tesco as it basks in the warm Middlewich July sunshine, and those insignificant looking trees in front of the Williams house are soaring to great heights on the other side of Southway.
Tesco seems to dominate the scene but, it must be said, to a far lesser degree than it would have had its plans for Middlewich come to fruition.
As a reminder of what might have been, here's the company's explanatory diagram one more time.

As a public relations exercise it was a disaster, because it brought home to local people for the first time just how gigantic the proposed store and its car park would have been.
In the event, as explained above, the plans were dropped, to a great extent because of a re-think by Tesco on its policy of building massive stores all over the country.
Now Tesco Middlewich is just another supermarket competing for our trade with Morrison's and Lidl.
The demolition of property owned by the company in Wheelock Street and Darlington Street has gone ahead (delayed, seemingly, by the need to remove asbestos from the buildings) and it remains to be seen what happens to that huge area, right in the middle of our town, where the new car park was to have been.

                     ORCHARD WORKS 1972

Tuesday, 2 July 2013


by Dave Roberts

Can it really be true that our town once looked like this?
As our salt town days recede further and further into history, and Middlewich becomes more and more gentrified, green and flower-bedecked, it sometimes comes as a shock to look back on a scene such as this one and to realise that the transformation has taken place during our lifetimes.
What greenery there was back in the 1960s was grimy and soot-speckled and served only to highlight the drabness of our industrial surroundings.
This once-familiar scene shows, on the right, Seddon's Pepper Street works, probably around 1965 and not very long before salt production by this time-honoured method ceased on this and Seddon's other two Middlewich sites in Wych House Lane and Brooks Lane.
To the left, and on the other side of the Trent & Mersey canal, is Middlewich gasworks. Immediately to the right of the gas holder is the Town Bridge where this companion photograph was taken from, looking at the salt works and gasworks from the opposite direction.
I've decided to go for a date of 1965 on this one because also to the right of the gasholder, and above the Town Bridge, are the remains of ICI's alkali works in Brooks Lane/Booth Lane which was closed in 1962 and would have still been in the process of demolition at that time. Pochin Ltd now occupies the site.
There's another reason why I feel that 1965 would be about right, and it's a very subtle one. If you look carefully just to the right of the unmistakable St Michael's Church, you can just make out the top of a long roof with four protrusions. This is the roof of the old Middlewich Town Hall which stood where the amphitheatre is now, and the protrusions are the Victorian ventilators which adorn many buildings of the period. The Town Hall was demolished in the early 1970s.
It's hard to tell from this photograph, of course, whether or not the salt works was still in production. Open pan works were always dilapidated and ramshackle looking structures, even when they were in full swing, so the apparent dereliction of the works isn't really a clue.. 
The picture may have been taken at the weekend when production was not taking place. 
Alternatively, it may have been taken in 1967 after the works had closed, but that seems a bit late for so much of the ICI plant to be still in existence.
The canal seems very quiet, with little evidence of either working or pleasure boats using it. 
The sixties and seventies were a period of transition for the canal network from an industrial asset to a pleasure amenity, and both kinds of boats co-existed happily together as they still do to this day. 
The difference nowadays being that working boats are outnumbered many times over by pleasure boats and are themselves, with just a few exceptions,  part of the leisure industry.
The site of the Pepper Street works is now occupied by 'The Moorings' housing development.

Facebook Feedback:

Jacqui Cooke Yes, I remember this scene quite well, although in this case black and white photography isn't very flattering.
The sun always used to be shining!
It didn't seem so bad at the time as we didn't know any different. In those days it was our industry - and what would we have done without it?
I remember my friend's Dad working there, and we used to go and see him in the school holidays, taking him a treat for his lunch.
He was always pleased to see us and would sit outside to eat his lunch and chat with us for a while. 
I remember once he offered me a cup of tea out of his enamel brew can, which I always saw him carrying on the handlebars of his bike.
Uggh! I'd often wondered what was in that white can! Happy days, in so many ways...