Friday 17 January 2014


by Dave Roberts
Here's an extraordinary picture, originally posted on Facebook by Bill Armsden and used here with his permission, showing the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal just a few years before its rural nature was changed forever by housing development.
It's very unusual to see a picture of bygone Middlewich which hasn't been going the rounds for years, and our band of Middlewich Diary experts were soon on the case to pinpoint the location and add additional information, making any further comment from me superfluous. I have, however added an illustration from Google Maps putting the picture into its modern day context. Here, then is Bill's original description from facebook, followed by the feedback which tell us all we need to know.

Bill writes:
Here is another picture of old Middlewich. I think it was taken around 1957 and shows Ernie Paxton and his daughter Josie fishing on t'cut.
It is the horizon that got my attention. The taller building to the right is the old ICI works and the two chimneys could be part of the salt works on Brooks Lane.
But, where was the picture taken? I think it is the Shropshire Union Canal (Middlewich Branch-Ed) and the first bridge is St Ann's Road bridge with Sutton Lane bridge further down.

The present day scene as viewed from above, courtesy of Google Maps. The Long Lane Bridge is just out of the picture to the left, and  Ernie and Josie would probably have been sitting on the towpath just to the left of the location of the boat. Centre right is the St Ann's Road bridge with, uniquely for Middlewich canal bridges, a footbridge alongside, added in the 1960s when Hubert Drive and other housing development took place, presumably to give easier pedestrian access to the town centre. On the extreme right is Sutton Lane Bridge. It's interesting to note how the two bridges are skewed at different angles - something which is not immediately apparent from the towpath. Although this stretch of canal is now more semi-rural than rural, it's still a delightful and picturesque place to visit and is always a great favourite with photographers. - ed

Facebook Feedback:
Cathy Prince A great picture. Taken, presumably, before the houses on Hubert Drive were built on the right?
Bill Armsden That is what I was thinking. In the picture Ernie and Josie are very close to Long lane Bridge, so opposite where they were sitting would be the site where my parents built a detached house, no 27 Long Lane, in 1961.
Robert Sheckleston Yes, it is opposite what is now Hubert Drive, I think.
Cliff Astles The farm building by the bridge was where Joey Berrington lived at that time. He had a donkey which lived around the house and garden. The land was owned by Derbyshires and was used for a variety of root and wheat crops. The Orchard (off St Ann's Road) was a mix of apple and pear trees which were all picked when ready (except for the ones we nicked!) and, on the other side of the orchard was more land that was farmed with differing crops.
And yes, this is where Chris Earl first built houses for less than £15,000, and the reason why I left the Big Smoke to come back to live in Cheshire - Housing! And to marry Barbara Elaine Evans in 1962.
The chimneys are all on ICI land; on what was originally the Brunner Mond factory. The Seddon's works was further away to the left, out of shot.
Bill Armsden Quite right, Cliff. Brooks Lane is a way off to the left of this picture's location.

Editor's note: Yes, those chimneys are indeed part of the ICI works, as evidenced from their location and also from the fact that they are round, whereas Seddon's chimneys were always of square construction. It's very unusual to see a view of the ICI works from this particular angle, particularly in its working days. The works closed in 1962.

Many thanks to Bill for letting us share this photo.


  1. We're all desperate for pictures news and stories from the period of the 14-18 war. Middlewich is working hard to play a big part in the centenary commemorations this year please please share anything you can for this period. I'm particularly interested in the role of the local canals in support of the campaign.

  2. GERALDINE WILLIAMS21 January 2017 at 08:55

    My parents bought one of Chris Earl's new houses in Hubert Drive (which would roughly have been built on the site of the tree in the foreground) after moving from their shop in Wheelock Street. Nice 3-bedroomed houses with gardens stretching down to the canal. I got married from there in 1961


Leave your comments here. Please note that comments are moderated and, if they are particularly relevant, may be incorporated into the original diary entry.