Thursday 9 May 2019


by Dave Roberts

The name Tannery Alley probably won't mean very much to those who haven't been Middlewichians for very long, but when we substitute Southway and mention Tesco things may start to become a little clearer.
Tannery Alley is, or was, the public footpath which runs from St Ann's Road and joins Wheelock Street alongside the former Bargain Booze off-licence (now blessed with the not much more dignified name The Booze Centre). 
Tannery Alley was long ago re-christened Southway.
Slightly confusingly the row of shops behind Drinks & Bites at 35 is also called Southway, as is the pathway running from Wheelock Street and up the steps to the strange 'pagoda-like' structure which advertises the presence of Tesco's supermarket to people approaching from that direction.
As Malcolm Hough, who sent us this photo, reminds us the alley did,  at one time, have a third, unofficial, name. 
When the Alhambra was in business as a cinema the locals christened it 'Picture Alley', as it formed a short-cut to that popular establishment for those coming from St Ann's Road and 'Newtonia'.
Of course many who were young at the time will remember that the rear door of the Alhambra was (and still is) down a little alleyway off what became Southway, and it was a relatively easy job to sneak through this door behind the cinema's screen, risking the wrath of 'Torchy', who, we think, was named after Torchy The Battery Boy, a popular puppet TV star of the 1950s. Or did his nickname pre-date this early Granada star?
Malcolm suggests, rightly, that this photo is just begging for a 'Now & Then' comparison and we'll be doing this just as soon as we have time to take a shot of that 'pagoda' which is approximately where these houses once stood.
Unless one of our many photographer friends would like to oblige?
To make our modern day bearings even clearer, the much-admired Barclay House is out of shot to the left. The prospects for this lovely old building are looking brighter now that Tesco has decided to dispose of all the property it bought up for its aborted Middlewich mega-store plan.
We have seen the old buildings in the photo before, again courtesy of Malcolm Hough, when we published this picture:

We first published this picture  here in 2011 under the title 'Mystery Picture' as we weren't entirely sure of the location at that time, although the 'mystery' was soon solved. That's one end of the former Orchard Works to the right and Barclay House is immediately to the left of what is obviously the building in the picture above. We can now see that there appear to be three houses here - two cottages and a fairly substantial house, the main entrance to which was probably at the front facing Wheelock Street.
Were these, perhaps, a couple of workmen's houses and a 'manager's house', relating to the vanished tannery which gave the alley its original name?
The other obvious question is, where did the name 'Southway' originate?
Incidentally, the resemblance between this little section of Tannery Alley and
White Horse Alley is quite striking.

We'll be returning to the scene with some 'Now & Then' shots soon.

Note: We've dated this photo provisionally as '1950s' due to the quality of the photography, although we're open to argument and correction on this. Was that building still standing in the 1960s?

With thanks to Malcolm Hough

UPDATE (9th May 2019):
In the four years since this diary entry was written, there have been changes in the area, the principal one being that 'Big Tesco' has gone, to be replaced by Jack's and that little 'pagoda' now has a 'Jack's' logo on it. The Booze Centre which replaced Bargain Booze has also closed to be replaced by an 'International Food Store'. Various other changes have happened in Wheelock Street. Soon this area will be completely transformed as plans to redevelop the area between Southway and Daerlington Street go ahead. When that happens 'Tannery Alley' will be an even more distant memory.


  1. Help please - does anyone know anything about Ravenscraig Manor - Chester Road in Middlewich? I am trying to research a 1936 Bentley car which in 1951 was registered to a Mr Vasey-Ash of this address.

    Thanks -


  2. Dave Griffiths5 May 2018 at 22:22

    The photo of Southway is exactly how I remember it and the building shown was still in existence in 1960 when I left Middlewich. Thanks for showing the photo. It took me back immediately 60-plus years when it was my main route from West Street to and from town and I also delivered papers to all the houses down Southway for Reg Taylor.

  3. I used to come down Southway back from school with my friend Mike. I remember once that the projectionist opened the back door of the cinema and called to me "Why are you always saying 'Come on Mike?'" Which I pribably was.

  4. I remember it like this. I worked at Orchard works as a machinist. I was 16 then. It was also part of Lily works. Memories!!


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