Wednesday, 30 November 2016



by Dave Roberts
Have you ever wondered why Cerebos Salt's catch-line was (and still is) 'See How It Runs!' illustrated by a picture of a child throwing salt onto a chicken's tail?
The wording is easily explained, because the fact that the salt was in 'powder' form and could be poured from a container was the product's great selling point.
Prior to its introduction people would buy salt in much the same way as they did sugar - i.e. as a 'salt loaf' - and scrape off what they needed.
This was known as 'cut lump salt' and was the major product of the Seddon's and Murgatroyd's works, and their predecessors, in Middlewich, although some works had crushing machinery to create bagged versions of the product
This kind of salt, however, was very prone to 'caking' as it absorbed moisture from the air and had to be dried out frequently.
In 1892, so the story goes, a French chemical engineer was advised to give his sick son calcium phosphate in order to add strength to his weak infant bones and, to make the substance 'more palatable', he added salt (obviously he had no sugar to hand). 
The chemist noticed that the chemical in the mixture had the effect of preventing caking of the salt.
The child's  restoration to health was attributed to the calcium phosphate and salt mixture, leading to the idea that the salt and chemical mixture had 'health giving properties'.
Note: There are  different versions of this story with the details (and the additives) varying and the chemist even changing nationality a few times, but the basic premise remains the same, with the actual salt itself always being given credit for the miraculous 'cure' rather than any of the additives.

UPDATE (March 2015)

The above account of the creation of 'enriched salt' was culled from various accounts on that fountain of truth and wisdom, The Internet. It was the disparities in the different accounts which led me to err on the side of caution and to follow suit in being rather vague about the truth of the matter.
However, Maurice Baren, in his excellent book How Household Names Began (Michael O'Mara Books Ltd 1997), is much more authoritative and his version has the ring of truth about it:

"George Weddell was born in 1855 and later became a chemist with Mawson, Swan and Weddell in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. As his daughter was a poorly child, George decided to add something to her diet to strengthen her bones and teeth. Although vitamins and trace elements were unheard of at this time, he mixed small quantities of magnesium carbonate and calcium phosphate with the family's household salt. He was so pleased with the result that he felt it would be good to supply this 'enriched salt' to the general public".

Given that, according to Maurice Baren, George Weddell later became chairman and managing director of Cerebos Salt, I think we can take this as the definitive account. It's interesting to note that Maurice doesn't seem to think that the claims about enriched salt being 'healthy' were in any way spurious. It would be useful to hear the opinion of a present day chemist on this, particularly in the light of the dire warnings issued by health professionals about the dangers of 'too much salt'.

The book also features a neat little rhyme, which I haven't heard before,  about the origin of the company's name:

'Ceres' is Greek for the goddess of grain,
'Cerebrum' stands for the best of the brain,
'Bos' is an ox, and 'Os' is a bone -
A rare combination, as critics will own.

Thus free-running salt came into being and 'enriched salt' started to be manufactured by a new company, Cerebos (the name, as indicated above, being derived from Ceres, the Roman goddess of the wheat harvest, and 'os', a French word for bones').
The idea that this new type of salt was, somehow, 'good for you' led to some rather quaint claims for Cerebos Salt, which look a little strange in this day and age:

So the phrase 'see how it runs' is a simple reference to the free running qualities of the new table salt.
For what it's worth, I always had a vague and unresolved idea that it was somehow related to the nursery rhyme Three Blind Mice (see how they run), but how the  child sprinkling salt on a small bird fitted into that idea was anyone's guess.
In fact it is related to a nursery rhyme, but a completely different one.
There's an old wives tale which claims that if you sprinkle salt onto the tail of a bird it will be unable to fly, making it easier to catch.
Quite why isn't clear. 
One theory is that the salt makes the bird's tail feathers heavier and thus he is unable to get off the ground.
A likely story, of course.
And there's an old saying associated with this which says, 'If you are close enough to a bird to put salt on his tail, you're close enough to catch him'.
In other words, the whole exercise is rather pointless.
The idea of using salt to catch birds was immortalised in the nursery rhyme Simple Simon who, you'll recall, met a pie man going to the fair.

...went to catch a dicky-bird,
And thought he could not fail,
Because he had a little salt,
To put upon its tail.

So the energetic young gentleman shown on the Cerebos packaging through the years is really there just to demonstrate that consuming Cerebos salt gives you energy and strengthens your bones, enabling you to chase small birds and sprinkle salt on them, should you wish to do so. Your sprinkling will be made easier if you use Cerebos, of course..

In this ornate (and probably highly collectable) version of the Cerebos packaging the small boy appears to be very young indeed, and looks very close to catching the chicken.

In this chic French version, complete with accents on the Es and a highly stylised rendering of the drawing, he's grown up a bit and obviously slowed down a lot as the bird, which by now is no longer a chicken and could be a canary by the look of it (or is it one of the Three French Hens?), looks like it is getting away from him.

On this modern packaging we see the 'classic' version of the boy managing to get a fine flow of Cerebos out of his salt cellar. It's hard to see what the bird looks like. Perhaps he's smothered it in salt and it has breathed its last.

In this very up to date version from South Africa adorning modern supermarket packaging the boy has been simplified. He's lost his scarf and his baggy shorts are now slimline as he scores a direct hit on the unfortunate bird. Since 1995 South African law has made it compulsory for all table salt to be iodised (or 'iodated' as it says on this package). This is part of a world-wide initiative to combat iodine deficiency, particularly in children.

The original Cerebos factory was in Greatham near Hartlepool.   Middlewich's long association with Cerebos began when the company bought the Middlewich Salt Company after World War II. For many years the Greatham and Middlewich works worked together in developing new products and manufacturing and packaging them.
There was even, as can be seen from comparing the picture below with this one, a sort of 'family resemblance' between the two factories.
Like their Middlewich counterpart the Greatham works were found to be surplus to requirements and were closed in 2001.
In 2011 the buildings were in such a bad state of repair that the Greatham Salt  Works, like the Middlewich Works before it, inevitably passed into history.

Cerebos Salt Works, Greatham, under demolition in 2011
Cerebos Salt, however, is alive and well and is one of the most recognisable and well-known brands all over the world.

                                                           CEREBOS SALT PACKAGING 2004

First published 1st May 2013
Re-published (with updates) 1st April 2015
Re-published 30th November 2016 (to avoid anyone taking a feature dated '1st April 2015' as an April Fool joke!)

Thursday, 24 November 2016


For the 1973 Carnival our town was graced by the presence of Winsford's Carnival Queen in a handsome horse and carriage. It's not clear whether the carriage was provided by Winsford or Middlewich Carnival. Was Middlewich trying to upstage Winsford by providing such an opulent vehicle for their Queen, or was Winsford trying to put one over on Middlewich by sending along their Carnival Queen in a vehicle fit for a real Queen?
The only slightly  jarring note is the rather crude piece of paper with WINSFORD CARNIVAL QUEEN written on it in felt tip pen.
Nowadays something a little bit more sophisticated would be run up on someone's computer and, no doubt, laminated. There would probably also be a commercial sponsorhip message saying CHESHIRE FM or somesuch.*
The Queen is waiting to join the carnival procession outside the Big Lock at the end of Webb's Lane where it is joined by Finney's Lane. The building just in shot on the left is part of the pub  itself, although this particular part was not in use as such at that time. In those days the Big Lock was in  a rather strange condition with only small parts of it actually in use as licensed premises.
Looked at from Webbs Lane, or from the canalside, there were large areas of the building which couldn't be 'accounted for' when one ventured inside.
It was, and is, one of those canal side pubs which the late Brian Curzon referred to as 'stack pubs',  on two levels, with a bar at the top for the use of local residents and another on the lower level, opening onto the lockside for the use of the boating fraternity.
By this time the former shop at canal level, which was also provided for the benefit of people working the boats, had been converted into a function room where, the following year, the late Johnny McAlinden would, like me, be part of the early disco boom in Middlewich.
It was only in the 1990s that the entire pub was opened up to become the pub/restaurant we know today.
Note also the once ubiquitous red GPO telephone box (or 'kiosk' as some would insist). These are now very few and far between and found only in areas thought to be particularly picturesque.
There are none in Middlewich.
*Not any more. Cheshire FM closed down at the end of January 2012.

Facebook feedback:

Geraldine Williams Very impressed that the Winsford Carnival Queen's carriage had to be followed by a Group 4 security van (thought it was Del Boy at first!) so her jewels must have been real........!

First published 24th November 2011
Re-formatted and re-published 24th November 2016

Friday, 18 November 2016


by Dave Roberts

Lingering surprisingly late on the Lewin Street scene in 1975 is the Church of England Infants School, at one time presided over by Mrs McCullough (don't quote me on the spelling) who was the sister of Miss Mason, the headmistress at Wimboldsley. Notice the steel bracing on the outer walls, a sign of the subsidence which would eventually see the end of this and other large buildings in Lewin Street. Next door is 'Square One', a one-time rival for Samuels in the town centre which was, in the sixties, a branch of Dawsons Record Shops. This site is now occupied by gardens which are part of the environs of the Salinae Centre.

On the left, next to the lamp post and actually in Leadsmithy Street is Les Gibbin's (previously Challinor's) Newsagents, a building which still exists. It later became home to J&M Print, and, in 2013, extensive work was carried out to convert the shop into new premises for Forshaw Funeral Services (formerly of Wheelock Street).
I have a vivid memory of this school. It was used by St Michael's as a Sunday School (never popular with me, as it clashed with Sergeant Bilko) and one Sunday during a flu epidemic I was the only child to turn up.
Instead of cancelling, the Revd. L.R. Ridley insisted on going through the whole thing, including hymns and prayers, giving me no chance of adopting my usual policy of hiding behind something and pretending I wasn't there.

This photo was first published on Facebook on the 18th April 2011. The original feedback is below:

Colin Derek Appleton I remember this place. I used to creep in there in the early 80s to catch pigeons! If I remember rightly every classroom had its own fireplace, something I thought was well cool at the time!

I also have a vague memory of Square One becoming a very short-lived youth centre.

First published 6th July 2011
Re-formatted and re-published 18th November 2016

Facebook Feedback (November 2016):

Geraldine Williams re: Square One. That shop used to be a haberdashery when I was at Primary school. I remember Miss Barry sending two of us down there to buy embroidery silks (imagine a school daring to send 9 year-olds out on such a mission these days!). Was it also once an electrical shop? We definitely bought an oil-filled radiator from there in 1963. Or was the haberdashery attached to the newsagent shop?

Monday, 7 November 2016



by Dave Roberts

The Nigel & Bill saga ran in the letters pages of the Middlewich Chronicle, starting with the almost legendary  Congleton Council Hanging Basket Sketch in 1985 until some time in the early 1990s when a new editor, who failed to see the joke, took over. 

We're featuring these sketches not in strict chronological order, but in the order in which the cuttings come to light as we plough through the mountain of paperwork which has now been consigned to the loft here at 29 Queen Street.

Today we've alighted on a moment in time, during a very fraught period in British politics. 

We're looking at the 29th of November 1989 when The Poll Tax Estimate Sketch was published in the Middlewich Chronicle.

Mrs Thatcher's 'Poll Tax' (or 'Community Charge' to give it its Sunday name) has gone down in history as one of the most contentious, unpopular and, ultimately, unsuccessful political ideas in history.

The idea was to replace the hated local government 'rates' with a payment which everyone, home-owner or not, would have to pay.

It sounds, in principle, a lot fairer.

But, in practice, the levying of a 'flat-rate' tax on everyone, regardless of income, meant that the burden of local government finance was shifted from property owners to people who, in many cases,  could ill afford the new charge.

People who had nothing were expected to pay the same as those who owned property worth millions of pounds.

The idea was tried out in Scotland in 1989, where it proved to be wildly unpopular, and so, inevitably, was extended to the rest of the country the following year. 

The 'Poll Tax Riots' which followed are a part of history and led, eventually, to the replacement of the 'community charge' by the Council Tax in 1992.

So here we are at the end of November 1989, with the introduction of the Community Charge in Congleton Borough imminent.

Our heroes, Nigel and Bill, are considering the latest 'crop' of letters in the local Chronicle and thinking about the forthcoming introduction of the new 'Community Charge':


(As Christmas approaches, Nigel and Bill are hard at work in the offices of the famous Congleton Borough Council)

Nigel: Fine crop of letters in the Chronicle this week, Bill.

Bill: I do not wish to know that, Nigel. I regard people who write letters to newspapers with contempt.

N: You're not the only one, Bill.

B: Anything about us?

N: No. They've left us alone for quite a while.

B: Quite right too. Perhaps they're beginning to realise what a first rate job we do for next to nothing. Remind me to write to myself and tell myself how marvellous I am.

N: Certainly Bill. By the way, I've just got hold of the Government's estimate for the Borough's Community Charge.

B: It's wildly inaccurate, Nigel.
N: You've seen it?

B: No, but it's wildly inaccurate, and for once those Smart Alecs from Middlewich can't blame us! The Government's figures are based on false assumptions, political dogma and total ignorance, whereas our own estimate is totally accurate. We have the very latest computer technology and fifteen years of experience to call on.

N: Well they put the figure at £228 What's yours?

B: I'll have a gin and tonic, Nigel.

N: No, I meant...

B: I know what you meant, Nigel. I was being humorous.

N: Sorry, Bill.

B: The official figure for the Community Charge, as estimated by the treasurer's department is somewhere between seventeen and a half pence and £497.33 approximately. Taking into account various grants and subsidies, each eligible person can expect to be paying anything from 3p to £1,847.50. Any the wiser, Nigel?

N: No, Bill.

B: Excellent Nigel. I'm glad to know I'm not losing my touch.

N: I'll be sorry to see the old rates disappear, Bill.

B: Me too, Nigel. The opportunities for threatening letters were tremendous. Still, now we'll have the opportunity to threaten even more people.

N: I can't help thinking that some sort of local income tax system would have been fairer, Bill. You know, people only paying what they could afford...

B: Nigel! Second door on the left, down the corridor...

N: Pardon?

B: It's the executive washroom! Wash your mouth out with soap and water!

N: Sorry, Bill...

(All characters are fictitious)


Sunday, 6 November 2016



A reminder that the annual service of remembrance takes place on Sunday November 13th this year.

The parade will assemble at the Royal British Legion Club in Lewin Street from 10.15am and will arrive at the War Memorial in the  Bullring for a Service of Remembrance, including the period of silence at 11am.

All Town Groups and Organisations are encouraged to take part in the proceedings on this important date in the town's calendar.

For more information call KEN KINGSTON on 01606 833286
or the TOWN COUNCIL on 01606 83434

(information courtesy of MIDDLEWICH TOWN COUNCIL)

Saturday, 5 November 2016



The annual MCC bonfire is back in 2016 and is bigger than ever!

Gates open from 6pm with the bonfire at 7.30 and the fireworks at 8.00.

We will once again play host to a variety of food and activity stalls and there is a fully licensed bar.

We have kept prices the same for the 8th year in a row!
Adult £5
Child £3
Family £14 (2 adults, 2 children)

Come along for the best bonfire around!

(With thanks to Middlewich Cricket Club/Graham Foster)

Friday, 4 November 2016


by Dave Roberts

Another photograph from the Carole Hughes Collection showing Lewin Street as it was nearly thirty years ago, and packed with nostalgia.
On the extreme left we can see the distinctive bow window of the legendary and much-missed Howe's Bakery, home of what many consider the best meat and potato pies ever made.
Next to that is Roland Wilson's second-hand shop (or 'junk shop' as we weren't too fussy to call such places years ago). Roland was part of the family which ran Howe's Pies.
Roland was in the habit of buying up used stock of such things as gas mantles, oil lamp wicks and packets of 'dolly blue' and was a source of such arcane material long after other shops ceased to stock it.
He also supplied me with an inexhaustible supply of old valve radio sets (or, more properly 'wireless sets') as the transistor radio took over and people were anxious to get rid of their 'old-fashioned' radios.
The fact that the old sets sounded much better than the tinny and often trashy transistors didn't seem to be an issue for most people.
But those old sets are now cherished by the discerning and change hands on the internet for a great deal of money.
Roland also sold me boxes full of old gramophone records (and a wind-up gramophone to play them on) for 10 shillings apiece, as remembered in the feedback on the above link.
Nowadays even the most unpretentious 'junk shop'  refers to itself as an 'antique shop' and no one bats an eyelid at the hugely inflated prices paid for the kind of 'rubbish' we used to buy for next to nothing.
1987 must have been towards the end of Roland's time in the shop.
The next shop along the row is the 'Coral Reef' chip shop which took the place of what had been a Co-op butcher's shop.
By the 1990s the shop had become 'Giorgio's' and it is still going strong in 2016 as The Middlewich Fryer.
Next comes a row of small houses which, like houses all over the town, have gone up in the world a little over the last thirty years and then, slightly set back from the road, the huge Victorian bulk of the former Co-op Drapery Department, which by this time had become Oates  Builder's Merchants.
The builder's merchants are still on site (although the building fronting onto Lewin Street is long gone) and the establishment is now part of the Jewson's chain. There's more about this here.
Crossing the road, just to the right of the red van is the recently demolished Niddrie's Toy Shop.
Christmas 2012 was the first one in living memory without Niddries. Everyone used to look in the window to see what the latest trend in toys was, even if they didn't buy any of them.
And wouldn't it have been nice if that unusual red and white illuminated sign saying NIDDRIES COACHES had been saved to become an exhibit in our future Middlewich Museum?
UPDATE (November 2016): Actually, that sign has been saved and can be seen, neatly stacked, among the unsightly  ruins of what was once Niddries shop (photo follows soon). I wonder what will become of it?

Roman remains are all very well, but nothing is as poignant as something like that sign, which we've all seen countless times in our lives without many of us really noticing it.
Talking of signs, in the top right hand corner of the (main) picture is the bottom of the pub sign which tells us that the present day Narrowboat was, at that time, The Danes.
Slightly further up the street, next to Niddries, is The White Horse, in those days selling Ansell's Ales.


Facebook Feedback:
Rob Farmer: I've just been looking through the old pictures and it's absolutely fantastic. You've done a great job, really enjoyed it.

Originally published on the 4th November 2012
Reformatted, updated and re-published on the 4th November 2016

Tuesday, 1 November 2016


Our Masthead for November 2016 features a photo from that master chronicler of Middlewich waterways, Jim Moores, whose Canals & Rivers of Middlewich Facebook page can be found by clicking on our 'Best Of Middlewich' link in the left hand column of this page.

Jim calls his stunning photo Autumnal Middlewich and it was taken in October 2016. during one of the most spectacular Autumn seasons in living memory.
The location had us stumped.
Is this, perhaps, a scene taken on the almost completely rural Shropshire Union Middlewich Branch Canal, heading out towards Minshull Vernon in the middle of the rich farming land to be found out that way? Or is it a scene from the Trent & Mersey Canal as it wends its way through Cheshire meadowland on its way to Northwich?
In the end, we had to ask Jim for the answer, and it's one that may surprise you, as it did us.

It's the Trent & Mersey Canal all right, but this is no rural idyll. This astonishingly beautiful scene is right in the heart of Middlewich. The Newton Brewery Inn in Webbs Lane is just out of shot to the left, and Middlewich Town Centre is a mere two or three minutes walk from here.
This is an area once dominated by the old open-pan salt works of Henry Seddon & Sons; a short distance away on the other side of the canal (and the River Croco) once stood Middlewich Gasworks.
An astonishing transformation which we hope to explore further with the help of Jim's amazing photographs.