Wednesday 10 January 2018


100 years on - The remains of Middlewich Station in 1989, a century after football supporters caused mayhem on its platforms.

by Dave Roberts

Many years ago someone told me that he had read somewhere that Middlewich railway station was once 'the scene of one of the first reported football riots in history' and the information has lodged somewhere in my mind all this time.
So I thought it was time we got to the bottom of the story and recorded it for posterity in the Middlewich Diary. After all, Middlewich, and Middlewich station in particular, don't have so many claims to fame that we can afford to ignore one of them.
The information about the 'riot' originates in a book called The Roots of Football Hooliganism written by Eric Dunning, Patrick J Murphy and John Williams and published by Routledge in 1988, a time when such unsportsmanlike behaviour was a growing problem in many parts of Britain.
The book attempts, as its title implies, to get to the root causes of football violence (and, I imagine, though I haven't read the book, suggest some remedies for it).
Although this incident has been touted as an early example of such behaviour, the authors are at pains to point out that it was by no means an unusual occurrence in those days,  and probably only made it into the press because a newspaper reporter 'happened to be there at the time'.

That reporter was from the Liverpool Echo, and this is what he had to say:

Liverpool Echo 1st April 1889/The Roots Of Football Hooliganism (Routledge 1988)

You'll have spotted the immediate puzzle, of course: what were groups of Nantwich and Crewe supporters doing at Middlewich, several miles away from either of those two towns? Was the match, perhaps, held in Middlewich because it was 'neutral territory'? Did Middlewich have football facilities in 1889 good enough to host even a minor clash between the two towns? They could, of course, have been on their way back from either Crewe or Nantwich, as both had good railway connections with Middlewich at the time. But the fact that they were on opposite platforms and waiting for trains rather than a train indicates that they were travelling in opposite directions. On the other hand, the report says that after  the skirmish 'the special' then came in, which implies that they  all intended to travel on the same train. Which will have made life interesting for the guard. But if they were all going on the same train, why were they on opposite platforms? So that they could better shout and jeer and threaten each other?
Whatever the truth of the matter, it's fascinating to hear that our own humble railway station was once the stamping ground of such ne'er-do-wells.

Facebook Feedback (January 2018):

On the Memories Of Cheshire group, Pete MC Hough added this comment, which may (or may not) make the situation clearer -

'In 1889 Middlewich station was a single line; a second line was added in 1900. The station was located on the north side of Holmes Chapel Road (A54) which passed over the line on a bridge. Being a passing point Middlewich station was provided with two platforms. The down platform (Northwich direction) was on the west side of the line and was linked to Holmes Chapel Road (actually King Street - Ed) by a driveway. The up platform (Sandbach direction) had an almost identical building housing waiting rooms and toilets. The up platform was connected to from its southern End to Holmes Chapel Road by a set of steps (there were also steps on the down side - Ed). From what I can gather, one lot of supporters were transported away in one direction, and the other group had to wait for the line to be clear for their train to arrive!'

First published 10th January 2017
Amended and re-published 10th January 2018


  1. Was wondering why there was a picture of diesel loco in a picture about a story from 1889 :)

  2. Because I didn't have a photo of the station in 1889. I did, however, happen to have one from exactly one hundred years later in 1989. That's why the picture's captioned '100 years on'.

  3. The reporter was from the echo?

    You would think he would have seen much worse than this on Lime Street at closing time on any night of the week!

    1. He probably would. But the point is that it must have come as something of a surprise to witness such goings on a sleepy old Cheshire.


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