Thursday, 30 November 2017


by Dave Roberts

For Christmas 2017 there can only ever have been one subject for our masthead - the excellent display of Christmas lights and the quite exceptional Christmas tree in the town centre, captured here  by Ken Rane in a photo used with his permission.

There was some criticism of the lights last year and hopes were high that the situation would be remedied this year.

Those hopes were realised (and then some), and we were treated to Christmas lights and a tree that any town, big or small, would be proud of.

The light switch-on, combined with one of the best Christmas markets in the area, was also very well organised and did us proud.

You can find out more about the switch-on here, and in our archived Mexon Market diary entry here.

Photo: Ken Rane

Ken's photograph sums up the Middlewich at Christmas scene very well indeed. Despite the ever-present (and unavoidable) modern traffic in the town centre, this photo still manages to convey something of our town centre's Victorian heritage. 

The shops on the right still have their 19th Century frontages more or less intact, and that lantern  outside  the White Bear on the left adds to the atmosphere.

As for the Christmas tree, the lights are the best we've seen in years, and the 'baubles' in the trees in St Michael's churchyard are a pleasing addition.

Merry Christmas Middlewich!

Monday, 27 November 2017


2003                                   Mike Jennings Classic Collection

From the Mike Jennings Classic Collection comes this poster advertising a Toga Party at The Cat's Bar, on the corner of Wheelock Street and Nantwich Road in September 2003.

Were you there on the night? And did you go dressed in a toga?

Saturday, 25 November 2017


This slide is so badly damaged as to be almost unusable but it's included because, like all the others, it has a tale to tell.

It's the 'Urban District Of Middlewich' road sign which once stood in King Street, close to the Dane Bridge. It was photographed in 1972, when the old Middlewich UDC had just two years to go before being absorbed into the 'District Of Daneborough' (Congleton, to you and me).

The sign has a very passable picture of the parish church on the left, and two 'Middlewich witches' top left and top right. And that's where the sign hit problems when some people complained  that it showed the left hand witch 'flying over the church'.

Someone took it upon him (or her) self to paint out the witches, and you can just make out the marks where they've been re-instated.

The words 'superstitious nonsense' spring to mind.

The 'Middlewich Witch' thing is, as far as we know, a simple pun on the similarity between the words wich, wych, or wyche and the word witch, and nothing more.

Something similar happened many years later when I was involved with local radio station Witch FM in Crewe. Word reached us from Middlewich that the same complaints had been made about our use of the word witch.

More superstitious nonsense.

And while we're on the subject, opinion seems to differ as to whether, as we have all always been told, the suffix 'wich' denotes a town connected with salt.

Some say that it simply means 'town' and that's why there are numerous wiches around the country with no connection to the salt industry.

Again, this could merely a coincidence brought about by the similarity between 'wich' and 'wych'. 
The latter word really does mean salt, as in 'Wych-house'.

This was originally published on Facebook on the 28th May 2011.

Here's the original FB feedback...

Sharon Mather Interesting stuff about the witches. I've never heard of this before. How funny! I was taught by Mr O'Neill in the 3rd year at Middlewich Comprehensive (1987-ish) that 'wich' means 'salt town' and that every single town that has 'wich' in its name is a salt town.

Dave Roberts He's not really to blame. Everyone was taught the same, and it's only recently that opinions have been revised. It's probably not as simple as I make it sound, either because Northwich, Middlewich and Nantwich have indeed always been known as the 'three wiches'. Perhaps they should be Northwych, Middlewych and Nantwych?

Gaynor McClelland What about Winsfordwich? We have salt too!

Dave Roberts Yes indeed. Winsford had more salt-works than anywhere else, lining the Weaver Valley. And of course the pit head for the salt mine is there - on the road to Moulton actually.It's been enclosed by a boring industrial building now, but at one time you could watch the pit wheels turning. It looked like a bit of a coal mine in the middle of a Cheshire field.

First published 30th June 2011
Re-formatted and re-published 25th November 2017


    Photo used with permission
    by Dave Roberts

    Middlewich has  been good at doing Christmas for many years now, and in 2017 the Christmas lights switch-on at 6pm on Friday 24th November was  truly something to behold. 

    This remarkable photograph was taken from the Church Tower by Steve Bailey, just after the lights were switched on by the Mayor of Middlewich, Cllr Samantha Moss, and a member of the Rose Queen's retinue, Fairy Queen Rose Stanton.

    Unfortunately the Rose Queen herself, Lois Ball, who was due to help with the ceremony, was poorly.

    The photograph which, astonishingly, Steve took on his mobile phone without any thought of creating anything particularly special, is bound to be a classic Middlewich photo for many years to come.

    It enables us to see the whole glorious spectacle in the Bull Ring and Wheelock Street as the people of the town throng the area, taking in the Street market lining the main street, the food and drink stalls providing festive cheer in the Bull Ring, and the entertainment in and around the amphitheatre provided by the Signal Radio Roadshow and Ronan Parke from Britain's Got Talent.

    Towards the bottom left of the photograph you can see the car belonging to our Town Clerk, though why he should have chosen to own a vehicle of that particular hue, is anybody's guess.

    So congratulations once again to all who worked so hard to make this event so memorable and thanks to Steve for letting us use his amazing photo.

    Merry Christmas one and all!


    Thursday, 23 November 2017


    Middlewich Vision/Middlewich Town Council
    Middlewich Vision/Middlewich Town Council
    Nicci Anthoney writes:

    There's lots going on, with our Mexon Market with over 40 stalls,  a carol concert in St Michael's church, Northwich panto stars including Ronan Parke, our very own Town Mayor with our Rose Queen switching on the lights, and of course a very special visit from Father Christmas as well as his tractor and trailer ride.


    Drinks & Bites at No 35 writes...

    We're not really bothered if you pop in for a drink with us for the lights switch on...

    We’ve got a temporary license for the weekend so we’ll be serving some of our faves!

    Glasses of Prosecco, Mulled Wine, Snowballs, Bailey's Hot Chocolate and Bombardinoes.

    Did we mention these were some of our favourites...?
    9am-8pm Friday night, don’t bother, yeah?


    Family Legal Solicitors writes...

    Please come help us celebrate the start of the festive season on Friday 24th November from 4 PM until 6 PM
    We will be serving nibbles and refreshments ( and maybe the odd alcoholic one)
    There will be a charity raffle with all proceeds going to local charity the Children's Adventure Farm Trust

    The Event will coincide with the Middlewich Christmas market and culminate with the Christmas tree lights switch on

    We do hope you can make it

    Kindest regards

    Julia and all the team


    For Ye Dogs...



    MELODY SMITH writes...

    We'll be there with our honey, hive products, craft and pet portraits.
    Painting commissions for Christmas still being taken.



    Cafe Bon Bon writes...

    We're open late today for the Christmas Market and Christmas Lights Switch On!



    Middlewich Town Council writes...

    Don't forget, some our high street retailers will be opening late today Charlotte Rose, Drinks & Bites, Cafe Bon Bon, Fashionista, Temptations and many more. 

    Come and support your local High Street retailers and enjoy our Light Switch On.

    Wishes you


    (YouTube link)

    Our special Masthead for the Christmas Mexon Market 2017


    A special report from
    our friends at the

    Steve Bailey's spectacular photo of the Christmas Market
    and Light switch-on, taken from the Church Tower

    First published 14th November 2017
    Re-published 23rd November 2017
    Archived 24th November 2017


    Just a short note of appreciation to everyone in Middlewich and further afield for your continuing support of the Middlewich Diary. We recently passed an important milestone - one million page views since we started in 2011. Daily page views are currently averaging around 600-800, which, as we never tire of saying, is quite amazing for a local blog like ours. People have told us they appreciate our mixture of local history, current events and the odd 'quirky' and, we like to think, unexpected digression. The Middlewich Diary wasn't planned to be like this. It just grew out of a simple desire to show people that this town - like every other town you care to mention - is more than just bricks and mortar. Middlewich, whatever its dwindling legion of detractors might try to tell you, is a lively, thriving and vital place which, despite its disadvantages (most of which are imposed on us by public bodies and organisations who ought to be helping us rather than hindering us) is improving. It's all down to the people who live here, whether 'born and bred' or welcomed from elsewhere. If you have an event coming up and you'd like us to publicise it, please email us, or post your information on our Facebook Groups. We'll be happy to help. And if you have memories of Middlewich or old photos you'd like us to feature, please don't hesitate to get in touch. Our email address is

    Dave Roberts

    Originally published on Facebook 23rd November 2017

    Monday, 20 November 2017


    Another wartime bill from the collection of Carole Hughes, this time from the celebrated 'practical tailors, clothiers and outfitters', Joseph Powell & Sons Ltd.
    Sadly we will never know what exactly Mrs Annie Sant bought from Powell's all those years ago, as the bill simply says 'To balance of account'.

    Powell's Tailors, or at least the retail side of the business, survived until quite recent years. As well as providing high quality men's clothing, they also hired out dinner suits and wedding outfits for many a posh Middlewich occasion.

    The last time I had dealings with them was in the 1990s when I hired a dinner suit in order to 'represent' the Middlewich Folk & Boat Festival at the Borough Mayor's Ball in Alsager. This was the first  time I had ever attended such a function, and will, in all likelihood, be the last.

    For a time in the early 2000s Powell's shop was occupied by Eric Alcock Electrical, but as at the 20th November 2017 remained empty. There have been signs of  a potential revival of at least part of the premises, but it is unclear what's happening with the rest of the shop.

    The firm's clothing factory at the rear, which was accessed from Pepper Street, was swept away many years ago, its site  now forming part of a new housing development fronting onto St Michael's Way.

    E-mail feed back:

    Following the publication of this posting we received the following e-mail from Mr Peter Lindop:

    I was interested to see the bill and receipt on Joseph Powell & Sons bill head. Joseph Powell was my great grandfather; his daughter Elizabeth Ann Powell married my grandfather Thomas Lindop and after they married they went to live in Northwich.
    I remember as a child going to Middlewich on several occasions, visiting the family there and walking around the factory.
    My great uncle, Walter Powell, was one of the sons on the bill head, and he used to play euphonium in the Middlewich Silver Prize Band. When I was there I used to hear them practice in the factory. I have a smokers cabinet that was presented to Joseph Powell by his employees in January 1926.
    Peter Lindop

    First published 18th November 2011
    Updated and re-published 20th November 2017

    Sunday, 19 November 2017


    by Dave Roberts

    A familiar image to anyone who has studied the history of Middlewich and, in particular, the history of the local salt industry.

    This advertisement from C F Lawrence's celebrated History of Middlewich of 1895 has appeared in many articles, books and treatises on Middlewich and its connections with salt, not least because in 1967 Henry Seddon's works in Pepper Street was one of the last open pan works to close, along with the company's other works in Wych House Lane and Brooks Lane. By that time, all three of the Seddon's works were owned by Cerebos Salt Ltd.

    Seddon's Salt Works in Pepper Street in the 1960s.
     Middlewich's gas works is to the right.

    But over the years we've all become so used to seeing black and white versions of this advertisement  that it may come of as a bit of a surprise to see that the original carried a little bit of what is now called 'spot colour' when first published. 

    Who knew that in the original book, those ornate Victorian borders were coloured red?

    The only other colour on the page is caused by the ageing of the paper. In 1895, of course, it would have been as white as the salt it was advertising.

    It's tempting to think that salt is just salt. That fine, free running stuff that you sprinkle on your chips and  might easily mistake for sugar.

    But, actually there are many different types of salt and they all have different uses.

    This was as true in the open-pan era as it is today.

    This is why Henry Seddon's advertisement talks of 'Cheese Salt', 'Butter Salt', 'Curing Salt (for hams and bacons)' 'Table Salt', 'Agricultural Salt', 'Rock Salt' and 'Bay Salt'- many of them reminders of Middlewich's position in the very centre of the largely agricultural county of Cheshire.

    All these salts (except one)  were made in the salt pans of Middlewich, fired at different temperatures and with additives like bulls blood, sawdust, and glue which produced different types of salt crystals and, thus, different types of salt.*

    Rock Salt, of course, is mined rather than produced from brine, and would, presumably, be bought in by Seddon's either from Northwich or Winsford.

    Bay Salt, which is usually produced from sea water, may well have been produced by Seddon's at Pepper Street. 

    They had a large open air pan which, with a very low fire underneath it, may have used the action of sunlight during the balmy Middlewich summers to produce this soft 'bath salt'. 

    You'll note that Henry Seddon claims that  Pepper Street salt was 'manufactured under the personal superintendence of the Proprietor, at the old original address, Pepper Street, Middlewich'.

    Victorian hyperbole, of course, which sits nicely alongside the usual exhortions to 'Use No Other' and to 'Beware Of Spurious Imitations'.

    As for that 'old, original address': as we've said before, we have always assumed that the salt works found itself in Pepper Street because someone in the local administration of the time had a sense of humour when it came to coming up with street names.
    On the other hand, 'Pepper Street' is quite common in the area as a street name; there are examples in nearby Chelford, in Nantwich and in Chester. There's also a very well-known example in London, not far from Canary Wharf. Most Pepper Streets are named for the fact that they were places where Pepper and other spices were sold, but we are wondering if the prevalence of the name in Cheshire comes from an association with some long-forgotten family which also bore the name. Cheshire historians have long pondered the origin of our Pepper Streets, concluding that 'Pepper' is probably a corruption of a much older name - possibly 'Pepur' - but that the derivation is 'not certain'. Whatever the truth of the matter, 'the salt works in Pepper Street' was always a source of amusement locally.

    *One of the very first articles I wrote for the Middlewich Heritage Society back in the 1980s was based on an interview with Joe Clarke who had worked in the open pan salt industry for many years. He told me that workers in the industry were under strict instructions not to tell the public about the often strange and potentially off-putting additives used to produce different types of salt.

    Saturday, 18 November 2017


    by Dave Roberts

    I always have to chuckle whenever I look at this video of members of  Lindisfarne performing one of their greatest hits at the 25th Middlewich FAB Festival back in 2015.

    The members of the band  are showing their age -  aren't we all? - but the the music sounds as good as ever, and this classic folk-rock band still has a goodly amount of 'street cred', particularly among those of us who are past the first flush of youth.

    But what always makes me laugh is that 'Middlewich FAB 25' logo which floats onto the screen at the start of the video.

    Those who follow these things, and surely there must be a few FAB obsessives about, will realise that it's not an 'official' MFAB design, but a typical cobbled together Middlewich Diary creation.

    It's before the days of stock photos of girls in sunglasses and people being exhorted to 'come to their senses' at Middlewich (which, to me, always had all the makings of a classic 'contradiction in terms').

    With  2015 being the long-awaited 25th anniversary of the festival, I was anxious to start publicising it  as soon as possible.
    I looked around for an official 'Middlewich 25' logo but could find nothing.

    So in traditional Middlewich Diary make do and mend style, I cobbled together my own logo, using the festival's then current logo and a bit of lettering.

    All done, fact fans, with Page Plus 10 and Professor Franklin's Magic Photo Effects - both venerable, not to say almost obsolete, bits of computer software from many years ago. The whole thing took me about ten minutes to put together.

    When the festival's own FAB 25 logo appeared it was a lot more professional looking and we used it on the Middlewich Diary very enthusiastically. Well, that's a bit of an understatement, really...

    So it came as a bit of surprise when, after the festival, Lindisfarne issued this video featuring our hastily assembled 'temporary' FAB 25 logo, obviously gleaned from a quick Google search.

    Fame at last!

    Enjoy the video!

    Lindisfarne at FAB 25

    (YouTube link)