Wednesday 31 January 2018


Our masthead for February features a beautifully evocative photograph called Shroppie Sunset which we found on the Fuel Boat Halsall's Facebook page and have reproduced here with their permission.

Fuel Boat Halsall is a historic narrowboat trading on the Shropshire Union, Staffs and Worcs and Trent & Mersey canals, as well as on the River Weaver. The boat is a frequent visitor to Middlewich.

Find out more here:


Here's the original photograph.

Photo courtesy of Fuel Boat Halsall / Four Counties Fuels


Photo: The Branch Line Society

The Sandbach-Middlewich-Northwich railway line is no stranger to special charter trains, usually designed to give railway buffs a chance to travel on routes not normally used by regular passenger trains. 
One such train, organised by the Branch Line Society, is running on the 14th June and once again gives people a chance to travel on our local line and to take some memorable photographs of the route before the now inevitable day when it is upgraded for regular passenger use.

Here are the full details, courtesy of the Branch Line Society....

The Branch Line Society is delighted to announce an exciting loco hauled charter train in conjunction with Railway Children, operated by Direct Rail Services (DRS), traversing unusual lines in the North West, with a leg stretch break and photo stop at Reddish South! The train will have five First Class open coaches available for passenger use and will be hauled by three DRS Class 37s operating (2+1) in top 'n tail formation, subject to availability. As usual, there will be an on train raffle with proceeds donated to Railway Children. There will be a buffet service of hot / cold drinks and light snacks, and the opportunity to purchase hot breakfast rolls. Note that the service terminates at Crewe. All bookings via the Branch Line Society (link below). The train is strictly limited to a maximum of 210 passengers.

Our ROUTE, validated and bid to Network Rail, is as follows:

Stafford P1 08.30 (PU) - Dn Slow - Basford Hall Dn Fast Independent - Sorting Sidings North Jn - South Yard Bypass - Crewe P12 09.00 (PU/RM) - Crewe PAD No.2 Road (RM) - Dn Manchester Independent - Stockport P4 - Dn Fast - Manchester Piccadilly - Ordsall Curve - Manchester Victoria 10.30 (PU) - Ashton Moss North Jn - Denton Jn - Reddish South (break) - Heaton Norris Up Goods Loop - Stockport - Hazel Grove - Buxton (RM) - Buxton XYZ Sidings (RM) - Peak Forest - New Mills South Jn - Dn Cheadle Loop - Northenden Jn - Altrincham - Northwich - Sandbach - Up Manchester Loop - Crewe P1 17.00( SD)

Timings and routing are provisional and subject to confirmation through the Network Rail planning process.


BLS member First Class fare with a complimentary hot drink and snack £59.00

Accompanied under 18s benefit from a £5.00 reduction in all fares whilst non-members are subject to a £12.00 surcharge. Please note that we are unable to accept bookings from unaccompanied under 18s.


P.S. If you're wondering where the train gets its unusual name from, we're assuming that 'nosey' comes from the use of the vintage Class 37 diesel locos, noted for their bonnets or 'noses' and 'peaker' from the fact that the train is visiting the peak district around Buxton and New Mills, the whole thing being a slightly laboured pun on 'nosey parker'.

Tuesday 30 January 2018


It's time for another of our little journeys back in time to see what Middlewich had to offer in terms of shopping twenty-five or so years ago.
This photo from the Carole Hughes/Diane Parr collection shows us that the town's efforts to provide something rather more 'upmarket' than the norm is nothing new.
This shop, offering a delicatessen and 'high class provisions' was owned and operated by husband and wife V.T. (Trevor) and E. (Enid) Williams who also had a somewhat larger establishment in Holmes Chapel during this period*.
Later, part of the premises  was turned into a sandwich bar to cater for the increasing amount of people who worked in shops and offices in the town and wanted to buy a lunchtime snack.
Trevor was also the owner of the splendid Georgian house at the top end of Southway which once boasted a swimming pool in the garden.
We met one of Trevor's daughters, Fiona, here during her time as a member of the original Middlewich Youth Theatre in the 1970s.
In the present day this shop, externally largely unaltered, is home to the Paragon Cantonese Takeaway.

The Paragon as it was in October 2012

On the extreme right we can just see part of Farrall Cleaners which also appears to be in a similar condition today. Even the signboard looks the same.

*see information below from Diane Russell and Geraldine Williams-Ed

Diane Russell says, 'the shop in Holmes Chapel belonged to Trevor's brother who had a son called Fred (real name Dorian). He was in the same class as myself and your sister (Cynthia).
Blue Ginger *next door to Paragon used to be a furniture shop which belonged to Enid's parents. They lived in the large house in Southway next to Barclay House called The Poplars.

 The house could also be reached by going through the furniture shop and out of the back, as I did on a couple of occasions with Fiona, who was also in the same class as myself and Cynthia.
And Geraldine Williams told us: 'Enid's parents, who owned the furniture shop, were Sammy and Barbara Moss. Enid and her elder sister Maureen used to attend the school run by Mrs Plant at Ravenscroft Hall, which boasted a very smart uniform!'
Diane adds, 'Maureen owned the whole block where Forshaw's and Cynthia's are now and ran a hairdressers there. She lived above the shop. Her husband Alan still lives in Middlewich'

Many thanks to Diane and Geraldine for this additional information.

Facebook Feedback:

Bill Armsden Great Dave. Love the links to and from the current users of that building too. Makes The Middlewich Directory a current part of the Town's trading history.

*Blue Ginger, as we've seen elsewhere, was also at one time Franco's restaurant, and before that, The King's Mexon, owned by Steve and Barbara Wells - Ed.

First published 26th January 2013
Revised and re-published 30th January 2018

Saturday 27 January 2018


RAIL Magazine is published fortnightly by Bauer Media, Peterborough. It's available at all good newsagents, supermarkets and other outlets.

by Dave Roberts,

It's gratifying to note that RAIL Magazine, Britain's leading railway journal, continues to take an interest in our campaign to re-introduce a Crewe-Manchester passenger service via the Sandbach-Middlewich-Northwich line, and to build new stations at Middlewich and Gadbrook Park.

Paul Stephen's article (illustration above) is just the latest in a whole series of articles and features examining  in detail the proposals for this 'simplest of all rail re-openings' and coming down, not unnaturally, on the 'yes' side.

Paul's article reports that Rail Minister Paul Maynard, 'in response to lobbying from the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and local MP Esther McVey (Conservative, Tatton)' has now 'instructed the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to create a working group to examine proposals for re-opening, including the construction of new stations at Middlewich and Gadbrook park'.

It goes on to say, 'the campaign received a further boost on November 30th when Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling said he was 'sympathetic' to the idea of restoring scheduled passenger services, and that he had asked Transport for the North (TfN) to consider its inclusion in TfN's Strategic Transport Plan and long-term investment programme once it becomes a sub-national transport authority in April.'

MCRLC chairman Stephen Dent paid tribute to our three local MPs Fiona Bruce (Congleton), Esther McVey (Tatton) and Mike Amesbury (Weaver Vale) for their persistence in keeping the proposals before Parliament and the public and in bringing them to the attention of the Secretary of State.

He says, 'my view is that we have done our job now in getting (the proposals) passed over to the proper authorities. We will continue to work in partnership with them and keep local stakeholders informed of further developments.'

That last sentence is important. Arguably the campaign could be said to have done its job when we published and widely distributed the business case for the re-opening a few years ago.

In fact we could be said to have done our job when the second of our feasibility studies was published in 2009, showing beyond any doubt that the re-opening was  an eminently practical proposition with a cost:benefit ratio of an astonishing 1:5 (this fact alone, by the way, should, in the opinion of many in the rail industry, have ensured that the proposals were given serious consideration).

But as we all know, there can be no resting on laurels  when you're pushing for something as vitally important to the local area as this scheme.

The campaign can only really end when the first train runs, and I'm sure that day can't be too far off now. 

For a while now I've been telling anyone who was prepared to listen (and many others besides) that the re-opening of this line to passengers and the building of the two new stations is a matter of 'when' rather than 'if'.

My congratulations to Stephen and Samantha and to all the many people who are working hard to bring this much needed service back to Mid-Cheshire.

Dave Roberts

Dave Roberts is the Hon. President of the Mid-Cheshire Rail Link Campaign.





(Paul is RAIL Magazine's Assistant Features Editor)

Friday 26 January 2018


The Narrowboat Inn writes:

On Friday 2nd February The Narrowboat presents our first live music night of 2018, and it's going to be big!

Featuring three local acts, we aim to raise as much as we can for a local Cancer Research UK funding drive. 

The evening is hosted by the fantastic Jake Roberts and we are showcasing not only his talents, but also the hauntingly beautiful vocals of Lydia Bradbury and the power vocals of acoustic duo Resonic.

Great music šŸŽ»Drinks promotions šŸ·Bucket of Beck's - 5 bottles £10, Bucket of Bulmer's - 4 bottles £10, or a pitcher of one of four cocktails for - you guessed it - £10!

A warm welcome awaits one and all at The Narrowboat, Middlewich!

9pm start, until late...

Wednesday 24 January 2018

NOW and THEN:REID'S BAKERY 1987, 2012 and 2016

by Dave Roberts
Another of Carole Hughes' collection of photos of Middlewich shops twenty-five years ago, taken by her friend Diane Parr.
We've been thinking about publishing this one for a while, and our theme was going to be something along the lines of: 'here are two businesses which are still going strong twenty-five years on'.
However, another one of those shock developments which seem to be a feature of the Middlewich shopping scene these days has put a whole new complexion on this now vintage scene.
Ironically, on Saturday 30th June, on the very day that the Artisan Market hit town, bringing hopes of a revitalisation of Wheelock Street as a shopping area, Mike Jennings was passing Reid's shop and took this photograph:

Reid's shop on Saturday 30th June 2012
A different colour scheme, and a very different sign over the shop (In fact I've a very strong feeling that there were a few variations on that sign between 1987 and 2012. The small inset window bearing the exotic wording PATISSERIE, however, remained the same.

But what really caught Mike's eye was this notice in the shop's window:

Yet another blow to the Middlewich shopping scene.
There's nothing to be said really.
All we can do is thank Reid's for serving the town so well for all those years and leave you with a few more of Mike's images of yet another piece of old  Middlewich we've had to say  farewell to...

Another Middlewich landmark bites the dust.  I wonder who had the last steak pie?
 My Cousin Albert worked there making those steak pies for over 40 years. I must catch up with him to see what his recollections are, and maybe ask him for the recipe? - Mike Jennings

Facebook Feedback:
Sharon Barnard I can't believe it. My brother worked there for years. I worked there myself in 1986-1987. Gutted!

Ruth Duck Oh, that's such a shame. They had lovely stuff for sale. The rhubarb slices were divine.

Wendy Sproston And their Bavarian slices!

NOTE: In August 2012 it was announced that the shop would be re-opening under new management as a gluten free bakery.


Photo: Bill Armsden

2016:The PATISSERIE sign finally disappears, but we've a strong feeling it may still be there, hidden by the HOME-POTTERY-GIFTS sign

First published 5th July 2012 as 'Now & Then: Reid's Bakery 1987 and 2012'
Revised, re-titled and re-published 24th January 2018

Monday 15 January 2018


A real asset to our town is GO LOCAL, the magazine which is distributed eight times a year to over 6000 homes and businesses in Middlewich.

And now, if you're unlucky enough to live outside the magazine's circulation area, or have simply mislaid your copy, you can view the electronic version online by clicking here.

The magazine includes features of interest to everyone living in our town.

This month in MIDDLEWICH'S HERITAGE Julie Elizabeth Smalley is looking at the roads and pathways which radiate out from St Michael & All Angels church in the town centre, and have done since medieval times. The enigmatic name Leadsmithy Street becomes an obvious choice if you study the town's history. Lewin Street is a little more problematical. The answers are all in Julie's excellent article.

The DID YOU KNOW? page  never fails to provide some fascinating esoteric and off-the-wall information. This month is a Valentine Special

There are also full listings of the many and varied events taking place here month after month throughout the year in the WHAT'S ON section .

On top of this,  GO LOCAL is crammed with advertisements  which will be useful to anyone in Middlewich who wants to find a local business or service. 

There's also a READY REFERENCE section with contact details for all the vital services in the town you may need.

And for this month there a several new features including GARDENING TIPS, #MIDDLEWICH (a blog about life in Middlewich) and PCSO REPORT written by the Police Community Support officers who cover Middlewich.

And it's all delivered FREE to your letterbox!


The FEBRUARY issue is out now.

If you've had a copy of GO LOCAL through your door and never bothered to look at it, take a look now! It always repays inspection!

(includes electronic version of the magazine)

Sunday 14 January 2018


MIDDLEWICH AERIAL VIEW circa 1967 Photo courtesy of MIDDLEWICH TOWN COUNCIL(used with permission)
by Dave Roberts
This astonishing aerial view of our town has been supplied by Dave Thompson of Middlewich Town Council with the information that it was taken in 1968.
So the first thing we have to do is correct the date, on the grounds that, as can be seen, Seddon's Salt Works in Pepper Street was still in operation at the time of the photograph, so the very latest the picture can be dated is 1967, which was the year that the Pepper Street works, along with the Brooks Lane and Wych House Lane works, closed.
This is just one of the aerial views which the council has let us borrow, and we'll be considering earlier and later ones in future Diary entries.
But, for now, let's concentrate on this one.
Of all the birds-eye views of Middlewich I've seen, this one is by far my favourite because it shows the town at the very end of what I like to call our Salt Town Days, just before the open-pan works closed and production was concentrated at the new British Salt Works in Booth Lane, built in 1969 and still going strong.
(In truth, our Salt Town Days, aren't really over, but the time when the works were a part of the fabric of the town are long gone.)
This is the town I and my contemporaries grew up in.
A dirty, grimy, workaday town with no pretensions to be anything else.
It was in 1967 that the terminally snooty Cheshire Life magazine published a very patronising and sneery  article about Middlewich, wondering where all the up-market antique shops, bistros and posh clothes shops their readers would expect in a Cheshire town were, for all the world as if we'd been offered these things and turned them down in favour of dirty, smoky factories.
It didn't go down well.
In the 1980s, in my capacity of editor of the Heritage Society's Newsletter I took a look back at this notorious article and marvelled at the writer's apparent inability to grasp the concept of a town which worked for its living.
Middlewich has featured in the Cheshire Life a few more times since the 1960s, and our progress from slatternly working class manufacturing town to bustling, lively 'town of festivals' can be charted by reading some of those articles.
The Church of St Michael & All Angels, dominates the sixties scene, as it has always done and still does today.
At this time the Churchyard had not been tidied up and the gravestones which now form pathways around the building are still in their original places.
To the right of the Church is the old Town Hall which, along with adjacent buildings, was demolished in the early 1970s to make way for first the nightmarish 'piazza' and then the much more stylish and attractive 'amphitheatre'.
To the right of the church, and just across Lower Street (now absorbed into St Michael's Way) sprawls Seddon's Pepper Street works. Clouds of white steam from the salt pans show that the works is still in operation.
There has long been speculation as to why the salt works should be in Pepper Street. The general consensus is that when the Council came to name the road they were in 'playful mood', which is as good an explanation as any.
'The Moorings' now occupies most of this site.
Across the Trent & Mersey canal is Middlewich gas works. The two round structures are the main and subsidiary gas-holders, still containing coal gas in those pre-North Sea Gas days.
The pipe bridge taking the gas supply into Middlewich can be seen crossing the canal.
Below the Church in the photograph is Middlewich Town Wharf, still awaiting its rebirth as 'the Gateway to Middlewich', but in those days witnessing the last days of commercial canal traffic and the first glimmerings of the tourist trade which, among other things, has helped put Middlewich back on the map.
To the left of the wharf are those huge buildings in Lewin Street, the Church of England Infants School and the Wesleyan Chapel.
Across Lewin Street from the Chapel is a building we haven't looked at yet - the Centenary Sunday School, by this time in use as the local Valuation Office. Middlewich Library now occupies the site.
Below the vast bulk of the Wesleyan Chapel can be seen part of Seddon's Wych House Lane Salt Works and, to its left the old Seddon's waggon repair shop, with its ramshackle collection of sheds and workshops incorporating Middlewich's first Catholic Church and School.
Moving upwards, just above the Sunday School is the Victorian police-station in Queen Street, now replaced by a small box-like brick building.
Above this, on the extreme left of the picture we can just see part of the bowling green at Fountain Fields.
Above that is the present site of Tesco's main Middlewich store, and above that the wooded area is the land between Southway and Darlington Street which Tesco bought up as part of their now-abandoned expansion plans.
Also notable is the Town Bridge which looks in this picture like some kind of motorway flyover, flung across the Trent & Mersey on a huge concrete raft.
It must have looked very strange indeed in 1931 when it was first built, replacing the original little bridge which had been there since the late 18th Century.
To make the picture easier to understand, here it is again with a key and explanatory notes:


1: St Michael & All Angels Church
2: The Churchyard before alteration. Part of the Churchyard was removed in 1931 to widen Lower Street when the new Town Bridge was built.
3: Middlewich Town Hall. In the same way, one end of the Town Hall was demolished to make room for a wider Lower Street.
4: Seddon's Salt Works in Pepper Street
5: Middlewich Gas Works. Originally built by the Middlewich Gas Light and Coke Company. Most of the original works had gone by this time, but the two gas-holders were still in use.
6: The gas-pipe bridge which carried gas from the works into Middlewich. The offices of the North-Western Gas Board were in Lower Street close to the salt works yard.
7: The Town Wharf with its large warehouse building, wharfinger's cottage and wash-house for the boaties. Fronting onto Leadsmithy Street above are the public conveniences, built on stilts to bring them up to road level, which Cheshire East are currently (May 2013) trying to close.
UPDATE: This Middlewich Guardian item sheds more light on the Town Wharf and Public Conveniences issue
8: The Talbot Hotel in Kinderton Street. Behind the pub, and running at right angles to the main road, is a small terrace of cottages called Flag Alley.
9: The Town Bridge. Built by Cheshire County Council in 1931.
10: The CofE Infants School. The land occupied by this building, the Wesleyan Chapel (11) and Seddon's Salt Works and workshops (13,14) are now the site of the Salinae Centre and associated lawns and gardens.
11: The Wesleyan Chapel.
12: The Centenary Sunday School (Valuation Office). The library stands on this site now. To the left of this enormous building is a long, low building. This was the Conservative Club. The access road to the car park behind the library now occupies the site.
13: Seddon's Wych House Lane Salt Works.
14: The first Catholic Church and School, incorporated into Seddon's Workshops.
15: The Police Station in Queen Street.
16: Fountain Fields bowling green
17: Site of Tesco store in Southway.
18: Land between Southway and Darlington Street, home to several beautiful houses, including Barclay House. Now gone to rack and ruin. The future of this site is uncertain.
19: Webb's Lane - a continuation then, as now, of Pepper Street.
20: St Ann's Road.
21: The White Bear in Wheelock Street.
22: Pepper Street. Now just a short row of houses (where our '22' is) but once linking Webb's Lane with the town centre. The large building at the end of the terrace is Seddon's offices.
23:  Seabank car park.

So that was Middlewich in the late 1960s.
As those days recede further and further in time, it gets harder and harder to believe that our town once looked like this.
It's fascinating to look back on the way Middlewich used to be, but this is the grim reality of that 'lovely little town' which everyone thinks they can remember.
Once the works were closed and  demolition started in earnest, poor old Middlewich was a sorry sight indeed to behold.
Truly the past is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there.

© Dave Roberts 2013

P.S. (January 2018) This occurred to me when revisiting this entry in January 2018. On the annotated version of the picture look at the Town Hall (now the approximate site of the 'amphitheatre') (3) Now look at Pepper Street (22). There seems to be a lot of space between the two. The next time you find yourself at the 'amphitheatre', look across at Pepper Street. How far away does Pepper Street seem now? All a matter of perception, of course -Ed

UPDATE: JANUARY 14th 2018:
Photo courtesy of Elaine Carlin.                                        Reproduced with permission
Our thanks are due to Elaine Carlin who kindly sent us this additional aerial view which we think was taken at the same time as our main photo (i.e. circa 1967) as once again steam can be seen coming from at least one of the salt pans in Pepper Street. Elaine dates it as 1969. From this slightly different viewpoint we can see the shops in Lower Street (Vernon Coopers, Woodbines etc) and how Pepper Street linked the town centre with Webbs Lane. In the bottom left hand corner you can see the humble row of cottages in Queen Street, one of which is now the HQ of the Middlewich Diary.  In this photo there are many clues to the way 1960s Middlewich developed into the town of today, and we'll shortly be adding an annotated version to show exactly how the coming of the  'Middlewich Inner Relief Road'- aka St Michael's Way - altered the old street layout. For example, the telephone exchange which now fronts onto St Michael's Way is already there in this photo. Can you spot it?

Facebook Feedback 
(in our introduction to the Facebook link to this entry, we suggested that people who lived in Middlewich in 1967 might 'sigh with nostalgia' when they saw this picture)

Geraldine Williams OK, I'm sighing - but nostalgia ain't wot it used to be! The photograph doesn't show much of Kinderton Street, but we had to leave in 1967 as the house was being compulsorily purchased for the widening of the road.
However, it clearly shows the much-discussed cottages, and their gardens, which ran at right angles to the road at the side of the Talbot. Great picture, and it shows what an industrial place Middlewich was, and how short of greenery we were......!

Michelle Game This is great. I spent ages trying to work out where I live. It's amazing how a town can change over the years. Thanks for this.

Geraldine Williams I've just been revisiting this Diary entry, and in your excellent commentary you mention the Centenary Sunday School (no 12 on your plan). I can't picture the building, but I do remember there being a Conservative Club on that site. Was it in the same building, or adjacent to it?

Dave Roberts The Conservative Club was a long low building to the left of the Sunday School. It was where the road leading to the car park behind the library is now. It's featured in the Coronation 1937 film with an illuminated sign saying 'Long Live  Our King And Queen' Look out for it at 01:48. There are day time and night time shots, and in the day time one you can just make out the roof of the Sunday School on the extreme right.

Geraldine Williams That's Brilliant. Thank you

First published 17th May 2013
Revised and re-published 14th January 2018

Friday 12 January 2018


by Dave Roberts

In the foreground of this Kodachrome slide from 1973 is the sad sight of the Mill Pool in King Street. A pool no longer, it looks very forlorn having  been filled in with all kinds of rubble, scrap metal and junk to form another piece of building land.
The pool once powered  the Corn Mill in Mill Lane off Kinderton Street, a 17th Century building said by some to be the oldest brick building in the town. The Mill building was (and is) out of shot to the right. About fifty yards out of shot, actually.
Mill Pool was fed by a mill stream which as descibed here (in the first Middlewich photo we ever posted on Facebook) supplied water to the water tower at Middlewich station before running into a small pond on the other side of King Street, where we all fished for sticklebacks as children, and then through a culvert under the road into the Mill Pool. The water from the pool, after powering the mill, drained into our old friend the River Croco.
Presumably that stream still runs underneath the filled-in pool in a culvert which still drains into the River Croco close to Town Bridge Motors. Another investigation is called for when the warmer weather arrives.
Town Bridge Motors now occupy the old Corn Mill (Though my brain will insist that it's called 'Old Mill Motors'. Was the firm ever called that? Is there another firm somewhere called that? Or is it just such a good name for a car repair business that my brain won't let go of it?).
(see the comment below - Ed)
In the background is the also less than photogenic farmyard belonging to Pool Head Farm (the buildings to the left, nearest the road, always being referred to as the 'stack yard'.
The Mill Pool was, at one time, separated from the road and footpath by a high brick wall which ran all the way down to the end of King Street and round the corner into Kinderton Street.
Modern houses have been built on the site of the pool and people can be forgiven for not realising that it ever existed. 

Only the name of the adjacent modern version of Pool Head Farm commemorates Middlewich's lost mill pool.

The whole area is a lot tidier now, certainly than it was when this picture was taken (although, as we said here, Moreton's farmyard now more closely resembles an industrial estate than a farmyard) but it has lost a lot of its semi-rural charm and character.

First published 12th January 2012
Revised and re-published 12th January 2018