Tuesday 15 January 2019


The White Horse, Lewin Street, as it was in October 2012
by Dave Roberts

In the early hours of Sunday 11th March 2018 another piece of old Middlewich came to an end as the White Horse in Lewin Street finally reached the end of the line.

The closure of the pub was widely expected and for several years had been the subject of much speculation.

The problem with the White Horse has never been with its beer, even when the main offering was the notorious Double Diamond which, you'll recall, 'worked wonders', nor with its food, even when that food consisted mostly of Walker's Crisps and KP Peanuts. The problem was never with the pub's clientele - the usual Middlewich mix of hard drinkers, nutcases, dreamers, philosophers and ordinary, run-of-the-mill, 'couple of pints on the way home' amateurs.

And there has certainly never been any problem with the people running the pub. 

Speaking  personally, I can go back to 1970, the first time I ever set foot in the White Horse, when Ken and Marjory Williams were the landlord and landlady.

I used to go in there with my first girlfriend's father Ron Grainger who worked (as I did) for the Middlewich Urban District Council and used to call into the pub to buy the, then new, Walker's Crisps. I'd go with him on occasion and we'd take in a few pints of Double Diamond while we were buying the crisps. It would have been rude not to.

Ken and Marjory were the epitome of the old-fashioned 'mine host' and his lady wife. Ken was a military man who had served in the Tank Regiment and had pictures of some of those tanks and the people he had served with all around the pub.

Marjory was just lovely. A lady with the quirkiest sense of humour I have ever encountered. She had, as they say, all her many and varied Middlewich customers 'weighed up', and wouldn't take any nonsense from any of them. I'm keeping my favourite Marjory story under wraps for the time being (as it's ever so slightly rude).

In later years, after Ken had passed on, a complete lunatic called Jerry Woods was manager at the White Horse. This was the time when, after working Saturday mornings at ERF, I'd call in for a few pints with work colleague Steve Farrington.

Saturday afternoon fun at the White Horse in the 1990s. The late Steve Farrington (and unidentified lady friend) together with his brother Peter. Sadly, Peter also died in 2018.

And this was also the time when the White Horse was just about a minute's walk (or, rather, stagger) away from the Middlewich Folk & Boat Festival site at Market Field (via the adjacent White Horse Alley) and said Jerry Woods would try to get the festival's compere so drunk as to render him incapable of introducing the acts. It never worked, though we came perilously close some years. I know, because I was that compere.

No. The  White Horse never really had any problems until relatively recently. And the problem which has ultimately seen the end of the White Horse has arisen from the pub's position close - too close - to the Lewin Street carriageway. The increase in traffic - in particular the rise in the number of heavy trucks using Lewin Street, in the absence of a by-pass between Sandbach and Middlewich, has made the pub's position more and more precarious as time has gone on.

Our main picture, taken by Bill Armsden for our sister site the Middlewich Directory in 2012, graphically shows the problem. The pub is far too close to the road. Or, to be more precise, the road is far too close to the pub. 

The only real solution would be to move the pub a few yards further back, but we all know that would never happen, even if it was physically possible.

And so, sadly, the White Horse has to close.

The plan, according to reports, is to turn the ground floor of the pub into offices for 'a transport company' with 'accommodation for truck-drivers' above.

Does that ring true? Won't the building still be too close to the road, whatever it's used for? Where will the trucks park? Where will the people working in the office park their cars? Has planning permission been granted? If not, will it be granted given all these questions and the problems  inherited from the building's days as a pub?

Can anyone doubt that the building will eventually be pulled down to ease the passage of traffic along Lewin Street?

And isn't it true that such a demolition would also give some developer access to the prime building land which lies behind the pub?

Not for us to say, of course.

In the meantime we can only mourn the loss of this most popular of Middlewich pubs.

UPDATE (16th May 2020): As of May 2020 our cynicism and scepticism over the closure of the pub and the future of the building seems to have proved unfounded. The building appears to be thriving in its new role as a 'business centre' with a suprising number of  firms making full use of the facilities it offers, and with no apparent problems over car parking. Which shows how much we know....

Many people have tried in recent years to make a go of the White Horse, and it's been something of a local success story, particularly as a disco and karaoke venue, which is how it will be spending its last night.

Other types of music have also been welcomed in recent years, particularly at Festival time:

Unofficial Festival Fringe publicity 2016

We'll leave you with these photos from the Mike Jennings Classic Collection, taken just before the pub closed its doors for good.

The White Horse in March 2018, showing once again just how close Lewin Street comes to the front of the building
Taken the same day and looking in the opposite direction towards Middlewich Town Hall
The dirt and grime which relentless heavy traffic plastered all over the building can be seen here. It didn't seem to matter how many times the White Horse was re-painted, the same thing happened. 
To the right of the building is the tower at Middlewich Fire Station in nearby Civic Way. This steel structure was once used to dry out rubber fire hoses (they were hung from the tower to let the water drain away) and is now used for training exercises.
The White Horse Bar in its final form. Still basically the same bar we all remember.

One unique feature of the White Horse - and  a feature highly prized by the male sector of the White Horse's clientele - was the marvellous Victorian  urinals in the gent's lavatories. Made by Duckett's of Burnley. We shall never see their like in Middlewich again.

Delighting in Music no more...here's the dismal scene at the White Horse on the 31st March 2018, just three weeks after closure. Earlier in the month this had been a place of music, laughter and excitement. Very soon it will become nothing but  boring, nondescript office space and 239 years of pub history will have been dumped in a skip. The building spent 239 years as The White Horse, starting in 1779. That wasn't the beginning of the pub's history, though. It was in existence in 1767 as The Horse & Jockey (Ref. 'Middlewich Hospitality' by Ken Kingston, Middlewich U3A Local History Group 2014).

From the White Horse Facebook page:
Sad times as from Wednesday 21st March 2018 the keys are being handed over to the new owner.
We have had many happy years in the White Horse and each and everyone of you have got good memories of your days n nights out to cherish
All landladies n landlords past n present would like to thank each and everyone of you who over the years have supported us to make this public house the success it was.
Without you we couldn’t of kept it going this long.
The only one good thing is that it is not being knocked down and it’s getting a new face lift for offices n flats
Thank you all once again and we hope to see everyone very soon in the near future.
Janice n Rob
Leon n Steve
Jon n Jackie
15th March 2018



A tale of the Folk & Boat Festival


Editorial Note

We expected this Diary Entry marking the end of a popular Middlewich institution to be popular. In fact it broke all records with nearly four thousand people from all over the world taking a look at it in the course of its first 24 hours on the Middlewich Diary.

First published 11th March 2018
Updated and re-published 15th January 2019

1 comment:

  1. Apparently the toilets make it count as a listed building.


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