Friday 25 January 2019


Peter Cox asks why we have not, so far, featured a photo, or any information on the famed 'Howe's Pies', one of those popular Middlewich institutions which all seem to have disappeared over the years

Update 2017: Sadly since this was written the Howes Pies Facebook Group, like Howe's Pies themselves, seems to have disappeared. Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

In the wake of the devastating news of the closure of Howes bakery, Jamie Campell started a Facebook support group for those suffering the trauma of HPD (Howes Pie Deprivation) and the link is above.
Sadly, I was never a devotee of this particular Middlewich delicacy, although I have, over the years, eaten my fair share.My point of view on this subject was made clear in an earlier post when this brief exchange took place:

Facebook Feedback:

Geraldine Williams: Middlewich seemed to go into mourning when Howe's closed!

Dave Roberts At the risk of being run out of town on a rail, I must say I never rated them very highly. You can get much better ones today at Cynthia's or Reid's in Wheelock Street. We had them for a while at ERF Middlewich on Saturday mornings, but got fed up with them and the pie run was switched to Dave Brooks' in Winsford. In my opinion the 'Wonderful Howe's Pies' myth grew up because people believed what other people told them, not what their taste buds told them. (Comment from Facebook)

Geraldine Williams  Oooh! You're a brave man - talk about 'light blue touchpaper and retire'..........!!

Dave Roberts My partner Lynne comes from Huddersfield, in real pie territory, and, when she first came to Middlewich was offered 'a real treat' in the form of a Howe's pie. She pronounced it 'nowt special' and was amazed when I agreed with her. The other great Middlewich fast food claim to fame, about the superiority of Etta Mault's fish and chips was, and is, fully justified. As you can gather, we're very keen on health food.

If you have any other  photographs of this famed Middlewich establishment, or any information on the famous Howe's Pies, please let us have them. Don't let my disgraceful prejudice put you off - taste in pies, as in everything else, is very personal!

In the meantime, here's probably the most useful link we've provided so far. We're grateful to the gentleman who runs this site for his knowledge and diligent research,
and also the above photograph of the bulletin posted on the door of Howe's when it closed, rather like those sombre announcements on the gates of Buckingham Palace when a Senior Royal has expired, or is about to do so.

UPDATE (JANUARY 2019) Sadly, the CHESHIRE PIES site has, since this diary entry was last updated, also become defunct, in this case because TalkTalk has closed all such sites. Is there, perhaps, a plot to prevent the glorious history of the glorious Howe's Pies becoming better known? We think we should be told - Ed.

New Facebook feedback from July 2011:

    Geraldine Williams Howes' had two adjoining shops in Lewin Street: the baker's, run by Mrs Howe (the bakery was behind the shop and the baker was her son, Cephas - wonderful name!) and the other was a sort of second-hand shop run by the other brother, Rowley, who did house clearances, etc. There was also a daughter who helped out but we can't remember her name.

    Dave Roberts I used to spend a lot of time in the second hand shop talking to Roland. At that time,, in the early 60s, people were getting rid of such things as wind-up gramophones and the accompanying 78 rpm records and I bought an old HMV 'table' model from him once and transported it back to King Street, via Lewin Street, Leadsmithy Street and Kinderton Street on my trusty 'go-cart' (built, in the fashion of the time, from old pram wheels, a wooden box and other bits and pieces.
    After that I would buy boxes full of 78s at half-a-crown a time and take them back to our garage where the gramophone had taken up residence (it wasn't, of course, allowed in the house). I'd spend hours playing such classics as 'Rose, Rose, I Love You', 'The Ballad Of Robin Hood' and 'The Man From Laramie' Roland heated the shop in winter with a paraffin heater, and the fumes from this, combined with the warm smells from the bakery next door produced a delicious drowsiness as I sat and listened to him talking about all the fascinating stuff in the shop.
    Geraldine Williams You were such a hell-raiser.......!! hehe

        The worrying thing is that I can remember most of the words to all the tunes you mention! 
       First published 5th July 2011.
       Reformatted and re-published 25th January 2019

Apologies for the formatting errors in this Diary Entry. They'll be sorted out soon.

Thursday 24 January 2019


'Wedding Bells' (1938)
Please click on the button to see the film

by Dave Roberts

Nowadays, of course, practically everyone has a wedding video made when they get married, but seventy-four years ago a filmed record of your wedding (even a small part of it) was comparatively rare.

Members of the Mid-Cheshire Amateur Cinematography Society, though, were lucky.

Not only did they have cameras and film to hand (mostly from Eachus Bros in Northwich, who were members of the society themselves), but there was also no shortage of willing volunteers to make the film.

Thus this precious record of a Middlewich wedding comes down to us through the years (by a happy accident, actually, as was the case with all the films in the Roberts Collection - they were all destined to be binned when my Uncle Bill was clearing his house in Mill Lane in the 1970s, until I asked if I could have them).

It's May 21st 1938 and Uncle Bill (Mr William G Oakes) is marrying Auntie Winnie (Miss Winifred Roberts) at St Michael & All Angels Church in Middlewich.

In the background the town goes about its daily business as usual - we can see workmen giving Hulme's grocery shop (now the Accord Clinic) a new coat of paint, but most people stop to take a look at the bride and groom and assembled guests as they arrive at the church gate.

Note the cheeky little chappie in the cap who is ready, willing and able to open car doors for everyone.

You'll also notice that the iron railings which ran along the top of the church wall were still in place in this last full year of uneasy peace.

When war came in September 1939 those railings were carted away for the war effort.

There are brief glimpses of the Town Hall and adjacent shops as the wedding cars drive up Hightown (interestingly, travelling in the same direction as present day traffic - the road was probably two-way in those days).

Half way through the film the scene suddenly changes and we find ourselves in a beautiful garden in King Street for some scenes in full colour.

Colour film was quite rare before the war, particularly for amateur use.

This was around the time that Kodachrome was introduced and we know that Eachus Bros were stocking it right from the start.

The MCACS would be keen to try out the new film, and what could be better than a wedding as a subject?

The garden seen here stood between King Street and the alleyway which runs behind New King Street (where the Roberts family lived at the time).

By the time the next generation of Roberts' moved from Nantwich Road to 27 (later 33) King Street - just across the road - twenty years later, this lovely garden was derelict and overgrown and remained so for many years until a bungalow was built on the site quite recently.

In fact, at the time of filming, 27 King Street itself was yet to be built. Work started on its construction in 1939

After some good-natured and rather self-conscious fooling around for the camera, the wedding party move to that same alleyway at the rear of the Roberts house where the wedding cake is on view,

A very short but very poignant film, made more so, we'd like to think,  by the music we chose to accompany it.

It's not, perhaps, an obvious choice for a film about a wedding, but I think the music makes the images seem even more wistful and yearning, emphasising the fact that the scenes seen here were shot many many years ago, just before the world was once again to experience the horrors of war.

Remarkably, neither the film nor the music needed to be edited in any way (except for the insertion of a music credit caption lasting one second) to make them fit together.

The way they do match, particularly during the closing title sequence is quite spooky.

It's almost as if music and film had been waiting nearly three quarters of a century to be united.

In fact, given that the music was written in 1838, you could call that an even century.

We recommend that you watch the film on Youtube by clicking on the link below


Or here's another chance to watch it right here

'Wedding Bells' (1938)
Please click on the button to see the film

Original comments:

Chris Koons What a strange place to cut the cake - in the alleyway?

Dave Roberts Yes, and just across the road from where your Mum and Dad live, too.

First published 4th May 2012
1st Revised version published 6th May 2019

2nd Revised version published 8th May 2012

Re-formatted and re-published 21st January 2019
and 24th January 2019


From the Mike Jennings Classic Collection comes this newspaper ad from forty years ago in which the Boar's Head Hotel, Kinderton Street, advertises itself as a prospective wedding venue.

We're not sure what the difference is between a 'casual' wedding and a 'formal' one.
1972 was way before even Shaun Devaney's time at the BH. Does anyone remember who was in charge at the time? We have vague memories of an American gentleman running the pub at some point during the seventies, but it was all a very long time ago.

It goes without saying that the Boar's Head is still going strong and still offers everything seen in this advert and more. Even the telephone number is the same, except that you need to add '83' at the beginning.

However, we don't seem to hear much these days of 'basket meals' which were a bit of a 70s phenomenon, usually to be found at places like Jollees in  Longton where you could enjoy them while watching Mel Scholes introduce the Stylistics or Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes.

Mostly there was a simple choice between chicken & chips and scampi & chips. But you were never allowed vinegar for your chips, which put a bit of a damper on things.

First published 19th July 2012
Re-formatted and re-published 24th January 2019

Monday 21 January 2019


As we've deduced from our studies of these old Instamatic slides, the building of St Michael's Way (the 'Middlewich Inner Relief Road') and the demolition and redevelopment work in Kinderton Street were actually two separate and distinct projects, separated in time by a couple of years (and physically by the Town Bridge, of course). And, as Geraldine Williams has pointed out, Kinderton Street was not actually 'widened' to any great extent, and neither was the Town Bridge, so it was perfectly feasible by 1972 for St Michael's Way to be built and to be feeding traffic towards Holmes Chapel,the motorway and King Street via the original Kinderton Street formation, which must have dated back to 1931 when the current Town Bridge was built. In the case of traffic heading onto King Street, part of the redevelopment of Kinderton Street was aimed at improving its junction with Kinderton Street, meaning the loss of that wonderful old farmhouse.
And it also should be remembered that the traffic using the new relief road was not 'new' traffic, but traffic which would formerly have used Wheelock Street to get through the town, so there wouldn't have been significant 'extra' traffic. Not then, that is. The country's road traffic nightmare hadn't fully begun in 1972.
There were (and are) those who  resented the coming of the new road, and it was rather startling to see the way it carved its way through the old town, but it has meant that Wheelock Street has survived in very much its original form, and  we never suffered the same indignity as nearby Winsford where half the High Street was knocked down to accomodate that unfortunate town's 'relief road'.
Our present slide was taken in 1972 and shows St Michael's Way under construction. Out of shot to the left is Pepper Street (or what's left of it). The low brick building with the white weather boarding is Middlewich Telephone Exchange which, having started life mooning away unseen and unregarded in its own little compound off Pepper Street, suddenly found itself thrust into the limelight and standing alongside a major road. The intervening years have seen it blossom and more than double in size, sprouting all kinds of mobile phone aerials and the like on the way. Now we're promised fibre optic broadband, which can't come too soon. To the right of the telephone exchange is Powell's sewing factory (now the site of a block of flats and the ubiquitous town houses, connecting St Michael's Way with Wheelock Street.
As this new road emerges into the sunlight and with it the start of the new, post-industrial Middlewich we know today, we can see on the skyline a reminder of the older Middlewich in the form of  Seddon's salt works chimneys in Brooks Lane (to the left of the Church in this photo) still there, but soon to be no more.
Finally, a nice subtitle for this slide would be 'Me and My Shadow'. In the bottom left hand corner is the shadow of the then 20 year old Mr Roberts in the act of snapping the scene for posterity.

First published 5th July 2011
Re-formatted and re-published 21st January 2019

Tuesday 15 January 2019


Photo: Maureen Condra

This Diary entry is a follow up to: THE ROYAL OAK, circa 1900
                                                        LAST REMNANTS OF THE ROYAL OAK circa 2012


The last piece in the jigsaw, as supplied by Malcolm Hough, finally vindicates Trevor Williams in his assertion that the still extant wall behind the site of Niddrie's former bus garage was, indeed, part of the Royal Oak - Ed.

by Dave Roberts

Our convoluted theories about the Royal Oak in Lewin Street (see previous Diary entries - links above) came down, in the end, to a simple truth - that The Royal Oak ended its days not as a public house, but as a private house, sandwiched in between the White Horse and, at first that three storeyed house with the steep steps and, later, Niddries new building.
The red herring, and the thing that threw all our calculations out, was Trevor Williams' assertion that one of the walls of the former pub still existed at the rear of the old Niddries site. There was no way we could make the 'footprint' of the pub fit where it was supposed to if we placed one of the walls of the pub so far back and so far to the left of the site.
In one of our earlier entries mention was made of Maureen Condra, nee Hitchen, who now lives in America and is an avid reader of the Middlewich Diary. 
Maureen sent us the above photograph a couple of years ago, explaining that it showed her former home at 40 Lewin Street.
Obviously Maureen's family home and the erstwhile Royal Oak are one and the same building. It had obviously ceased to be a pub and been converted into a private house many years before.
So that is the reason no one could remember a Lewin Street pub being demolished in the 1950s.

Maureen writes:

We occupied the whole house. The right hand side with the single chimney was where my bedroom was. My brother Jimmy and sister Margaret were born there, as was my daughter Leona, with the assistance of Dr Brown and Nurse Benger*. I remember it as if it was yesterday. And, yes, the new building on the left was being built by Niddries. I left in 1958 and came back for a visit in 1960 and my family were living in George VI Avenue. The photograph was taken while the pavement was being repaired.

* One of the town's well-known and well-respected District Nurses. Geraldine Williams says she remembers Nurse Benger, along with others including Nurse Adamson.

So Malcolm Hough and Trevor Williams were obviously quite right when they said that the building was demolished at the same time as Niddries was built, but it was many years after it had ceased to be a pub.

I wonder if the thorny problem of the remains behind the site of Niddries garage can be solved with a little lateral thinking? Are those remains perhaps part of a retaining wall at the rear of the pub's yard, or maybe the last remnants of an outhouse of some kind? The pub's yard may have extended behind those adjacent buildings.

UPDATE: 9th APRIL 2015

Actually Malcolm Hough and Trevor Williams have the final word on this  Royal Oak enigma, with virtually no lateral thinking needed.

Malcolm writes:

Hi Dave,

 I have only just read your edited article on the Royal Oak. I like it very much. Nice to see other people interested. Trevor Williams may have been right about the remnants of the pub though. Take a look at the attached image. It shows the footprint of the pub on the 1909 O.S. map, it is the reversed [Z] shape [yellow]. The left-hand side does go back a fair way. It looked a large building in those days.
 The White Horse [blue]; looks like there were three buildings there in those days. Maybe that’s how the car-park came about, after the demolition of the first two buildings or part of. 

Photocapture: Malcolm Hough
So we can consider Trevor Williams vindicated!

As for the Royal Oak and the White Horse being immediately adjacent to one another, as we've explained before, this was by no means unusual at one time. Malcolm Hough has kindly sent us a list of pubs and beer houses in the town in 1860 and we can see that the two establishments did indeed flourish side by side.

As time went on, however, it may well have been that there was not enough trade for both pubs, and this could explain why the Royal Oak became a private house, leaving the White Horse to cater for all the local drinkers.

Many thanks to everyone who has enthusiastically joined us in solving another little Middlewich mystery!


First published 19th January 2015

Re-published (with amendments) 9th April 2015)
Re-published 18th January 2018
Re-published 15th January 2019


by Dave Roberts & Malcolm Hough

Waiting patiently in the wings for many  months now has been long time Middlewich Diary correspondent Malcolm Hough of Wych House Lane who came across this photograph of Lewin Street with an inscription on the back indicating that it was taken during Middlewich's celebrations for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897. At first Malcolm was inclined to take this inscription at face value.
Later, after the photo was cleaned up by his wife Jen, Malcolm took a second look at it, and had a change of mind, thinking that the photo may have a connection with the second Boer War (1899-1902) because of the letters CR fashioned out of flowers which can be seen on the wall on the right of the shot.
Malcolm was wondering if the letters CR might stand for Cheshire Regiment?
The Cheshires certainly took part in the 2nd Boer War, although the troops involved in the Siege of Mafeking were mainly recruited from Rhodesia and surrounding areas by Colonel Baden-Powell who had decided to hold the Cape Colony town due to its strategic position. He successfully did so for 217 days from October 1999 until the 17th May 1900 when British troops from Lord Roberts' army brought the siege to an end.
After a chance meeting with Middlewich historian Allan Earl and consulting Allan's book Middlewich 1900-1950 (Cheshire Country Publishing 1994) (see Page 16 - Ed) Malcolm decided that the photo may well have been taken in May 1900 as the people in the photo are dressed in light Summer clothes.
In 2012, when we were looking at a photo of Hightown donated by Kath and Barry Walklate, we mentioned the then unusual way in which the people of Middlewich first heard the news about the Relief of Mafeking. The article can be read here.

Malcolm writes:

'I have been talking to Trevor Williams, who has lived in Lewin Street for most of his life. He remembers Maureen Condra (nee Hitchen)* very well. We have come to the conclusion that the 'Royal Oak' was demolished at around the same time as Niddries shop was built in the 1950s.
This was around the same time as the Cotton Houses (see this diary entry -Ed) where I used to live were demolished and we should have moved to George VI Avenue. The Hitchin family did move there, but we moved to Hayhurst Avenue instead. This would be in mid-1958.
On the extreme left-hand side of the photo you can see the corner of a three-storey house. Trevor said it was Georgian and was demolished at the same time as Niddries was built.
I can vaguely remember this building, as my Auntie and Uncle lived there in the early 1950s. It had tall stone steps and wrought iron railings and, from the top, it looked like miles down to the footpath.
I think that's why it sticks in my mind so much. Terrifying!
Trevor Williams says that part of the back wall of the 'Royal Oak is still standing, with a fence on top of it. He is now in the process of doing an oil painting of this photo.
Returning once more to the CR letters, on the right hand side, I wonder if the man with the ladder is hiding more lettering?
There is a sign below the letter C, with what looks like it might be a steam train. Could it have been to do with the opening of the Cledford Railway Halt in 1911? (I think it very doubtful. The opening of Middlewich Station itself in 1867/8 was not, it appears, an occasion for much ceremony, so the opening of Cledford Halt, which was some distance away and was only a small wooden platform probably wouldn't have caused a lot of celebration either. The halt only lasted  a few years, closing during World War II - Ed).
We do know that the picture has to be after 1898, which is when the Victoria Building opened.

- Malcolm Hough

* Maureen now lives in America and is an enthusiastic reader of the Middlewich Diary -Ed.

Let's take another look at Malcolm's photo in order to compare it with a modern-day shot. The imposing bulk of the  Victoria Technical Schools can be seen, patriotically flying the flag, in the background. This building later became known as the Victoria Building, and housed the council chamber and offices of the Middlewich Urban District Council, as well as Middlewich library, replacing the old Town Hall on Hightown. 
More recently it has been the home of the Middlewich Town Council and has been officially given the name it should have carried for many years - Middlewich Town Hall. The small area in front of the building was, at one time, called Victoria Square. To the right of the building and the three Lewin Street chimney pots the castellated roof of St Michael's church tower can just be seen.
To the left of the Victoria Building the white roof with the ball ornament at its apex belongs to the Working Men's Institute, which was later converted into the town's second fire station and is now the site of a floral clock and flagpole.
Next come two houses, White Horse Alley, and then the 'White Horse' pub.  It's unclear whether the building actually was a pub  at the time of this photo. If it was, it would have been right next door to the 'Royal Oak', but such a situation has never been very unusual in this country. Certainly the fact that the alley-way next to the building was named after it tends to indicate that the White Horse has been there for a very long time.*
Then comes the 'Royal Oak' itself which is, of course, long gone and its site given over to the 'White Horse's' Car Park and part of the now-derelict Niddries site.
The buildings on the right hand side of the picture still survive (see below).

* subsequent information from Malcolm shows us that the White Horse was certainly there, and operating as a pub, as long ago as 1860. So the two pubs were indeed in business right next door to each other -Ed.

Here's the same area on  January 14th  2015. The Victoria Building still dominates the scene, but looks a little foreshortened without a flagpole and flag waving in the breeze. The White Horse has come into prominence with the demolition of the Royal Oak and the other buildings to its left, and that surviving wall from the old 'Royal Oak' must be just out of shot to the left in among the rubble and desolation that  once was Niddrie's toy shop.*
Remarkably, though, the shop on the right which was being garlanded with flowers all those years ago seems little altered.
To prove that appearances can be deceptive, please note that there is not a vehicle in sight in this view. Had it been taken a second before or a second after it was, the photo would have been chock-a-block with vehicles of all kinds. In fact, a true comparison photo was impossible as it would have needed to be taken from the middle of the road. 
Standing in the middle of the carriage-way in modern day Lewin Street is, it need hardly be said, not recommended..
The whole area looks a little forlorn and sorry for itself on a freezing cold January day but, come the Summer, when the crowds descend on the town for the FAB Festival, this area comes to life and looks a little more like it must have done when the town was celebrating the Relief of Mafeking (or was it Queen Victoria's Jubilee, or even George V's Coronation?) all those long years ago.

*Update (15th January 2019) The White Horse finally closed its doors on the 10th March 2018 (see link, below). As of even date it's still standing and looking much the same as it always did. It's been converted into offices and stands empty. There are those who think that it will stand for a few years yet, most probably untenanted, until a decent interval has elapsed and it can be demolished. To coin a phrase - You may say that, we couldn't possibly comment. - Ed.


UPDATE - 17th January 2015:

This Diary entry generated a lot of interest, with 86 views in the first hour after it was published.

On Facebook Geraldine Williams came up with an alternative theory to explain the letters on the right of the photograph:

Geraldine Williams Could the year be 1911 and the floral letters actually be G and R for George V's coronation?
This sounds eminently plausible. George V ascended to the throne in 1910 and his coronation took place on the 22nd of June 1911, which ties in nicely with Malcolm's theory about the Summer clothes worn by the people in the photograph. So, is that a 'G' rather than a 'C'?

And Bill Eaton of New King Street emailed to say:

What a very interesting photo. I too can remember two cottages in Lewin Street with steep steps at the front, and the Hitchen family lived there, as, at one time did a Mrs Maddock and her son John. John emigrated to Australia at an early age and he and Maureen Condra, nee Hitchen, both attended St Mary's school at the same time as I did.

I also remember that, across the road from Niddries there was a dairy, which I think was owned by Maudley's.
Also, I was once told that the double fronted shop in the photo had been a bakery, which is, presumably, where the name 'Bakers Yard' (see below) comes from. I believe the premises were owned at one time by the Foster family.

Meanwhile, Malcolm Hough still favours the Cheshire Regiment theory and  has  emailed us with this:

I am not certain if I have mentioned this to you before, but after a bit more research where the letters C. R. are on the wall, below them, surrounding the window frame and the window itself, are the Cheshire’s regimental colours. See image (below). - Malcolm Hough

Photo: Malcolm Hough

BAKERS YARD - circa 2011

Malcolm also sent us this view, culled from Google Earth's Streetview, showing the buildings opposite the former Royal Oak/Niddrie's site, complete with plaque indicating that the area is known as 'Baker's Yard'. As Malcolm points out, Google Earth is only updated occasionally, so this view will be a few years old, as evidenced by the shop just beyond the Victoria Building which is, at the time of the photo, still being shared between Rowlands Pharmacy (since moved to new premises in St Ann's Walk) and  Middlewich Post Office. Our caption, dating the view as '2011', is an approximation.

                      ROYAL OAK - THE TRUTH REVEALED

 First published 15th January 2015
 Updated 17th Janury 2015
 Updated and re-published 15th January 2019


Photo supplied by Malcolm Hough

Following on from Malcolm Hough's early 20th century photograph of Lewin Street showing the long-lost Royal Oak public house, here's a modern snapshot, taken from Google Streetview, which shows the last remnants of the pub, demolished in the 1950s (?), which are to be found at the rear of the site of Niddrie's bus garage, next to the famous toyshop which itself bit the dust in 2012. The last remains of the pub, according to Malcolm, who had the information from local resident Trevor Williams, are the walls in the middle of this shot, underneath the modern wooden fence. To the right is the left-hand wall of the toyshop, complete with security camera and signs warning that the premises were under 24 hour surveillance - a testament to the vandalism and crime which plagued the business in its final days.

And now we seem to have another mystery on our hands. We recommend that this Diary entry is read in conjunction with the earlier one showing the Royal Oak,
Here are a couple of photographs of Niddrie's shop taken during its closing down sale in 2011:

Photos: Peter Cox

And here is the title from an earlier Diary entry about Niddrie's, called The Beginning Of the End

Photo: Salt Town Productions

It is evident from these photos that Niddrie's actually consisted of two parts - an old part and a new part, the left hand side being older than the right hand , which, presumably, was the portion of the premises built in the 1950s.  Beyond the old part of the building (out of shot to the left in the third photo) was the bus garage, the site of which is shown in our top photo.
If the walls behind that garage were those of the Royal Oak, how do we fit that building into the space where Niddrie's was, and what was the 'old' part before it became part of Niddries? Was it part of the Royal Oak? Or was it built separately? Or was that the part built in the 1950s, to be followed later by an even 'newer' part?
And where was the three storey house with the steep steps? Did that become part of Niddries in the 1950s? Or was it  originally part of the Royal Oak? Malcolm Hough and Trevor Williams are of the opinion that the Royal Oak was demolished 'in the 1950s when Niddrie's was built'. Did part of it survive?
How do we account for the whole space between the still extant houses, and the White Horse?

To make the problem clearer here, again from Google Earth, is the entire site as it was in 2011 during Niddrie's closing down sale. As can be seen from Malcolm's early 20th Century picture, the Royal Oak was very close to the White Horse, which can be seen on the right, with, at most, a small alleyway between the two. If the wall underneath the modern wooden fence in this picture formed part of the Royal Oak it must have been a truly enormous building. 

Surely the truth must be that the Royal Oak disappeared long before the 1950s. Geraldine Williams and her husband certainly seem to think so, as evidenced by this comment;

My husband and I have been comparing notes. We both remember the house with the steep steps (and John Maddock, Bill) which we think was in the space to the left of The White Horse and was sideways on to the road. Neither of us remember any pub-like building and think it must have been demolished long before the 1950s.
- Geraldine Williams

Whatever the truth of the matter, the site is in a sorry mess these days, after Niddries was rather unexpectedly demolished when it was, apparently, on the verge of becoming a plumbers shop.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Thank you for your patience.  We appreciate that the whole Middlewich Diary Royal Oak saga is highly confusing, in the good old traditional Middlewich Diary style. Here's the final chapter in the saga in which, we hope, all is revealed:

The last remains of Niddries shop in Lewin Street, January 2015

In 2015 one last reminder of Niddrie's remains on the site in the form of this advertisement for Philip's luxury car business.

                     GOING, GOING...
                     THE END OF AN ERA
                     ROYAL OAK - THE TRUTH REVEALED

FIrst published 17th January 2015
Re-published 18th January 2018
Re-published 15th January 2019