Monday 18 February 2019


'A mean old town without any manufactures but, I think, a Corporation'

- Dr Samuel Johnson

'Of the three wiches, Middlewich is rather a hag, unredeemed, uncouth and disfavoured...'

- J.C. Walters, 'Romantic Cheshire' 1930

by Dave Roberts

Vicky Walker has kindly given us permission to publish this series of photographs, originally posted  by her on Facebook and taken over a period of forty-three years. They show a section of Lewin Street, as seen from Middlewich church tower, as it  slowly changed from  being  part of a grim, grey smoky industrial town to a much more pleasant - if traffic-choked - area of the Middlewich we know today. We've included several links to past Middlewich Diary entries which will show us something of the buildings which once stood in this historic part of the town. -Ed.

1957. Probably something of a revelation to people who have only known Middlewich in comparatively recent years. The building in the lower middle of the photo is the Church of England Infants' School. Beyond that is the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, and then Seddon's waggon repair shop which incorporated Middlewich's first Catholic Church. The original cross from this building is preserved in the entrance porch of the current St Mary's Church in King Street.

Between the school and the chapel and fronting directly onto Lewin Street is the building which was, at one time, Dawson's record shop and ended its days as a hardware shop called 'Square One'. It's hard to discern whether this building was a shop at the time of the photograph. It may well have been two cottages. To the immediate left of the school and chapel can be seen three chimneys belonging to Seddon's Wych House Lane salt works.

 Bottom left, the building with the smoking chimney is currently Peter Forshaw's funeral parlour. At the time this was Les Gibbins' Newsagents shop.
But it's in the background that we can see something of the dirty old town which was Middlewich at the time.
To the right is  ICI Middlewich in Brooks Lane, the site of which is now mostly occupied by Pochin Ltd. This works was dedicated to the production of alkali, as were many other such works in the area, including those at Northwich and Sandbach. The square building to the right is part of the limestone crushing apparatus. Railway trucks full of limestone were hoisted to the top of this tower and tipped, the limestone falling into the crushing machinery below.

This tower was situated immediately behind the King's Lock pub, across the Trent & Mersey Canal from Booth Lane and the Avenues. The constant noise from this machinery has been described by one local resident as 'frightening'. 

On the left can be seen a jumble of salt works chimneys.
The taller ones belong to Seddon's Brooks Lane salt works, and the smaller ones to Murgatroyd's salt works.

In 1957 all these icons of industrial Middlewich had just ten years of life left in them: the ICI works closed  five years later in 1962; Murgatroyd's salt works, which started operations in 1889, closed in 1966 and Seddon's Brooks Lane works (along with the works in Wych House Lane and Pepper Street) in 1967. 

The land in between Lewin Street and Brooks Lane was, at this time, pasture land. Nowadays you'll find the houses of the Maidenhills development, closing the gap between Lewin Street and the Trent & Mersey Canal, there.

An enlarged version of part of the above photo, but showing a little more of the ICI works, to the right. A much degraded image, looking rather like a Turner painting. But it's still possible to see from this image just how smoky and dirty industrial Middlewich was at this time. This is the 'lovely little town' which people remember - or think they remember - from this period.
Frank Smith's photo of the area in 1983 will make the layout  a little clearer.

1986. Time has moved on, and Vicky Walker has taken advantage of one of the Middlewich Church Tower open days which occurred from time to time to show us Lewin Street as it was when all those buildings - the salt works, the waggon repair shops, the Infants' School, the Methodist Chapel and Square One had all been razed to the ground. 

Middlewich Library which was built a surprisingly long time before all this demolition took place, is the square building to the right.

Most of the ICI works is long gone, but a few tall buildings linger on as part of Pochin (Contractors) Ltd.

The pasture land which will eventually become Maidenhills is still unspoilt.

On the left Gibbins' Newsagents has survived, under different ownership.

2000. Another trip up the church tower has given Vicki the chance to picture Lewin Street looking a lot more like it does nineteen years later. 

On the extreme left is just a small part of the gardens and car parks surrounding the Salinae Centre. Bottom right is part of the library roof.

The main difference, though, is the filling in of all that pasture land by the houses of Maidenhills. Part of the land between Maidenhills and the canal has been preserved as the 'Three Locks Trail'.

1 comment:

  1. I went to the Infant School! I remember the playground and the glass roof corridor, which came crashing down while I was at the school, fortunately not is school hours. The classrooms had a partition of timber and glass windows so that each classroom could be divided into two. I have a memory of being called to appear in front of the Headmistress on one occasion, although I can't remember what I did wrong. She was an enormous woman who, although seated, towered above me; I felt like Oliver Twist asking for more. I still have a certificate awarded to me for "...being a careful and considerate road user and setting a good example to other children" April 1950. This was for crossing the road outside the school, which as you know is on a poor visibility bend and hill. There was always a policeman on duty when we came out, and he took my name; I thought I was going to be arrested!
    I was very into magic and conjuring, (Father Christmas has brought me a conjuring set) and I was allowed to do one trick in front of my class. The teacher must have been impressed because I was taken round all the classes to do the same trick! It involved cutting a piece of string in two, then placing the ends in my mouth, and Abracadabra, they were joined again. After my tour the teacher said she found several little bits of wet string in the corridor.
    I remember the Wesley Methodist Chapel, although I never went inside because I was in the Sunday School further up Lewin Street by the Cheshire Cheese. I have a prize book from there "Ebenezer Methodist Sunday School Presented to Colin Pierpoint for Morning attendance 1950"
    As a teenager I used to go for walks along Brooks Lane, and remember the fields mentioned, in fact I think there were cattle in them.
    The shop you mention was the sweet shop on the way to school. It may have been called Challinors then.


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