Thursday, 31 October 2019


Photo: Cliff Astles
by Dave Roberts

Here's a striking image which Cliff Astles sent to us a while ago and we thought might be appropriate for Halloween.
Behind all the 'ghosties and ghoulies' and the rather unpleasant fake blood and plastic daggers and silly masks and so on lies the real Halloween, or Eve of Hallowtide, which was celebrated on the 1st and 2nd of November in Medieval times.
Hallowtide (or, in Ireland, 'Samhain') has (or had) little to do with the supernatural (and absolutely nothing to do with blood, horror and screaming skulls and the like - that's an American invention which only came into being when Hollywood started to get a grip of people's imaginations in order to promote its cheap blood and gore horror films).
It was a Christian festival and a time of feasting and celebration of the start of winter.
It later became linked with All Saints Day and All Souls Day, again celebrated on the 1st and 2nd of November, in which the church celebrated its saints and martyrs and the departed souls of all who had gone before.
In England, until recent times, Halloween was regarded simply as a time when the 'spirit' world was closer to the every day world than usual.
Now, like Christmas and Easter, Halloween serves as another chance to make money for big business with sweet manufacturers and makers of novelties cashing in more and more with each passing year..
Good fun for the kids, of course, but a world away from its origins in the mists of time when people would pause for a while in their busy lives to remember those who had passed beyond the veil into unknown realms which we can only wonder about.

Halloween in Middlewich in the late 1950s and early 1960s was a fairly low-key affair, as it was elsewhere in Britain before the blatant commercialisation of the festival took hold.
We certainly made lanterns, but not out of pumpkins, which only went on sale here in recent years.
Our lanterns were  hollowed-out turnips with candles inside them, and they used to reek to high-heaven when they got hot.
In actual fact we were following a tradition which went back a lot further than the Americans' pumpkin carving. 
The original English medieval  Halloween tradition involved making lanterns from turnips and we were, whether we knew it or not, following that tradition.
I have vivid childhood memories of listening to ghost stories broadcast by AFN (the American Forces Network) on long-ago Halloween Nights over fifty years ago. They were broadcast on medium wave to the many American soldiers stationed here and all over Europe in those days.
The static and crackling and Radio Luxembourg-style fading in and out of the signal only added to the atmosphere.
Occasionally, but only occasionally, someone would organise a Halloween Party.
One such took place, I recall, in the late 1950s at the Manor, when it was still inhabited by the Willing-Denton family. As we were living in Nantwich Road at the time, it was just a matter of walking down the road and under the aqueduct to Manor Lodge, then making the arduous journey along the carriage drive to the Manor itself.
Once there, we were introduced to such quaint American customs as 'bobbing for apples'.
'Trick-or-treating' was discouraged because of  stories which reached us from America of people giving children apples with razor-blades in them and other such horrors. The stories were mostly complete nonsense - urban legends designed for the credulous. In fact, as far as we can gather,  there has only ever been one recorded instance of anyone trying to cause harm to trick-or-treating American children. The woman in question poisoned some candy and was later found to be insane. No one came to any harm.
But true or not, these gruesome stories put us off the idea of going from door to door asking for sweets, and the idea has only taken off in fairly recent years along with the rest of the Americanisation of Halloween.
Halloween in those days was just a distraction. Most of our energy was spent on preparing for the much more popular Bonfire Night a few days later.

Cliff's picture is made up of  images taken in and around Middlewich on two separate occasions. If you are wondering where the tree is, here, taken from his original comment on this entry, is what Cliff has to say:

As you pass the newly built houses along Warmingham Lane, look at the fields on your left hand side as you are going out of Middlewich (into Moston). After about 200 yards you will see the tree, just over the hedge and about 50 yards into the field.

- but please bear in mind that the rapid rate of housing development in Middlewich as in towns all over the area, means that the tree, and indeed the field, may not be there for much longer
Special Middlewich Diary Masthead for Halloween 2017

Our 'Three Witches' motif has been borrowed from the Middlewich Salt Company's letterhead.
Halloween has always had a particular resonance in the Cheshire salt towns, in all likelihood simply because 'wich' sounds like 'witch'. Carnivals and parades, particularly in Middlewich, always featured at least one 'Middlewich Witch'. This association was exploited by the Middlewich Salt Co. when it adopted as its trademark 'Middle-Witch Salt'.

Here's the full letterhead, this version of which dates back to 1946:

and here's a link to the Diary entry which, since we started in 2011, has always been our most popular entry:


...and  finally, here's a genuine Middlewich Witch at the 1973 Carnival in company with a lady advertising RHM's 'exceedingly good' Mr Kipling cakes...

First published Halloween Night (31st October) 2014
Revised and re-published Halloween Night 2016
 Halloween Night 2017
Halloween 2019 ('Not Brexit Day')

Thursday, 24 October 2019


Photo reproduced by kind permission of Joan Smith

by David Roberts

We're very grateful once more to Middlewich Diary contributor Bill Eaton who has sent us another item from the collection of the late Frank Smith of Ravenscroft.
And we're fortunate in this case that the scan we received from Bill includes Frank's original caption to this view of Wheelock Street.  It reads as follows:

1983. A...view...taken from the church tower. The small red brick building in the left foreground was the Fire Station of the Middlewich Local Board

Obviously that first Middlewich  fire station, which we looked at here was the focus of Frank's attention at the time. He was one of the people who tried to save it from demolition and was instrumental in ensuring that the terra cotta work mentioned in our earlier diary entry was saved for posterity.

There is, however, much more of interest in this photo: for example, it's startling to think that the Middlewich CofE Infants' School survived as late as 1983 though its forlorn look in this picture show that its days are clearly numbered.. The 'Square One' shop to its right is also still there.
We're used to thinking in terms of all those buildings between Leadsmithy Street and Middlewich DIY being 'swept away in the 1970s' but, as we can see here, it didn't happen quite like that.
Seddon's Wych House Lane works  along with the Central Methodist Chapel  had  disappeared quite a few years before this picture was taken (presumably by Frank himself on one of those church tower open days which Jack Stanier and I also took advantage of a few years earlier).
The MUDC road maintenance depot on the canal side of the site had also been and gone by this time, which was well into the Congleton Borough era, but on Lewin Street, opposite the library (just out of shot to the right) the site of the former Seddon's waggon repair depot (later used by the MUDC) appears to have only just been levelled.
In the left  foreground Lex House is still housing the doctors' surgery and solicitors' offices and  Gibbins' Newsagents (formerly Challinor's) is still in business in the centre foreground.
Both these buildings still exist in 2012, but are empty and awaiting new tenants (apart, of course, from the flats above and to the rear of the newsagents).
Above the roof of the infants' school can be seen the new building housing
Oates Builders Merchants which replaced the old Co-op shop fronting onto Lewin Street opposite the bottom of Civic Way.
Out on the skyline, beyond the remains of Seddon's Pepper Street works, is prime Cheshire farmland waiting for the industrial estates yet to come.
We look forward to seeing more from the Frank Smith collection

Here's the photo again with a key to the buildings: 1 Lex House 2 Old Fire Station 3 Newsagent's (Challinor/Gibbins/Tams) 4 CofE Infant School 5 Square One Hardware 6 Site of Seddon's Waggon repair shop and various other buildings in Wych House Lane, including the first Catholic Church 7 Oates Builders' Merchants Warehouse (now Jewson's) 8 Andersen Boats 9 Council Yard (site of Seddon's Wych House Lane salt works) 10 Site of Seddon's Brooks Lane salt works 11 Maidenhills (now a housing estate) 12 Stott's Chemist (now Jennie Edwards).
Update 16/1/2014: Both Lex House and the newsagent's shop (1 & 3) have now been bought and are undergoing refurbishment. The newsagent's is, apparently, to become a funeral director's headquarters.

UPDATE (24th October 2019): The shop did indeed become the headquarters of Peter Forshaw's funeral business, and Lex House has, in the interim, become the Water's Edge G.P. Surgery. Older readers will remember that part of this building was dedicated to the same purpose some years ago before the Oaklands Surgery in St Ann's Walk was built.

First Published 1st June 2012
Revised 16th January 2014
Updated and re-published 24th October 2019

Wednesday, 23 October 2019


Middlewich & District Round Table

The Mayor and Mayoress will be there on Friday evening at 8pm to open the festival, and Linda Boden, our new Deputy Mayor, will also be there with her husband John, making her first public appearance in her new role.

Jack Roberts writes:

First off,  the drink - the most important bit of the weekend.

We have over forty ales, ciders and gins to try. Some locally sourced and some from further afield. Beer and cider are priced at only £2.50 a pint and a double G&T is only a fiver! We haven't skimped on tonic either as we are providing Fevertree!

Over the weekend we also have The Pie Guys providing you with some lovely pie, mash and peas.

Friday evening's entertainment will be provided by The Bohemian Kings.

As this year our Chairman is Scottish we are asking you to come along in your best tartan (Scottish theme)

Saturday afternoon, as usual, is a little bit more subdued (thankfully as we are normally a bit tender after Friday).

We have music by Dave Speakman Music and Deep Waters, both fantastic artists and we guarantee you will be entertained.

Lastly, on Saturday evening, we have our resident DJ, DJ Dizzy giving us a blast through the decades. The Saturday evening we are also asking you to dress in your best Halloween outfits.

We hope to see you all this weekend supporting our amazing Beer Festival. We have lots of awesome beer for you to try!

We still have tickets on sale at The Middlewich British Legion, Chisholms Newsagents and online at

This also appears on THE MIDDLEWICH YEAR

Friday, 4 October 2019


4th October 2019

Today Middlewich had to say goodbye to its long-serving Town Clerk, Jonathan Williams.

A sad occasion, it goes without saying, but Jonathan being Jonathan, the almost tangible love and respect everyone felt for him tempered the sadness just a little bit as his dedication to the town and its people and to his family and friends shone through.

The service took place at St Mary's in King Street and, as you'd expect, the church was packed out with family, friends, councillors,  former  councillors and employees and Mayors and Chairmen from surrounding towns.
Congleton Constituency MP Fiona Bruce also came along to pay her respects.

A 'Guard Of Honour', made up of former Mayors of Middlewich accompanied Jonathan into church.
Father Peter Dutton was his usual calm and reassuring self, helpfully explaining the way the service worked to those of us who were unsure, and interspersing the proceedings with fond memories of his own dealings with Jonathan.

The eulogy, given by a friend, Kel, who has known him as 'Charlie' since his time at University, vividly evoked Jonathan in his younger days as he prepared himself for the role for which he will forever be remembered, the Clerk to the Middlewich Town Council.

His kindness and helpfulness and his impish sense of humour were recalled, along with his ability to focus on people and help them, quietly and without fuss, to achieve what they wanted to do.
The ways in which Jonathan helped Middlewich and its people are, of course, too numerous to mention, but he was actively involved in events like the Folk & Boat Festival, the Roman and Norman Festivals, the Middlewich Street Markets and hundreds more.
It has been well said that Jonathan Williams helped this town in more ways than many people will ever know.
After a private interment at Middlewich Cemetery, everyone gathered at the Victoria Hall to enjoy refreshments and to reminisce about the man whose sudden loss has left such a large hole in our community.
Yes, a sad day, as was to be expected, but one in which the quiet, unassuming, humorous and always kind presence of Jonathan made itself felt.
None of us will ever forget today, and none of us will ever forget Jonathan. R.I.P.

David Roberts and Lynne Hardy
Community Mayor and Mayoress of Middlewich

This also appears on THE MIDDLEWICH YEAR


Middlewich Heritage Trust

Kerry Kirwan writes....

I will be giving a free talk about our Murgatroyd's project on 21st Nov at Victoria Hall, Middlewich, starting at 10am. 

The talk will focus on the background to the project which is aimed at saving the last in-situ brine pumps and shaft in the UK.
Find out about the community project and how the site will be developed for visitors and as a museum for the town.