Sunday, 31 May 2020


Photo: Stafford Railwayana Auctions
by Dave Roberts

What price a little bit of Middlewich railway history? 

This token for the single-line section of railway between Middlewich and Northwich was sold at auction in Stafford in May 2016. 

What was it for?

Put simply, it enabled a train to run from Middlewich to Northwich without any possibility of meeting a train coming the other way. 
The token would be handed to the signalman at Northwich. If the next train on the line was running from Northwich to Middlewich, the driver would obtain a token at Northwich to be handed over at Middlewich. If, however, the next train was running in the same direction - Middlewich to Northwich - another M-N token would be issued.

 The tokens were locked into machines at Middlewich and Northwich (Sandbach Junction) signal-boxes, and the machines connected together (or 'interlocked') to ensure that if a token was being taken out at Middlewich, the ones at Northwich were locked in so that none could be removed, and vice versa.

The system also, of course, ensured that only one token at a time could be issued. So it was basically a case of 'no token, no journey'.

In practice the tokens were carried in pouches, attached to large  hoops, to enable drivers and signalmen to easily exchange tokens.

The link below contains a picture showing the Northwich-Middlewich token being handed over at Middlewich signal box.

A token machine. Photo: Railsigns
This photo, shows signalman David 'Jock' Myles talking to the driver of no. 41229 at Middlewich. Through the open door of the signalbox, right, can be seen the token apparatus and some of the pouches and hoops used to carry the tokens.
More on this photo here:

There were (and in some places still are) several different systems, involving tokens, key tokens, tablets, staffs etc.

The illustration above shows the closest machine I could find to the type I remember being in Middlewich signal box fifty or so years ago, and the tokens do resemble the Middlewich-Northwich one in our main picture.

However, it's possible that this machine is of a different type to the ones used on the Middlewich line. 

My purpose is just to show the general principle.

Middlewich signal box and closed station in 1963. The signal box was opened in 1892 and closed in 1980. Photo: H B Priestley
So what price this Middlewich-Northwich token of railway days past?

We know it's from British Rail (or British Railways) days and we know it can't have been used after 1980, as that's when the signal box closed and new colour light signals (themselves since replaced) were installed. 

What would you pay? 

Well, when this lot was auctioned at Stafford on the 28th May 2016, it went for £150

UPDATE (1st June 2020):

We're grateful to Vince Chadwick, who is a signalman on the Churnet Valley Railway for this additional information, and his permission to include it here - Ed.

That's a Tyers Token machine and the token is a type that would be used with that machine. I'm a volunteer signalman on the Churnet Valley Railway in Consall signalbox and I have a machine exactly like that in the signalbox to control the single-line section to Leekbrook Junction.
The token not only ensures one train at a time in the section, it is also used by the signalman to set the points and signals to allow trains to proceed or not - those are interlocked electrically with the Tyers machine. So if a token is already 'out' for the section not only can you not issue another one to another train, you also cannot set the points and signals to allow another train into the section. And if there's a siding off the single line that the token controls, its point will be mechanically locked and can only be unlocked using the token, so the crew of any train in the section know that no-one but them can change that point.

31st MAY 2020

First published 26th February 2
Re-published with additional information 1st June 2020

Friday, 29 May 2020


Sunday, 24 May 2020



by Dave Roberts.

...or, if you're one of the many people who opposed Tesco's plans for expansion in Middlewich,  perhaps The End of a Nightmare might be a more apt title.
The sheer size of  the proposed store and its accompanying car park is absolutely staggering, as can be seen from Tesco's official plan (above). The existing store is shown as a purple oblong.
I have to admit that my first reaction on hearing the news that Tesco had decided not to go ahead with this scheme was one of horror.
I described it as 'a complete and utter disaster', which was, of course, an over-reaction to the totally unexpected news.
The likelihood is that the carrying through of this project would have been the real disaster.
But living in Middlewich for any length of time (and I have been here for sixty years) is very likely to produce a pessimistic outlook and a tendency to clutch at straws.
Despite the best efforts of our councillors, at  both Town and Borough levels, poor old Middlewich always seems to miss out on all the things that most towns take for granted, and have done for years.
We'd all love to have a swimming pool but the chances of one ever being built seem remote; a railway station is more likely, but it has taken so many years to make the scheme even a possibility that people can be pardoned for wondering if it will ever happen in their lifetimes.
And there's a general feeling that Middlewich has to fight tooth and nail for any improvements to the town to come about.
I recently found myself wondering why getting anything done always has to be as the result of a 'campaign' rather than coming about as part of the natural course of events as in other towns.
The recently formed RAMP organisation, which campaigns for the upgrading of Middlewich's parks and play areas, is a case in point.
Why are these things not done by the council whose responsibility they are without such prompting?
So when Tesco began buying up  property between Darlington Street and Southway with a view to expanding their store many of us welcomed the idea in a weary 'anything's better than nothing' sort of spirit.

BARCLAY HOUSE, WINTER 2011 Photo: Salt Town Productions
We objected, of course, to the impending destruction of some beautiful properties including everyone's favourite, Barclay House (above), but consoled ourselves with the thought that we would at least be able to boast a 'proper' supermarket giving us a much bigger choice of goods than the present Tesco store offers.
This was the straw we were all clutching at in our usual 'beggars can't be choosers' Middlewich way.
And, we reasoned, surely  all the new trade brought into the town by the new store will mean a revival for Wheelock Street?
The jury, of course, was always out on that one. Even the much-lauded Artisan Market has divided opinion: Right from the start the market was hugely popular with the public but not necessarily with all the businesses on Wheelock Street, some of whom claim to have seen a decline in trade on Market days.
There would, though, have been one indisputable benefit for Wheelock Street in that one of the town's greatest eyesores, the former Dave's Angling Supplies shop, would have been transformed into a coffee shop (or, more likely given its current parlous state, knocked down and a coffee shop built in its place)

This shop  was once, as older residents will know, two shops with a central entrance porch and doors set at an angle.
The left hand one was Bill Cotterill's barber's shop and the right hand one  the original premises of Brooks & Bostock, the jewellers, who are now just across the road at the end of Lawrence Avenue.
We'll be reminiscing about Cotterill's barbers in a later Diary entry.
Incidentally one of the entrances to the new Tesco car park would have been just behind the car in the photograph.
(for more on the future of this building, see the update below - Ed)

To all outward appearances Tesco seemed to be hell bent on building this new store.
They submitted several planning applications, arguing the toss with councillors and officials about the undoubted problems the development would cause, and tried to quell people's worries about the decidedly dodgy delivery access in St Ann's Road and the traffic problems it would cause (or, to be precise, make worse - the goods entrance to the present Tesco store is in the same place)
And they tried to win hearts and minds, placing huge explanatory posters in the existing store explaining the proposals to the public.
SELLING THE IDEA TO THE PUBLIC 2011  Photo:  Salt Town Productions
The only cloud on the horizon as far as Tesco was concerned was rival supermarket group Morrisons who were threatening to build a new store on the site of the old Boosey's Garden Centre in Chester Road.


The Morrison's store is now a reality and opens its doors, according to reports, on Monday  the 28th January.
(although, as the opening date drew nearer, the Middlewich Guardian reported that Morrison's had had to apply for retrospective planning consent for the store because a number of conditions relating to highway improvements had not been met. Thus, just days before the doors were due to open, frantic efforts were being made to improve the road network near the store and build pedestrian crossings on Newton Bank and in Chester Road.
Nothing ever happens in Middlewich without 'unforeseen circumstances' coming into the equation, it would seem)
Is it just co-incidence that Tesco's announcement that it intended to pull the plug on its ambitious plans came at precisely the same time as Morrisons announced its opening date?
Finally, on Wednesday January 16th, just twelve days before the store was due to open its doors, the needed planning permission was granted by Cheshire East and the local newspaper was able to confirm the opening date.
Even then more chaos was in store for Middlewich as Newton Bank was closed to traffic over the weekend of 19th-20th January to enable contractors  to work  frantically to complete the necessary road improvements.
Somewhat ironically, this made access to Lidl in Chester Road a problem for many and we also heard reports of local residents as far away as Webb's Lane being woken up early on the Saturday morning and being asked to move their cars so that heavy trucks could get through and  work could continue on the roads.


But was Tesco's  big new idea just smoke and mirrors all along? Was the object of the exercise just to frighten Morrisons (and any other retailer which might have had similar ideas) away?
Or has Tesco merely revised its plans as a resuilt of a commercial decision?
How much trade would it have lost during the closure of its store for rebuilding?
Clearly the existing Tesco store, and its two Tesco Express satellites in The Bullring and Warmingham Lane will lose a lot of trade once Morrisons opens its doors.
Anyone who was in Morrison's Winsford store on Saturday afternoon (Jan 13th) would have seen many people from Middlewich giving themselves a preview of what the new company has to offer.
It's hard to imagine them trying out the new Morrison's and deciding to go back to  Tesco, unless Tesco pulls something out of the bag.
What about a good old-fashioned price-cutting war?
If that happened the shoppers of  Middlewich could be on to a winner.
Meanwhile Tesco has something else to consider: what is going to happen to all that blighted property right in the heart of our town?
Are the houses now beyond redemption? If so what will take their place?
Middlewich's much anticipated 'Store Wars' have resulted in a defeat for Tesco, almost before a shot was fired.
In the long run this is probably a good thing for Middlewich, but we now eagerly await the next move from Tesco.
Will they help us build a Town Centre we can be proud of? Or will they simply sell off  all the land they bought up and leave us in the lurch?

© Dave Roberts 2012
(Revised January 2013)

Facebook Feedback

Bill Armsden Excellent, Dave. I also agree with your conclusions.

Lizzie Rosenfield Very good piece, Dave! You speak for a whole lot of us...thank you!

William Cooley Warning signs that the Tesco plan for Middlewich might be disingenuous could be found in the financial press as early as January 2012 when Philip Clarke, Tesco boss, revealed a scaling back of expansion plans in the UK, instead focusing on driving the sale 'of clothes and non-food items online as the internet plays a bigger role for customers'.

It was always going to be a dodgy business putting all your eggs in one basket, not to mention putting your trust in a multi-national. I see this as a lucky break for Middlewich. One that could be turned into a golden opportunity to get a town centre fit for the 21st century.

Karl Jamieson I have been in touch with the town council. They will be speaking to Tesco to see where they can go from here.

Steve Dean Well said, Mr Roberts!

Feedback below is from the 'Middlewich Superstore Info' Facebook page:

William Cooley Some people think that the Morrisons store is big at 2,448 metres gross. Tesco's was going to be 5,091 metres gross - i.e. twice as big, and taller. Madness.

Steven Doyle It's tiny. Have you see the car park? There's room for about 100 cars, I reckon. That's if you can even get near it. The traffic's crazy around that way at the moment, and will be worse when the store opens.

Dave Roberts Which opens up the possibility that Tesco is still in the game and waiting to see what kind of impact Morrisons has on local shopping patterns before deciding what to do. After all, they did (eventually) get planning permission for their mega store and can, presumably, keep renewing that permission as many times as is necessary until the time is right. Perhaps the 'Store Wars' aren't over after all?

Steven Doyle That's a likely possibility, Dave.

Here's a link to the Middlewich Guardian's report on Tesco's decision. The comments made by Middlewich people are of great interest, and there seems to be a general feeling that the 'Store Wars' are indeed not over yet. Several raise the possibility of the Town Council talking to other retailers about moving into the town.



On the 16th January the Middlewich Guardian reported that Tesco were 'still committed to demolishing derelict buildings and tidying up the land it owns between Southway and Darlington Street' and that buildings such as Cheshire House (Darlington Street) and the old Dave's Angling Supplies building (see above) would be demolished. The process of demolition was due to start 'before the end of January'.

So it now remains to be seen what happens to the land that Tesco owns. Will they hold on to it, to prevent the building of another rival supermarket? Or will they sell it off, with the proviso that any future retail development on it  would not be in competition with them?

It is unclear whether Tesco intend to make improvements to their existing store in Southway, but the battle to win over Middlewich shoppers is already in full swing with Tesco donating new kit and training equipment to Middlewich Town FC's under-eights squad and organising a 'free family fun day' at the Southway store and the Tesco Express in Wheelock Street on January 19th.
(with thanks to David Morgan at the Middlewich Guardian)


UPDATE (14th January 2018):

In December 2017 McCarthy & Stone and Henderson Homes submitted a joint planning application to develop the land in question.

The developers promised '50 high quality Retirement Living apartments, a range of 29 new homes, three retail units (fronting onto Wheelock Street) and areas of public space'.

Following meetings with local councillors the developers agreed to hold a public meeting to address residents' concerns

Here's the Middlewich Guardian's report on the planning application and its reception:

Facebook Feedback (22nd May 2020)

  • When 'Broken Dreams' featured in  'The Middlewich Diary Revisited' following the start of demolition on Barclay House, there was a lot of comment on Facebook. One lady seemed to be under the impression that Tesco's plans to build a superstore were only  thwarted following an 'uproar' from local residents. This is patently untrue. There was no 'uproar'. Tesco scrapped the scheme for purely commercial reasons.
  • And a local resident sought to take me to task, apparently for 'not caring' about people who might have been affected by the original plans, but only about the loss of 'some beautiful houses'.

    Well, of course, I wasn't having that... (Ed)

    Sandie Ashley So the ‘uproar’ from local residents confronted with the original plan for the Tesco development did NOTHING !! This is a revised plan partly due to residents ‘uproar’ nice to know you were only concerned about the beautiful houses that would be demolished, and not the impact on residents living in close proximity of what would of been built .

    David Roberts Are these strictures being directed at me personally? It is not my job to oppose planning applications. That is a job for the local council. You need to ask them why the concerns of local residents affected by the proposals did not lead to more vigorous opposition to the original plans. You also need to ask Tesco why they hung onto the property, including those houses, for eight years, refusing to listen to any approaches from people with suggestions for how the land could be better utilised for the good of the town. What councillors described as a 'once in a lifetime opportunity' to build a 'new centre' for the town. And there was no 'uproar'. When we talk of people 'opposing' the plans, we are, as ever, talking of people on Facebook moaning about the situation and taking it no further. I have never used the word 'uproar' in this connection. The reason I have gone back to this subject at this time is because, as I say, people suggested earlier that the plans for the Superstore were dropped because of that imaginary 'uproar'. They were dropped because Tesco had decided to scale down its expansion plans all over the country. We wondered at the time whether Morrison's plans for Chester Road had anything to do with it, but it appears that they didn't. This has been an unholy mess, but none of it had anything to do with me. I just reported on it. The 'impact on residents living in close proximity to what would (have) been built' is entirely a matter for the local authorities, including the town council and Cheshire East.

    Neil Regina Booth  What happened was the mighty Tesco closed its regional distribution centre (warehouse),in middlewich putting hundreds of people out of work it was transferred to stobarts in Widnes.
    Middlewich people have good memories,thus they would not use the old Tesco.
    It's all about money in the till.

    David Roberts Yes. That was another factor in Tesco's retrenchment. My concern was that people should understand just why the major store development never happened. Tesco was never a company which would listen to the concerns of local residents. If it had suited the company to build it those concerns would have been brushed aside in a heartbeat.
    Thanks for your input. I'm glad people haven't forgotten what really happened.

    Garnet Marshall I think you're 100% spot on with your analysis . Also, lets not forget that Tesco also had some very serious accounting problems bubbling under the surface, which finally came to light in 2014. These took a long time to reconcile and lead to board resignations at the highest level. I guess the reason they held on to the land for so long was to show it and other similar acquired land in other parts of the UK as a real growth assets on their balance sheet. Turning it into cash (selling it) at the wrong time would probably have had the wrong sort of tax implications.

    David Roberts Thanks Garnet. I was just anxious to counter the idea put forward elsewhere on Facebook that poor old Tesco were ready willing and able to go forward with the scheme, but were thwarted by strong opposition from people in Middlewich. It's simply not true.

  • First published 16th January 2013
Updated and re-published 5th February 2013, 14th January 2018 and  24th May 2020.

Thursday, 21 May 2020


by Dave Roberts

This was originally published in two parts: 'The Salt Siding 1' and 'The Salt Siding 2 and the Brine Line' in October 2011. This entry combines the two entries into one.


(originally published 11th October 2011)

From 1969 here's a view of part of the Sandbach-Middlewich-Northwich branch line showing some long-vanished railway paraphernalia and, in particular, the 'salt siding' (foreground) which connected Middlewich Station with the industries along the line.
Dominating the scene is one of the semaphore signals controlling trains on the main running line. To accomodate the salt siding signals along this stretch of line were cantilevered out from the other side of the track and required guy wires to counter their tendency to tilt over. The signal arm should, of course, be a deep red and white rather than pink. This type of signal arm needs constant re-painting as red is one of the least stable of colours and fades rapidly in sunlight. Just above the salt siding  a smoke deflector can be seen under the signal's gantry, put there to counter the effect of smoke and steam from  years of steam locomotives.
The little wooden cabin to the left of the signal is a shunter's cabin. This contained a telephone which connected with Middlewich signal box (which can just be glimpsed away in the distance - a small patch of white underneath the Holmes Chapel Road bridge).
Middlewich signal box 1965. It was from here that shunting
operations on the Salt Siding were controlled. The left hand
track connected directly to the siding
Looking in the opposite direction, 1963. The Salt Siding started
just under the bridge and served all the industries on the
right hand side of the railway.

 That telephone would today be worth a lot of money to an antique dealer. It was made of mahogany with bakelite mouth and earpieces and two brass bells on the top. This venerable instrument was used to pass instructions between the shunter and the signalman when they were preparing trains for their journeys out onto the railway network.
To the right of the cabin can be seen the canopy (an inverted 'v' shape) of the loading bay at Seddon's/Simpson's in Brooks Lane and the rail connections which ran from the salt siding to serve Murgatroyd's salt works and the ICI soda ash works. The ICI connection ran behind the Scout Hall in Brooks Lane and into the works via the ornamental iron gates which are still in situ at what was, until 2019, the Pochin site.
Out of shot to the left is  Murgatroyd's brine pump (now the subject of a preservation project as it is the only remaining brine pump in the country still in its original position - i.e. over its brine shaft). When Murgatroyd's chemical works was established in Booth Lane at Moston in 1949 brine  was sent  from this pump along 'the brine line' to the new works. This pipe line can seen on the other side of the railway  and remains in existence to this day. 
Middlewich Council's Heritage Officer, Kerry Fletcher, confirms this (see below).
Just to the left of where the pipe line starts is the corner of 'Station Field' where fairs and circuses were held in former years. The field was also, in the sixties, home to the 'Dennis White Foundation' and boasted soccer pitches, changing rooms and a social club. It is in this corner that the Middlewich ROC post was situated, although it's not really possible to tell from the picture what was actually there at the time. The whole area is now, of course, covered in industrial units.


(Originally published 21st October 2011)

In 1970 two diesel locos, looking every bit as old-fashioned as the steam engines they had recently replaced, haul a goods train past some almost derelict looking sidings near the old ICI works. The track immediately to the left of the train is the 'salt siding' which was built in 1918 and ran in the direction of Sandbach from Middlewich Station to serve Seddon's salt works in Brooks Lane, the ICI soda ash works and Cerebos Salt (the former Middlewich Salt Company). This kept the numerous freight workings clear of the main running line.
The salt siding disappeared in 1980 at the same time as Middlewich signal box and its associated semaphore signals. Replacing it would be a problem, as new signals have been placed on the trackbed on the approach to Middlewich. Not that anyone would ever propose the replacement of such a siding, as the need for it has long since ceased to exist.The trackbed on which it ran, though, may well have a future with the coming re-opening of the line to passengers. It would be a relatively simply matter to install double track on the section between Sandbach and Middlewich (the Sandbach end is already double tracked (and electrified) for some distance from Sandbach towards Middlewich).
British Salt is now the only company on the Middlewich Branch served by rail, although the stub of a siding which once led to Murgatroyd's chemical works (later B.P Chemicals, Hays Chemicals and then Brenntag) is still in place at the Sandbach end of the line.
On the left can be seen the end of a train parked (or 'stabled' to use the correct railway terminology) on one of the sidings, with that once familiar sight on the railways, a guard's van, coupled to it. Improvements in train brakes mean that these vans are mostly no longer necessary, though they are used on nuclear flask workings and  other special trains.

 Middlewich Town Council's Heritage Officer, Kerry Kirwan, who is spearheading the preservation project for the brine pump, has sent us the following information:

The Murgatroyd Brine Pump was used to supply brine to the Salt Houses and from 1949 to supply brine to the new Chemical site at Moston. Two extra pumps were set up which the pump man controlled to send pumped brine down the pipeline which was laid alongside the railway line. They are the ones in the picture and are still there. This pipeline was used up to 1977 when wild brine pumping ceased.


Facebook feedback

Geraldine Williams
Station Field was also used as a playing field by St Mary's School for football and  sports days were held there. Denis - one-time Cllr - White used to hold whippet races on that field, using an upturned bicycle's pedal power to operate the 'hare'! All part of Denis' master plan to fund-raise for a swimming pool for the town. Hmm.

The sport of whippet racing was surprisingly popular and well-organised in Middlewich. Follow the link to enjoy memories from people who took part and attended as spectators - Ed.

Mally Mal Fascinating detail!

Originally published 20th October 2011 in two parts. Combined and republished as 'The Salt Siding and The Brine Line' 21st May 2020 and republished.


by Dave Roberts

A crying shame. Paul Greenwood's photograph shows us Barclay House on the lower part of Southway, close to the shops on the approach to the Tesco Supermarket.
This once beautiful house and garden has fallen victim to planning blight, as have all the properties between Southway and Darlington Street, pending a decision by Tesco on what they plan to do with their existing store and the land they have acquired for its enlargement.
Barclay House is a particularly sad loss. It's a true Victorian gem retaining, as the estate agents would say, many original features including beautiful stained glass in the doorway, now hidden away behind ugly steel shutters designed to keep vandals  away.
That 'To Let' sign by the way, does not refer to Barclay House, but to a 'Deli & Sandwich Bar' - presumably the one in Wheelock Street owned by Johnny McAlinden until his recent untimely death,
It's not clear whether Barclay House will be available to let, although other property in the area has been, indicating that an announcement by Tesco on what they propose to do with the land may not be imminent.

Barclay House in happier days (STP photo)

UPDATE (MAY 2020): Barclay House was finally demolished on the 21st May 2020.

We're grateful to Amy Murray for permission to use her photos of the demolition.

Photo: Amy Murray

Photo: Amy Murray

The end of Barclay House was long, drawn-out and heartbreaking. After many years of dereliction and decay work began on clearing the whole site early in 2020. Progress was very slow and ground to a complete halt when the Covid-19 outbreak meant that work on all such sites was suspended for several weeks. 
Finally, on the 21st May,  the long-awaited bulldozers moved in.
Although Barclay House took its name from the fact that it was the residence of the manager of the nearby bank, we're told that the house actually predated the bank itself.

Facebook Feedback:
Editor's Note: The plight of poor old Barclay House struck a chord with many. It seems to have been everyone's dream house (including mine) over the years and to see it in such reduced circumstances is like seeing an old friend in trouble. Below is the feedback generated by the Facebook link to this entry:

Kath Walklate I used to look at that house over 58 years ago and wish I lived in it

Dave Roberts Yes. I've always loved the look of it, and I know many others have too. It's such a pity to see it as it is now.

Kath Walklate We used to come out of the pictures, which cost ninepence, and get a sixpenny mixed (chips and peas) and walk up 'picture alley'.

Geraldine Williams And everyone used to call at the little sweet shop just to the right of Southway to stock up before the film started! Was the proprietor a Mrs Atkinson?

Kath Walklate I'm not sure, Geraldine. I only recall Torchy. You didn't dare make a noise or he would throw you out!

Geraldine Williams I didn't know about Torchy, but I think he was mentioned in a Diary entry about Southway and how the kids tried to get into the cinema by the rear door and so avoid paying. He sounds like quite a character! Was he from Middlewich, and does anyone know his real name?

Kath Walklate I'll ask my older sister. She might know.

Susan Nugent I remember little Nora and her husband Arthur living in Barclay House. She might have been small, but you never crossed her! She was a good laugh when she worked at the Lily Works!

Geraldine Williams Yes, I remember Little Nora. I wonder what the history of the house is? You'd assume it was originally built for the Bank Manager at Barclays, but the name might just be a coincidence.

Gemma Blower I cannot believe you've featured this! I went past the other day and saw this house for the first time, and it's bugging me who owned it and why they're not doing anything with it. It's a beautiful house!

Wendy Johnson We went in one day when we were considering buying a choccy labrador. A lovely old house. What a shame it will be bulldozed to make way for Tesco!

Rachel Humphreys I totally agree, Wendy. Such a shame. And I bet the owners weren't so happy about the location of the current Tesco supermarket when it was first built. A beautiful house.

Michelle Woodcock I have always loved that house. A proper double-fronted dolls house! It's a disgrace to bulldoze such a beauty.

First published 27th June 2012. Updated and republished 21st May 2020, the day that Barclay House finally fell to the bulldozers.

Tuesday, 19 May 2020


Photo: Gareth Williams
Middlewich Town Councillors taking part in the first ever online Town Council Meeting on the evening of 18th May 2020.

Cllrs Russell and Helen Watkinson resigned from the council earlier in the day.

Pictured are

(Top Row, l to r): Lisa Benskin (Town Clerk), Cllr Gareth Williams, Cllr Carol Bulman.
Middle Row: Cllr Jonathan Parry, Cllr Mike Hunter, Cllr Victoria Perez
Bottom Row: Cllr Sean Boyle, Cllr Chris Jones.

During the meeting Cllr Hunter was elected Chairman of the Council, and Cllr Parry Vice-chairman.

Monday, 18 May 2020


Photo: Peter Cox

David Roberts

Monday 18th May 2020

Monday 18th May 2020 is a historic day for the town of Middlewich.

Tonight the Town Council, for the first time in its forty-six year history. will be meeting, not in the Victoria Hall, or the Wych Centre, or even the Council Chamber in the Victoria Building, but online.

The change has been brought about by the need for 'social-distancing' because of the current Covid 19 outbreak. Many town, borough and county councils are doing the same thing with, as the old phrase has it, necessity being the mother of invention.


One of the items on tonight's agenda is the annual appointment of the Chairman of The Town Council, successor to Russell Watkinson, the current Chairman.

In previous years the Council Chairman has taken on the role of 'Mayor of Middlewich' the terms 'Mayor' and 'Chairman' being, for most purposes, interchangeable.

Last year, as is well known, this all changed with the council's introduction of a 'Community Mayor' to act as the town's First Citizen and take on the ceremonial role previously carried out by the Chairman.

As is also well known things didn't quite work out as they should have done and the 'Community Mayor Project' is currently suspended, with the council seemingly still determined to make a success of what is, when all's said and done, still a brilliant idea.

This then, is the state of play on this 18th of May.

But we thought this might be an opportune moment to travel back in time no less than twenty-eight years to the 18th May 1992, when our old friend Peter Cox, well-known supporter of the Rail Link Campaign and founder member of the original Folk & Boat Festival among many other good causes in Middlewich was installed as Mayor of Middlewich,as successor to Gerard Devaney. Peter was proposed by Cllr Colin Barrass and seconded by Cllr Dot Roberts.

And the 18th May is also special because it's the birthday of our late, and still very much missed, Town Clerk, Jonathan Williams, who sadly passed away last September.

It's worth noting that Peter acknowledged the fact that his inauguration occurred on Jonathan's thirtieth birthday by including this note in his speech:

' this point I would like to say that it is a special day for our Town Clerk. It's the day when he leaves his twenties behind him. I would like him to receive these token gifts in appreciation for the work he does.'

Note: What those token gifts were is not recorded, but we're sure that Peter will let us know in due course.

Peter Cox and the then thirty-year old Jonathan Williams pictured together on the occasion of the launch of the Middlewich Waterside Trail on the 27th May 1992.
(Photo: Peter Cox/Middlewich Chronicle)

Peter made a complete record of his year as Mayor of Middlewich and we are grateful to him for allowing us access to it. It's a treasure-trove of information on just what was going on in Middlewich twenty-eight years ago and on the amazing amount of things that a committed and hard-working Town Mayor can expect to get involved with during his, or her, term of office. We look forward to many more glimpses into this invaluable archive.

Sadly, Peter hasn't been too well recently and we're sure that everyone will want to join with us in wishing him a speedy return to good health.

David Roberts
The Middlewich Diary