Wednesday 17 March 2021


Wardle Lock Cottage is, as its name suggests, situated at Wardle Lock at the very end of the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal.
In fact there are those who would argue that the lock, and the cottage, are not on the Shropshire Union at all, but on the Wardle Canal (also sometimes called the Wardle Lock Branch or the Wardle Green Section) which is often touted as 'the shortest canal in Britain'. The whole length, including the lock, is around 50 yards.
A stone set into the bridge over the junction between this short section of canal and the Trent & Mersey gives its name and date as WARDLE CANAL 1829.

Canal enthusiasts still argue for and against the Wardle Canal's claim to fame as the shortest canal in Britain; some say it is a fully fledged canal in its own right, while others say it is an extension of the Shropshire Union Middlewich Branch
Photo: British Waterways
The Heritage Society appears to be in no doubt, and British Waterways seem to agree, if this plaque attached to the other side of the  junction bridge is anything to go by.
What is certain is that before it was built much transhipment of goods had to take place between the Trent & Mersey and the Middlewich Branch.
The Wardle Canal brought about a big improvement, but was not the perfect solution, due to the high tolls levied on cargoes travelling over it.
The cottage at Wardle Lock is a Grade II listed building, and is one of the treasures of the waterways.
A scale  model of it was a great attraction at a National Waterways Exhibition some years ago, and we know of at least one other small-scale representation of the building, on a model railway in Sandbach.
Part of the attraction until a year or so ago was the much-missed presence of 'Auntie' Maureen Shaw who lived there for many years after 'coming ashore' following  a lifetime of working on the boats.
Her late husband Jack was a lengthsman on the canals.
Maureen knew all there was to know about the waterways, and gave talks on the subject to local organisations.
She tells her own story in the Tales of Wych & Water CD produced by Salt Town Productions for Middlewich Vision in 2009.
During her time at Wardle Lock Cottage Maureeen made countless friends among the pleasure boaters who travel through Middlewich every year, and was always ready to give advice (and the occasional 'rollicking') to the novice holiday helmsmen and women who passed through 'her' lock.
Maureen was taken ill in 2011 and had to leave the cottage. She lived in sheltered accomodation for a while but, sadly, passed away on March 17th, 2012.
Maureen's knowledge of, and enthusiasm for, the canals of Middlewich and the world of canals and canal boats in general was unsurpassed, and she will be greatly missed by everyone  in Middlewich and also by all her friends on the waterways.
Kate Nicholls Fletcher says:
'As someone who has both lived and worked on waterways for over 25 years, I had the pleasure of meeting Maureen a number of times, but I really got to know her as the ex MFAB boating director.
I had the pleasure of listening to many of Maureen's stories about the old working way of life on the boats and she gave talks for us at the festival on numerous occasions. I can never thank her enough for encouraging me to 'go for it lass' when I told her about going for a job on the waterways and subsequently, after getting that job, she used to love it when when I brought a boat full of young people to her lock, to be taught the correct way of going through...a truly inspirational lady.'
Former Director of  the original MFAB Festival Liz Rosenfield says:
'She was everyone's Auntie! She told me wonderful stories of her life when we'd while away the hours in the Kings Lock - and in her evenings she'd come and talk to rooms full of people about her amazing person - I am lucky to have known her and to have spent time with her.'
Robert Sheckleston remembers Maureen from the time she worked away from the canals at RHM Foods. 'She was a lovely lady,' he recalls.
When we appealed for a suitable photo of Maureen in order to pay our own small tribute to 'a true character of the waterways', our old friend Ian Murfitt, himself something of a scholar when it comes to canals, did us proud with this picture:
Ian writes: The picture shows Auntie Maureen and my daughter Charlee at a fund raiser for Anderton Lift about 12 years ago. Charlee lived with us on the boats for many years. There was much excitement amongst old boaters when her birth was announced and many visited and put silver (coloured) coins in her hands.

Wardle Lock Cottage remained empty for a year and then, on Wednesday 15th February 2013, was sold at auction at the Boar's Head Hotel by Frank Marshall of Knutsford.

P.S. The houses seen behind the cottage in our picture are on what was formerly known as Back Field, as discussed here

Facebook comments:

Geraldine Williams Always a good stopping point for my family on Sunday afternoon walks along the canal. I remember Maureen having an unusual flat-backed goldfish bowl fastened to the outside wall with two hemispheres and a connecting tube for the goldfish to swim from one to the other. I also remember how concerned she was by the lack of safety procedures shown by some of the new breed of boaters using the lock and their seeming unawareness of the dangerous undercurrents when the locks were being operated.

                      'MAUREEEN AND HER LOCK'
                    'MAUREEN'S FUNERAL, MARCH 30th 2012'

Originally published 19th February 2012
Amended and re-published 18th March 2012
Re-published 17th March 2021 (Maureen's 9th Anniversary)

Tuesday 16 March 2021




 Editor's note: You will see from this Middlewich Diary entry  that we intend to tell everyone the date for the next festival when it is known. But given the current situation there is no way that anyone can predict, even vaguely, when that will be. What would be disastrous for all concerned would be for the council to adopt the same methods as H M Government and keep on setting prospective dates for the next festival, only to have to cancel them as events unfold. The situation outlined in the Middlewich Diary is exactly as the council has explained it - in fact much of the entry is based on press releases and statements from the council itself. The festival will continue, hopefully this year, but no one is in a position to say just when that will be. DR

Festival organisers say that this is a postponement rather than a cancellation. Plans to move the festival to September 2020 were abandoned as the crisis worsened. The next plan was to stage what would, in effect, have been the 2020 festival in June 2021, but it very soon became clear that this too was unlikely.
We are continuing to add material concerning the festival to this diary entry as it becomes available from the Town Council.
Below are the statements issued by
festival organisers between 17th March
and 15th June 2020 when the cancellation was announced. These are included here for historical purposes.


17th MARCH 2020

Middlewich Folk and Boat Festival - Covid 19 Update
A decision has not yet been taken as to whether the Middlewich Folk and Boat Festival will take place in June. Postponement of the event is being investigated to reduce the losses that will be suffered by the Council and a wide range of local businesses should the event require full cancellation on the current dates. Whilst this is investigated tickets will be taken off sale. If you have already purchased a ticket should we postpone it will be transferred to the new date or refunded in full if the event is ultimately cancelled.
Please bear with us at this time …

Note: This statement has been taken from the official Folk & Boat Festival Facebook Group.

UPDATE: 20th APRIL 2020:

Today the council has announced that it intends to postpone the Folk & Boat Festival until a later date in 2020 rather than cancel it for this year.

An announcement of the new date will be made 'this week' and the revised date will appear here once it has been announced.

Below is a link to the Town council on Facebook, where the April update can be read in full - Ed.


UPDATE: 23rd April 2020:

Here's the Folk & Boat Festival's Statement from April 20th 2020, again taken from the Festival's Facebook Group:

As the Middlewich Folk & Boat Festival cannot take place in June, we have been working on postponing the festival until later in the year. A decision has now been made on this and we will be announcing the postponed date for Folk and Boat festival this week.
It’s not as easy as you might think to reorganise this but we know how important this event will be to help a number of businesses and the Town recover. It is for this reason that we have chosen not simply to cancel the 2020 event.

UPDATE: 23rd APRIL 2020:


25th - 27th SEPTEMBER 2020
(This date has now been abandoned)

UPDATE: 7th MAY 2020:

Added 7th May 2020

Added 20th May 2020

Added 8th May 2020

Statement from Middlewich Folk & Boat Festival, 26th May 2020:



Middlewich Folk and Boat Festival is pleased to announce its new Community Support Initiative, aimed at making the event more accessible to local businesses and organisations.
The first announcement is the reduction of the fringe venue registration fee from £250 to £100, the first change in 8 years. We hope this will make participation more feasible for the town’s pubs after a particularly difficult past few months. This fee goes towards marketing costs and the production of the free festival guide. Middlewich Town Council is dedicated to supporting local businesses and is confident the income lost through this change can be balanced out by the income from Saturday Night’s ticketed concert.
Secondly, we are excited to announce plans to extend Saturday’s market on Wheelock Street to Sunday too, this is to give businesses on the street as much support and footfall as possible over the festival weekend. This is dependent on retailer interest.
Our third and final announcement in our community support scheme is aimed at helping our schools. We would like to offer all Middlewich school PTA’s a free stall at the festival, either on Wheelock Street or on Civic Way Car Park. We hope this will help with fundraising and will enable our schools to be more involved with the festival.
Middlewich Folk and Boat Festival was created in 1990 as a community event, and in introducing this new support, we can ensure the festival remains at the heart of our community as we celebrate the 30th anniversary. 2020 has been a very trying time for us all so far, and we hope the new festival dates (Friday 25th - Sunday 27th September) provide something to look forward too for our town and that these updates do provide some relief for our local businesses.

Added 26th May 2020


Middlewich Town Council has taken the decision to postpone the 30th Anniversary of Middlewich Folk and Boat Festival to 16th to 20th June 2021. This decision has not been taken lightly and has been under constant review since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The decision to postpone the festival, instead of cancelling allows us to carry over our 30th Anniversary celebrations to next year with as much of the same line up as is possible including Scouting for Girls, Lucy Spraggan, Toyah and China Crisis.
This decision has been made in relation to a number of concerns; Firstly, the council is aware that the current 2 meter social distancing rule would be difficult to enforce at a large festival, especially after the consumption of alcohol and on canal towpaths.
Secondly, the relaxing of lockdown measures has seen the regions ‘R’ number jump above 1, meaning a new course of lockdown measures may be enforced later in the year.
We are also conscious that the lockdown has had a large impact on many of the town’s businesses meaning they simply do not have the money to provide sponsorship for the event. This coupled with the increased costs a 2020 event would incur through the purchase of PPE, washing stations and extra barriers, makes the event less financially viable.
With all these factors considered, and as always having the safety of the public as a priority, the Council think it much more beneficial to the festival and the town to look ahead to celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Middlewich Folk and Boat Festival in June 2021.

All tickets already purchased for main stage concerts will automatically be transferred over to next year and will avoid any potential price rises as a result. However, if ticket holders do wish to be refunded, please email and this will be facilitated as soon as possible.

Added 16th June 2020

A statement will be issued on a possible new date for the festival quiz when the situation regarding Covid 19 and the current lockdown becomes clearer.

Editor's Note: Middlewich being Middlewich once the news about the festival broke a debate started locally about whether the festival was actually being'cancelled' or merely 'postponed'. The truth of the matter is this: The 2020 festival is cancelled as no festival will take place this year. What is being postponed is the celebration of Middlewich's thirtieth Folk & Boat Festival. This will now take place in 2021*. DR

*This now looks unlikely (Jan 2021).

UPDATE (JANUARY 2nd 2021). Following the worsening of the Coronavirus pandemic during the winter of 2020/21 the Town Council made a decision in December 2020 to suspend planning for the next festival until the situation becomes clearer. As a result we're not in a position to predict when the next festival will take place. We'll bring you any news when we get it.

Originally published 13th April 2020
Updated and re-published 20th April 2020, 23rd April 2020, 7th May 2020, 8th May 2020, 20th May 2020, 26th May 2020, 15th June 2020, 16th June 2020, 2nd January 2021, 16th March 2021 (Final Update)