Sunday 2 January 2022



Photo: Frank Smith/Bill Eaton

by David Roberts

Courtesy of Bill Eaton, here's a photo from the collection of the late Frank Smith of Ravenscroft showing the working days of the Wardle Canal, which links the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union to the Trent & Mersey.

These days it's very much a part of the canal network's new role as a part of the leisure industry and sees many boating tourists passing through as they negotiate the 'Cheshire Ring'.

To help you get your modern-day bearings; if Wardle Cottage wasn't there, you'd very likely be able to see the Kings Lock pub (and the Kings Lock itself) at that time dwarfed by the massive ICI limestone crushing machinery and buildings.

Wardle Cottage, to the right of the photo was, of course, the home of 'Auntie' Maureen Shaw.

The Middlewich Diary has a collection of articles and photos of Maureen and her lock. Here are links to a few of them.





Frank's picture, though, shows Wardle lock and its environs in very different times. We've been trying to pinpoint the probable date of this photo and, because of something which Frank says in his own caption, we've been able to narrow it down to some time between 1929 and 1952.

We're wondering if the snow on the ground and the huge amount of ice in the canal, means that the scene pictured could possibly have been captured in 1947, a year which saw a very hard winter indeed and fits comfortably within our time-frame.

Here's Frank's caption, which he helpfully wrote on the back of the original photo:

Shropshire Union Canal, Middlewich

Looking East.

Sutton Wharf, Wardle Lock. The works in the background was ICI (formerly Brunner, Mond & Co). This closed in 1962.
The chimney served the finishing machines which 'roasted' the bicarbonate of soda at high temperature converting it into carbonate of soda.
The cloud of steam on the left of the picture is from the works shunting engine (not visible) named  

We're very fortunate indeed that that little shunting engine chose the very moment that the shutter was pressed to release its steam into the atmosphere, because Frank's sharp eye and encyclopaedic knowledge has enabled us to show you just what that diminutive engine looked like, and something of its history.

Photo: I.R.S. Richmond Collection/Alan Wilkinson

This photo was borrowed from 'Railways Across Mid-Cheshire' by Alan Wilkinson (Foxline Publications. ISBN 1 - 870119-66-5)

Alan writes:

All ICI's Mid-Cheshire works were shunted by diminutive Borrows well tanks, Dalton and Moulton arrived from Kerr Stuart in 1929. Moulton was scrapped in 1957 while Dalton went to Winnington in 1952. Dalton is seen (here) in the mid-thirties. Northwich crews endured many vicissitudes when transferring such 'mini powers' between works over main line tracks!

(Dalton was named after John Dalton, 1766-1844, the chemist, physicist and meteorologist)

Diary entry first published 2nd January 2022

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