Monday 11 December 2023


by Dave Roberts
Have you ever wondered why Cerebos Salt's catch-line was (and still is) 'See How It Runs!' illustrated by a picture of a child throwing salt onto a chicken's tail?
The wording is easily explained, because the fact that the salt was in 'powder' form and could be poured from a container was the product's great selling point.
Prior to its introduction people would buy salt in much the same way as they did sugar - i.e. as a 'salt loaf' - and scrape off what they needed.
This was known as 'cut lump salt' and was the major product of the Seddon's and Murgatroyd's works, and their predecessors, in Middlewich, although some works had crushing machinery to create bagged versions of the product
This kind of salt, however, was very prone to 'caking' as it absorbed moisture from the air and had to be dried out frequently.
In 1892, so the story goes, a French chemical engineer was advised to give his sick son calcium phosphate in order to add strength to his weak infant bones and, to make the substance 'more palatable', he added salt (obviously he had no sugar to hand). 
The chemist noticed that the chemical in the mixture had the effect of preventing caking of the salt.
The child's  restoration to health was attributed to the calcium phosphate and salt mixture, leading to the idea that the salt and chemical mixture had 'health giving properties'.
Note: There are  different versions of this story with the details (and the additives) varying and the chemist even changing nationality a few times, but the basic premise remains the same, with the actual salt itself always being given credit for the miraculous 'cure' rather than any of the additives.

UPDATE (March 2015)

The above account of the creation of 'enriched salt' was culled from various accounts on that fountain of truth and wisdom, The Internet. It was the disparities in the different accounts which led me to err on the side of caution and to follow suit in being rather vague about the truth of the matter.
However, Maurice Baren, in his excellent book How Household Names Began (Michael O'Mara Books Ltd 1997), is much more authoritative and his version has the ring of truth about it:

"George Weddell was born in 1855 and later became a chemist with Mawson, Swan and Weddell in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. As his daughter was a poorly child, George decided to add something to her diet to strengthen her bones and teeth. Although vitamins and trace elements were unheard of at this time, he mixed small quantities of magnesium carbonate and calcium phosphate with the family's household salt. He was so pleased with the result that he felt it would be good to supply this 'enriched salt' to the general public".

Given that, according to Maurice Baren, George Weddell later became chairman and managing director of Cerebos Salt, I think we can take this as the definitive account. It's interesting to note that Maurice doesn't seem to think that the claims about enriched salt being 'healthy' were in any way spurious. It would be useful to hear the opinion of a present day chemist on this, particularly in the light of the dire warnings issued by health professionals about the dangers of 'too much salt'.

The book also features a neat little rhyme, which I haven't heard before,  about the origin of the company's name:

'Ceres' is Greek for the goddess of grain,
'Cerebrum' stands for the best of the brain,
'Bos' is an ox, and 'Os' is a bone -
A rare combination, as critics will own.

Thus free-running salt came into being and 'enriched salt' started to be manufactured by a new company, Cerebos (the name, as indicated above, being derived from Ceres, the Roman goddess of the wheat harvest, and 'os', a French word for bones').
The idea that this new type of salt was, somehow, 'good for you' led to some rather quaint claims for Cerebos Salt, which look a little strange in this day and age:

So the phrase 'see how it runs' is a simple reference to the free running qualities of the new table salt.
For what it's worth, I always had a vague and unresolved idea that it was somehow related to the nursery rhyme Three Blind Mice (see how they run), but how the  child sprinkling salt on a small bird fitted into that idea was anyone's guess.
In fact it is related to a nursery rhyme, but a completely different one.
There's an old wives tale which claims that if you sprinkle salt onto the tail of a bird it will be unable to fly, making it easier to catch.
Quite why isn't clear. 
One theory is that the salt makes the bird's tail feathers heavier and thus he is unable to get off the ground.
A likely story, of course.
And there's an old saying associated with this which says, 'If you are close enough to a bird to put salt on his tail, you're close enough to catch him'.
In other words, the whole exercise is rather pointless.
The idea of using salt to catch birds was immortalised in the nursery rhyme Simple Simon who, you'll recall, met a pie man going to the fair.

...went to catch a dicky-bird,
And thought he could not fail,
Because he had a little salt,
To put upon its tail.

So the energetic young gentleman shown on the Cerebos packaging through the years is really there just to demonstrate that consuming Cerebos salt gives you energy and strengthens your bones, enabling you to chase small birds and sprinkle salt on them, should you wish to do so. Your sprinkling will be made easier if you use Cerebos, of course..

In this ornate (and probably highly collectable) version of the Cerebos packaging the small boy appears to be very young indeed, and looks very close to catching the chicken.

In this chic French version, complete with accents on the Es and a highly stylised rendering of the drawing, he's grown up a bit and obviously slowed down a lot as the bird, which by now is no longer a chicken and could be a canary by the look of it (or is it one of the Three French Hens?), looks like it is getting away from him.

On this modern packaging we see the 'classic' version of the boy managing to get a fine flow of Cerebos out of his salt cellar. It's hard to see what the bird looks like. Perhaps he's smothered it in salt and it has breathed its last.

In this very up to date version from South Africa adorning modern supermarket packaging the boy has been simplified. He's lost his scarf and his baggy shorts are now slimline as he scores a direct hit on the unfortunate bird. Since 1995 South African law has made it compulsory for all table salt to be iodised (or 'iodated' as it says on this package). This is part of a world-wide initiative to combat iodine deficiency, particularly in children.

The original Cerebos factory was in Greatham near Hartlepool.   Middlewich's long association with Cerebos began when the company bought the Middlewich Salt Company after World War II. For many years the Greatham and Middlewich works worked together in developing new products and manufacturing and packaging them.
There was even, as can be seen from comparing the picture below with this one, a sort of 'family resemblance' between the two factories.
Like their Middlewich counterpart the Greatham works were found to be surplus to requirements and were closed in 2001.
In 2011 the buildings were in such a bad state of repair that the Greatham Salt  Works, like the Middlewich Works before it, inevitably passed into history.


11th December 2023

Here's a Cerebos Salt package from 2023. If you look carefully you'll see that the Cerebos branding is mostly cosmetic. It's actually a Premier Foods brand. A peep round the back shows both boy and chicken in full flight and still going strong.


Cerebos Salt Works, Greatham, under demolition in 2011
Cerebos Salt, however, is alive and well and is one of the most recognisable and well-known brands all over the world.

                                                           CEREBOS SALT PACKAGING 2004

First published 1st May 2013
Re-published (with updates) 1st April 2015
Re-published 30th November 2016 (to avoid anyone taking a feature dated '1st April 2015' as an April Fool joke!)
Updated and re-published 11th December 2023

Monday 4 December 2023













The Friends of Fountains Fields have for sale decorated stones, painted by members Khorie and Elena, with all proceeds going into the group's fund for the staging of events  and the development and enhancement of facilities at Fountain Fields.These beautiful stones have proved very popular with local people and many were sold from our stall at the Christmas Lights Switch On in November. Here's your chance to buy one (or more) of the remaining stones.

Here are photos of the remaining stones which we're offering for sale. Please click on the individual photos for a closer look.

Specially commissioned stones

Specially commissioned stones are also available, priced from £3 to £5+ dependent on the work involved in creating them.

Please contact me to arrange collection and payment if you would like to buy one (or more) of these glorious stones. if anyone requires a particular painting on a stone one of the artists will be happy to discuss what you would like.

Find us on FACEBOOK:


Friday 1 December 2023


Photo by Glen Leigh Photography
Sometimes a photograph is so striking that it just begs to be made into one of our Middlewich Diary mastheads. Such was the case with this astonishing image by Glen Leigh, who has contributed some excellent shots to us in the past, including some of passenger trains making their sedate way through the town.
Seventeen Miles View (a title taken from Glen's caption when he posted it on Facebook) is a stunning view across half of the Cheshire plain, taking in Middlewich church tower, the spire of St Wilfred's church in Davenham and, way out on the horizon, seventeen miles away, the imposing (even at this distance) bulk of the Fiddler's Ferry power station on the edge of the Mersey Estuary.
Glen hasn't told us (yet) where he was standing when he took the picture, but, from the angle of the church tower, we're guessing it was on top of the old ICI lime beds in Booth Lane.
There has some surmise as to how this effect was obtained. Is the image, perhaps, a compilation of two or three photos skilfully knitted together? Or is it, even more remarkably, just one single shot, taking in all those miles?
Glen lets us in on the secret:

To satisfy your curiosity guys this is just one photo, taken with an extremely long lens. The reason that far off distant objects appear close is due to lens compression (flattens perspective and bunches everthing up) which is the result of using long lenses...the further an object is away, the closer it appears in an image. 
Also the image was taken on the to the precise location that would be a little more difficult to explain and very hard to see with the naked eye or wide lenses. Thank you for the interest

The photographers among us will be able to appreciate the technical skill involved in taking a photograph like this; the rest of us can only marvel at a composition many would have thought impossible.
An indication of the power of this photo, and the effect it had on us, can be gauged from the fact that from our seeing it on Facebook and  asking Glen for permission to use it, his sending us a high-resolution copy by email and the new masthead appearing took around twenty minutes.
Dave Roberts
26th March 2014

UPDATE (August 2017)

There was concern over the intervening years between 2014 and 2017 that the Fiddlers Ferry power station might be closed and demolished, making this photograph unrepeatable in the future. It's unlikely that when those massive cooling towers do finally disappear anything on remotely the same scale would be put in their place.
However, it has been announced that the power station will continue in use until at least 2019 to provide cover for the National Grid in the event of an exceptionally hard winter - something which by the law of averages is long overdue.

UPDATE (April 2020)

The power station at Fiddlers Ferry, opened in 1973, finally ceased operations at the end of March 2020. According to Wikipedia the closure dates were as follows:Units 2 and 4 ceased generation on March 7 2020. Unit 3 ceased generation on 18 March 2020 at around 2 pm.

So anyone wanting to repeat Glenn's amazing shot will need to move fast.

UPDATE (December 2023)
And now it's too late! It was reported on 1st December 2023 that the cooling towers would be demolished over the weekend of 1st-3rd December. So R.I.P. Fiddlers Ferry...

First published 27th March 2014
Updated and republished 12th August 2017
Updated and re-published 6th April 2020
Updated and re-published 1st December 2023

Thursday 23 November 2023



The Middlewich Diary accepts no responsibility for information included here. Please refer to the organiser(s) of the individual event


Michael Sproston writes:
Look out for Our Thursday Social Night starting 5th Oct. We'll be playing music of your choice, trying out some dance steps, Northern Soul/Rock N Roll Swing Dancing and offering up the floor for those that like to sing for an hour. Grab a drink & join us upstairs from 7pm. Royal British Legion,The Middlewich. Free entry of course!

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π™°πš•πš• πš™πš›πš˜πšŒπšŽπšŽπšπšœ 𝚐𝚘 πšπš˜πš πšŠπš›πšπšœ πšπš‘πšŽ π™ΌπšŠπš’πš˜πš›'πšœπ™²πš‘πšŠπš›πš’πšπš’

Wednesday 22 November 2023


Heading based on 'Alhambra After Dark' by Bill Armsden

by Dave Roberts

Friday, 22nd November 2013

It would be difficult to tell this story without using some well-worn cliches and hackneyed language, so apologies in advance.
The cliches about Middlewich and how it has changed over the years are part and parcel of the Middlewich Diary, and the cliches about the momentous happenings of  half a century ago have been with us and part of our lives all through the decades since the day a dream died in America while I was watching the antics of Charlie Drake in Middlewich, so the story wouldn't seem right without them.

If you're venturing down to the Alhambra Chinese Restaurant* tonight, try to imagine me, my Mum, my sister Cynthia and her friend Mary Moreton (of Moreton's Farm) sitting in that very same building 50 years ago to the very night watching what some now regard as 'a sixties classic' film, completely oblivious, in those days decades before the advent of mobile phones,  to the events unfolding over four and a half thousand miles away across the Atlantic.
I was 11 and in my last year at Wimboldsley Primary School; Cynthia was 7 and at the same school. Mary was just a little bit older than Cynthia and also went to the same school.
Oh, and Mum would be  44 - seventeen years younger than I am now...
We were keen picture-goers in those days and rambled all over Mid-Cheshire following our favourites. Anything with Hayley Mills or Julie Andrews in it was fine by us.
Two years earlier we had  trailed around the area watching Whistle Down The Wind in Middlewich, Northwich and Sandbach (probably in Winsford, too, I'm not sure).
It was one of our favourites and we couldn't get enough of it, so the only way to see it more than once was to get on the bus and follow it as it did the rounds of local cinemas.
We were luckier than some in this regard, as many of the local cinemas were independent and not tied to any particular distributor.
In 1962 we had spent what seemed like several days at the Alhambra watching Lawrence of Arabia.
All I can remember was thousands of shots of the merciless sun beating down on the arid Arabian desert, and desperately  hoping that the film would end soon.
If you were going to get trapped in a cinema, though, the Alhambra was probably the one to try for. It was comfortable, clean, had a large and very clear screen with good projection equipment and sound and was a very pleasant place indeed to spend time.
The only time the place took on the aspect of the more disreputable 'flea-pit' cinemas to be found in some towns was during Saturday matinees, when scratchy old Three Stooges shorts, cartoons and other short features would be shown to the accompaniment of near-riots in the cheap seats at the front.

The question of whether or not The Alhambra ran Children's matinees ha long been a vexed one, with some locals adamant that it never happened and others, including myself, having vivid memories of being there and watching short features such as The Three Stooges films. This press cutting from 1960 proves that, at least in that year, there was a matinee - and indeed a 'Children's Club'. But they weren't Saturday morning matinees, they started at the unusually late hour of 2pm. I wonder if there was an 'Alhambra Children's Club' badge? - Cutting courtesy of ROB DYKES

These were my formative years and the years when I was learning what was funny and what wasn't (the Three Stooges  weren't, as far as I was concerned, but then again it was difficult to make out what was going on during a film shown in the turbulent atmosphere and ear-splitting rowdiness of a Saturday Matinee).

The Alhambra (left), an early 1920s building with a beautiful art-deco frontage which has, mercifully, survived into the present day. At the time of this photograph, the early 1970s, the cinema had closed and Bingo reigned. The actual frontage (and most of the interior) were unchanged, though. Posters advertising the films showing or 'coming shortly' would be pasted on the boards on either side of the entrance (where the word BINGO can just be discerned). (photo: Paul Hough Collection)

One such poster, which would have been seen on  the front of the cinema in November 1963 was this one for a 'comedy classic' which attempted to team up the knockabout clowning of Charlie Drake and the smooth urbanity of George Sanders and Dennis Price.

We thought Charlie Drake was funny. We loved his slapstick style, his cheeky grin and his catchphrase.

Charlie was one of the biggest comedy stars of the early sixties. We'd watched his antics in all sorts of TV Shows, for both children and adults.
On one memorable night in 1961 we'd even seen him knocked unconscious during a live TV show, and watched as the show ended in silence and confusion.
And that's why, fifty years ago this very night, we made the short journey down from King Street to Wheelock Street to see Charlie in The Cracksman.

I don't remember being particularly impressed by the film. There was too much George Sanders and Dennis Price and not enough Charlie for my taste, but the film has, according to those who know about these things, stood the test of time, and is regarded as a minor classic.
One scene in The Cracksman, where Charlie was putting his locksmithing skills to good use,  featured electronic sounds created by Delia Derbyshire of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, whose most famous creation was to make its debut on BBC Television the following night as  the theme music, written by Ron Grainer, for a new science fiction series for children. We'd no idea, of course, how these sounds had been produced, but we knew it was all very 'space age'.

Having followed the somewhat predictable plot of the film to its conclusion, we walked out into the cold November air of Middlewich

-a very different town in those days.

Middlewich was going through what might be called its 'yellow' period.
At night the whole of the town centre was suffused by a ghastly yellow glow from the sodium vapour street lamps (intended, according to someone from the Middlewich UDC, talking to me a few years later, to resemble 'sunlight'. If this was the intention it failed miserably).
It seems to be impossible to capture that dismal and unearthly yellow glow either on film or digitally - it always comes out a kind of nasty red colour - but when it was mixed with fog, or rain or snow as it was in the winter time, it produced an effect  unsurpassed in its  dreariness.
As a finishing touch, even the face of the Church clock had one of these yellow sodium lamps inside it, giving it a jaundiced and palsied look.
There are still quite a few yellow street lamps around, but the effect has been toned down by the fact that new, brighter, white lights have been introduced, interspersed among the dreary yellow ones.
Other than the street lamps, there were few sources of illumination.
The pubs and clubs  kept themselves to themselves, with perhaps a couple of lights over their signs, or a courtesy light so you could find the door; there were no restaurants, no cafes, no wine bars, no Chinese or Indian takeaways, no kebab shops.
In fact, nothing. Once the cinema and the pubs closed, the town went to sleep.
Except, of course, for that marvellous northern institution, the fish and chip shop.

We walked down Wheelock Street through the November gloom.
Everything we all remember about our 'lovely little town' was present and correct.
Beyond Wheelock Street in Pepper Street were the salt works of Henry Seddon & Co, simmering away in the darkness and getting ready to produce clouds of salty steam and dirty black smoke all over again on the following Monday.
 Beyond the Town Bridge, Seddon's other works in Wych House Lane and Brooks Lane, and Murgatroyd's Works nearby were all in the same state of suspended animation.
The works had another three or four years to go before our  salt town days would be done.
Lower Street was still intact in those days, with Vernon Coopers, Stanway's fish shop and Harold Woodbine (Radio TV & Electrical) all in place opposite Hightown with its Victorian Town Hall and shops still standing and still doing useful jobs.

Lower Street shops as they were just before demolition in the early 1970s.
 The chip shop we used in 1963 is hidden behind Woodbine's shop

Incidentally November 22nd 1963 was also the day on which With the Beatles was released and I ordered my copy from Woodbine's a few days later. It took weeks and weeks to arrive.
Next to Woodbine's was an oasis of light and cheer - the chip shop which, I knew from my short-lived career as a choirboy in 1959, did a great cod and chips (the 'piece of cod which passeth all understanding').
We walked in, and  were told the news which, as David Frost said the following evening on  That Was The Week That Was, was the most unexpected news ever.
The last thing we expected to hear. The last thing anyone expected to hear.
President Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas, Texas.
I can still remember the feeling of bewilderment and disbelief.
It was, as they say, a defining moment.
We were all young, of course, and knew little about politics - any politics, let alone the politics of the American Presidency - but we all knew, instinctively perhaps, that President Kennedy was a good man, intent on doing good things and that, at that moment, evil seemed to have triumphed.
It was the first time I can remember feeling that impotent anger which comes from being powerless to do anything except feel sorry.
We hurried home, over the Town Bridge with the Trent & Mersey canal in the darkness below, coming to the end of its long commercial career and waiting for better times in the future with the advent of pleasure boating, past the Talbot Hotel and the Boar's Head, and the row of shops and houses leading up to Moreton's Corner (the place where the Middlewich Diary began its perambulations around the town in 2011) and turned left into King Street.
Back at no 27 (later 33) our television was not, as would be the case these days, pouring out endless news reports and analysis on the tragedy, but quietly showing a programme about zoo animals ('a change from the advertised programme') as a mark of respect.
Life went on, of course.
The following day Dr Who, with Ron Grainer and Delia Derbyshire's amazing theme music, made its debut and, in the evening, we watched the remarkable tribute to the late President put together by David Frost and the TW3 team.
On Monday morning our teacher at Wimboldsley, Miss Mason (my mother's cousin), was beside herself.
She had only recently come back from a trip to the USA and, like so many at that time, was a fervent admirer of 'JFK'.
Miss Mason knew, as we all knew, that an era had come to an end; an era that had promised so much.
Nothing, to use another cliche, would ever be the same again.
Of course the greatest cliche of them all is to say that everyone can remember what they were doing when John F Kennedy was assassinated.
Well I certainly can.

Footnote: The American Presidency was very much in the news in November 2016 when the election of Donald Trump concentrated minds all over the world. This is how we reminded Facebook followers of this grim anniversary fifty-three years on from the Kennedy assassination.

'Time marches on, and now it's fifty-three years since our world turned upside down. We pause to look back at a time when the US Presidency was a cause for optimism and hope rather than fear and misgivings, and remember how, on a cold and grey November night in Middlewich we learnt how events thousands of miles away had blighted those hopes and quenched that optimism.'

UPDATE (November 23rd 2019) And now time has marched on again. On the 22nd November 2019 the Alhambra building had become the home of an Italian restaurant called Il Padrino

Photo montage: CBS News

 © Dave Roberts 2013

First Published 22nd November 2013
Re-published 22nd November 2016
22nd November 2017
28th November 2018

23rd November 2019
22nd November 2023 (60th Anniversary)

UPDATE (22nd November 2023)
The sixtieth anniversary of this most shocking of all events and things have moved on as another ten years has passed. The Alhambra is now home to a much loved and popular Italian Restaurant, Il Padrino. Much else has changed during the last ten years and, of course, since that fateful day in 1963 our town has changed an awful lot. But not so much that it's unrecognisable as the smoky little working town it used to be. We're fortunate in that the basic structure of the town hasn't really changed. The disappearance of the old open-pan salt works and the building of St Michael's Way are the only major changes to the town centre landscape. So it's still possible to walk down Wheelock Street and past The Alhambra and remember the world of 1963 which was so badly shaken by events in Dallas.
Dave Roberts
22nd November 2023
The Alhambra sixty years on. Still serving the people of Middlewich and surrounding area, and still with its 1920 art-deco frontage intact.

The fiftieth Anniversary on Facebook:

* Since this was written the Alhambra Chinese Restaurant has become the Alhambra Bar and Restaurant. It's still a popular place of entertainment, and it still retains that lovely 1920s art deco frontage - Ed.
…as it does, still, in 2019 when Il Padrino, the Italian Restaurant has taken over the ground floor. The owners tell us that the cherished art deco frontage is not only to be retained, but also refurbished in the years to come. Ed.


Jacqui Cooke I was 13 and had a paper round at that time. It was about this time that The Sun newspaper took over from the Daily Herald. But my biggest interest at the time was The Beatles!

Dianne May I was 6!

Gemma Collins I didn't exist.

Rob Dykes I was one day old.

Geraldine Williams I was devastated by the news of JFK's assassination. He had withstood all the anti-Catholic prejudice to become President, had a lovely young family (who could not have been moved by the sight of John Jnr. saluting his father's coffin?) and on the face of it the Kennedy dynasty was doing a great job in promoting the USA (although some history books may disagree!)

Cllr Bernice Walmsley Thanks for posting that again, Dave. I enjoyed it. It captures perfectly the time and the events.

Dave Roberts Thanks Bernice!

Donald Jackson I had a paper round in Middlewich. I used to sell papers at the pictures, and then go round all the pubs and clubs.

Peter Dickenson I was 19 at the time and working on the night shift at Foden's when I heard the news.

Liz Corfield It's great to read how Middlewich was back then, along with your memories of such a poignant time in history. Thank you for sharing your memories. I enjoyed reading them.

Dave Roberts Thanks Liz!