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.

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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