Exploring Cheshire Part 2

On 31st October, I decided to explore Middlewich. This is where I was staying for the half-term week and where, as I said in Exploring Cheshire Part 1, some of my ancestors lived in the 18th and 19th centuries. The day began brightly and I looked forward to taking some better photographs than the day before, starting with the canal towpath and its feathery guardians:

I'm a Very Fine Swan Indeed With No intention of Breaking Your Arm

I’m a Very Fine Swan Indeed With No intention of Breaking Your Arm

The canal was an important route between the Potteries and the Mersey. It is a good way into the centre of Middlewich, running parallel to the main road from Sandbach. I hadn’t really sorted the local geography out in my mind and so was keen to explore everything on foot as well as to do some work in the library. Before that, I passed the picturesque King’s Lock:

King's Lock

King’s Lock

And then another of my favourite landscape features –  marks in the sandstone wall caused by the abrasion of the tow ropes of the hundreds of narrow boats who passed through this lock during the 18th and 19th centuries:

Chafe Marks

Chafe Marks

Then to the library:

Middlewich Library

Middlewich Library

And my favourite section:

Shelf

Shelf

Where I read one or two pertinent tomes, such as:

History of Middlewich

History of Middlewich

And studied some marvellous Roman artifacts like this wonderful funerary urn:

Roman Urn From Middlewich

Roman Urn From Middlewich

And this librarian being guarded by a Roman soldier:

Roman Middlewich

Roman Middlewich

Having read a bit more local history, I rejoined the canal towpath and continued with my walk. I was immediately reminded of several good days we had spent in Middlewich in the summer. On 1st June the wayside flowers were out, creating a beautiful display and aroma. I believe these are are called Alexanders:

Towpath Wildflowers

Towpath Wildflowers

Two weeks later on 15th June, we enjoyed the Folk and Boat Festival (FAB):

Stone the Crows

Stone the Crows

Peace Artistes

Peace Artistes

Lancashire Clog Dancers

Lancashire Clog Dancers

These were my favourite performers. However, back to the walk: I progressed along the canal until I reached the town centre and was able to compare current views with those contained in Mr Earl’s book. Here are some examples:

Middlewich High Town

Middlewich High Town 2013

Middlewich Hightown about 1900

Middlewich Hightown c.1900

Middlewich Centre 2013

Middlewich Centre 2013

Middlewich Centre c.1900

Middlewich Centre c.1900

There are some interesting street names:

Middlewich Street Sign

Middlewich Street Sign

Lewin is a Welsh surname and a “leadsmithy” was a craftsman who mended the boiling pans used in the salt industry.

From here I headed to the parish churchyard and engaged in another of my favourite pastimes – studying and recording monumental inscriptions. People say I am morbid for doing this, but I say I am quite the opposite – I am interested in life, not death. Churchyards and cemeteries are some of the only places wherein people tell you about themselves. I love all the dates, names and life stories. I discover who lived where and when and therefore begin to understand why the place looks like it does today. When I can, I analyse the family histories of the people I find. I’m afraid I haven’t got time to any of these folks yet, but might come back to them at a later date:

P7 P6

I crossed the canal and joined Kinderton Street, where I was able to view the River Croco. This is a rather nice name, which comes from the Old Norse krokr a meaning “River With a Crook”. This might even be that crook:

River Croco

River Croco

The river flows northwards, parallel to the Trent and Mersey Canal and to the main road to Northwich (or Condate), another important Roman salt town. I now followed the excellent “Roman Middlewich Trail”, which can be picked up for free from the library. You will not be surprised to learn that the Romans came to Middlewich for the salt. They probably called the town Salinae,meaning “Salt Works”. There have been numerous discoveries which have enabled archaeologists to reconstruct the history of the town. There is too much of it to write down here. I encourage you to visit Middlewich and discover it for yourself. Here is an example of the excellent information panels which interpret the landscape for you:

Middlewich Roman Fort Corner

Middlewich: Roman Fort North-West Corner

After about 70 AD, The Romans built a fort next to their main road, which is now called King’s Street. It lies underneath Harbutt’s Field. The above information panel lies just inside the fort’s north-western corner. Notice how the footpath traces the corner and shows how it is rounded, not angular. All Roman forts were like this, giving them a “playing card” shape. A geophysical survey revealed what lies underground (ignore the black lines – they are cracks in the panel):

1993 Geophysical Survey Results

1993 Geophysical Survey Results

I left Garbutt’s Field, crossed the canal and headed for the town cemetery, where I intended to end my expedition:

Middlewich Cemetery Gates

Middlewich Cemetery Gates

But of course, this was really the beginning of another adventure. I met up with some old friends, such as my fourth cousin twice removed, Mr John Yoxall of Middlewich:

John Yoxall

John Yoxall

And his son, John, my fifth cousin twice removed:

John Yoxall Junior

John Yoxall Junior

I made many new friends, including former servants of the British Empire:

Indian Army Man

Indian Army Man

And young soldiers of the Great War:

Cheshire Regiment Lad

Cheshire Regiment Lad

But my most disturbing discovery was this:

Memorial to a Tragedy

Memorial to a Tragedy

It led me onto another historical adventure which was both fascinating and melancholy. There is not time to describe it here. If you are interested in finding out what I discovered, you will have to wait until I finish a later post all about it.

In conclusion, I must recommend Middlewich to you: it is a quiet, friendly and yet lively little town which values and understands its history. The Roman walk is excellent. The canal towpaths are picturesque and you are never too far from a pint of real ale.

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3 thoughts on “Exploring Cheshire Part 2

  1. Hi StephenHi Stephen
    I am decended from William and Emily Yoxall my Great Grand Mother was Frances Ellan who married Robert George Cooke but not related to the Cooks who died in the fire.
    I did not know about the suicide but my Great Grand Mother used to tell my mum that her father drank a lot.
    Regards
    Robert

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