Middlewich A Cheshire town worth it's salt
PUBLISHED: 12:11 18 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:22 20 February 2013
Cheshire Life's watercolour artist Gordon Wilkinson takes his easel to Middlewich
A recent government advertising campaign has stressed the dangers of salt but in this part of Cheshire salt is more than an over-used condiment, it has provided livelihoods and employment for hundreds of years.
Whenever you find a town with a name ending in 'wich' - such as the famous Cheshire trio of Nantwich, Northwich and Middlewich - you can assume a connection with salt. The 'wich' denotes a group of buildings used for salt making; boiling salty water and collecting the residue.
They have been doing that in these parts since before the Romans arrived and started paying their legionaries with the stuff (at least those who had proved they were worth their salt) and the salt works in Middlewich still produces hundreds of thousands of tonnes a year.
But there's more to Middlewich than salt. It has also been known for the production of cheese and silk and as part of a masterplan devised around the turn of the millennium, the town has been re-born as the home of a packed calendar of events and festivals.
Alongside Roman and Norman festivals, the Folk and Boat Festival has become a highlight of the year in Middlewich, attracting the world's best of singers and musicians to perform in the town.
It also attracts plenty of boats, three canals pass through Middlewich; the Shropshire Union, the Trent and Mersey and the Wardle which is the shortest canal in the UK. Next year's event - from June 18-20 - will mark the festival's 20th anniversary.
But although Middlewich has been important for centuries - the Romans built a camp and a fort here, a civil war battle raged through the town and then of course there's the salt - the town has no railway station.
A campaign is now gathering steam to bring passenger trains back to the town and to build a new station on the Sandbach to Northwich line. n
The parish church of St Michael and All Angels is part Norman but was extensively remodelled in the 14th and 15th centuries. The walls of the church still bear the scars of two Civil War battles which took place in 1643
The 41 mile Dane Valley Way runs from the meeting of the River Dane with the River Wheelock at Middlewich to the River Wye and Pavilion Gardens in Buxton Middlewich's population has doubled since 1970 and now stands at around 13,000 Middlewich lies on the confluence of three rivers: the Dane, the Croco and the Wheelock
There are plans to restore Murgatroyd's Brine Pump, the only one of its kind left in Britain, and to create a heritage centre commemorating the town's salt industry