Well, despite being parched and yellowing THIS year, generally speaking green spaces are quite rightly seen as essential for healthy living. Middlewich has a colourful history of cultivation. Where were these ‘growing places’ located?
In the nineteenth century commercial nurseries filled the north side of Chester Road and behind Wheelock Street’s long narrow plots. The far end of the cemetery too was devoted to raising plants. In the early part of that century Newton Bank had been mostly open woodland west of the town. Trading as “nursery and seedsmen” there – and in business since 1787 - were Moses & Robert Reid. They grew roses, conifers and forest and fruit trees for sale.
By 1850 Moses Reid also had premises in Pepper Street. Ten years later the business was sold to an enterprising 29-year-old gardener from Derbyshire - William Boosey. By 1874 he was advertising as ‘nurseryman, seedsman and florist’. Coincidentally, but no connection, the Derbyshire name crops up again…
Generations of the local Derbyshire family cultivated land in Middlewich. The southern half of St Ann's Road on the east side bordered their large mixed apple and pear orchard. This eventually extended almost to Lewin Street. 'Newton Gardens' was a busy hub for sales of fruit and vegetables to the public – direct from a serving hatch inside the house! No air miles there! An old entranceway to the orchard remains and is still flanked by a wide-set pair of gateposts of sturdy stone. Also planted as orchards was the area off Lewin St - Maidenhills.
Something quite special though was a walled kitchen garden. A substantial one belonged to the elegant country house of Newton Manor. Even by the outbreak of the Second World War market gardens were still plentiful in this town, especially from Sutton Lane out towards the tapering field path. So what happened to all these productive plots?
No longer agricultural that field path is now Long Lane. As grand new houses sprang up on Chester Road plant nurseries retreated to Newton Bank. Alongside the pear orchard an expanding Council School in the mid 1970's purchased all its adjoining land for educational use. Maidenhills became subdivided into allotment gardens, then into housing. The wooded surrounds of Newton Manor developed into the Manor Park estate. However its square-shaped former walled garden survives as a curious and attractive brick feature. And Boosey’s? Well, the extensive former garden-centre site is now a supermarket.
Yet with Queen Street’s newly-refurbished recreation park, and domestic gardens and allotments ever-thriving, Middlewich really can claim a varied horticultural heritage.
© Julie Elizabeth Smalley 2018