Middlewich lies on the confluence of a number of natural and man made features: the Rivers Dane, Croco and Wheelock; the Shropshire Union and Trent and Mersey Canals; and the A533, A54 and A530 roads. It is an important location for salt manufacture, and has also been known for Cheshire cheese. The parish church for Middlewich is St. Michael and All Angels, which dates back to the 12th century.
The town was founded by the Romans as Salinae on account of the salt deposits around it, as it was one of their major sites of salt production. Middlewich lies across the King Street fault, which follows King Street and then continues roughly following Brooks Lane. Salinae is taken to be the Roman name for "the salt workings" and it also appears to be the name given to Droitwich. During this time the Romans built a fort at Harbutts Field (SJ70216696), to the north of the town, and recent excavations to the south of the fort have found evidence of further Roman activity including a well and part of a preserved Roman road. A further excavation in 2004 in Buckley's Field has found further evidence of Roman occupation. A Roman Road, King Street runs between Middlewich and nearby Northwich. It has been postulated that this was the initial route of the Roman conquest of the North West of England, but evidence from pottery (in particular a scarcity of early Flavian samian ware suggests that this is unlikely. Middlewich was a junction between seven major Roman roads, and it has been known as 'Medius Vicus' (the town at the junction of the roads) in the past.
Wich: Earl Hugh. Saltpan rendering 2 cartloads of salt.
On the 13 March, 1643 (N.S.), during the English Civil War, the town was the scene for the First Battle of Middlewich, between the Parliamentarians, under Sir William Brereton, and the Royalist supporters of King Charles I of England, under Sir Thomas Aston .
The 1841 census records Middlewich as a market town, having 323 houses, and 1242 inhabitants (an average of 3.8 people per dwelling) although since Middlewich extended into Kinderton and Newton the actual population figure was upwards of 3,800. Middlewich parish in 1850 comprised Byley-cum-Yatehouse, Clive or Cliff (now part of Winsford, Croxton, Kinderton-cum-Hulme, Middlewich, Minshull Vernon (near Crewe), Moresbarrow-cum-Parme, Newton, Occleston, Ravenscroft, Sproston, Stublach, Sutton, Wimboldsley, and Weaver, (now Winsford). The total population of the parish was 4,755.
Middlewich in 1850 comprised 24 acres of land, with its principal works being the surrounding farming district, a silk factory, and the salt works in Kinderton and Newton. A list of public houses was recorded and the following seven are still present today (although not necessarily in the same buildings): Boars Head; Golden Lion; King’s Arms; Old Cheshire Cheese; Red Lion (now Cats Bar); White Bear and White Horse.
In common with the rest of the United Kingdom, Middlewich suffered a decimation of its young male population during the First World War. The cenotaph near to the parish church lists the names of 136 men who died in this conflict, representing around 10% of the male population of the town aged between 15 and 45 years. Forty two inhabitants of Middlewich lost their lives in the Second World War, with a further death in the Korean War. The Brunner Mond salt works in Brooks Lane also erected a cenotaph in memory of the 16 men from the works who fell in the First World War, and the two men from the works who fell in the Second World War ().
The 1970s commenced with the building of a new road, St. Michael's Way, which allowed traffic moving from east to west through the town to bypass the main shopping area of Wheelock Street. During the construction of this bypass the Talbot public house on the town bridge was demolished, along with a number of shops opposite the Boar's Head public house, and houses on Lower Street/Pepper Street adjacent to St Michael and All Angels Church. This bypass successfully eased the flow of traffic away from the main shopping street, but the confluence of three major roads remains a bottleneck, which will be eased by a proposed eastern bypass. Since the early 1980s Middlewich has seen a significant quantity of new housing development, initially in the Sutton Lane and Hayhurst Avenue areas. New developments have recently been built on the sites of old salt workings to the south of the Roman Fort at Harbutt's Field, and near to the Norman Baron's moated manor house at Kinderton Manor.
In common with many local towns, for example Holmes Chapel, Northwich and Winsford people are attracted to the area because of good road links via the M6 and the relatively low price and availability of suitable building land.
Middlewich town centre, unlike the centres of other local towns such as Northwich and Winsford, was not heavily remodelled as a shopping centre during the 1970s and consequently many of the original shops remain. This contrasts with, for example, Winsford, where the High Street was demolished and replaced by Winsford Shopping Centre. However Middlewich has not capitalised on the potentials of this quaint, and since there are no large supermarkets in the town, it has failed in becoming a shopping destination for residents of other towns.
Salt manufacture has remained the principal industry for the past 2,000 years. Salt making is mentioned in the Domesday book, and by the 13th century there were approximately 100 "wich houses" packed around the towns two brine pits. By 1908 there were nine industrial scale salt manufacturers in the town, with a number of open pan salt works close to the Canal, however salt manufacture in Middlewich is now concentrated in one manufacturer, British Salt, who sell under the name Saxa, and also through third parties e.g. supermarket own brands. Salt produced by British Salt in Middlewich has 57% of the UK market for salt used in cooking.
The figure to the right shows how the population of Middlewich rose through the 19th and 20th centuries. Some of this rise is attributable to a number of parishes being combined, for example parts of Newton were added to Middlewich in 1894, with Sutton having previously been added to Newton is 1892. These parish names live on in road names in Middlewich, for example Newton Bank and Sutton Lane. An Ordnance Survey map from 1882 shows the town with St. Michael's church in the centre.