Droitwich - Encyclopedia

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DROITWICH, a market town and municipal borough in the Droitwich parliamentary division of Worcestershire, England, 5a m. N.N.E. of Worcester, and 126 m. N.W. by W. from London by the Great Western railway. Pop. (1901) 4201. It is served by the Bristol-Birmingham line of the Midland railway, and by the Worcester-Shrewsbury line of the Great Western. It stands on the river Salwarpe, an eastern tributary of the Severn. There is connexion with the Severn by canal. There are three parish churches, St Andrew, St Peter and St Michael, of which the two first are fine old buildings in mixed styles, while St Michael's is modern. The principal occupation is the manufacture of the salt obtained from the brine springs or wyches, to which the town probably owes both its name and its origin. The springs also give Droitwich a considerable reputation as a health resort. There are Royal Brine baths, supplied with water of extreme saltness, St Andrew's baths, and a private bath hospital. The water is used in cases of gout, rheumatism and kindred diseases. Owing to the pumping of the brine for the salt-works there is a continual subsidence of the ground, detrimental to the buildings, and new houses are mostly built in the suburbs. In the pleasant well-wooded district surrounding Droitwich the most noteworthy points are Hindlip Hall, 3 m. S., where (in a former mansion) some of the conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot defied search for eight days (1605); and Westwood, a fine hall of Elizabethan and Carolean date on the site of a Benedictine nunnery, a mile west of Droitwich, which offered a retreat to many Royalist cavaliers and churchmen during the Commonwealth. Droitwich is governed by a mayor, 4 aldermen and 12 councillors. Area, 1856 acres.

A Roman villa, with various relics, has been discovered here, but it is doubtful how far the Romans made use of the brine springs. Droitwich (Wic, Salturic, Wich) probably owed its origin to the springs, which are mentioned in several charters before the Conquest. At the time of the Domesday Survey all the salt springs belonged to the king, who received from them a yearly farm of X65, but the manor was divided between several churches and tenants-in-chief. The burgesses of Droitwich are mentioned in the Domesday Survey, but they probably only had certain franchises in connexion with the salt trade. The town is first called a borough in the pipe roll of 2 Henry II., when an aid of 20S. was paid, but the burgesses did not receive their first charter until 1215, when King John granted them freedom from toll throughout the kingdom and the privilege of holding the town at a fee-farm of ioo. The burgesses appear to have had much difficulty in paying this large farm; in 1227 the king pardoned twenty-eight marks of the thirty-two due as tallage, while in 1237 they were £23 in arrears for the farm. They continued, however, to pay the farm until the payment gradually lapsed in the 18th century. In medieval times Droitwich was governed by two bailiffs and twelve jurats, the former being elected every year by the burgesses; Queen Mary granted the incorporation charter in 1554 under the name of the bailiffs and burgesses. James I. in 1625 granted another and fuller charter, which remained the governing charter until the Municipal Reform Act. King John's charter granted the burgesses a fair on the feast of SS. Andrew and Nicholas lasting for eight days, but Edward III. in 1330 granted instead two fairs on the vigil and day of St Thomas the Martyr and the vigil and day of SS. Simon and Jude. Queen Mary granted three new fairs, and James I. changed the market day from Monday to Friday.

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