Kidderminster - Encyclopedia

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KIDDERMINSTER, a market town and municipal and parliamentary borough of Worcestershire, England, 1351 m. N.W. by W. from London and 15 m. N. of Worcester by the Great Western railway, on the river Stour and the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal. Pop. (1901), 24,692. The parish church of All Saints, well placed above the river, is a fine Early English and Decorated building, with Perpendicular additions. Of other buildings the principal are the town hall (1876), the corporation buildings, and the school of science and art and free library. There is a free grammar school founded in 1637. A public recreation ground, Brinton Park, was opened in 1887. Richard Baxter, who was elected by the townsfolk as their minister in 1641, was instrumental in saving the town from a reputation of ignorance and depravity caused by the laxity of their clergy. He is commemorated by a statue, as is Sir Rowland Hill, the introducer of penny postage, who was born here in 1795. Kidderminster is chiefly celebrated for its carpets. The permanency of colour by which they are distinguished is attributed to the properties of the water of the Stour, which is impregnated with iron and fuller's earth. Worsted spinning and dyeing are also carried on, and there are iron foundries, tinplate works, breweries, malthouses, &c. The parliamentary borough returns one member. The town is governed by a mayor, 6 aldermen and 18 councillors. Area, 1 214 acres.

In 736 lands upon the river Stour, called Stour in Usmere, which have been identified with the site of Kidderminster (Chideminstre), were given to Earl Cyneberght by King 'Ethelbald to found a monastery. If this monastery was ever built, it was afterwards annexed to the church of Worcester, and the lands on the Stour formed part of the gift of Coenwulf, king of the Mercians, to Deneberht, bishop of Worcester, but were exchanged with the same king in 816 for other property.

At the Domesday Survey, Kidderminster was still in the hands of the king and remained a royal manor until Henry II. granted it to Manser Biset. The poet Edmund Waller was one of the 17th century lords of the manor. The town was possibly a borough in 1187 when the men paid L4 to an aid. As a royal possession it appears to have enjoyed various privileges in the 12th century, among them the right of choosing a bailiff to collect the toll and render it to the king, and to elect six burgesses and send them to the view of frankpledge twice a year. The first charter of incorporation, granted in 1636, appointed a bailiff and 12 capital burgesses forming a common council. The town was governed under this charter until the Municipal Reform Act of 1835. Kidderminster sent two members to the parliament of 1295, but was not again represented until the privilege of sending one member was conferred by the Reform Act of 1832. The first mention of the cloth trade for which Kidderminster was formerly noted occurs in 1334, when it was enacted that no one should make woollen cloth in the borough without the bailiff's seal. At the end of the 18th century the trade was still important, but it began to decline after the invention of machinery, probably owing to the poverty of the manufacturers. The manufacture of woollen goods was however replaced by that of carpets, introduced in 1735. At first only the "Kidderminster" carpets were made, but in 1749 a Brussels loom was set up in the town and Brussels carpets were soon produced in large quantities.

See Victoria County History: Worcestershire; J. R. Burton, A History of Kidderminster, with Short Accounts of some Neighbouring Parishes (1890).

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