Some history of Bromsgrove
Bromsgrove can be traced back to pre-Roman times and there is much evidence to suggest an important Celtic settlement once existed here. Historians assert that by the 7th century a Saxon hamlet stood around the hillock on which today's parish church stands. In the Domesday survey of 1086, the town is referred to as Bremesgrave - Breme being a notable person and grave meaning a fortified clearing in a forest. Other theories on the name prevail.
Though by-passed in more recent times, the main arterial route through Bromsgrove, including the High Street, was once the Roman road connecting Droitwich [Salinae] with Wall [Letocetum]. The Romans seemed to have passed through for very few finds have been unearthed in the locality.
In the medieval period Bromsgrove was a prosperous centre for the woollen trade but the reason for the town's rapid expansion in the 16th and 17th centuries was the introduction a new craft brought to Bromsgrove by French Huguenots. The inhabitants of Bromsgrove not only embraced the new industry of nail-making, they developed it to such an extent that Bromsgrove became a major centre for the manufacture of nails. The industry survived for some 300 years but declined with the introduction of mechanisation. The industrial nature of the town led, in 1894, to the founding of The Bromsgrove Guild of Applied Arts. This organisation achieved international fame and recognition, their most famous legacy being the gates of Buckingham Palace.bromsgrove-davenal-house-and-museum
Housed in a former coach house, the Norton Museum provides an insight into local trade with displays of past crafts and industry such as nail, glass, lead, button and salt making. The museum was taken over by Bromsgrove District Council in 1992 and a Tourist Information office was incorporated into the building. The collection of artefacts were gathered together by Dennis Norton. He started collecting in 1949 when working at the Austin factory at Longbridge. His collection was formerly displayed in the adjacent Davenal House, a mid-late Georgian building he acquired in 1977. In need of much repair, Dennis Norton renovated the building and moved his collection into Davenal House in July 1979. The building's coach house served as a café for a number of years before being converted into the museum. Once the home of Thomas Day, Davenal House has an impressive three-storey facade central to which is a door surround of Doric pilasters and pediment.bromsgrove-strand-house
A short distance from the Norton Museum is Strand House. In recent times, this building has housed solicitor's offices. In the photograph above Strand House was occupied by the East Worcestershire Waterworks Company. From the late 19th century the water works were responsible for the supply of water to Bromsgrove, Redditch, Droitwich and the surrounding neighbourhood. The company sank bore holes at Burcot-Washingstocks, 300ft to 800ft in depth. Reservoirs were situated at the top of the Lickey and at Burcot, Chadwick and Headless Cross. A lesser water supply was placed in front of Strand House when a horse trough was erected to the memory of Benjamin H. Sanders who for fifty years was secretary of the local board. A toll house once stood on the site of the horse trough.bromsgrove-strand
Strand House is thought to date from 1701 and was originally a 'gentleman's' house. In 1728 the building was extended and became Bromsgrove's first Workhouse for the Guardians of the Poor. The building served this role for 110 years when it was sold to the currier Benjamin Tandy who converted it into a tannery. It is said that Stourbridge Street was dubbed Rotten Row by the locals due to the stench that emanated from the premises. A lot of buildings around Strand House have long gone but a few 18th century properties have survived, including the former Pheasant Inn. On the opposite side the former Mitre Inn was the subject of an appeal against its proposed demolition some years ago. The appeal was successful and inspired the formation of the Bromsgrove Society. Subsequent development has opened up the rear of the building revealing the 16th century chimney stack. The now restored front is an early 19th century brick facade covering two bays of a 17th century building.steps and church
Steps House is a fine 18th century house of the classical Queen Ann period. From here it is a stepped climb up to Saint John's Church. Although known as the 48 steps, there are only 42. The steps bring you to the oldest building in Bromsgrove. The successive planting of a ring of lime trees on the hill suggests that a sacred grove has existed on the hill for many centuries before even the first Saxon church. This wooden structure replaced the pagan religion of tree worship. Indeed, Bromsgrove's name is probably derived from this sacred grove. The church is structurally sandstone and building began in the 12th century however much of the present building is 13th century. The church was completed in the 15th century and the Lych Gate was built in 1656.grave
Today's 62 lime trees probably date from 1792, though some of them have had to be replaced over the years. After wandering around the church I was I was about to head off before the sight of two large headstones caught me eye. In fact, they are among many fascinating early 18th century tombstones in the churchyard. The matching graves commemorate a railway accident which befell two engine drivers on 11th November 1840 when the boiler of their train exploded at Bromsgrove Station. On the left is the headstone to Thomas Scaife and the inscription includes the lines: "My engine now is cold and still, No water does my boiler fill; My coke affords its flames no more; My days of usefulness are o'er!" The stone on the right is to the memory of Joseph Rutherford and has the inscription; "Oh! reader stay, and cast an eye upon this grave wherein I lie; For cruel death has challenged me; And soon alas! will call on thee."
Another stone with a story behind it is to Dorothy Lowis who died at the age of 100 on February 22nd 1827. The stone informs the reader that she was the granddaughter of Major Baker, former Governor of Londonderry and friend of James II. The old vicarage for Saint John's has since been converted into a nursing home. It was built in 1848 by Henry Day but has been extended over the years when it was used as the council offices. The main gate is one of the last pieces of work by the Bromsgrove Guild.Close to the 'top' end of the High Street in front of the town's Victorian post office is the figure of Dryad and The Boar and is typical of work by the Bromsgrove Guild. The Guild was founded by Walter Gilbert in 1894 and attracted skilled craftspeople from around Europe until its disbandment in 1966. Evidence of the Guild's fine work can be found in many parts of the world. Numerous local examples exist including much of the interior of Dodford Church and the memorial windows in the cloisters of Worcester Cathedral. The original bronze statue of Dryad and The Boar was sculptured in 1892 by Louis Weingartner (later to become a principal member of the Guild) and is located in Berne, Switzerland. The original mould of this statue was carefully restored by Terry Simons of Bromsgrove and was erected in the High Street in 1983. Another statue is just down the road. Author of 'A Shropshire Lad', A.E.Housman was born nearby at Bournheath but was educated in Bromsgrove. The statue was unveiled by Enoch Powell on 22nd March 1985. Nearby is Rainscourt, a magnificent complete timber-framed Grade II-listed building. It was built in 1553 and remains one of the highlights of the High Street. Another Grade II-listed building is that housing Lloyds TSB bank. It is an early 18th century building and features camber headed windows with carved stone key blocks. Next up is another pub - The Red Lion which includes Crawford's Yard. This formed the old Court No.16 where a shoe factory was located plus a row of nailers cottages. The final buildings in the yard were privies - I wonder what the conversation was in the two hole one! Court No.15 is now called Amos's Yard (or Deppers Entry) and featured a long row of nailers cottages and attendant facilities. The 17th century cottage to the left shows very careful restoration. The building blocking the yard was a coach house and a mounting block can still be seen. It is also possible to see wattle and daub infill on the second floor on the south side of the alley. Back in the High Street and above Boots is the old nailers clock. The clock's figure is a replica of a model of Albert Crane, a nailer from Sidemoor. It is exact in detail and his hammer strikes once every hour. During the halcyon days of Bromsgrove's coaching trade in the early Victorian age there were 59 inns, taverns and beerhouses listed within the parish in Bentley's Directory. Indeed, this represented one public house for every 160 people. Quite a ratio! The town must have been quite a nightspot. With so many public houses it is not surprising to learn that in 1840 there were twelve maltsters in Bromsgrove. The largest cluster of pubs were centred around the old market place. At one time the small area around the Market House had eight public houses. Here was The Golden Cross, Wheatsheaf, George, Sampson and the Dog and Pheasant. Only two of these remain. Indeed, Bromsgrove has suffered many pub closures over the years and, combined with some poor planning, one might hark for the old days. However, the clock cannot be turned back and it's best to visit the town before other casualties join the long list of lost inns and taverns.
Bromsgrove in 1900 Kelly's Directory
Bromsgrove [or Broomsgrove], anciently "Bremesgrave," is a market and union town, an ancient borough, head of a petty sessional division and county court district and a parish, 1¼ miles west from the Birmingham and Bristol [Midland] Railway station and nearly 3 west from the Worcester and Birmingham canal, 11½ north-east from Worcester, 28 from Wolverhampton, 6 north-east from Droitwich, 23½ south from Dudley, 13 south-west from Birmingham, and 129½ from London, in the Eastern division of the county, hundred of Upper Halfshire, rural deanery of Bromsgrove and archdeaconry and diocese of Worcester.
The town consists of a line of well-paved streets called the Strand, High Street and Worcester Street, with others branching right and left : the High Street is spacious and contains many excellent houses and shops.
The "Local Government Act, 1858," was adopted by the district, which, by 24 and 25 Vict. cap. 39, was first confined to the town : under the provisions of the "Bromsgrove Improvement Act" [9 & 10 Vict. c. 124, 2. 64], the district was extended [24th July, 1863] by 43 & 44 Vict. c. 58, so as to include part of the country district. Bromsgrove town district was governed by a Local Board of 15 members, and the country district by a Board of 15 members, but under the provisions of the "Local Government Act, 1894" [56 & 57 Vict. cap. 73], these have been superseded by Urban District Councils, respectively known as Bromsgrove and North Bromsgrove.
The town is supplied with water from the East Worcestershire water works, opened in 1882 for the supply of water to Bromsgrove, Redditch, Droitwich and the surrounding neighbourhood; the well, 300 feet in depth, is sunk at the foot of the Lickey Hills, and yields a copious supply of pure water; the reservoirs are situated at the top of the Lickey and at Burcot and Headless Cross: the town is lighted with gas by the Bromsgrove Gas Light and Coke Company, incorporated in, 1877. A stream rising from the Lickey Hill, called the "Spadesbourn" and afterwards the "Salwarp," works 40 mills in 15 miles, and eventually falls into the Severn.
The parish church of St. John the Baptist, standing on an eminence at the west end of the town and approached by a flight of 48 steps, at the top of which is a lychgate dated 1656, is a building of stone in the Early English and Later Perpendicular styles, embattled throughout, and with numerous crocketed pinnacles at regular intervals, and consists of: chancel, clerestoried nave of five bays, aisles, south porch and a richly embattled western ........
Have Your Say
If you would like to share any further information on Bromsgrove - perhaps you drank in one of the pubs in the past? Or maybe knew a previous publican running one of the boozers? Whatever the reason it would be great to hear of your stories or gossip. Simply send a message and I will post it here.