Historic Buildings and Streets


Despite the ravages of demolition Kidderminster possesses many fine soundly-constructed buildings of all kinds. You have to look for them because of insensitive planning and the damage to the shape of the town wrought by the ring road. (‘Ring’ road is a misnomer as it passes virtually through the middle of the town centre.) Most of the damage was done by the 1990s. In recent years the Civic Society and Wyre Forest District Council have enjoyed a more positive relationship. If you would like to help us with conservation and the monitoring of planning, please join us.

Much of the history of the town is written here in fully illustrated historical reports on buildings of the town written for our Historic Kidderminster Project - see the HKP: OUR COLLECTION OF BUILDING REPORTS page. 
                                       Last remains of 

                                  Kidderminster Work House


Listed Buildings in Kidderminster


Depicted on the left is a portion of one of Kidderminster's Grade II listed buildings - Barton's Mill 17-20 Vicar Street.


The upper levels of this polychromatic styled building still grace this centre of town busy street.

The clearly seen step in the brickwork was introduced to disguise the join between the original 1856 building on the left with the later extension on the right, an artifice often used in such circumstances.

 
You may search for any nationally listed building at:  National Heritage List for England. Alternatively, to view a compilation of nationally listed buildings specifically in Kidderminster, click Listed Kidderminster Buildings

The story of some of Kidderminster’s listed buildings is available among our historical reports, including Puxton Mill,  the Piano Building,  5 Blakebrook, 9 Blakebrook12 Blakebrook13 & 14 Blakebrook16 & 17 Blakebrook,   18 & 19 Blakebrook,   Elderfield House,  Hill Grove House17-20 Vicar Street, Bartons Mill,   Trimpley House,   The Weaver’s Cottages,  Baxter Church  and  St John’s Church.

In proportion to its population Kidderminster possesses relatively few listed buildings. This is partly due to the relentless policy of demolition pursued by successive local councils. A substantial number of listed buildings have been pulled down. These included old inns and coaching houses such as the Fox Inn, the Lion Hotel, the Anchor Hotel and the Bell Hotel. Broomfield Hall in Franche Road (LEFT) was also lost - demolished early in the 1960s even though it was a listed building. The Mill Street Methodist Chapel (RIGHT) was pulled down in about 1980 and another casualty was no. 2 Hall Street.   

The contempt for the town’s heritage came to a climax in late 1992 with the controversial demolition of the old library buildings even though it was known that they were considered worthy of listing by English Heritage. This destructive act led to the formation of Kidderminster Civic Society in 1993.

There used to be a lack of clear political will in favour of conservation in Kidderminster. This reached a climax in 2003, when the successful application by the Civic Society for the listing of the Piano Building was greeted with outrage by some senior councillors. The Civic Society was isolated in the subsequent vitriolic campaign against the decision. There was a similar attitude to the listing of the weavers cottages in the Horsefair in 1999. Regular mutterings in the press about the money needed to refurbish them continued for the best part of a decade. 

The Civic Society has played a key role in the protection of Kidderminster’s heritage by other successful listing applications. In this way carpet mills have been protected. The most notable of these is the Stour Vale Mill at the top of Green Street, restored in splendid style to house the new Museum of Carpet. The Victoria Carpet Company building lower down the same street is similarly very well restored. Also preserved is the Morton's factory site between New Road and Green Street. Some of this latter complex has been converted to accommodate the Warehouse Cinema.

More recently the former Jellyman's factory in Puxton Lane was listed, but is in need of a new function.

The only street in the town centre to retain its old character with elegant 18th century town houses is Church Street, and many of these are listed buildings. Even this has been badly damaged by planning decisions. In the 1960s the ‘ring road’ cut across the top end of the street isolating St Mary's church from the centre of town. Pevsner described this action as a 'crying-out crime against the town'. To the left is shown a photograph of buildings that disappeared as a result of this and subsequent actions. It could have been worse. In 1975 the council proposed to pull down most of the west side of the street including its listed buildings because they were 'structurally unsound'. Fortunately, they thought better of it.

One outlying street has many listed buildings. This is Blakebrook on the west side of town. Here large dignified houses for the wealthy manufacturers were built in the early 19th century.


Other Buildings of Note

You may read more detail on many surviving buildings of note in our historical reports, including: the Rock Works, Tomkinsons factory, Leswell House, Honeybrook, the Workhouse and the Freemasons Arms.

There are many noteworthy buildings in Kidderminster not nationally listed. A large number of these can be found on the local heritage list of buildings of interest.This was compiled some years ago and will be updated in due course. The Civic Society are working closely with the Conservation Officer and will make a submission for the inclusion of other buildings. Please let us know your views and contact us.

Despite the ravages of demolition Kidderminster possesses many fine soundly-constructed buildings of all kinds. You have to look for them because of insensitive planning and the damage to the shape of the town wrought by the so-called ‘ring road’, which passes virtually through the middle of the town centre.

At the outer end of Worcester Street is the imposing 19th century Worcester Cross factory, more recently used as a magistrates court building. This possesses a fine imposing façade, but has been awaiting refurbishment for many years. 

On the other side of town in Park Lane is the extensive Rock Works, so called because it is built into the sandstone cliffs behind. This building, shown on the RIGHT (Angela Shuttes) has been unused for years and urgently requires ideas for its future use. 

Off Churchfields, near St Mary’s church, lies the huge former Tomkinsons site, no longer producing carpets. It contains several excellent buildings of character, including one (see photo LEFT by John Shuttes) proudly showing its date 1902 - still visible from the ring road. 

Across the town there are still quite a few larger houses of quality which survive. These include the early 19th century Leswell House (RIGHT) lying largely unnoticed in suburban Leswell Grove. Another big house to escape attention is Elderslie, built in 1874 by the carpet manufacturer William Adam, but now part of Holy Trinity School. Lying discretely in Honeybrook Lane, Franche, is Honeybrook House.

Kemp Hospice in Mason Road, was formerly The Cedars. The 18th century "Blakebrook Cottage" built by John Broom I, one of the pioneers of Kidderminster’s carpet industry, forms the part of the building on the left. In 2005 the Civic Society unveiled a blue plaque at this site.

There are many examples of well-built, attractive terrace rows. Examples exist in Northumberland Avenue, Reservoir Road, Stourport Road, Park Street, Shrubbery Street and Imperial Avenue, but there are many others.
In Lower Mill Street is an old house once used by Frank Freeman for his dancing school. In 2006 the Civic Society unveiled a blue plaque on the front of the premises. Frank also showcased up and coming bands in the 1960s who went on to achieve fame, such as Captain Beefheart and Tyrannosaurus Rex.  A recording of Captain Beefheart was made there by the late John Peel on his tape recorder in 1968 and this was released on vinyl in 2013. Nearby, in the same row of old houses is the Paradise Balti House. This was once the Coach & Horses Public House and is shown to the left of this 1957 photograph of Mill Street taken before the ring road was constructed. The remaining small row of well patronised properties, including the Frank Freeman and Coach & Horses buildings, seems destined, as ever, to be demolished to make way for a new retail development and expansion of Weaver’s Wharf. 

Another building in need of attention is the unusual house in New Road, which was originally the entrance lodge for the cattle market. It was empty for sometime but has recently been subjected to renovation.

A building of great interest lies on the hospital site in Sutton Road, close to the junction with Bewdley Road. It is the only remaining part of the workhouse (LEFT). Sadly it is unused and neglected, and clearly its future is in jeopardy.

Many of the town’s older pubs have gone, but a few survive. There is the Swan opposite the Town Hall, the Red Man in Blackwell Street and the Seven Stars in Coventry Street. The Freemason’s Arms (or lately the Barrel) in Bromsgrove Street has been boarded up for several years. 

A number of the older chapels or small churches have survived. There is one in Park Street built by the Countess of Huntingdon’s congregation. Another substantial example is the Milton Hall Baptist Church in Lorne Street.

There remain some fine old school buildings, notably in Lea Street and Northumberland Avenue. There is an interesting 19th century grammar school building in Bewdley Road, see RIGHT - a drawing used on the front cover of the School Magazine between 1946 and 1958. At the present King Charles site are the attractive buildings fronting Chester Road South, erected in the early 20th century when it was the high school for girls.





Lost Buildings


Sadly many fine buildings were lost in a period of three decades from the 1960s. They would have greatly enhanced the character of the town had they survived. Please read our historical reports on Franche Hall, Eymore Farmhouse, the Herons, Blakebrook House, Oakfield, the Playhouse, the Railway Station, Harveys Vaults and the Tumbling Sailor for example, but there are many more.

Like many towns Kidderminster suffered greatly in the 1960s onwards through demolition of many old buildings of character. Whilst many towns now take every opportunity to exploit their history and to create an environment of interest for residents and visitors alike, this is by no means yet at the forefront of thinking in Kidderminster.

The listing and renovation of the Piano Building met with opposition, as did the more recent listing of 18th century bombazine cottages in the Horsefair.

In recent years there has been a much improved approach to conservation by Wyre Forest District Council. This has been shown by the creation of a Conservation Area based upon Green Street and New Road.

Two interesting buildings in particular desperately require a realistic plan for their refurbishment, but thankfully there seems to be no will to demolish them. These are the Freemasons Arms (or lately the Barrel) in Bromsgrove Street and the old workhouse building on the hospital site in Sutton Road.

Formerly the steady loss of buildings of interest had continued unabated with little hindrance. In 2006 two fine mid-eighteenth century houses, the Gordon House Hotel, in Comberton Hill were pulled down. In early 2007 the Tumbling Sailor pub (lately Milligans) was demolished. The old early 18th century Spennells farmhouse (LEFT), which became the Herons nursing home, was disappointingly pulled down in the late summer of 2010.

Much of central Kidderminster was destroyed by the building of the ring road from the mid-1960s to 1984. Notable losses included the Playhouse theatre. Whole streets were lost, including the fine weavers cottages of Hall Street.

The Playhouse Theatre (RIGHT) used to stand on Comberton Hill at the junction with Bromsgrove Street. It was pulled down amidst great controversy in 1969. 

Mill Street was effectively finished as a street of any distinction. At the town end a row of listed 18th century town houses was destroyed as was the listed Methodist chapel. In fact in Kidderminster listing of buildings has been no guarantee of safety. Other listed buildings have been destroyed, such as Broomfield Hall on Franche Road, the Bell Hotel in Coventry Street and the Fox Inn in Swan Street.

Relentless redevelopment of the town centre led in 1968 to the disappointing destruction of the historic vaulted cellars connected to Harveys wine merchants’ premises (LEFT). These would now be crucial to understanding the town’s history, but were discarded for the Swan shopping centre, a development of no distinction at all.

Many great mansions, built with the proceeds of the cloth or carpet industry, have been steadily pulled down from the 1920s onwards. Such was the fate of Franche Hall in 1924, Greatfield Hall and Summerhill in the 1930s, and after the second world war Blakebrook House, the Lakes and Broomfield Hall, to name a few.


School board schools in Coventry Street, Hume Street and Bennett Street have been lost.  The fine Coventry Street School, now demolished, is shown to the LEFT (Geoff Weale). 

The steady reduction in the number of well-built industrial buildings has continued. In 1994 a four-storey office block  built by Richard Smith & Sons in 1884 was demolished. In 2001 the fine Brintons wool hall was abruptly destroyed after the failure of listing, when it should have completed an imposing trio of mills for the Weavers Wharf development.

Finally, the most controversial demolition of them all occurred in late 1992. The row of buildings in Market Street comprising the library and schools of art and science were pulled down, even though it was known English Heritage considered them worthy of listing. For their commitment to wanton destruction Worcestershire County Council and Wyre Forest District Council jointly received the Macmillan Award from Private Eye for the ‘most philistine local authority’.  

Streets

Despite the damage wrought to Kidderminster's town centre, many fine streets survive from the Victorian period situated in the inner suburbs. Many of our historical reports have been written concerning houses in these streets. Many of them are ordinary terraced houses. Examples are 2 Farfield, 11 to 17 Leswell Lane, 16 to 37 Northumberland Avenue, 109 Park Street, and 106 Wood Street.

To the LEFT is a row of cottages in Leswell Street built in1851 as part of the building activities of the Leswell Land Club in Leswell Street built in 1851. This land club comprised an area at the North end of Leswell Street, and parts of Leswell Lane and Coventry Street.

Some of our reports are about entire streets. We have very thorough reports on the history of Bennett Street, Crane Street, Hall Street, Dudley Street and Orchard Street.

Medieval Kidderminster streets radiated out from the market place, which was eventually divided into High Street and Behind the Shops (later Swan Street). These streets were Coventry Street, Blackwell Street, Worcester Street, Vicar Street, Bull Ring, Church Street and Mill Street.

The 1753 Doharty’s plan showed plans by Lord Foley to create a new street system in front of St Mary’s church where the manor house had once been. It referred to ambitious plans to build 150 weavers’ cottages but, although streets like Hall Street, Orchard Street and Barn Street (later Dudley Street) were created, it is likely that initially only about 40 cottages were built as planned by Foley.

In the latter part of the 18th century streets were built in the Horsefair and Churchfield area for cloth weavers. These included Paradise Street, Milk Street and Queen Street. A boom in the carpet industry in the early 1820s triggered some growth. Broad Street was built at that time. A major development undertaken by Lord Foley’s agents was the construction of the grid of streets incorporating Bromsgrove Street, Lion Street, George Street, Fair Street, South Street and Cross Street, most of which were destroyed by the ring road.  

An early land club built Summer Place in 1822. Later, in more difficult economic times, the St George’s land club, formed in 1839, started to develop land in the corner of Love Lane (later Offmore Road) and Chester Lane (later Chester Road North). This work created Villiers Street and Lorne Street.  

By 1859 when Broadfield’s map was published, other outlying street systems were taking shape. These included to the north west Crane Street, St John’s Street and other linked streets, to the west Sutton Road and Franchise Street, and to the south east Farfield a street of great character. The picture on the RIGHT shows 55 and 56 Farfield. Many houses and streets were erected in the last three decades of the century. From Hurcott Road (formerly Bird Lane) across the east side of town to Comberton Hill a dense network of streets was established. Land clubs were active such places as Leswell Street, Shrubbery Street, Roden Avenue, Lorne Street and Baxter Avenue.

On the west side of town, Wood Street and Park Street, begun in the 1820s, were extended by land clubs southwards to the cemetery. Another large land club, the Woodfield Land Society formed in the late 1870s, built Woodfield Crescent, Cobden Street, Crescent Road, Peel Street and part of Plimsoll Street.  



 



Findon Street, tucked away off George Street, was created by a land club and is one of Kidderminster's hidden gems. LEFT is shown a photograph near the top of Findon Street.


 




The first council houses were built at Gheluvelt Avenue in 1921, soon followed by some on Worcester Road. The large Sutton Farm estate was commenced in 1929 and the Broadwaters estate in 1933. The construction of Birchen Coppice estate was spread over several years after the second world war.




  







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