A Brief History of Kidderminster

Kidderminster Parish Church: St Mary and All Saints

The town is best known for its manufacture of carpets from about 1735, though this has been much reduced recently. The carpet industry developed as a diversification within a well established cloth industry.

The earliest written form of the name Kidderminster is in Domesday Book of 1086 when it was called Chideminstre. It was a large manor held by King William with 16 outlying settlements. You may view a copy of the Domesday record for Kidderminster extracted from the Old Carolian Magazine by clicking Domesday Kidderminster.

The place name indicates a much earlier existence. ‘Minster’ is a Saxon word for a monastery or large church. Scholars now believe that a charter of the year 736, whereby King Aethelbald of Mercia granted land for the creation of a monastery, referred to the Kidderminster area.

The site of the town was favourable. Sheltered by surrounding hills, there was an ample water supply. The River Stour afforded suitable banks for a bridge.

King Henry II gave the manor to his steward, Manser Biset, c1160. From1228 a fair was held and by 1240 there was also a market.

There are few medieval remains, except for parts of the parish church of St Mary’s and All Saints and Caldwall Tower in Castle Road.

Caldwall Tower sometime after 1961, Ian Walker.
From the Transactions of the 
Worcestershire Archaeological Society 
Volume 13 (1992) page 135.

Now beautifully restored by Richard Davies

John Leland, a visitor to Kidderminster c1540, commented that the town “standeth most by clothing”.

The Borough of Kidderminster was granted a Charter by King Charles I in 1636.

Richard Baxter was Kidderminster’s most famous citizen. For two decades during Cromwell’s interregnum he was preacher at St Mary’s church. After the restoration of Charles I Baxter was forced out of Kidderminster and reluctantly pushed into the position of a nonconformist. A large portion of his congregation formed their own church, Old Meeting. A group broke away to form New Meeting church opened in 1782 in Church Street. Baxter’s former pulpit can be found there.

Baxter’s work contributed to the enterprise and self-confidence of the weaving community in Kidderminster. The cloth industry grew strong in the late 18th century, until by 1805 the carpet industry was the most important of the town’s industries. For the best part of the next two centuries Kidderminster was internationally renowned for this product. Decline only set in by the mid 1970s.

Carpets continue to be made in Kidderminster on a reduced scale. The largest survivor is Brintons who recently left their town centre site. There town site has become Weavers Wharf shopping centre, incorporating two fine industrial buildings, Slingfield Mill and The Piano Building. These are both listed buildings, with the latter saved only after a considerable public struggle. Brintons have a new manufactory on the Stourport Road.

Kidderminster’s standing as a borough in control of its own affairs was ended in 1974 by the local government reorganisation. Wyre Forest District Council was born.

The town in 2007 has little manufacturing base. However, The Severn Valley Railway is now based on the site of the old goods yard next to the main line station on Comberton Hill and now attracts many thousands of tourists annually. These numbers are increased by visitors to the West Midlands Safari Park on the Kidderminster to Bewdley Road. In October 2012 the Museum of Carpet was opened in the Grade II listed Stour Vale Mill in Green Street, a building that was built in 1855 for the carpet firm Woodward Grosvenor.

Community Web Kit provided free by BT