Some Notable Citizens of Kidderminster

Richard Baxter (1615-91) is probably the most distinguished person to be associated with the town. In 1641 he was appointed as lecturer attached to St Mary's church by the Puritan burgesses of Kidderminster. For two decades he built a large congregation of committed followers. Upon the restoration of Charles II he was forced to leave and never again returned. He remained a prominent national figure. Towards the end of his life he was persecuted and imprisoned by Judge Jeffries in the Catholic reaction under James II. Baxter wrote extensively, and no modern book about the English Civil War and its aftermath is complete without references to his writings. His statue is by the church overlooking the ring road.

The one figure of comparable national importance linked to the town is Sir Rowland Hill (1795-1879), though he lived in the town only for the first five years of his life. The modern postal system was based on his idea. The penny post, introduced in 1840, benefited the poor and business alike with its low pre-paid charge. Prior to that the recipient had to pay a heavy charge and many refused to do so. Hill's statue stands outside the town hall.  

The most important carpet manufacturers must begin with John Pearsall, who is credited with starting the industry in Kidderminster in 1735. Pearsall built a house on the Stour flood plain in Puxton, before spending the final years of his life in Nottingham.

Around 1749 Pearsall went into partnership with John Broom in a carpet hall on Mount Skipet, the hill between Park Street and Park Lane. The site overlooks the present Matalan store. Broom is the second vital pioneer of the town’s staple industry. Legends abound regarding Broom. He is reputed to have travelled on the continent and brought back the secrets of Brussels weaving. Broom built a house (Blakebrook Cottage later known as The Cedars) at Blakebrook, which now forms part of Kemp Hospice on Mason Road.

The importance of Henry Brinton (1796-1857) is not sufficiently recognised, because Brintons have traced their origins back to the industrial interests of family members in the 18th century. There is no doubt, however, that the present firm was founded by Henry c1820. He died at Farfield House on Comberton Hill.

Another very significant carpet manufacturer was Michael Tomkinson (1841-1921), who in 1878 crossed the Atlantic to purchase the British rights to the Axminster power loom. He and his partner, William Adam, revitalised the town’s industry. Tomkinson lived at Franche Hall for the last forty years of his life.

Three figures stand out on the other side of the 19th century class divide. William Charlton (1804-89) emerged as a weavers leader in the great strike of 1828, which lasted for five months and was a social cataclysm to match the last miners strike. It was the threat to imprison Charlton which broke the strike. In 1840 Charlton spoke eloquently to a government commission of the continued suffering of the town since the strike. He became a leader of the Kidderminster Chartists, but emigrated to America in 1845.

During the strike a Staffordshire parson came to the fore on the weavers’ side. The Rev Humphrey Price, who was born in Kidderminster in 1775, bitterly attacked the intransigence of the employers. For his pains he was tried for sedition at Hereford Assizes. A body of weavers marched 45 miles to support him, but to no avail. He was sentenced to a year in Stafford jail.

George Holloway (1818-1904) was at first a carpet weaver, then a publican, briefly a carpet manufacturer, and finally after 1858 and the advent of power looms he became an auctioneer. After Charlton’s emigration he became the leader of the town’s Chartist movement. For many decades he continued to be involved in town politics as a Liberal councillor.

There were several medical practitioners who pioneered better health for the town. Prominent among them was Dr William Roden (1814-84), who was four times Mayor. He was involved in the development of an Infirmary, first in St Mary’s Street and later in Mill Street. He fought a long battle over three decades for improvements in the water supply. He lived for many years at Morningside, a large house and grounds on Chester Road North, which sadly has been pulled down.

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