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Bromsgrove in 1836

BROMSGROVE or BROOMSGROVE, anciently Bremesgrave, a market town in Worcestershire, situated near the small river Salwarp, and on the direct road from Birmingham to Bristol, 13 miles from Birmingham, 13 N.N.E. from Worcester, and 118 N.W. from London. The town consists principally of one good street, a mile in length, paved, and lighted by gas. It contains one church, and three dissenting places of worship, a market-house, a grammar-school, and a court for the recovery of small debts. The market is on Tuesday, and, together with two annual fairs, held on the 24th of June and on the 1st of October, was granted to the inhabitants by King John.

The population of the parish of Bromsgrove amounted, according to the last census, to 8,612 ; that of the town is about 5,000. It was formerly governed by a corporation, but there are now neither recorder nor aldermen, and the only office of the bailiff is that of collecting the dues belonging to the lord of the manor. This place was also formerly, a borough, and in the reign of Edward I returned two members to parliament ; but when the trade of the town declined, the inhabitants were, on their own petition, freed from that ‘burden:’ it is now comprised in the E. division of the county.

The church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, is situated on a gentle eminence ; its tower and spire, together 189 feet in height, are perhaps the most beautiful in the county. There was a church at Bromsgrove at the time of the Conquest. The patronage of the rectory was vested in the crown till the reign of Henry III, by whom it was conferred on the prior of Worcester ; the bishop of the diocese confirmed the king’s gift, and instituted a vicarage : the dean and chapter are the present patrons. The grammar-school was founded by Edward VI, who endowed it with £7 per annum ; the income was augmented by Sir T. Cookes, who died in 1701, by £50 a year. Twelve boys on the foundation are educated, clothed, and apprenticed : and in Worcester College, Oxford, are six scholarships and six fellowships, the vacancies in which are filled up by boys selected from this school.

At Shipley appears the Ikineld Street, which leaving Warwickshire at Beoley, re-enters that county at Edgbaston, near Birmingham.

The linen manufacture was formerly carried on to a considerable extent, but has been entirely abandoned. Nail-making is now the principal trade, but there is also an extensive manufactory for patent buttons. At this place the successful cultivation of the apple for cider may be considered as terminating : farther N. the spring frosts rendering the produce uncertain.

A singular circumstance occurred at Bromsgrove, a few years since, in four children being born at one birth, all of whom, together with the mother, survived.

It is generally but incorrectly asserted in topographical accounts of Bromsgrove, that coal and limestone occur in the parish, and that a singular petrifying spring exists in the neighbourhood.

Bromsgrove is situated in a highly-cultivated and richly-wooded valley. On the Lickey Hill, which forms one of its acclivities, are the sources of the river Rea, which flows through Birmingham ; of the Salwarp, which passes through Droitwich ; of the Arrow, and of several small streams, some of which fall into the basin of the Severn and ultimately into the Irish channel, while others descend in the opposite direction to the basin of the Trent and the German Ocean. The strata belong to the new red sandstone formation. The Lickey is composed of quartz, and must at some period have been an immense mountain ; for it is considered by geologists as the source from whence have been derived the vast beds of gravel which extend through Oxfordshire, in the valley of the Evenlode, and even along the Thames.

At Hanbury, just without the confines of the parish, Saurian remains are found imbedded in the lias, and at Stoke Prior commences red and green marl, traversed by veins of gypsum.

In the parish of Stoke Prior, and closely adjoining that of Bromsgrove, are situated the extensive salt and alkali works carried on by the British Alkali Company. As this establishment furnishes an instance of the rapid introduction of a manufacture into a district which had been previously confined to agriculture, a short notice of its progress may be interesting. The manufacture of salt has been carried on for centuries in the adjoining borough of Droitwich, where it is prepared from rich springs of native brine. The only situations where rock-salt had been met with in this island were in Cheshire, previously to its being discovered at Stoke Prior, where it was obtained in 1829, in the course of sinking a pit in search of brine. The beds of salt were of great thickness, and were excavated to a considerable extent ; but at present the supplies for making refined salt are derived from a natural brine spring, which has communicated with the excavations. Immediately after making this discovery, the proprietors erected extensive works for the manufacture of salt, and for the preparation of British alkali, by the decomposition of this substance, which very speedily changed the green fields and retired lanes into an active manufactory and a lively village. The beneficial effects of this introduction of an extensive manufacture commence with an immediate demand for the surplus labourers, an increased consumption of the necessaries of life, and a contribution towards meeting the parochial expenditure ; the neighbouring agriculturist finds his burdens relieved, at the same time that a market for his productions is brought into his immediate neighbourhood. A dispassionate view of instances such as the present would tend greatly to subdue the feeling of jealousy which exists between the agricultural and manufacturing interests in this kingdom. The benefits derived from the successful establishment of a manufacture is not confined to the labouring population, and to occupiers of land in its vicinity alone, but extends more widely : thus, in the present instance, these works being situated on the banks of the Birmingham and Worcester Canal occasioned, on their being fully established, an increase in the value of that property to the extent of 70 per cent. ; and the influence they are likely to produce in the rising port of Gloucester, by furnishing to it a large supply of salt for exportation, is calculated to be very considerable.