History of Kidderminster

In my “History of Kidderminster”, published in 2004 by Phillimore, I gave emphasis to the social history and the physical environment. I particularly emphasised the damage done to a town centre which was once of great character.

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

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 Historic Kidderminster Project is trying to find out if there is evidence of a monastery lying underground in the churchyard.

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

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.