Culture & Heritage
Bromsgrove has emerged from its modest beginnings, as a settlement on the hill, into a prosperous market town. The first documented mention of Bromsgrove was in the 9th century, specifically the Doomsday book. Bromsgrove has had a rich and varied contribution to British industry. It was a major centre for the wool industry until its decline in the 16th century.
The French Huguenots brought manufacturing to the area in the 17th century and Bromsgrove became the world centre of nail-making. Men, Women and Children were all employed in the trade and at one point Bromsgrove provided 90% of the world’s nails. Nail-making survived many things but could not compete with the mechanisation brought in by the Industrial Revolution; by the late 19th and 20th Century Nail-making had almost completely died out. However, Bromsgrove remains proud of its heritage and there are still reminders of the nail-making legacy, in the form of Nailers cottages and The Nailers Arms.
Bromsgrove are also proud of the Bromsgrove Guild of Craftsmen as part of its heritage. The Guild, which was established by Walter Gilbert in 1894, began by making jewellery, tapestries, metalwork and stained glass. Eventually they became one of the most influential craft guilds of the Victorian era and were commissioned to build the gates and railings of Buckingham Palace. The Bromsgrove Guild of Craftsmen were also responsible for other famous pieces such as the Liver birds which embellish the Royal Liver Building, the lifts on the Lusitania and the famous statue adorning the Fortune Theatre in Drury Lane.
Bromsgrove is also the birthplace and childhood home of one of Britain’s best-loved poets, A.E. Housman, who was born in 1895 and studied at Bromsgrove School. The ‘Housman’ Society was set up in 1973 in appreciation of his works and they had the ‘Housman Trail’ reprinted around the town. Most famous for his collection of poems A Shropshire Lad, he is still celebrated in the town today with his statue in pride of place in the centre of the High Street, where it stands proudly above the street market the charter for which was granted in 1200.
Housman’s poems are just one part of an extensive and vibrant cultural and arts scene in Bromsgrove. The Housman Society, The Bromsgrove Arts Alive Network, the Bromsgrove Festival, Bromsgrove Folk Club, Bromsgrove Operatic Society, Bromsgrove Court Leet and the Artrix Arts Centre all contribute to an extensive events programme.
Many events are held at The Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings, which is another example of Bromsgrove’s heritage. Avoncroft’s main priority is to preserve and maintain historic buildings. Spanning five centuries, the museum currently contains 25 buildings including a Tudor Merchants house, a 19th Century Windmill, a counting house and a Victorian cell block. The District as a whole has over 467 Listed Buildings and 839 known Sites of Archaeology Interest, 13 of which are Scheduled Ancient Monuments.
There are 2 registered historic parks and gardens and 11 Conservation Areas that are designated as being areas of special architectural or historic interest, one of which covers the High Street and Primary Shopping Area in Bromsgrove Town Centre.
The Conservation Areas vary greatly in their character across the District and range from a chartist settlement to a stretch of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, which boasts the Tardebigge Locks being the longest navigable flight of locks in country, comprising 30 locks climbing 217 feet (66m)
Bromsgrove also boasts the ‘Lickey Incline’ – the steepest on the British mainline network – meaning most freight trains require assistance from a locomotive at the rear. Between 1919 and 1956 this was operated by a purpose built locomotive known by drivers as Big Bertha. Bromsgrove also had its own steam locomotive manufacturing and maintenance centre at the Bromsgrove railway works which were established in 1841 and finally closed in 1964.