The Salt King

John Corbett was born in 1817 at Brierley Hill and worked in his father’s canal business to gain capital; with it, in his late twenties, he purchased six acres of land comprising a derelict brine works outside Stoke Prior near Bromsgrove.

In 1854, he began building his salt works, which became the largest, most modern and most successful in Europe, earning him the title of  ‘Salt King’.

In 1856 John married Anna O’Meara in Paris. He commissioned a French architect to design the Chateau Impney and building started in 1875. The Chateau was completed at an estimated cost of seven million pounds in today’s figures.

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Corbett, a great philanthropist, helped change a grim industrial town into a fashionable spa in the late 19th century. Salters Hall, St Andrew’s Brine Baths, and the Worcestershire Hotel were all built around Victoria Square and the Raven Hotel was converted from the old St Andrew’s Manor House.

The GWR railway station, (of the old Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway), was rebuilt and visitors flocked to the town to use the spa facilities. At the time of Corbett’s death, in 1901, it was estimated that he owned or part-owned nearly half the town.

He was generous elsewhere in the UK. Family holidays were taken at Towyn on the west coast of Wales. The town’s promenade was rebuilt by Corbett and a plaque can be seen at the northern end to commemorate this fact. In nearby Stourbridge he offered his Georgian mansion, The Hill, Amblecote, for conversion into a hospital. The offer was accepted and the hospital was opened in 1893.

Making a play upon his name (the French word for a raven is corbeau) John Corbett adopted the raven as part of his family crest. Many buildings, built or sponsored by John Corbett, in and around Droitwich Spa can be seen showing a raven, usually within the framework of gable ends.