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Famous Names

John Corbett - 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.

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.

Edward Winslow

Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a more special manner rejoice together.

Edward Winslow Facts

  • He was born in Droitwich Spa 18 October 1595, baptised in St Peters Church.
  • His father, Edward Sr, owned a Salt Mine and was Under-Sherriff of Droitwich Spa.
  • Edward was one of ten students championed for a scholarship by the Dean of the Cathedral.
  • Between April 1606 and April 1611 (aged 10 to 15), Edward Winslow attended the King's School at Worcester Cathedral.
  • 2 years after leaving school records show he became a printers apprentice in London.
  • He left England in 1617 to join the separatists in Leiden, Holland.
  • He assisted William Brewster in publishing promotional material and religious books that were illegal in England.
  • Edward was one of four men who contracted the Mayflower and Speedwell for the Separatists journey to America.
  • He was the third person to sign the compact showing his status within the colony.
  • He performed the marriage ceremonies for the colony and was imprisoned for it on returning to England.
  • His son Josiah was the first native born governor of an American Colony.
  • When the Wampanoag chief was seriously ill, Winslow, with no medical training, nursed him back to health using chicken soup.
  • He established rights with the natives for fishing and trading posts across a large area of land.
  • It was Edward Winslow who documented the 3 day Harvest Celebration event Americans now call Thanksgiving.
  • The Winslow Family have the most descendants in American our of all the Pilgrim Fathers.
  • Edward Winslow is the only Mayflower Pilgrim with a portrait done from life, a copy hangs in Droitwich Spa Town Council Chamber.
  • In 1646, Winslow began working for Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector.
  • Cromwell appointed Edward to a number of important committees, including one overseeing the confiscation of property from royalty.
  • Edward Winslow was sent in 1655, by Cromwell to the West Indies as part of a military expedition to establish English settlements there. During the voyage, Winslow caught yellow fever and died at sea.

John Heminge

The man who saved Shakespeare for the world.

2023 marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of the First Folio edition of Shakespeare's plays.

Seven years after his death 18 of Shakespeare's early plays were collected and edited by his good friends and fellow actors John Heminge, of Droitwich, and Henry Condell. Without them these work could have been lost forever.

The Preface to Shakespeare's first Folio written by Henry Condell and John Heminge reads: 'We have but collected them and done an office to the dead to procure his Orphans, Guardians, without ambition of selfe-profit or fame, onely to keepe the memory of so worthie a Friend and Fellow alive as was our SHAKESPEARE.'

The preface, signed by Heminge and Condell, was removed from many editions of 'The works of Shakespeare,' which led to them being relatively unknown, however without them English lessons would look a lot different today.

John Heminge lived an interesting life. Before turning 12 he moved from Droitwich to Shottery near Stratford-upon-Avon to join relatives living there. Aged 12 he was apprenticed to Mr J Collins a London Grocer for nine years. He lodged with the Collins family and when Mr Collins died eight years later he left him money to finish his apprenticeship and allow him to continue as a Grocer, which he did for the rest of his life.

During these early years he became friends with young William Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon. There they would follow the strolling players visiting the town - using this as inspiration for parts they would play together in the later years when Shakespeare moved to London to join Heminge. Together they became players in the Chamberlain's Men, headed by Richard Burbage.

Early Elizabethan actors had the reputation of being no better than rogues and vagabonds - they were not to be trusted. The Globe Theatre, built and owned by the Chamberlain's Men, opened its doors in 1599 and the standing of actors improved as the popularity of purpose-built theatres grew. Later, under King James I, the players became the King's Men - reaching the pinnacle of the acting profession. Heminge was the Treasurer of the players and also acted in all the plays Shakespeare wrote for The Globe. By 1619 he was leader of the King's Men and one of the actor managers until he died.

Heminge died on 10th October 1630 at Southwark. He was buried on 12th October in St Mary's Aldermanbury near his wife. The burial service was conducted by the Bishop of Canterbury - which was an indication of his standing in London.

At that time living to the age of 74, and acting well into his 50's, was remarkable.

Shakespeare's genius is recognised because of Heminge. As Shakespeare secured his reputation as a player on the London stage and a great playright, Heminge was one of his closest companions and the effort he made to create Shakespeare's First Folio was an unselfish act to preserve the work of his very good friend.

Working Together To Promote Droitwich Spa...