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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 First Folio

Seven years after Shakespeare’s death, John Heminge and Henry Condell, his friends and col- leagues in the King’s Men, collected almost all of his plays in a folio edition. (A folio is a large book in which printed sheets are folded in half only once, creating two double-sided leaves, or four pages. Folios were more expensive and far more prestigious than quartos).

The 1623 First Folio of Shakespeare, however, is the earliest folio consisting only of an author’s plays. The first Folio groups the plays for the first time into comedies, histories and tragedies. More importantly, the First Folio preserved eight- een of Shakespeare’s plays that had never been printed before.

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 Businessman

Aged 12 Heminge went to live at Shottery, Stratford- upon-Avon, with his relatives Richard Heminge and John Heminge. He was to become an apprentice to the grocery trade, a trade which he was fond of - in his will he described himself as ‘a citizen of London and a Gro- cer.’

He became a Freeman of the Grocers’ Company 24th April 1587. The Grocers’ Livery Company was one of the top 2 livery companies in rank in the City of London. To be a Freeman of one of the top livery companies was a prestigious position. There is still a Grocers’ Livery Hall in Princes St. London today where it has been since 1426. This is close to St Mary’s, Aldermanbury where Heminge lived, during his married life.

The Businessman

Whilst he acted he continued to run his own business. This shows that Heminge was an intelligent and organ- ised man.

Between 1595 and 1628 he employed 10 apprentices to work for him and 8 of these performed with the acting company. Heminge and Jackson acted as Trustees for William Shakespeare when he purchased a property at Blackfriar’s Gate in 1613.

He was a 12.5% shareholder in the first Globe Theatre and owned the only adjoining building to the Second Globe which was a Tap House (serving Ale). His shares in the theatre may have increased over the years partic- ularly in the Second Globe which was rebuilt after a fire had destroyed the original Globe in 1613.

In his later years besides being Treasurer and Adminis- trator of The King’s Men he became Leader of the Com- pany on the death of Richard Burbage on 12th March 1619.

The Actor

Heminge first made the acquaintance of the boy Wil- liam Shakespeare at Shottery and they became good friends. Family records say that they used to follow the strolling players who visited Stratford ac- quiring some experience in the art of the stage. As soon as his apprenticeship to the grocery trade was over Heminge went to London to seek out employ- ment on the stage.

The reputation of early Elizabethan actors was not good and many were viewed as no better than rogues and vagabonds - actors were not to be trust- ed. The standing of actors improved when purpose- built theatres were introduced and some Elizabe- than actors became the equivalent of today’s super- stars. An Elizabethan ballad mentions John Heminges as follows:

‘’The perrywigs & drumme-heads frye like to a butter firkin, A wofull burneing did betide to many

a good buffe ierkin: Then with swolne eyes like druncken fflemminges, Disstressed stood old stuttering Heminges.’

Heminge performed in all Shakespeare’s plays at The Globe Theatre and was rumoured to have played Falstaff. The offices to which they were appointed which we find in records from the Parish books show that both Heminge and Condell were well respected. This says a lot given the reputation that actors had at this time.

In 1616 Heminge’s name was at the head of the ‘King’s Players’, Condell coming next.

Heminge continued to act well into his 50’s. It is probable that both Hemminge and Condell relin- quished the active duties of their profession around the time that they undertook the collection of Shakespeare’s plays for the press as there is no trace of them after this time.


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