DROITWICH - Extract from National Gazetteer, 1868


The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868

"DROITWICH, comprises the parishes of St. Andrew, St. Mary, St. Nicholas, St. Peter, and a part of Dodderhill; it is a market town, municipal and parliamentary borough, and capital of East Worcestershire, in the hundred of Halfshire, in the county of Worcester, 6 miles N.E. of Worcester. It has stations on the West Midland, and Bristol and Birmingham section of the Midland railways. The limits of the parliamentary borough are more extensive than the municipal; the former comprising, according to the census of 1861, 1,504 houses, inhabited by a population of 7,086, while the latter contains only 663 houses, with a population of 3,124. It returns one member to parliament.

This town is one of great antiquity. It is supposed to have been the Salina of the Romans, on the Ryknield, or Salt-way; and Roman urns, tesselated pavements, coins, Roman rings, and other relics have been found here. Droitwich was frequently in Anglo-Saxon times called Salts wick, or Wich only, and the prefix "Droit" was added in later times in allusion to the right possessed by the Saxon kings of levying certain dues at the salt-pans, or at the spring's mouth, upon the waggons as they stood, and upon the load being placed in them. These dues, which are mentioned in the charter of Æthelred, Duke of Mercia, printed in the Codex Diplomaticus, were respectively called the wænscilling, or wain-shilling, and the seampenning, or load-penny.

Mr. Kemble, in his "Saxons in England", observes that the peculiar qualities of salt, which make it a necessary of life to man, have always given a special character to the springs and soils which contain it. The German pagans considered the salt springs holy, and waged wars of extermination for their possession; and it is not improbable that they may generally have been the exclusive property of the priesthood. Droitwich was a flourishing town in the days of the Conqueror, and many succeeding monarchs had great property here, the royal forest of Feckenham running up to it. King John granted it a charter, which was confirmed by Henry III. In the time of Charles I., it was distinguished for its loyalty.

The town consists of three or four principal streets, of rather straggling conformation, and comprises the parishes of St. Andrew, St. Mary, and St. Nicholas, which are consolidated; St. Peter, and a part of Dodderhill, called the In liberties. The livings of the three first named are rectories of the united value of £330, in the patronage of the lord chancellor; the living of St. Peter is a vicarage, value £160, in the patronage of Earl Somers. The chief public buildings are St. Andrew's church, built partly of stone and partly of brick, with a tower containing eight bells; St. Peter's, an ancient structure in the form of a cross, with a tower and three bells; the townhall, where the petty sessions are held; the union workhouse; the Wesleyan chapel, in Queen-street; and the National and infant schools.

Here are the following benefactions: Coventry charity, consisting of eighteen almshouses, a residence for the governor, and schools for 50 boys and 50 girls, who are well placed out. The income is £1,100 per annum. The charities of Miss Talbot, Giles Trimmel, Talbot Barker, Joseph Bates, Mrs. Hickman, and Miss Smithene. The town is governed by a corporation of 4 aldermen, and 12 councillors, who elect a mayor. The staple trade here is salt, of which 60,000 tons are yearly made. Though there are many salt springs in England, none are of equal strength with those of Droitwich, which contain, in solution, about 40 per cent. of their own weight in salt.

The inhabitants are chiefly engaged in the salt trade. In 1837 salt-water baths were here established for patients. The commerce of the town is greatly facilitated by the canal from Droitwich to the Severn, navigable for vessels of 60 tons burthen. The air is salubrious, and the country for some distance round is well cultivated and fertile, ornamented with parks and pleasure-grounds. At Dodderhill was once a hospital for a master and brethren, and a house of Augustine friars. The Corporation, Earl Shrewsbury, and Lord Somers are lords of the manor. Westwood Park, the seat of the Pakingtons, is within 2 miles of the town. Market day is Friday, and fairs are held three times a year."
"MARLBOROUGH, (or Malborough), an extra parochial place in the borough of Droitwich, county Worcester.

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868) Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]