The community of Redditch began at the time of the Bordesley Abbey, the charter was granted to the Cistercian Order in 1140.
However, the history of the town is much related to the Industrial Revolution in England and its products were known throughout the world.
These products include needles, fishing tackle, batteries, springs, motorbikes and other light industrial products.
The aim of this site is to give an introduction to the various aspects of the town’s history using a range of ‘pocket history’ presentations and some short descriptive text. Where available links to sites giving further information are given.
Plan of Redditch town centre plan based on description by Joseph Monk in 1775.
Redditch developed in the 12th Century around a triangular green, due to its location on two important N-S and E-W medieval roads and the supply of services to passing traffic. The most important economic connections were Bordesley Abbey and its granges and the medium-sized towns of Kidderminster and Birmingham.
Bordesley Abbey was an important Cistercian monastery, which existed from 1138 to 1538, and was sited close by Redditch.
It provided work for the local people at the abbey and the granges and, perhaps most importantly, created expertise in working metal, at the metal working mill at the abbey.
Drawing of Bordesley Abbey as imagined by JM Woodward after his excavation in 1856
From the early 18th century manufacturing developed in the area, based on the production of needles, fish-hooks and fishing tackle The first industrial sites were located on the River Arrow and utilised water power as well as a source of emery stones in the river.
Water Powered Scouring Machinery in Forge Mill Needle Museum (photo Anthony Green)
New factories were built and in 1856 there were 100 manufacturers employing around 10,000 workers. The development from the early 19th century led to Redditch becoming recognisably a town. A a new parish church was built in 1854-5 and a new ecclesiastical parish was created in 1855. The needle and fishing tackle industry was important throughout the 19th and early 20th century
Early Allcocks advertising image
By the beginning of the 20th Centrury, Redditch was a dynamic small industrial town with a population of about 20,000.
Products produced by the town, needles, fishing tackle and springs were known throughout the world and the town centre green had acquired its fountain, bandstand and was surrounded by attractive Victorian buildings including the Smallwood Hospital.
Postcard of Market Place circa1900
Redditch, and its industry, played a major part in the war effort during the second world war. As well as the increase in effort by the traditional industries, new industries arrived. These included High Duty Alloys, producing components for the aircraft of the RAF and the BSA, which was set up specifically for producing the BESA machine gun.
BSA Factory shortly after completion in 1939: From brochure of the time.
In 1964 Redditch was awarded the status of ‘New Town’ which led to a massive investment in the infrastructure.
This resulted in new roads which resolved traffic density problems in the town centre, new industrial centres, a major refurbishment of the town centre shopping and new housing.
Main A441 by-passing town centre Photo : Anthony Green
Today, Redditch is a dynamic 21st Century town with an advanced transport network, a modern indoor shopping centre in the heart of the town and a robust local sense of community.
However, the town has not lost its heritage and it is still at heart the attractive small town created 900 years ago.
Redditch Church Green Photo : Anthony Green