Stourport-on-Severn, with a population of over 19,000, is uniquely
the only town in Britain built solely as a consequence of the coming
of the canals. Before the growth of the town there existed a small
hamlet called Lower Mitton. Two black and white houses from circa
1600 can still be found in Mitton Street.
Popular legend has it that James Brindley chose Stourport rather
than Bewdley for his canal because the citizens of Bewdley did not
want his ‘stinking ditch’ passing through their town.
The reality is that Stourport made far more sense from a topographical
point of view. A canal joining the River Severn at
Bewdley would have needed to cross several hills. Joining the Severn
at Stourport it could follow the Stour valley and this obviously
made construction much cheaper.
The Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal linked the River Severn
with the Trent and Mersey and as a result, after Birmingham, Stourport
became the busiest inland port in the Midlands. The canal opened
to Stourport in 1771 and by 1812 five canal basins had been built.
In 1775 the first Stourport Bridge across the Severn was built by
the Canal Company.
The town rapidly expanded and by the 1780’s there were brass
and iron foundries, a vinegar works, tan yards, worsted spinning
mills, carpet mills, barge and boat building yards, warehouses,
shops, houses and inns. By 1795 it had 200 houses and 1300 inhabitants.
The railway arrived in 1862 and was to pose a major challenge to
the canal. Following the arrival of the railway the town extended
out to Newtown with Brindley Street being the main arterial road
through the new residential area.
During the twentieth century new industries came to the town and
residential expansion continued. Some of the first local authority
housing in the country was built in Park Crescent and Olive Grove.
Large private housing developments grew up along Windermere Way
and Stagborough Way in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Today, Stourport-on-Severn has developed into a popular tourist
town with many attractions and events for all of the family to enjoy.
The regeneration of the Stourport Canal Basins was completed in
2008 and has returned the area to its Georgian splendour, creating
an exciting and informative visitor attraction. The Clock Warehouse,
currently the home of Stourport Yacht Club, is a focal point of
the Basin. The building is graced by a magnificent clock provided
by public subscription and made by Samuel Thorpe, of Abberley, a
Clockmaker of renown. The clock was made in 1812 and placed on the
Clock Warehouse in 1813 as a temporary location until a more suitable
location for the clock could be found. After nearly 200 years it
is assumed that a more suitable location could not be found!
The Town has its own Local Council, the Stourport-on-Severn Town
Council which came into being on the 1st April, 1974, following
the major reorganisation of Local Government in that year. The Town
Council is effectively the “Parish” Council for the
Town and its Offices are located in the District Council’s
Office Block at the Civic Centre, New Street, Stourport-on-Severn,
DY13 8UJ. The Town Council has 18 elected Members. The Town is divided
into six electoral Wards, each returning three Town Council Members.
From among their number at the Annual Council Meeting held each
May a Town Mayor is elected. The Town Council owns and maintains
parkland, open space land, two allotment sites, a Cemetery, common
land and Town Centre Gardens which include a War Memorial Garden.
Stourport-on-Severn’s Twin Town is Villeneuve-Ie-Roi, about
8 miles from Paris and with easy access to Fontainebleau and Versailles.
The two Towns, twinned since 1971, are similar in size and only
an hour apart by air. Contacts have been arranged principally through
the two local Councils for the Towns and they have been many and
Work begun in the autumn of 2006 to completely refurbish the River
Severn Bridge has been completed by the Worcestershire County Council.
The present Bridge was constructed in 1870. After completion of
the refurbishment Worcestershire County Council carried out enhancements
to Bridge Street which included reconstruction of the Street and
the introduction of attractive street furniture sympathetic in style
to the Town Centre Conservation Area. For the future, strategies
are being evolved which it is hoped will lead to further improvements
in the appearance of the Street and, particularly important, the
creation of a vista from Bridge Street to the Canal Basin Area by
providing access points in the present, built frontage on the eastern
side of Bridge Street.