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.
Click here to download the Stourport Civic Society’s fascinating leaflets ‘unlocking Stourport’s past’, and discover the hidden history of Stourport-on-Severn.