The Parish of Droitwich Spa
Town and Parish
Droitwich Spa is a Worcestershire town of about 25,000 people. The parish embraces virtually the whole of the town, and the four Anglican churches, originally separate parishes, now form one single team that relates to the town as a whole. Droitwich Spa is about 5 miles north of Worcester, and 20 miles south of Birmingham.
The current town has grown rapidly in recent decades, first with Birmingham overspill in the late 1960s, and more recently with a substantial amount of new housing to the south east of the town centre. The Parish Team continues to develop in response to the changing needs of town and ministry.
A Brief History
There was a Roman settlement in Droitwich by around 200 AD, mainly on the slopes of Dodderhill where St Augustine's Church now stands. The main basis for this settlement was salt-mining which has supported the local economy from Roman times through until the mid twentieth century. The picture below shows a statue in the town square of a family of miners as they would have worked in the early decades of the last century. The salt mining tradition also gives the town its motto "Salt savours all" as seen on the image of the town crest below.
One significant feature of the salt mining has been subsidence: it's very hard to find an old building with a single vertical line in it – most slope one way or another, and sometimes in several different ways at the same time.
There were several medieval settlements in and around Droitwich. Probably the oldest is the Dodderhill area, whose parish extended many miles into what is now Wychbold. This centred around the church and
medieval hospital, with vineyards as well as salt-mining feeding the economy. The area that is now the town centre, focused on St Andrew's church, and was probably the parish the town's most famous son, St Richard de Wyche (more commonly known as St Richard of Chichester) was born and grew up in. Then there was the settlement of Witton, centred around St Peter-de-Witton church, now part of the fastest growing area of the town.
In late Anglo-Saxon times and early Norman times Droitwich was clearly an area of some significance: one of the comparatively few places allowed to mint coins. It is also the most frequently mentioned town in the Domesday Book. Long before the Midlands became an industrial area, Droitwich was a significant centre of local industry in a pre-industrial age.
As the salt industry began to decline in the 19th century, local gentleman entrepreneur John Corbett was influential in developing the town as one of the newly popular Spa towns of Victorian England. The town became famous for its brine baths, and it became a popular destination for those seeking to improve their health and take their leisure at the same time.
The town today
Droitwich at the beginning of the 21st century is a real mix. Still in many ways a small traditional town, it is possible to find small houses where at least five generations of the same family have lived in them. The same family names crop up all over, and many of the older residents seem to be related to most of the others! These are the names that are dominant on the war memorials. Old buildings are visible around the town centre.
On top of this is grafted a considerable amount of light industry surrounding the town, especially to the north and west. Aided by quick and easy access to the motorway network, on the M5 just south of the M42 junction, there is also a substantial proportion of Droitwich which is now a commuter town. This is the context in which, working out of three medieval, and one Victorian, buildings, the Church of England in Droitwich Spa seeks to serve God and the people of Droitwich, across the whole of this historic and very diverse town.