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The History of Redditch

Redditch has a long history spanning many centuries, here we have attempted to offer a very brief insight into our past. Further information is available from the public library and the Bordesley Abbey Visitors Centre.

One thousand years ago at the end of the first millenium the area that is now modern Redditch lay close to the great forest of Feckenham, a vast 190 sq. mile oak forest that became the site of King John's Royal Hunting Lodge. Below the village of Feckenham, in the valley of the River Arrow, lay the two tiny settlements of Osmerley and Bordesley. It was here in 1141 that Cisterian monks established their Abbey following the granting of a charter. The monks called it St.Mary of Bordesley. They swiftly removed both settlements and re-directed the Arrow to power their mill and create a fishpond. The name Osmerley disappeared.

Gradually a few dwellings sprang up around the Abbey and by 1348 the growing hamlet had acquired the name "La Rededitch". The Cisterian monks remained for 400 years and established a strong community. Everything changed in 1538 when King Henry VIII ordered the dissoluton of Bordsley Abbey and three years later the property passed into the ownership of Lord Windsor (who was forced to accept the Abbey in exchange for his own house at Stanwell which Henry VIII had taken a fancy to).

After dissolution the displaced community moved from the valley of the River Arrow up the hill to a wide flat area of land that was to become the centre of Redditch. The only part of the Abbey to survive was St.Stephen's Chapel by the West Gate, this continued to be used by the settlers until 1805 when it was replaced by a Chapel in the centre of the town. The area was of little significance and did not appear on any map until the 16th century.


Despite the existence of a variety of cottage industries needle-making emerged to dominate the area, the earliest references being 1639. Its popularity can be attributed to the plentiful supply of water used to power the scouring mills. As the population grew the work of cutting and pointing the needle wire was taken over by the rapid rise of needle factories. Needle scouring mills sprang up all across the area. The Forge Mill, built in 1730, is now the only remaining water-driven needle scouring mill in the world, converted into a Museum, it offers a unique insight into the life and history of Redditch.

For more information click here