Redditch – old town
Redditch is a town and in north-eastern Worcestershire. It is a New Town, designated in 1964, and became in the 1960s a model for modern new town planning, and a lesson in its pitfalls for generations since. The town was built on older foundations though, first mentioned in a document of 1348. Its name means what it says: "red ditch" (or "red dyke"), in reference presumably to the red clay of the nearby River Arrow.
In the 19th century, Redditch became the international centre for the needle and fishing tackle industry. At one point 90% of the world's needles were manufactured in the town and its neighbourhoods.
Redditch is some 15 miles south of Birmingham.
Redditch lies just south of the conurbation of Birmingham and the Black Country, though escaping its clutches and with a green swathe separating it (albeit a green swathe with the M42 motorway thrown onto it. It is northwest of Studley on the A435, which skirts it to the east. The main route of access is the A441, a trunk road from Birmingham to Cookhill, by way of junction 2 of the M42.
The route of the Roman Road known as Icknield Street is prominent, running north to south through the eastern side of the town.
The first recorded mention of Redditch is in 1348, the year of the outbreak of the Black Death. During the Middle Ages it became a centre of needle-making and later prominent industries were fish-hooks, fishing tackle, motorcycles and springs, the latter notably by Herbert Terry and Sons.
Redditch was designated a new town in 1964 and the population increased dramatically from 32,000 to around 77,000. Housing developments such as Church Hill, Matchborough, Winyates, Lodge Park and Woodrow were created to accommodate the large overspill from an industrially expanding Birmingham. Redditch was built as a 'flagship' town using new methods and new town planning; all the main roads (mostly new dual carriageways as well as a ring road for the town centre) in Redditch were banked to reduce noise to the new housing estates and the whole of Redditch was landscaped.
By the 21st century needle-making and other traditional industries had been replaced by modern light industry and services, with Redditch also functioning as a dormitory town for Birmingham. The automotive retailer Halfords and engineering giant GKN both have their headquarters in Redditch. Manufacturer of precious metal contacts Samuel Taylor Ltd has manufacturing plants within the town. Following the redevelopment of the flagship Kingfisher Shopping Centre in 2002 Redditch is undergoing an economic and cultural renaissance.
The town is home to several historical sites. The National Needle Museum and the ruins of Bordesley Abbey are located in the Abbey Ward district of Redditch), and the remains of a mediæval moated settlement called Moons Moat is situated within the Church Hill estate.
Redditch is occasionally noted for its confusing road system dominated by a system of dual carriageways built when it became a New Town, including the only cloverleaf interchange in Britain outside Livingston, at the junction of the A441 and the Bromsgrove-bound A448. The system is designed to allow rapid flow of large volumes of traffic around the various districts and into the town centre, whilst keeping fast moving vehicles separated from residential streets.
Due to the uniform appearance of the road layout, some drivers find it disorientating, although the story of an elderly couple admitted to hospital with severe dehydration after spending more than sixty hours trying to navigate the highway system is an urban legend. Redditch was briefly famous for a tongue-in-cheek calendar featuring its "picturesque" roundabouts created by a local printing company. The calendar was called, unsurprisingly, 'Roundabouts of Redditch' and it proved so successful that it sparked a national series. This uniform pattern is found on a smaller scale in many of the modern estates in the town, which follow a Radburn style of planned community.
In popular culture
Malcolm Bradbury's novel The History Man, which was dramatised by the BBC in 1981, contained a reference to Redditch when Flora Beniform, a sociologist, mentioned to the main protagonist Howard Kirk that she was studying an outbreak of troilism in Redditch.
It is also mentioned in the John Cooper Clarke song, 'Burnley'.
Redditch is featured in a section heading in An Utterly Impartial History of Britain by John O'Farrell.
Sights about the town
- Bordesley Abbey: remains of a former Cistercian abbey, later used as a Royal Swannery.
- Forge Mill Needle Museum: exhibition of traditional needle making.
- Morton Stanley Park: A public park in the village of Callow Hill with views of the Malvern Hills
Kingfisher Shopping Centre
Kingfisher Shopping Centre was opened in 1976 by the then Prime Minister James Callaghan and now forms the town's primary retail centre. It is well known for its palm trees in the centre's Worcester Square.
The centre has over 1,100,000 square feet of retail space, with anchor stores making it one of the largest covered shopping centres in the United Kingdom. In 2007, a cinema opened on the new upper floor.
Arrow Valley Country Park
The park incorporates a Local Nature Reserve, Proctor's Barn Meadow. The Arrow Valley Countryside centre, opened in 2000, in the Country Park has a lakeside café, gift shop and an interactive exhibition. The lake is also used for water sports. There are 4 beautiful way marked trails used for walking and cycling around the lake and through the Country Park. There is a skate park in the south of the Park with walks the length of the river Arrow through the Country Park to the Forge Mill Museum in the north. There are interactive events and family activities to get involved in at the Countryside Centre and a comprehensive children's play area.
Royal Enfield motorcycles
Redditch was the home of the Royal Enfield motorcycle. This is where the main factory of the original company was located and the business continued manufacturing through the sixties, the last model being the Interceptor. The Redditch factory was closed in 1967 and work was moved to the Bradford on Avon factory, which also ended in 1970 thereby ending English Enfield manufacturing. In the mid fifties, the Company established a partner, Madras Motors in Madras in India, who manufactured the Bullet 350 model in India and are still going strong.
Some of the original factory buildings in Redditch still remain, most are in a derelict state and can be seen from Hewell Road. Some buildings have been taken over and now make the old part of Enfield Industrial Estate close to the town centre on Hewell Road.
Redditch sport teams include:
- Athletics: Bromsgrove and Redditch Athletic Club
- Cricket: Redditch CC
- Football: Redditch United FC
- Redditch RFC
- Redditch Ravens RLFC (Rugby League)
- Redditch Roller Sports Club Roller Derby and Recretational Roller Skating Instruction
- Redditch Rockets Skater Hockey Club
- Swimming: Redditch Swimming Club
- Cycling: The Redditch Road and Path Cycling Club
- Redditch Arrows American football Team
- Website of Redditch
- Redditch Standard – Local Redditch weekly newspaper
- Redditch Advertiser – Local Redditch weekly newspaper
- Radio Redditch – Local Community Radio for Redditch
- www.1stredditch.com –1st Redditch Boys and Girls Brigade Companies
- Redditch Local History Group - Local History Group based at Forge Mill Museum
- Forge Mill museum Retrieved 28 May 2011
- England Divided into Separate Kingdoms: no one wants Redditch, p49
- "Major UK Shopping Transaction with Prudential" (PDF). Liberty International. 2005-03. Archived from the original on 2007-10-27. http://web.archive.org/web/20071027081907/http://www.liberty-international.co.uk/files/presentation/2016/prudentialpresentation_2005_web.pdf. Retrieved 2008-02-29.
- Redditch Borough Council web site - Arrow Valley Park habitats