John Corbett (industrialist)

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John Corbett is remembered with an inscription on the front of the Literary Institute in Aberdyfi, Gwynedd

John Corbett (bapt. 29 June 1817 – 22 April 1901) was an English industrialist, philanthropist and Liberal Party politician of the Victorian era. He is particularly associated with salt mining in Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire. Locally he was nicknamed The Salt King.

Family background[edit]

Born in Brierley Hill, Staffordshire, 1817 his father, Joseph Corbett, ran a successful canal transport business there. John joined the family business but by 1850 canals were facing increasing competition from the new and expanding railways.


John Corbett sold his share of the family canal business and, in 1853, purchased disused salt workings in Stoke Prior from the British Alkali Company. Corbett brought all the innovations of the industrial revolution to mechanise and commercialise the business, soon making his salt workings the largest in Europe and built a great fortune.


However he did not simply utilise this fortune just for his own ends, preferring to reinvest profits into the business processes, innovation and also into improving his workforce's working conditions and even raising wages. His workers were so well paid, for the time, that many could boast that their wives did not need to work at all.

He purchased a rundown house near to his birthplace, The Hill in Wordsley in December 1891. He repaired and refurbished the house, changing its use into a hospital and endowed it to the local people on 31 July 1893 as Corbett Hospital, with a sum of £2,000 for endowment (increased by public subscription to £5,000) and two sums of £500 towards the repairs fund and furnishing. John Corbett never lived at The Hill.[1]


He was elected at the 1874 general election as Member of Parliament (MP) for the Droitwich, having unsuccessfully contested the seat in 1868.[2] He was re-elected at three subsequent general elections, joining the breakway Liberal Unionists when the Liberal Party split in 1886 over Home Rule for Ireland. Corbett retired from the House of Commons at the 1892 general election.[3]


In 1855 he met his future wife Hanna O'Meara in Paris. She lived in Paris with her Irish father and French mother. He married her within a year of meeting her. They were to have six children together. Rumor has it that one of the children was not John's.

She missed her elegant Parisian lifestyle and the French upbringing she had enjoyed so Corbett had a French style chateau built to assuage her homesickness, completed in 1875 for the staggering cost, at the time, of £247,000. Chateau Impney still stands today, as a well-known landmark just outside Droitwich Spa.

Despite this lavish and romantic gesture they separated after nearly thirty years of marriage.


Stoke Prior, Worcestershire: Graves of Thomas and John Corbett in the churchyard of St Michael's Church

In 1888, he sold the massive salt business to the Salt Union Ltd for GBP £660,000 (equivalent to £50 million in 2007).[4] He spent much of the proceeds in philanthropic work in and around Droitwich Spa, buying St. Andrew's House and turning it into the Raven Hotel. At the end of the 19th century, he presented a veranda to the Aberdovey literary institute.

He died on 22 April 1901 and was buried in the churchyard of St Michaels, Stoke Prior, Worcestershire.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Craig, F. W. S. (1989) [1977]. British parliamentary election results 1832–1885 (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 115. ISBN 0-900178-26-4. 
  3. ^ Craig, F. W. S. (1989) [1974]. British parliamentary election results 1885–1918 (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. p. 420. ISBN 0-900178-27-2. 
  4. ^ Measuring Worth - Home Archived 2008-01-19 at the Wayback Machine. at

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir John Pakington
Member of Parliament for Droitwich
Succeeded by
Richard Biddulph Martin