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My top ten of most influential people from Stourbridge

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: June 20, 2014

  • Don Kenyon

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OUR article on Mike Fenton's top ten of West Bromwich's most influential people created a lot of reaction in The Bugle (May 22 edition). This week David James Edge, from Stourbridge, gives his list for his home town.

EVERY town has its links to famous faces, from the distant past to the present day, and towns in the Black Country are no different, including the famous glass-making town of Stourbridge.

Stourbridge has been the birthplace, home or place of education for a number of people who have gone on to pursue careers in a range of areas, from acting to manufacturing to music.

While not the most famous of faces, a number of these people have made their mark in their respective fields, and I believe have helped contribute to Stourbridge's rich historical significance, and put the town on the map.

Firstly, we begin with a prominent ironmaster, James Foster. Foster was born in 1786 and became a senior partner in the Stourbridge Company of John Bradley & Co, before going on to play a major role in the construction of the Stourbridge Lion.

The Stourbridge Lion became the first rail road steam locomotive to be operated in the United States. Foster formed a partnership in Stourbridge with John Rastrick, and began the pioneering steam locomotive manufacturing company Foster, Rastrick and Co in 1819.

This company then went on to build the Stourbridge Lion. Foster died in 1853, but secured his place in history, both locally in Stourbridge and across Britain.

Next, we move on to an individual often regarded as one of the greatest singers in rock and roll history, Robert Plant CBE, who was born in West Bromwich on August 20, 1948.

Plant was educated in Stourbridge, at King Edward VI Grammar School (now King Edward VI College), between 1959 and 1965. A musician, singer and songwriter, Plant became best known as the lead singer of the rock band, Led Zeppelin, but he has also had a highly successful solo career. Plant was awarded his CBE in the 2009 New Year Honours List for services to music.

Dr Samuel Johnson, a British writer who made a sizeable and lasting contribution to English literature, was also educated at King Edward VI School for a time. Born in 1709, Johnson attended King Edward's while living with his cousins in Pedmore, and was a devour Anglican. His most notable wok was A Dictionary of the English Language, which took some nine years to complete, and was published in 1755. It was regarded as one of the "greatest single achievements of scholarship" and had a far-reaching effect on modern English. Johnson died in 1784 aged 75.

George Woodall, born in the 1800's, was an engraver and designer at the glassworks of Thomas Webb & Sons in Amblecote, Stourbridge. Woodall attended the Stourbridge School of Art and developed a sense of flair for everything he did. He followed in the footsteps of his older brother, Thomas, and his work, refining the production processes for cameo glass, made him an international icon. He showcased fabulous pieces of glass sculpture at numerous exhibitions throughout his life. He died in 1925. Woodall was described in 1980 by the Daily Telegraph as The Rembrandt of Glass. He was additionally described as the greatest cameo engraver of the 19th Century.

At the halfway point we reach Ronnie O'Sullivan, the world class snooker player who was born in Wordsley, Stourbridge, on December 5, 1975. O'Sullivan moved to Essex at a young age, and went on to make his first century break aged just 10. He became British under-16 champion at 13 years old before turning professional in 1992. O'Sullivan has become one of the world's most famous snooker players, and is ranked fourth on the list of players to have won the most World Championships in the modern era. He was crowned World Champion in 2001, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2013.

Our sixth influential person is Thomas Foley, an ironmaster and politician who sat in the House of Commons during various times between 1659 and 1677. Foley was born on December 3, 1617, and was the eldest son of Richard Foley, a prominent ironmaster in Stourbridge. Thomas took over his father's business, before becoming an MP for Worcestershire in 1659. One of Thomas Foley's most notable acts was when he founded a Bluecoat school in Stourbridge, which is still in existence today and is now known as Oldswinford Hospital School. Foley died on October 1, 1677.

Anthony Bate was a British actor born on August 31, 1927, in Stourbridge. After being educated at King Edward VI School, Bate became famous for his role as Oliver Lacon in the BBC adaptation of the John Le Carré novels Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Smiley's People. He also had roles in Dixon of Dock Green, The Avengers, Prime Suspect, Silent Witness and a Touch of Frost. He died on June 19, 2012.

In eighth is Francis Short RA, born on June 19, 1957, in Stourbridge. Short was a print maker and a teacher of print making. He revived the print making processes of mezzotint as well as aquatint engraving and was involved in a range of works across the Midlands until 1881.

After receiving distinctions and gold medals for his work, he was elected a full Academician in 1911 and granted a knighthood.

The penultimate position goes to Don Kenyon, an English cricketer who was born in Wordsley on May 15, 1924. Kenyon played in eight tests for England between 1951 and 1955, before going on to captain Worcestershire from 1959-1967. A popular and successful captain, Kenyon became an England Test selector, and president of his county side. He died in November 1996 at the age of 72.

Finally we have the actor Johnny Briggs MBE, famous for his role as Mike Baldwin on Coronation Street between 1976 and 2006. Johnny was born in London, but has lived in Stourbridge for many years.

He is a keen golfer and regularly plays at Stourbridge Golf Club. Briggs received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006 for his 30 years on Coronation Street.

Is David right? Would you put different names in your list? Or what about telling us who you think are the ten most influential people in your town? Email editor@blackcountrybugle.co.uk, log on to www.blackcountrybugle.co.uk or write to us at 41 High Street, Cradley Heath, B64 5HL.

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