Corby

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Corby is a town and borough located in the county of Northamptonshire. Corby is 23 miles north-east of the county town, Northampton. The borough had a population of 53,174 at the 2001 Census; the town on its own accounted for 49,222 of this figure. Figures released in March 2010 revealed that Corby has the fastest growing population in both Northamptonshire and the whole of England. The Borough of Corby borders onto the Borough of Kettering, the District of East Northamptonshire, the District of Harborough and the unitary authority county of Rutland. The town was at one time known locally as “Little Scotland” due to the large number of Scottish migrant workers who came to Corby for its steelworks.

Mesolithic and Neolithic artefacts have been found in the area surrounding Corby and human remains dating to the Bronze Age were found in 1970 at Cowthick. The first evidence of permanent settlement comes from the 8th century when Danish invaders arrived and the settlement became known as “Kori’s by” – Kori’s settlement. The settlement was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 as “Corbei”. Corby’s emblem, the raven, derives from an alternative meaning of this word. These Danish roots were recognised in the naming of the most southern of the town’s housing estates, Danesholme, around which one of the Danish settlements was located.

Corby was granted the right to hold two annual fairs and a market by Henry III in 1226. In 1568 Corby was granted a charter by Elizabeth I that exempted local landowners from tolls (the fee paid by travellers to use the long distance public roads), dues (an early form of income tax) and gave all men the right to refuse to serve in the local militia. A popular legend is that the Queen was hunting in Rockingham Forest when she (dependent on the legend) either fell from her horse or became trapped in a bog whilst riding. Upon being rescued by villagers from Corby she granted the charter in gratitude for her rescue. Another popular explanation is that it was granted as a favour to her alleged lover Sir Christopher Hatton.

The Corby Pole Fair is an event that has taken place every 20 years since 1862 in celebration of the charter. The next pole fair is to be held in 2022.

The local area has been worked for iron ore since Roman times. An ironstone industry developed in the 19th century with the coming of the railways and the discovery of extensive ironstone beds. By 1910 an ironstone works had been established. In 1931 Corby was a small village with a population of around 1,500. It grew rapidly into a reasonably sized industrial town, when the owners of the ironstone works, the steel firm Stewarts & Lloyds, decided to build a large integrated ironstone and steel works on the site. The start of construction in 1934 drew workers from all over the country including many workers from the depressed West of Scotland and Irish labourers. The first steel was produced in October 1935 and for decades afterwards the steel works dominated the town. By 1939 the population had grown to around 12,000, at which time Corby was thought to be the largest “village” in the country, but it was at that point that Corby was re-designated an urban district (see the Local Government section below).

During World War II the Corby steelworks were expected to be a target for German bombers but in the event there were only a few bombs dropped by solitary planes and there were no casualties. This may be because the whole area was blanketed in huge dense black, low lying clouds created artificially by the intentional burning of oil and latex to hide the glowing Bessemer converter furnaces at the steelworks from German bomber crews. The only known remaining scars from German attacks can be found in the form of bullet holes visible on the front fascia of the old post office in Corby village (now known as Maddison’s Bar and Storm nightclub). Nobody really knows the exact circumstances under which the attack occurred, but a local apocryphal tale tells of a lone pilot making his way back to Germany after a successful raid on Coventry who spotted some lights so decided to finish off his already depleted stock of bullets. Sadly, the authenticity of this romanticised tale can neither be verified or denied, but it is certainly the most popular theory among locals. The Corby steelworks made a notable contribution to the war effort by manufacturing the steel tubes used in Operation Pluto (Pipe Line Under the Ocean) to supply fuel to Allied forces on the European continent.

In 1950, with a population of 18,000, Corby was designated a New Town with William Holford as its architect. By 1951, he prepared the development plan with a car-friendly layout and many areas of open space and woodland. In 1952, Holford produced the town centre plan and in 1954 the layout for the first 500 houses. The town now underwent its second wave of expansion, mainly from Scotland.

In 1967 the British steel industry was nationalised and the Stewarts & Lloyds steel tube works at Corby became part of British Steel. In 1973 the government approved a strategy of consolidating steel making in five main areas – South Wales, Sheffield, Scunthorpe, Teesside and Scotland – most of which are coastal sites with access to economic supplies of iron rich imported ores. Thus in 1975 the government agreed a programme that would lead to the phasing-out of steel making in Corby. In November 1979 the end of iron and steel making in Corby was formally announced. By the end of 1981 over 5,000 jobs had been lost from British Steel in Corby, and further cuts took the total loss to 11,000 jobs, leading to an unemployment rate of over 30%. Steel tube making continued, however, initially being supplied with steel by rail from Teesside and later from South Wales.

New industry was subsequently attracted to the town and by 1991 unemployment had returned to the national average. The recovery of Corby was explained in 1990 by John Redwood, then a junior minister in the Department of Trade and Industry, as being a result of the establishment of an Enterprise Zone, the promotion of Corby by the government, the work of private investors and the skills of the work force. Others believe the town’s recovery was significantly assisted by its central location and substantial grants from the EU.

To the north of Corby, on the industrial estates, is a 350MW power station built in 1994; and the Rockingham Motor Speedway built in 2001.

Scottish migration to Corby has created a unique population in the borough, evidenced most clearly in the ‘Corby accent’, referred to as ‘Corbyite’, which is often described as sounding Glaswegian. The link with Scotland is a strong feature of the area: according to the 2001 Census, there were 10,063 Scottish-born in the Corby Urban Area – 18.9% of the population. A further 1.3 per cent were born in Northern Ireland. It has been estimated that a further third of the population are Scottish or of Scottish descent.

The Scottish heritage is cherished by many inhabitants. There are Scottish social and sporting clubs and there are many fervent supporters of the Rangers and Celtic football clubs (indeed, Corby is home to the largest Rangers Supporters’ Club outside of Glasgow and Northern Ireland). Many shops sell Scottish foods and a supermarket even introduced Gaelic signs to their Corby store (but they have since removed them). An annual Highland Gathering featuring traditional Scottish music and dancing is held in the town. Corby is the only town in England apart from London with two Church of Scotland churches.The song Steeltown by Big Country (title track of the album) was written about the town of Corby, telling how many Scots went to work there, but found themselves unemployed when the steelworks declined.

November 2010 saw the opening of the Corby Cube, a major development in the town centre. As well as new council chamber, registrar office, and public library, the Cube is home to a 450 seat theatre and 100 capacity studio theatre. A programme of live theatre, dance, music and standup comedy is complemented by a participation programme encouraging all parts of Corby community to get involved. Recently the theatre started screening films, twice a week and including current mainstream releases and the best in world, independent and art house cinema.

The town is located along the A43, A427, A6003 and is six miles from the A14 at Kettering. Corby lies within two hours’ drive of four international airports: Birmingham, Luton, Stansted and East Midlands.

Corby used to be described as the largest town in the UK not to have a railway station, or access within five miles of one – many other towns and localities claim this dubious honour (e.g. Gosport, Dudley, Newcastle under Lyme) but all of these places have locally available railway stations in adjacent suburban areas. Previously the nearest station was seven miles south in Kettering since the closure of the original station under the Beeching Axe in April 1966. The Kettering-Corby-Melton Mowbray section remained open for freight and through passenger trains, passing through the 1,920 yard (1,756 metre) Corby Tunnel and crossing the River Welland on the colossal 82-arch Welland Viaduct.

The newly built station opened on 23 February 2009. East Midlands Trains runs hourly services to London St Pancras via Kettering and Wellingborough. There is also a limited peak time service running north to Oakham and Melton Mowbray.

Corby has an Urban Regeneration Company – North Northants Development Company, which now covers the whole of North Northamptonshire rather than just Corby (it was previously known as Catalyst Corby). The company is working closely with Corby Borough Council, Land Securities (town centre owners), the East Midlands Development Agency and the Homes and Communities Agency to regenerate the town centre as part of the masterplan for the whole town. The population of Corby town is expected to double in the next 30 years through housing on large estates such as Prior’s Hall, Little Stanion, Oakley Vale and Great Oakley.

In October 2007 Corby’s new shopping precinct, Willow Place, opened. In addition Parkland Gateway, the Borough’s £50m investment situated adjacent to Willow Place and including a new Olympic-sized swimming pool and civic hub (due for completion in November 2010), is being built following its approval in January 2007. Work began on the project in October 2007 and the Corby East Midlands International Pool was officially opened by Olympian Mark Foster in July 2009. Although the Evolution Corby project is currently on hold, limited aesthetic augmentation work within the town centre continues.

Stephen Fry has previously been employed to do the voice-over work for a campaign running in London to entice people to move to Corby. The campaign is centred around advertisements in newspapers, on the London Underground and on local radio. An example of one of the posters in the ‘More for your Money’ campaign (photographed on the London Underground). A new campaign to persuade Londoners to move to North Northamptonshire, dubbed ‘North Londonshire’, is due to launch in the coming weeks.

In July 2009 Corby Borough Council was found liable for negligently exposing pregnant women to toxic waste during the reclamation of the former British Steel steelworks, causing birth defects to their children. The judge found in favour of 16 of the 18 claimants, the oldest of whom was 22 at the time of the ruling. The ruling was significant as it was the first in the world to find that airborne pollution could cause such birth defects.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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