Alcester quietly powering the world
“This a small town which stays under a lot of people’s radar but thinks big. Alcester does punch above its weight."
Visitors arriving in Alcester are greeted to the town by a handsome, sculpted globe – ‘Goodwill to All’ is its welcoming message.
Its origins lie in the Globe Hotel which stood for centuries nearby until 1956, but the globe is most appropriate to Alcester in another way, because every day the business expertise of this proud small town in south-west Warwickshire has a global impact.
The elegant steam train, full of passengers, puffing its way round Carillon Historical Park in Ohio, USA…Made in Alcester.
The mighty wood-chipping machine delivering environmental projects in Fiji…Made in Alcester.
The precision tools powering production at Skoda’s historic car plant in the Czech Republic...Made in Alcester.
The respective businesses - Severn Lamb, GreenMech and Seco Tools – are just three examples from a small town which truly punches above its weight.
They are players on the world stage but also, typically of Alcester, care about what happens locally. That welcoming globe has just been refurbished thanks to the donated efforts of two of them – Severn Lamb and GreenMech.
“Those businesses are a reflection of Alcester,” says town clerk Vanessa Lowe. “Local people have good ideas that grow into successful businesses which employ local people and care about the local community.
“This a small town which stays under a lot of people’s radar but thinks big. Alcester does punch above its weight. We have the Roman history and the lovely architecture and the High Street full of interesting little shops but, behind all of that, we are shaping the world!”
Alcester does think big but, not with a swagger, in an endearing way of quiet confidence and warmth. Last year, the town (population 7,000) lodged a tongue-in-cheek bid to become a city. Encouraged by the city status awarded to St Asaph (population 3,335), Alcester pitched to become one of the three new cities created for the late Queen Elizabeth’s platinum jubilee. City status would, the application cited, “support us in realising our vision for 2031, attracting new business, people and inward investment as well as boosting out social development.”
It wasn’t to be - Colchester, Doncaster and Milton Keynes got the nod – but no worries. Alcester wished them well and got on with ticking over nicely as a busy town of vibrant visitor appeal and successful and diverse light industry.
The town centre, with its array of independent shops and cafes, is thriving. Just two of more than 100 units a vacant – a remarkably low percentage - and those two are under preparation to be filled. Further out of town, the Arden Forest Industrial Estate is home to a broad range of businesses the skills and products of which, as shown earlier, span the world.
Further businesses are based at the fascinating and beautiful Minerva Mill. A needle factory until 1912, the handsome Victorian building subsequently housed all sorts of manufacturing - springs, corsets, ironing boards, golf balls – before in 1998 it was acquired by Impetus Limited and turned into an innovation centre. The transformation was carried out with the respect due to a Grade Two-listed edifice. Minerva Mill has won awards for its outstanding innovation while preserving the character of the building.
Businesses there include engineering firm CalGavin, another Alcester firm with a global clientele but which is very happy at home. Created in 1980, CalGavin has gone from strength to strength and, still under founder Martin Gough, are currently undergoing further expansion but will remain in Alcester.
Minerva Mill is an example of how, in Alcester, opportunities are spotted and taken. Another is The Greig Hall. After 60 years hosting town events in Kinwarton Road, the property closed in 2011 and fell into disuse. The community didn’t like that, so got busy. They stoked up interest, raised funds and carried out repairs. The hall reopened last month. The town council has a 125-year lease on the building which, run by trustees, is back at the heart of the community.
That community is constantly active to enhance the tourist appeal of the town. Alcester is renowned as a festival town with two food festivals per year and lots of events always in the pipeline. It has free parking, good road access, green spaces, interesting architecture…and 16 hairdressers! What’s not to like?
Alcester businesses have grown and prospered due to their capacity for innovation. If you are a local business in Warwickshire which could benefit from innovation support, please visit https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/news/cw-innovation-programme
The tourist and visitor offer of Alcester and all the towns and attractions around Warwickshire can be explored at https://visit.warwickshire.gov.uk/