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John Corbett the Salt Tycoon

Historical Profiles: NarrowBoat, Autumn 2019

Andy Tidy

Andy Tidy profiles a West Midlands canal-carrier who became one of the most successful industrialists in the land

John Corbett was a poorly educated son of a Black Country canal-carrier, who, during the 19th century, rose through his own efforts to become both one of the region’s wealthiest industrialists and a great philanthropist of his day, retaining canal connections throughout his working life.Humble beginnings John’s family roots were in Shropshire farming but in 1816 his father Joseph moved to Brierley Hill in the booming Black Country in search of a better life. He soon established himself as Joseph Corbett, licensed canal carrier, successfully operating from a boatyard at Black Delph with cargoes trading between the Midlands, London and Manchester. Joseph soon met Hannah Cole, whom he married on 13th April 1817 and their first son, John, was born two months later on 12th June. John’s time in formal education was brief as by the age of 11 he had left school to assist his father in the canal-carrying business, thus helping to support his four brothers and sister. By the …

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