Enjoy a great ‘staycation’ in Corby

The front cover of Thomas Bingham's book Corby Staycation
The front cover of Thomas Bingham's book Corby Staycation
  • Book highlights the hidden history of town
  • Corby owes its prosperity to almost-forgotten man who discovered how to turn iron ore into steel
  • Robin Hood may have hailed from Rockingham

A man who became fascinated with history after he was lent a book about Corby Pole Fair has written his own historical guide to the town.

Tom Bingham said his interest in local history was kindled when a former neighbour, Cllr Willie Mawdsley, gave him his copy of his Charter Book.

Sidney Thomas Gilchrist's invention, the Bessemer Converter

Sidney Thomas Gilchrist's invention, the Bessemer Converter

Researching in Corby Library he unearthed lots of facts about the town that he had not known previously and decided to write Corby Staycation.

One of the stories that particularly fascinated him was that of Sidney Thomas Gilchrist, an English inventor who was born in 1850.

Mr Bingham said: “Little is ever mentioned of one of Corby’s most philanthropic benefactors, Sidney Thomas Gilchrist.

“I was brought up and raised in Gilchrist Avenue in Corby and it’s not until now, 60 years later, that I find out who this man was.

Corby’s history, or its connection to history, has been left to anyone that wanted to lay claim to it.

Tom Bingham

“It is little known that Corby owes its prosperity to Sidney Thomas Gilchrist, a solicitor’s clerk at Thames Police court.

“But for him the hundreds of thousands of tons of iron ‘low grade ore’ would have remained under Corby instead of being turned into steel by his ingenious ideas for the removal of phosphorous by means of the Bessemer Converter.

“Sidney and his cousin Percy Gilchrist experimented in the technique while he was still in employment as a clerk.

“By discovering the effect of allowing the phosphorus to re-enter the metal, thus producing basic slag, he revolutionised the industry.

“Although he became wealthy and famous, he spent the last five years of his life travelling the world looking for good health, but died in Paris before he was 35.

“He left one simple provision that the rest of his fortune should be spent on the upkeep of his mother and sister, keeping them in comfort for the rest of their lives, and anything remaining should be used in bringing comfort to the lives of working folk.

“Gilchrist gave Corby its potential yet there is no statue or building to honour his name.

“The town as we know it would not exist but for him, no railway, no quarries, no brickworks, no Stewart & Lloyds.

“We owe this man a mention in the history of our town.

“Let’s hope before too long Sidney will receive the recognition he deserves.”

Mr Bingham added: “Researching Corby in the Cube library, I discovered Robin Hood was of Rockingham (possibly) and Richard III, the child killer, was born six miles from my house, and that Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded in the same place.

“I learned our common land had been stolen from us by brute force by the Tresham family, and has been kept from us ever since.

“We are now unable to leave the Queen’s highway without trespassing on some lord or other’s land and this grieves me.

“The Dam Busters trained three miles away from my house in Studfall Avenue, and the President of the USA George Washington’s roots are only a bus ride away.

“John Clare probably passed through here wandering in his madness trying to find a dead woman, and nuclear weapons were housed in Harrington, just up the road, and made Corby a first strike target during the Cold war.

“Corby’s history, or its connection to history, has been left to anyone that wanted to lay claim to it.

“I have gathered it into this guide and hope it shows just what an influence we must have had down the centuries in the machinations of our county and country.”