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Corby is a borough of Northamptonshiremarker, and an industrial town located 13 km north of Ketteringmarker in the East Midlands of Englandmarker. The borough had a population of 53,174 at the 2001 Census; the town on its own accounted for 49,222 of this figure. Corby is in a triangle formed by Leicestermarker, Peterboroughmarker and Northamptonmarker. The Borough of Corby borders onto the Borough of Ketteringmarker, the District of East Northamptonshiremarker and the District of Harboroughmarker.The nearest towns are Ketteringmarker, Market Harboroughmarker, Desboroughmarker and Rothwellmarker. Corby is about 24 miles north-east of the county town, Northamptonmarker.


Early history

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 Forestmarker 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 hold in 2022.

From rural village to industrial town

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).

The 1940s and 1950s

During World War II the Corby steel works 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 steel works 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 Maddisons 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 Germanymarker after a successful raid on Coventrymarker 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 steel works made a notable contribution to the war effort by manufacturing the steel tubes used in Operation Pluto to supply fuel to Allied forces on the European continent.

By 1950 the population of the town stood at 18,000. In that year Corby was designated a new town and the town underwent its second wave of expansion, mainly from Scotland, which resulted in a car-friendly layout with many areas of open space and woodland.

The decline of the steel industry

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 however continued, 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 stationmarker built in 1994; and the Rockingham Motor Speedwaymarker built in 2001.


The current Member of Parliament for Corby is Phil Hope MP (Labour). The Corby constituency contains parts of traditionally Conservative East Northamptonshiremarker that balance the traditionally Labour town of Corby leading to a marginal constituency that has gone to the party forming the national government in every general election since the creation of the constituency in 1979. In the 2005 General Election, Labour won Corby by a majority of just over 1,000. Corby Borough Council has been controlled by the Labour party since 1979. In 2007 the council had 16 Labour representatives, eight Conservatives and five Liberal Democrats.


Society and culture

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 Glasgowmarker and Northern Irelandmarker). 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 Scotlandmarker churches.

The song "Steeltown" by Big Country was written about the town of Corby, telling how many Scots went to work there, but found themselves unemployed when the steelworks declined. (Source: Melody Maker, 1984)

According to the 2001 Census 1.7% of the population are non-white and the average age of the population (37.2) is slightly lower than the average for England and Wales (38.6).


The town is located along the A43, A427, A6003 and is six miles from the A14 at Ketteringmarker. Corby lies within two hours’ drive of four international airports: Birminghammarker, Lutonmarker, Stanstedmarker and East Midlandsmarker. Being a new town, Corby's road network is different to that of older towns. There are several dual carriageways, most of the principal roads have wide reservations and high speed limits and pedestrian crossings over them are often underpasses. However, Corby is only connected by dual carriageway to one neighbouring town, Ketteringmarker (the A6003). All other roads into the town are single carriageways.

Corby is served by the Corby Star bus service and there are direct bus and coach services to Northamptonmarker, Milton Keynesmarker, Peterboroughmarker operated by stagecoach and Glasgowmarker by National Express. Plans to build a new bus station in Corby are being considered by the council following the closure of the old bus station in August 2002.

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. Gosportmarker, Dudleymarker, Newcastle under Lymemarker) but all of these places have locally available railway stations in adjacent suburban areas. Previously the nearest station was seven miles south in Ketteringmarker since the closure of the original station under the Beeching Axe in April 1966. The Kettering-Corby-Melton Mowbray sectionmarker remained open for freight and through passenger trains, passing through the 1,756 metre (1,920 yard) Corby Tunnel and crossing the River Welland on the colossal 82-arch Welland Viaductmarker.

The newly built stationmarker opened on 23 February 2009. East Midlands Trains runs hourly services to Londonmarker St Pancras Internationalmarker and a pilot service running north to . It was later agreed that the 'Corby Rail Bus', the X1 service between Corby and Kettering operated by Stagecoach, would be kept running after the opening of the new station – though passenger numbers will be monitored and if they fall off significantly then the service may be reduced or terminated. Train services had been due to start on 14 December 2008, but EMT admitted that it failed to secure the four new trains it needed. An article in Corby's local newspaper stated that the service would be starting on 23 February 2009.

Employment and education

Since the 1980s the unemployment rate has returned to a level closer to the national average (2.7% in October 2005). Employment is biased towards manufacturing (36.8% compared with a regional average of 18.5%) and against public administration, health and education (10.0% compared with the regional average of 25.9%). Much of industry is concentrated in purpose-built industrial estates on the outskirts of the town. Pom Bears are manufactured here.

According to the 2001 Census the proportion of the working age population with degree-level qualifications (8.5%) is the lowest of all areas in England and Wales. 39.3% have no GCSE-equivalent qualifications at all.

The Corby campus of Tresham Institute of Further and Higher Educationmarker provides a range of vocational courses for post-16 students and adult learners. The nearest universities are the University of Northampton, 37 km (23 miles) to the south and both the University of Leicestermarker and De Montfort Universitymarker in Leicestermarker, 40 km (25 miles) to the west.
Lodge Park Technology College on Shetland Way
Brooke Weston Collegemarker, one of only 15 CTC in England, opened in 1990. Brooke Weston CTC has consistently achieved examination results in the top 5% of English state schools, and will change to a City Academy in September 2008.

Since 1990 several of Corby's other secondary schools have fared less well with a series of poor examination results and critical inspection reports leading to mergers and closures, the most recent being the closure of Our Lady and Pope John School in 2005. Currently there are four secondary schools in Corby: Brooke Weston Academy, Lodge Park Technology College, Corby Business Academy (formerly Corby Community College) and The Kingswood Schoolmarker. Corby Community College has a special unit for children with severe special educational needs. All four schools have sixth forms for post-16 students.

Corby has 17 primary schools, of which two are Church of England schools, three are Roman Catholic and one for children with severe behavioural and emotional difficulties.

Regeneration and redevelopment

Land Securities (Corby town centre owners) and Corby Borough Council are currently working with Urban Regeneration Company North Northants Development Company (NNDC) (formerly Catalyst Corby), the East Midlands Development Agency (EMDA), the Government Office for the East Midlands (GOEM), English Partnerships and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) 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 Priors Hall, Little Stanion, Oakley Valemarker and Great Oakley. Corby house prices are much lower than the national average, and Corby has the highest percentage of local authority housing in the UK.

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 early 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 project is currently on hold, limited aesthetic augmentation work within the town centre continues.

Stephen Fry is currently doing 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) can be found here (

Toxic waste contamination

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.

The ruling was delivered by Mr. Justice Akenhead at London'smarker High Court of Justicemarker on 29 July 2009, and concluded that there was a "statistically significant" cluster of birth defects between 1989 and 1999. It found that there were present on the Corby Borough Council sites, over the whole period from 1985 (and possibly before) until 1997, the types of contaminants which could cause the birth defects affecting the hands and feet which the complainants had suffered. The judge ruled that Corby Borough Council was "extensively negligent in its control and management of the sites which they acquired from British Steel... [leading to] extensive dispersal of contaminated mud and dust over public areas of Corby and into and over private homes, with the result that the contaminants could realistically have caused the types of birth defects of which complaint has been made by the claimants." Some of those affected have missing or underdeveloped fingers and three have deformities on their feet. The group's counsel, David Wilby QC, asserted "that the disabilities were caused early on in their foetal development when their mothers ingested or inhaled an 'atmospheric soup of toxic materials' from the redevelopment." Following the judgment, Mr Wilby said: "The defendant has throughout strenuously denied any fault and relied heavily on its expert witnesses to justify its conduct. However, without exception, the judge preferred the evidence of the expert witnesses called by the claimants."

Following the ruling, Corby Borough Council said: "The judge concluded that this contamination affected pregnant women. A child, so affected, has 21 years from birth to make a claim and thus any work since the late 1980s which has not met the standard of care indicated in this judgment could be challenged in this way. For both local authorities and developers alike this is a significant concern because the standard of care has been drawn very highly, and could cause a rethink of the way that reclamation is carried out in the UK, even though the facts of the case are historic."

The case put forward by the complainants asserted that council contractors employed to clean up the sites had little expertise in dealing with toxic waste. The claimants' solicitor said "There can be little doubt that this job was handled appallingly badly even by the standards of the 80s and 90s. Time and again it has been shown that the council officers responsible for this work simply didn't have a clue what they were doing. They had no expertise in dealing with toxic waste." With 60 further children believed to be affected, legal commentators have said the Corby scandal is the UK's "biggest child poisoning case since thalidomide".


  1. An Archaeological Resource Assessment of the Neolithic and Bronze Age in Northamptonshire
  2. Corby Borough Council - The History of Corby
  3. Corby Pole Fair Charter
  4. Memories of the Second World War
  5. History of British Steel
  6. Memorandum by Corby Borough Council (NT 50)
  7. The State of the Regions, Local Government Information Unit
  8. Corby Northamptonshire through time - Historical Statistics on Work and Poverty
  9. [1]Corby is already recognised as a prime location for distribution and logistics
  10. The English town that's truly Scottish
  11. Gaelic welcome in store
  12. Church of Scotland - Presbytery of England
  13. New Service to run north to Oakham
  14. Corby article
  15. Corby train delays labelled 'shambolic'
  16. Geographical Statistical Information - Unemployment
  17. Geographical Statistical Information
  18. Census 2001
  19. Full list of academies
  20. Mayor declares Willow Place officially open
  21. Williams, Rachel. Council found liable for children's exposure to toxic waste . 29 July 2009. Retrieved 29 July 2009.
  22. Sherwood, Bob. Corby toxins ruling could spark further claims. 29 July 2009. Financial Times. Retrieved 29 July 2009.
  23. Gammell, Caroline. Corby birth defects: worst child poisoning case since thalidomide. 29 July 2009. Retrieved 29 July 2009.
  24. Corby toxic waste case: Judge rules there was a "statiscally significant" cluster of bitrh defects . 29 July 2009. Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph. Retrieved 29 July 2009.
  25. Families win birth defect battle . 29 July 2009. BBC News. Retrieved 29 July 2009.
  26. Toxic defect link a 'delusion' . 17 February 2009. BBC News. Retrieved 29 July 2009.
  27. Corby Toxic Waste Case: Corby Council reaction. 29 July 2009. Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph. Retrieved 29 July 2009.
  28. McBeth, Colette. The battle for birth defects answers . 29 July 2009. BBC News. Retrieved 29 July 2009.
  29. Gammell, Caroline. Corby birth defects: worst child poisoning case since thalidomide. 29 July 2009. Retrieved 29 July 2009.

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