ONE of Kidderminster’s most famous sons has been commemorated with a permanent reminder of his rags-to-riches story.

An English Heritage Blue Plaque has been installed at Sir Josiah Mason’s birthplace in Mill Street - now the thriving Cafe Masala restaurant.

Born into a carpet-weaving family in 1795, Mason sold cakes, fruit and vegetables on the street from the age of eight in order to buy books to educate himself.

He went on to become a leading industrialist of his time, and never forgot his humble origins, funding many projects to help the needy and setting up a college which later became Birmingham University.

He was knighted for his philanthropy in 1872.

As a teenager he tried his hand at shoemaking, baking, blacksmithing and carpet weaving but his life took off when he moved to Birmingham in 1816

He finally found his niche when he went to work for a pen manufacturer and eventually bought the business, turning it into the largest producer of pens in England.

He was also at the forefront of electro-nickel plating, copper smelting and india-rubber ring making and quickly amassed a great fortune.

As he was virtually self-educated and taught himself to write when a shoemaker's apprentice, he was keen to use his wealth to help the less fortunate and in 1860 spent £300,000 establishing an orphanage at Erdington.

He had previously given a dispensary to his home town and an almshouse to Erdington and in 1880 spent a further £250,000 creating Mason College which was later incorporated into Birmingham University.

The plaque is the second to be installed by Kidderminster Heritage Opportunities Group to promote the town’s rich past.

Chairman Colin Hill said: “We want to make sure the lives of inspiring people like Josiah Mason are never forgotten. They are a big part of Kidderminster’s heritage.

“Our first plaque marks Rowland Hill’s birthplace in Blackwell Street and we are hoping to add further plaques to the collection when funds allow.”