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Bradshaw’s Guide

Severn Bridge, Worcester, England. Taken between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900. Original: Library of Congress


Worcester, the capital of Worcestershire, in a fine part of the Severn, is a parliamentary borough (two members), and seat of a diocese, with a population of 31,227.

One distinct branch of manufacture is glove making, to the amount of half-a-million pairs of leather and kid gloves annually, employing between one thousand and two thousand persons. Another is boots and shoes; and the third is fine porcelain china, which was established here about a century ago by Dr. Wall (the same who made the Malvern Waters known). Chamberlain and Grainger’s are the two oldest.

The mam streets, High Street, Foregate, and Broad Street, are well-built, broad, and clean; and most of the houses of brick. Stone is abundant. A fine view from Froster.

Worcester, which the Saxons called Weorgauceaster, and similar names, being near the Welsh border, was provided with a fortress by the Conqueror. It was built by Urso d’Abitot, on Castle Hill; the county gaol occupies the site, built in 1819. No traces are left, nor of the city wall, which was erected at the same period.

The Cathedral, dedicated to St. Peter, was formerly the church of a priory, founded by the Saxon kings. It stands on the south side of the city, between the river and the Birmingham canal. The oldest part dates from 1218, when it was rebuilt after a fire. The style, therefore, is early English, of a simple and unadorned character; the crypt however, is Norman. It is shaped like a double cross, 384 feet long, and has a handsome tower, 170 feet high, set off by pinnacles and statues in niches, especially that of St. Wulstan. There is a well-carved bishop’s throne, and an excellent organ. Musical festivals are held here for the benefit of widows and orphans of clergymen, every third year, in turn with Gloucester and Hereford. That in 1788 was attended by George III., and the west window put in to commemorate his visit The east window was finished in 1792. Another has been stained in memory of the late Queen Adelaide. Many interesting monuments are seen; among which, the oldest is King John’s, whose body was shown to crowds of people in 1797, and replaced. Another ancient tomb is Lyttleton’s, the lawyer (Coke on Lyttleton), who died in 1481; a Beauchamp, and two Crusaders, in effigy; Arthur, son of Henry VII. (whose widow, Katherine, was married to Henry VIII.); the excellent Bishop Hough; the bas-reliefs, twelve in number, being some of the best works of the sculptor, Roubiliac; Bishops Gauden and Stillingfleet, the former the author of Eickon Basilike, or the Image of a King, which so much strengthened the sympathy for Charles I. after his death, and several older prelates. In the Cathedral Precincts are the cloisters, 120 teet square, a Gothic chapterhouse, often sides, a copy of Rubens’ Descent from the Cross, a King’s College or School, founded by Henry VIII.; and an old palace, from which there, are good prospects. Portraits of George III. and Queen Charlotte are here. There is another of the king in the Guildhall, in the market-place, a brick building, erected in 1723. It contains regal portraits of Charles I. and II. (with their statues), Queen Anne, and other personages, in the large hall, which is 110 feet long. The new Corn Exchange is here; Hop Market in Foregate. A theatre was built in 1780, and is 66 feet high. Handsome bridge across the Severn, built in 1781, on five arches. It has a fine view of the Malvern, Welsh and Lickey Hills, and the beautiful fruit and hop country in the neighbourhood. In the Grammar School, founded by Queen Elizabeth, Lord Somers was educated: he was born here in 1650. Another student was S. Butler, the poet, a native of Strensham, near Pershore.

Of the twelve city churches, several deserve notice. St. Andrew’s, near the cathedral, is an early Gothic church, with a beautiful spire, built in the last century by a common mason; it is 155 feet high, and only 20 feet diameter at the bottom, where it rests on a tower 90 feet high. St. Peter’s, in Diglis Meadow was originally built in the thirteenth century. Near this is the little harbour made by the junction of the canal with the river. Close to it are St. Alban’s and St. Helen’s, both very old churches. Across the bridge is St. Clement’s, a Norman copy of a former church. St. John’s, Bedwardine, is also half Norman.

There are several charitable institutions here, amply endowed, such as Queen Hospital, for twenty-nine women; St. Oswald’s, for twenty-eight women; Judge Berkeley’s, for twelve persons; and the General Infirmary (near the Gaol and the Race Course), on Pitchcroft Meadow, founded in 1770. The various charities possess an income of £4,500 a-year. A large House of Industry stands not far from the Gas Works. Near Sidbury Gate there stood not long ago part of a very old hospital, where the second Duke of Hamilton died of the wounds which he received in the famous Battle of Worcester, which was fought on the 3rd September, 1651, in Perry Wood, on Red Hill. Charles II., who was crowned here a little while before, occupied an old house (which is still standing) in New Street, from which he escaped by the back door, as the enemy pushed in at the front; and, accompanied by Lord Rochester and Father Hubblestone, his confessor, fled to White Ladies’ Nunnery, at Boscabel. Cromwell styled this decisive, battle his “crowning mercy,” and named a ship, which was launched from Woolwich yard, the “Worcester,” in consequence.

In the neighbourhood of Worcester are many interesting spots: — Bevere (2 miles), supposed to have been a beaver colony, is a handsome seat on an island in the Severn, from which the Malvern hills are visible. Hither the citizens retreated during the plague of 1637, and it is frequented for bathing. Perdiswell is the seat of Sir O. Wakeman, Bart. Claines is near the remains of White Ladies’ or Whitestone Nunnery, in which are preserved the bed and cup of Queen Elizabeth, who visited it in 1585. (This is distinct from White Ladies above mentioned). Hartlebury Castle, near Stourport, the seat of the Bishops of Worcester for many centuries past; but most of it was rebuilt, after the Restoration. Hanbury Hall. B. Vernon, Esq., an old seat. Spetchley Park, another old seat of the Berkeleys, now of R. Berkeley, Esq., their monuments are in the church. Madresfield, Earl Beauchamp’s old seat, is full of fine ancient portraits, &c. Their old seat was at Powick, called Beauchamp’s Court. Boughton, on the Teme, (which joins the Severn a little below the city), is the seat of J. W. Isaac, Esq. At Hatton Park there is a useful mineral spring, the property of J. Mann, Esq.

At Upton (9 miles), the celebrated Dr. Dee, the astrologer, was born. Near Malvern, in the direction of Upton, is a small but exquisitely built and decorated Roman Catholic chapel, and priest’s residence.

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Places nearby

  • Gloucestershire : Cheltenham

    Cheltenham takes its name from the river Chelt, and is celebrated for its medicinal waters. It has been for the last sixty years one of the most elegant and fashionable watering places in England.

  • Gloucestershire : Gloucester

    A cathedral city, capital of the county, on the Severn, and the Bristol and Birmingham Railway, 114 miles from London.

  • Herefordshire : Hereford

    Hereford, stands at a military Ford on the Wye, which King Harold protected by a castle, the site of which, at Castle Green, is now occupied by the Nelson Column.