Walk 62: Worcester City Walk: Full of Pomp & Ceremony

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 2.5 miles (4 km)

Time to walk: Roughly 1.5 hour, but take your time as this is a lovely little city

Difficulty: All on hard paths & flat so very easy

Parking: There’s plenty of car parks, but we parked over the river near Worcestershire Cricket Ground

Public toilets: Bars, cafes etc around the city

Map of the route:

map

We didn’t know Worcester so took the opportunity when working there to explore it & what a little gem of a city it is

Worcester is the county town of Worcestershire. Situated some 17 miles southwest of the southern suburbs of Birmingham & 23 miles north of Gloucester. The River Severn flanks the western side of the city centre, overlooked by the 12th century Cathedral. The site of the final battle of the Civil War, Worcester was where Oliver Cromwell‘s New Model Army defeated King Charles I‘s Cavaliers, cementing the English Interregnum, the eleven-year period during which England & Wales became a republic. Worcester was the home of Royal Worcester Porcelain &, for much of his life, the composer Sir Edward Elgar. It also houses the Lea & Perrins factory where Worcestershire Sauce is made

In places it reminded us of York & the ‘Lanes’ of Leicester so let’s pick up on the history as we go…

Let’s Walk!

1. What better place to start today’s walk than on a bridge halfway over the River Severn looking at a fabulous cathedral

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The view of the Cathedral is similar to that of Durham

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2. After crossing the bridge turn left down North Parade – there’s some interesting properties along here…

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The large brick built one’s called John Gwynn house. A former warehouse, this building was named after the architect of the bridge we’ve just walked over

Next to that’s the Old Rectifying House

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Rectifying (or rectification) refers to the purification of spirits to produce a high concentration of alcohol. The Old Rectifying House name comes from the fact that the rear of the building was part of the Williams distillery. The main part of the distillery was across the river at the bottom of Tybridge Street. The inn was always in flood’s way & every year the beer casks had to be rescued & placed above flood level, while provisions had to be supplied by boat & taken in by way of the upstairs windows. Today it’s a wine bar & some traditions live on…

3. Pass the Severn View Hotel…dating back to the 17th century, lots of its original features are still on display today

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On the wall of the hotel’s a sign stating that this area was once known as Bridge Gate where Worcester’s medieval bridge crossed the river near this point. It was rebuilt in stone between 1313 – 1328 when a gatehouse over the central pier replaced an earlier gate at the Newport Street end of the bridge. Bridge Gate was an important part of the city’s defences in the Civil War & had to be repaired afterwards. The gate was demolished in 1702 & the bridge in the 1770’s

4. Just past the hotel turn right up Dolday heading towards the bus station…

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…& then left along The Butts. The area’s name refers to the open edge-of-city space known as Archery butts, which were designated for longbow archery practice in medieval times

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The large honey coloured building above is The Hive which houses Worcestershire County Council public library, the University of Worcester’s academic library, the County Archive & Archaeology Service & the Worcestershire Hub city branch. The Hive was the first library in Europe to house both a university book collection & a public lending library. It was opened by HM Queen Elizabeth II on 2 July 2012. The Hive houses over 12 miles of archive collections including William Shakespeare’s marriage bond to Anne Hathaway, a quarter of a million books & more than 45,000 records of historic monuments & buildings, as well as the Worcestershire Hub city branch, a business centre, café & meeting facilities

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The award-winning design of the building uses advanced environmental technology to improve sustainability, including river water cooling & a bio-mass boiler when heating is needed

5. Pass The Paul Pry pub & the church on the corner…

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The pub’s had a real chequered history & was closed down for a time. After reopening it won the award for CAMRA pub of the year. Paul Pry (1825) was a farce & the most notable play written by 19th century English playwright John Poole. It premiered in London on 13th September 1825 at the Haymarket Theatre & ran for 114 performances. The play continued to be popular until the early 1870s

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6. Turn left after the pub along Farrier Street…

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…towards the new Court buildings

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Complete the block by turning right again into Castle Street

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7. At the end turn right into Foregate Street which is an interesting stretch in this small city. Firstly on the left’s the Shire Hall. Now we had some fun here…

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There’s a car barrier we passed through to take a photo of the court building but a ‘gorilla’ came running out to try & stop us – why? It’s a public building so we waved him a cheerful goodbye (plus maybe uttered a few choice words) & moved on…#jobsworth

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8. No such ‘primate’ got agitated when we took a photo of the magnificent building next door which is  the city’s Museum & Art Gallery

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If you get the time please visit this place as there’s a loads of local history

9. Continue along the road & pass underneath The Cross…

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…into the pedestrian area that is the High Street. Either side of the road’s a couple of interesting areas. Firstly on the left there’s a fab arcade…

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…& then on the right’s the old Berkeley’s Hospital…

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This hospital was endowed by Robert Berkeley of Spetchley in 1692 to provide accommodation for 12 poor men. The courtyard is flanked by 6 identical houses on either side of it

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10. Carry straight on as there’s some remarkable & very different architecture along here…

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The High Street’s a really vibrant place & in summer would be a great place to visit with lots of street entertainers etc…

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11. Pass Church Street on the left to admire the magnificent Guildhall

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Started in 1721 The Guildhall replaced an earlier building occupying the same site on the High Street. The designer was reputedly Thomas White, a local stonemason. The building was constructed in the Queen Anne style & contained the administrative centre for Worcester as well as civil & assize courts for the county of Worcestershire. The courts have gone but the Guildhall is still the administrative heart of Worcestershire City Council

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12. Turn left into Pump Street…

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We’re now entering one of the oldest & most interesting areas of Worcester…

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13. Turn left now into The Shambles…

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In 1832 The Shambles were described in a report as “that filth of all descriptions remains until it is perfectly alive” & in 1846 another said “pools of liquid filth perpetually stagnate the surface”. You won’t need your wellies today, but we’re now walking in the area of slaughterhouses & disease

Luckily yesterday’s filth has been replaced by exclusive shops & arcades…

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14. At the end turn right into the wonderfully named Mealcheapen Street…

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We had to stand & admire F. Durrant & Son‘s shop with it’s gun sign above…

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15. This street opens out into a sort of square which is un-named but is worth a look around…

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16. Turn right now into New Street which is just fabulous & we need to come back here & explore it more. Great restaurants & really individual shops

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There’s so many different ages of properties along here. The first one we come to on the left has an association with King Charles II

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It was from this house that the king escaped his enemies after the Battle of Worcester in 1651

17. The architecture along this street’s amazing…

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18. At the crossroads head straight over into Friar Street…this really is a lovely area of the city

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It’s really hard to find anymore information about this gorgeous area so we’ll let the pictures do the speaking

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19. At the junction with College Street turn right up the hill towards the cathedral – there’s a lot of work going on in this area. Turn right into the High Street to see the statue of Edward Elgar

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Sir Edward William Elgar, 1st Baronet OM GCVO (1857–1934) was an English composer. Among his best-known compositions are orchestral works including the Enigma Variations, the Pomp & Circumstance Marches, concertos for violin & cello, & two symphonies. He was appointed Master of the King’s Musick in 1924

Elgar has been described as the first composer to take the gramophone seriously. Between 1914 & 1925, he conducted a series of acoustic recordings of his works. The introduction of the microphone in 1925 made far more accurate sound reproduction possible, & Elgar made new recordings of most of his major orchestral works & excerpts from The Dream of Gerontius

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20. It’s time to cross the road & have a look at Worcester’s magnificent cathedral…

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The Cathedral is free to look round, but you do have to pay a nominal fee to take photos, but it’s well worth it. Enter through the North door

21. Worcester Cathedral was, before the English Reformation, known as Worcester Priory & is the seat of the Bishop of Worcester. Its official name is The Cathedral Church of Christ & the Blessed Mary the Virgin of Worcester. Built between 1084 & 1504, Worcester Cathedral represents every style of English architecture from Norman to Perpendicular Gothic. The cathedral’s west facade appeared, with a portrait of Sir Edward Elgar, on the reverse of £20 note issued by the Bank of England between 1999 & 2007

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King John’s tomb is here & is perfectly placed within this great building

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Take time to look upwards as the ceiling is just stunning…

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22. Exit the same way we came in (North door) & turn right past the large statue & then right again along College Precincts…

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The house on the left has a plaque as Elgar lived here…

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23. This narrow lane is taking us towards the fortified gateway known as Edgar Tower, but before passing through it, ahead’s the Museum of Royal Worcester

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The Museum of Royal Worcester (formerly Worcester Porcelain Museum & Dyson Perrins Museum) is a ceramics museum located in the Royal Worcester porcelain factory’s former site. The museum houses the world’s largest collection of Worcester porcelain dating back to 1751 & the Victorian gallery, the ceramic collections, archives & records of factory production, form the primary resource for the study of Worcester porcelain & its history. The museum is the only part of Royal Worcester left at the Severn Street site in Worcester after the factory went into administration in 2008 & closed in 2009

24. Turn right through the Edgar Tower gateway…

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This was originally the main gate to the castle & priory & known, until the late 19th century, as St. Mary’s Gate. The present tower dates from the 14th century, but was originally built on King John’s orders from wood & stone of the best quality. For many centuries there was a statue of King Edgar which is why it became known as Edgar Tower. The present statues date from the restoration of 1910

The King’s School has used Edgar Tower for many purposes in the past. It now houses the School Archive & the Classics Department with its two teaching classrooms

25. We’re now in the beautiful College Green – it was made even better by the fact that choir practice was taking place & the voices were drifting across this tranquil space

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This area houses the senior part of the King’s School which was founded by King Henry VIII in 1541. Many of the school’s buildings are rented from the Cathedral

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26. Head out of College Green directly opposite down Severn Street…

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…looking for a set of steps leading down to an archway through to the river once more

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27. On reaching the river turn right & be careful as this is a joint walking & cycling route & they move quickly…

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As it was a gorgeous evening, the rowing teams were out in full force, including the coaches on their bikes – beware!

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Continue to reach the road bridge on which we started our walk

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So there we are & what a stunning little city Worcester is, ideal as a base for exploring the surrounding countryside such as the Malvern Hills. We’ll definitely back to spend more time exploring the individual shops in the back streets & sampling what appear to be some very good pubs & restaurants

Go Walk!