Worcester Cathedral




Edward Elgar







About Worcester




Occupation of the site of Worcester can be dated back to neolithic times, a village surrounded by defensive ramparts having been founded on the eastern bank of the River Severn here in around 400 BC. The position, which commanded a ford on the river, was in the 1st century used by the Romans to establish what may at first have been a fort on the military route from Glevum (Gloucester) to Viroconium (Wroxeter) but which soon developed - as the frontier of the empire was pushed westwards - into an industrial town with its own pottery kilns and iron-smelting plants.

Roman Worcester (which may have been the Vertis mentioned in the 7th-century Ravenna Cosmography) was a thriving trading and manufacturing centre for some three hundred years, though by the time of the Roman withdrawal from Britain in 407 it had dwindled considerably in size and is not recorded again until the mid-7th century when documents mention the Anglo-Saxon settlement of Weogornaceaster. The fact that Worcester was chosen at this time – in preference to both the much larger Gloucester and the royal centre of Winchcombe – to be the Episcopal See of a new diocese covering the area suggests that there was a well established, and powerful, English Christian community living on the site when it fell into English hands.

The town was almost destroyed in 1041 after a rebellion against the punitive taxation of Harthacanute. The town was attacked several times in the civil war (in 1139, 1150 and 1151) between King Stephen and Empress Matilda, daughter of Henry I.

By late medieval times the population had grown to around 10,000 as the manufacture of cloth started to become a large local industry. The town was designated a county corporate, giving it autonomy from local government.

Worcester was the site of the Battle of Worcester (September 3, 1651), when Charles II's attempt to regain the crown by force was decisively defeated, in the fields a little to the west and south of the city, near the village of Powick. After being defeated, Charles returned to his headquarters in what is now known as King Charles house in the Cornmarket, before fleeing in disguise to Boscobel House in Shropshire and his eventual escape to France.

Worcester was one of the cities loyal to the King in that war, for which it was given the epithet "The Faithful City".

The Royal Worcester Porcelain Company factory was founded by Dr John Wall in 1750, although it no longer produces goods. A handful of decorators are still employed at the factory and the Museum is still open.

During the 18th century Worcester's trade languished compared to more modern towns of the West Midlands. The Worcester and Birmingham Canal opened in 1815 allowing Worcester goods to be transported to a larger conurbation.

The British Medical Association (BMA) is reputed to have been founded in the Board Room of the old Worcester Royal Infirmary building in Castle Street around 1860. This building has now been closed and (as of 2006) will be redeveloped as the University of Worcester city campus.


The British Medical Association (BMA) is reputed to have been founded in the Board Room of the old Worcester Royal Infirmary building in Castle Street around 1860. This building has now been closed and (as of 2006) will be redeveloped as the University of Worcester city campus.

The British Medical Association (BMA) is reputed to have been founded in the Board Room of the old Worcester Royal Infirmary building in Castle Street around 1860. This building has now been closed and (as of 2006) will be redeveloped as the University of Worcester city campus.

In the 1950s and 1960s large areas of the medieval centre of Worcester were demolished and rebuilt as a result of decisions by town planners. There is still a significant area of medieval Worcester remaining, but it is a small fraction of what was present before the redevelopments.

The current city boundaries date from 1974, when the Local Government Act 1972 transferred the parishes of Warndon and St. Peter the Great County into the city.


The city council is currently controlled by the Conservative Party, who hold 18 of the council's 35 seats.

Worcester has one member of Parliament, Michael Foster of the Labour Party, who represents the Worcester constituency.

Industry and commerce

Industry is now quite varied; in the 19th and early twentieth century, Worcester was a major centre for glove manufacture, but this has declined greatly. The late-Victorian period saw the growth of ironfounders, like Heenan & Froude, Hardy & Padmore and McKenzie & Holland and the inter-war years saw the rapid growth of engineering, producing machine tools James Archdale, H.W.Ward, castings for the motor industry Worcester Windshields and Casements, mining machinery MECO and open-top cans Williamsons. Still located in the city are the Royal Worcester porcelain factory (near the cathedral), and, somewhat out of the centre, the factory that makes Worcester's most famous product, Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce. The engineering industry is still represented by Joy Mining Machinery, of the United States, which has its UK manufacturing headquarters in the St. Johns area, and by Carnaud Metalbox, part of Crown Holdings, also of the United States, which has its seaming systems division located in the Perry Wood district. The foundry heritage of the city being represented by Morganite Crucible, at Norton, which produces graphitic shaped products and cements for use in the modern industry. The Kays mail order business has operated from numerous premises in the city and currently has a large warehouse in the St. Johns area. Worcester is the home of what is claimed to be the oldest daily newspaper in the world, Berrow's Worcester Journal, which traces its descent from a newssheet that started publication in 1690. The city is also a major retail centre with several covered shopping centres that has most major chains represented. Worcester Bosch Group is in Warndon Villages. Another of Worcester's long standing companies is Froude Hofmann, originally named Heenan & Froude. This engineering company has occupied several sites around Worcester including buildings close to Shrub Hill Train Station and Worcester City Football Club. They are currently located on Blackpole Trading Estate East.




Worcester is home to the University of Worcester, which was awarded university status in 2005. From 2001 to 2005 it was known as University College Worcester (UCW) and prior to 2001 it was known as Worcester College of Higher Education.

Private schools

Worcester is also the seat of a number of public schools: Worcester Cathedral School has its roots in the late seventh century

and was re-founded, with the dissolution of the monastery at Worcester, in 1541 under King Henry VIII as The King's School, Worcester; The Royal Grammar School Worcester was founded sometime before 1291. The Alice Ottley School and Saint Mary's Convent

School are others in the area.


Famous citizens

The statue of Edward Elgar at the end of Worcester High StreetHannah Snell, famous for impersonating a man and being enlisted in the Royal Marines in the 18th Century was born and raised here.

Sir Charles Hastings, founder of the British Medical Association lived in Worcester for most of his life - the newly built Worcestershire

Royal Hospital stands in a road named in his honour.

Sir Thomas Brock, a sculptor most famous for the Imperial Victoria Memorial in London was born here in 1847.


Probably Worcester's most famous citizen was composer Sir Edward Elgar, whose father ran a music shop at the end of the

High Street; a statue of Elgar stands near the original location of that shop. His birthplace is a short way outside of Worcester in the village of Broadheath.

Civil engineer Edward Leader Williams, designer of the Manchester Ship Canal, was born and raised in Worcester, residing at Diglis House (now the Diglis Hotel) with his brother, noted landscape artist Benjamin Williams Leader.

Poet and author Reverend Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy, famously known as "Woodbine Willy", was for some time the Vicar of St. Pauls Church in the City. He rose to fame during World War I when he became an army chaplain, his sermons and poetry helping boost morale to the troops. He acquired his nickname from his habit of handing out "Woodbine" cigarettes to the men in the trenches.

  • Writer Fay Weldon was born here
  • Worcester is also home to electronic music producer and Aphex Twin collaborator Mike Paradinas and his record label Planet Mu
  • Worcester is also the home town of Daniel Marriott, 3rd in line to inherit the fortune of Marriott Internationa


Culture and arts

Festivals and shows

Every three years, Worcester becomes home to the Three Choirs Festival, which dates back to the 18th Century and is credited

with being the oldest music festival in Europe. The location of the festival rotates each year between the Cathedral Cities of Gloucester, Hereford and Worcester. Famous for its championing of English music, especially that of Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst, Worcester is next scheduled to host the festival in August 2008.

The Worcester Festival is a relatively new venture established in 2003. Held in late August, the festival consists of a variety of music, theatre, cinema and workshops, as well as the already established Beer Festival, which now runs under the Worcester Festival name.

The Victorian-themed Christmas Fayre is a major source of tourism every December.

Elton John came to Worcester on Saturday 9 June 2006 to the Worcestershire Cricket Ground, New Road.

The 8th (Campaign for Real Ale) Worcester Beer and Cider festival took place for three days from the 17 August 2006 and

was held as usual on Pitchcroft Race Course. On entry there is a choice between a (free) 1/2 or pint glass, with this year's

having orange writing.

Theatre, music and cinema

Famous 18th century actress Sarah Siddons made her acting debut here at the Theatre Royal in Angel Street. Her sister, the

novelist Ann Julia Kemble Hatton otherwise known as Ann of Swansea was born in the city. Matilda Alice Powles, better known

as Vesta Tilley, a leading male impersonator and music hall artiste was born in Worcester.

In present-day Worcester the Swan Theatre stages a mixture of professional touring and local amateur productions. The Countess of Huntingdon's Hall is a historic church now used as venue for an eclectic range of musical performances, while the Marrs Bar is a

venue for gigs and stand-up comedy. Worcester also boasts two multi-screen cinemas (an Odeon on Foregate Street and Vue on Friar Street).

In the northern suburbs of the city is the Art Deco Northwick Cinema. Built in 1938 it contains one of the only two remaining interiors in Britain designed by John Alexander, the original perspective drawings are still held by the Royal Institute of British Architects. It was a Bingo Hall from 1966 to 1982 and then empty until 1991, it was then ran as a music venue until 1996, and was empty again until Autumn 2006 when it became an Antiques Centre.

There are also a number of Arts organisations in Worcester, one of which is C&T. Based at the University and also Bishop Perowne Performing Arts College is C&T [formerly Collar & TIE]. C&T is an educational theatre company that specialises in theatre for

young people tackling topical issues through a unique blend of drama and new media technologies.

The above information is taken from Wikipedia 30th January 2007