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7 November 2014
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How We Built Britain

Sunrise over Worcester cathedral
Sunrise over Worcester cathedral

Best buildings - Worcester

by Richard Lockett, Worcester Civic Society
Worcester is at a point of major change and its old buildings are either close to, or surrounded by, large new developments, or to areas being redeveloped.

Pictures of some of the best and worst buildings in Worcester and Hereford.
Worcester buildings - good >
Worcester buildings - bad >
Hereford buildings - bad >
Hereford - good buildings >
Conserving the town >

The visitor's impression of old Worcester must be taken from the street-scape, typically 18th century facades to 17th century, or earlier buildings, on even earlier medieval plots.

This is best seen at:

  • Elgar Street (leading to the Edgar Tower and the Cathedral Close).
  • College Precincts (immediately beside the east front of the Cathedral).
  • Foregate Street/ The Tything.
  • Bridge Street (leading to the 1781 and 1931 bridge).

18th century

The famous Glover's Needle, the spire to St. Andrews, was in fact erected in 1757.

Worcester has several fine 18th century churches - the interior of St. Swithen's (1270s) is the most fun.

There are a number of fine, purely 18th century buildings, of which the most eccentric is 61 Broad Street, once known as The Old Corset Shop.

This is a multi story building, borrowing from several architectural and decorative fashions going the rounds in the 1750s, e.g. Gothic, Chinese and Palladian.

There is a gazebo at the top from which to take the view of the Malvern Hills.

Some of the best glimpses of pre-18th century buildings are in:

  • Friar Street.
  • The Greyfriars (c1490).
  • Tudor House (c 1480).
  • New Street
The Commandery in Worcester
The Commandery in Worcester
  • Nash House.

The Commandery ( beside the Worcester to Birmingham canal near the cathedral) is a late 15th century hospital transformed into a residence after the reformation.  It is now a museum.

Victorian gems

Regency and early Victorian (1800-1850) residential development is exemplified by Britannia Square, St. George's Square and Lansdowne Crescent.

St George's Square has Aston Webb's fine church (1893-1895) as an end stop. 

Webb also designed the Mall façade of Buckingham Palace and Admiralty Arch, amongst other things.  His wife came from Worcester.

Worcester canal by Florence Wise
Worcester canal by Florence Wise

Victorian Worcester was greatly influenced by the coming of the canals and the railways. 

The Diglis canal basin is at this very moment being transformed from an industrial into a residential area of considerable size, close to the heart of the city. 

The now redundant Royal Worcester Porcelain Factory site also adjoins the canal and will be partially redeveloped. 

Large scale residential blocks along the waterside of the canals will be dominant in the new Worcester.

There is a group of large, brick, industrial buildings prominent on the east side of the City Walls Road:

  • Hill Evans Vinegar Works, Lowesmore
  • Heenan & Froude Engine Works, Shrub Hill (1864)
Heenan and Froud factory in Worcester
  • Fownes Glove Factory (now a hotel)

This last building is a reminder that Worcester's principal industry from the 16th century until the arrival of the porcelain industry c1740 was glove making.

The Railway Viaduct speaks more loudly for the railway age than do Foregate or Shrub Hill stations.

Tallow Hill, an old industrial area between Shrub Hill station and the canal, has been transformed into a retail park, an example, I would suggest, of what NOT to do with a canal side site in the heart of an old city.  What a first sight of Worcester for the railway visitor!

Industrial past

The adjoining Lowesmoor Trading Estate (seven acres) is just recognizable as the largest vinegar factory in the UK, and possibly in the world, c1900. 

This is on the brink of a total redevelopment that will preserve few of the buildings in recognizable form, beside the Vat or Filling Hall. 

The outside of the old Infirmary
The outside of the old Infirmary

This is one of the major contemporary developments that will set the Worcester scene for the future.

Two most significant developments will rise up either side of the Railway Viaduct on the east bank of the river.

The new University of Worcester buildings will be wrapped around the Royal Infirmary (1766-77) on the north side.

The new library and history centre will fill a former industrial area on the south.

The Police station seen from the balcony
The Police station seen from the balcony

Plans for the University are at an advanced stage – those for the library are less well advanced.

Together the new University and library will dominate the river side, to the north of the bridge.

Other buildings on the East side of the Severn

The new Police station and Law Courts on Castle Street, which recall the scale of the castellated County Gaol build there in 1810.

The Old Palace/Church House, with a fine 18th century façade fronts a building that dates back to the 12th century.

The Guildhall (1720/5 and 1866) is a fine example of civic pride, and is an enjoyable combination of Georgian and Victorian taste.

The Shire Hall (1835-35) is another fine example of a public building set off by a version of Sir Thomas Brock’s statue of Queen Victoria.

The Countess of Huntingdon's Chapel (1771 and 1815) – another building to be viewed inside and outside -  is now surrounded by the Crowngate Development.  It survives due to a Worcester Civic Society campaign that went on for at least 15 years.

St. Nicholas (1734-6), the most prominent of Worcester’s 18th century churches, and is now an example of a redundant church transformed into a café.

Tower blocks - St John's, Worcester
Tower blocks - St John's, Worcester

St Swithin's (1734-6), another redundant church, but not turned into other uses, has the most fun of the 18th century interiors

All Saints (1739-42) is a landmark at the junction of Bridge Street and Deansway.

Other buildings on the East side of the Severn

The Three Tower blocks
St John’s church
The University Campus.

last updated: 14/06/07
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