Worcester, England

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City of Worcester
Worcester from Fort Royal Hill.jpg
Coat of Arms of Worcester City Council.svg
Worcester UK locator map.svg
City of Worcester shown within Worcestershire
Coordinates: 52°11′31″N2°13′12″W / 52.192°N 2.220°W / 52.192; -2.220 Coordinates: 52°11′31″N2°13′12″W / 52.192°N 2.220°W / 52.192; -2.220
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Country England
Region West Midlands
Non-metropolitan county Worcestershire
Status Non-metropolitan district, city
Admin HQWorcester
  TypeNon-metropolitan district council
  Borough council Worcester City Council (Shared)
   MPs Robin Walker (Conservative)
  Total12.85 sq mi (33.28 km2)
  Rank296th (of 309)
  Rank239th (of 309)
  Density7,900/sq mi (3,000/km2)
Time zone UTC0 (GMT)
  Summer (DST) UTC+1 (BST)
Area code 01905
ONS code 47UE (ONS)
E07000237 (GSS)
OS grid reference SO849548
Website www.worcester.gov.uk

Worcester ( /ˈwʊstər/ ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ) WUUS-tər) is a cathedral city in Worcestershire, England, of which it is the county town. It is 30 miles (48 km) south-west of Birmingham, 101 miles (163 km) north-west of London, 27 miles (43 km) north of Gloucester and 23 miles (37 km) north-east of Hereford. The estimated population in 2019 was 102,791. [1]


The River Severn flanks the western side of the city centre. It is overlooked by Worcester Cathedral. Worcester is the home of Royal Worcester Porcelain, composer Edward Elgar, [2] Lea & Perrins, makers of traditional Worcestershire sauce, the University of Worcester, and Berrow's Worcester Journal , claimed as the world's oldest newspaper.

The Battle of Worcester in 1651 was the final battle of the English Civil War, where Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army defeated King Charles II's Royalists.


Early history

The trade route past Worcester, later part of the Roman Ryknild Street, dates from Neolithic times. It commanded a ford crossing over the River Severn, which was tidal below Worcester, and fortified by the Britons about 400 BC. [3]

Charcoal from the Forest of Dean enabled Romans to operate pottery kilns and ironworks. [4] They may have built a small fort.[ citation needed ] There is no sign of municipal buildings to indicate an administrative role. [5]

In the 3rd century AD, Roman Worcester occupied a larger area than the subsequent medieval city, but silting caused the abandonment of Sidbury. Industrial production ceased and the settlement contracted to a defended position along the lines of the old British fort at the river terrace's southern end. [6]

Anglo-Saxon town

The form of the place name varied over time. At its settlement in the 7th century by the Angles of Mercia it was Weogorna. After centuries of warfare against the Vikings and Danelaw it had become a centre for the Anglo-Saxon army or here known as Weogorna ceastre (Worcester Camp) including Saxons Lode station. The Weorgoran were probably a sub-tribe of the larger kingdom of the Hwicce, which occupied present-day Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and western Wiltshire. In 680, Worcester was chosen as their fort over the larger Gloucester, and the royal court at Winchcombe as the episcopal see of a new bishopric, suggesting there was already an established and powerful Christian community.

Oswald and Eadnoth Oswald and Eadnoth.jpg
Oswald and Eadnoth

Worcester became a centre of monastic learning and church power. Oswald of Worcester, appointed Bishop in 961, was an important reformer alongside the Archbishop of York. The last Anglo-Saxon Bishop of Worcester, St Wulfstan or Wulstan, was a reformer, who remained in office until he died in 1095.

The city also became a focus of violent tax resistance against the Danish Harthacanute in 1041. The townspeople tried to defend themselves by occupying the Severn island of Bevere, two miles up river. After Harthacnut's men had sacked the city and set it alight, agreement was reached and the populace returned to rebuild. [7]


Norman Conquest

The first Norman Sheriff of Worcestershire, Urse d'Abetot oversaw the construction of a new castle at Worcester, [8] although nothing now remains of the castle. [9] Worcester Castle was in place by 1069, its outer bailey built on land that had previously been the cemetery for the monks of the Worcester cathedral chapter. [10] The motte of the castle overlooked the river, just south of the cathedral. [11]

Early medieval

Worcester's growth and position as a market town for goods and produce rested on its river crossing and bridge and its position on the road network. The nearest Severn bridges in the 14th century were at Gloucester and Bridgnorth. The main road from London to mid-Wales ran through Worcester, then north-west to Kidderminster, Bridgnorth and Shrewsbury, and via Bromsgrove to Coventry and on to Derby. Southward it connected with Tewkesbury and Gloucester. [7]

The medieval cloisters Worcester Cathedral Cloister, Worcestershire, UK - Diliff.jpg
The medieval cloisters

Worcester was a centre of religious life. The several monasteries up to the dissolution included Greyfriars, Blackfriars, the Penitent Sisters, and the Benedictine Priory, now Worcester Cathedral. [12] Monastic houses provided hospital and educational services, including Worcester School.

The 12th-century town (then better defended) was attacked in 1139, 1150 and 1151 during the civil war between King Stephen and Empress Matilda, daughter of Henry I. The 1139 attack again resulted in a fire that destroyed part of the city, with citizens being held for ransom. Another fire in 1189 destroyed much of the city for the fourth time that century. [7]

Worcester received its first royal charter in 1189. In 1227 under a new charter allowed a guild of merchants was created, with a trading monopoly for those admitted. [7] Worcester's institutions grew more slowly than those of most county towns. [7]

Jewish persecution and expulsions

Worcester had a small Jewish population by the late 12th century. Jewish life probably centred round what is now Copenhagen Street.

The Diocese was hostile to the Jewish community. Peter of Blois was commissioned by a Bishop of Worcester, probably John of Coutances, to write an anti-Judaic treatise around 1190. [13]

William de Blois as Bishop of Worcester imposed strict rules on Jews within the diocese in 1219. [14] As elsewhere in England, Jews had to wear square white badges, supposedly representing tabulae. [15] Blois wrote to Pope Gregory IX in 1229 to request further powers of enforcement. [16]

In 1263 Worcester's Jewish residents were attacked by a baronial force under Robert Earl Ferrers and Henry de Montfort. Most were killed. [7] The Worcester massacre was part of a wider campaign by allies of Simon de Montfort at the start of the Second Barons' War. In 1275, Jews still in Worcester were expelled to Hereford. [7]

Late medieval

Worcester elected Member of Parliament (MP) at the Guildhall, by the loudest shout rather than raising of hands. Members of Parliament had to own freehold property worth 40 shillings a year. Their wages were levied by the Constable.

Tudor buildings in Friar Street Tudor Buildings Friar Street Worcester.JPG
Tudor buildings in Friar Street

The city council was organised by a system of co-option, with 24 members of the high chamber and 48 of the lower. Committees appointed two bailiffs and made financial decisions; the two chambers agreed the city's rules or ordinances. [7]

By late medieval times the population had reached 1,025 families, excluding the cathedral quarter, so that it probably stood under 10,000. [17] Worcester's suburbs extended beyond the limits of its walls [7]

Manufacture of cloth and allied trades was significant for the city. [7]

Craft guilds

Medieval and early modern Worcester developed a system of craft guilds to regulate who could work in a trade, lay down trade practices and training, and provide social support for members. The city's late medieval ordinances banned tilers from forming a guild and encouraged tilers to settle in Worcester to trade freely. Roofs of thatch and wooden chimneys were banned to reduce risks of fire. [7]

Early modern period

Worcester, 1610 map Worcester, 1610 map.jpg
Worcester, 1610 map

The Dissolution saw the Priory's status change, as it lost its Benedictine monks. As elsewhere, Worcester had to set up "public" schools to replace monastic education. This led to the establishment of King's School. Worcester School continued to teach. St Oswald's Hospital survived the dissolution, later providing almshouses; [18] the charity and its housing survives to the present day.

The city gained the right to elect a Mayor, and was designated a county corporate in 1621, giving it autonomy from local government. Thereafter Worcester was governed by a mayor, recorder and six aldermen. Councillors were selected by co-option. [7]

Worcester contained green spaces such as orchards and fields between its main streets, within the city wall, as appears on Speed's map of 1610. The walls were still more or less complete at the time, but suburbs had been established beyond them.

Civil war

Battle of Worcester Battle of Worcester.jpg
Battle of Worcester

Worcester equivocated, but eventually sided with Parliament before the outbreak of civil war in 1642 but swiftly occupied by the Royalists. Parliament briefly retook the city for Parliament after the Battle of Powick Bridge, and ransacked the cathedral. Stained glass was smashed and the organ destroyed, along with library books and monuments. [19]

Essex was soon forced to withdraw, and the city spent the rest of the war under Royalist occupation. Worcester was a garrison town and had to sustain and billet a large number of Royalist troops. During the Royalist occupation, the suburbs were destroyed to make defence easier. High taxation was imposed, and many male residents pressed into the army. [20]

As Royalist power collapsed in May 1646, Worcester was placed under siege. Worcester had some 5,000 civilians and a Royalist garrison of about 1,500 men facing a New Model Army force of 2,500–5,000. The city surrendered on 23 July. [21]

In 1651 a Scottish army, 16,000 strong, marched south along the west coast in support of Charles II's attempt to regain the Crown. As the army approached, Worcester Council voted to surrender, fearing further violence and destruction. The Parliamentary garrison withdrew to Evesham in the face of the overwhelming numbers against them. The Scots were billeted in and around the city, joined by very limited local forces. [22]

The Battle of Worcester took place on 3 September 1651. Charles II was easily defeated by Cromwell's forces of 30,000 men. Charles II returned to his headquarters in what is now known as King Charles House in the Cornmarket, before fleeing in disguise with Talbot's help to Boscobel House in Shropshire, from where he eventually escaped to France. Worcester was then heavily looted by the Parliamentarian army. The city council estimated £80,000 of damage was done and subsequent debts were still not recovered in the 1670s. [23]

After the Restoration

After the Restoration in 1660, Worcester cleverly used its location as the site of the final battles of the First Civil War (1646) and Third Civil War (1651) to mount an appeal for compensation from Charles II. Though not based on historical fact, it invented the epithet Fidelis Civitas (The Faithful City), since included in the city's coat of arms. [24] [25]

Worcester Guildhall The Guildhall, High Street, Worcester.jpg
Worcester Guildhall

The Guildhall rebuilt in 1721 to replace an earlier one on the site is a Grade I listed Queen Anne-style building described by Pevsner as a town hall "as splendid as any of C18 England". [26]

Worcester's historic bridge was replaced in 1781. As the city population expanded, the green areas between the main streets filled with housing and back streets, so that the extent of the city and suburbs remained much the same as in the early 1600s. Large stretches of the city walls had been removed by 1796. [7] Meanwhile, the Royal Worcester Porcelain Company factory was founded by Dr John Wall in 1751.

Industrial revolution and Victorian era

Map of Worcester in 1806 Worcester in 1806. Engraving by J.Roper from a drawing by G.Cole.jpg
Map of Worcester in 1806

Worcester in the late 18th and early 19th centuries was a major centre for glove-making, employing nearly half the glovers in England at its peak (over 30,000 people). [27] In 1815 the Worcester and Birmingham Canal opened.

Riots took place in 1831, in response to the defeat of the Reform Bill, reflecting discontent with the city administration and the lack of democratic representation. [7] Citizens petitioned the House of Lords for permission to build a County Hall. [28] Local government reform took place in 1835, which for the first time created election procedures for councillors, but also restricted the ability of the city to buy and sell property. [7]

The British Medical Association (BMA) was founded in the Board Room of the old Worcester Royal Infirmary building in Castle Street in 1832. [29]

Railways reached Worcester in 1850, with Shrub Hill, initially only running to Birmingham. Foregate Street was opened in 1860. The WMR lines became part of the Great Western Railway after 1 August 1863. The railways also gave Worcester thousands of jobs building passenger coaches and signalling.

In 1882 Worcester hosted the Worcestershire Exhibition with sections for fine arts, historical manuscripts and industrial items, receiving over 222,000 visitors.

20th century to present

Rail reorganisation in 1922 saw the Midland Railway's routes from Shrub Hill absorbed into the London, Midland and Scottish Railway.

During the Second World War, the city was chosen to be the seat of an evacuated government in case of mass German invasion. The War Cabinet, along with Winston Churchill and some 16,000 state workers, would have moved to Hindlip Hall (now part of the complex forming the Headquarters of West Mercia Police), 3 miles (4.8 km) north of Worcester and Parliament would have temporarily met in Stratford-upon-Avon. The former RAF station RAF Worcester was located north-east of Worcester. [30]

A fuel-storage depot was built for the government in 1941/1942 by Shell Mex & BP (later operated by Texaco) on the eastern bank of the River Severn, about a mile south of Worcester. There were six 4,000 ton semi-buried tanks for the storage of white oils. It had no rail or road loading facilities, but distribution could be carried out by barge through the Diglis basin and the depot could receive fuel either by barge or by the GPSS pipeline network. It was at one time used as a civil reserve storing gas oil and then aviation kerosene for USAFE. In the early 1990s it was closed, and then sold for housing in the 2000s. [31]

In the 1950s and 1960s large areas of the medieval centre of Worcester were demolished and rebuilt. This was condemned by many such as Nikolaus Pevsner who described it as a "totally incomprehensible... act of self-mutilation". [32] There is however still a significant area of medieval Worcester remaining, examples of which can be seen along City Walls Road, Friar Street and New Street.

The current city boundaries date from 1974, when the Local Government Act 1972 created the non-metropolitan district of Worcester, comprising the former county borough with the parishes of Warndon and St. Peter the Great County. City status transferred from the county borough to the new district.


There is currently no overall control of the council. It is led by Conservative councillor Marc Bayliss. Local political parties represented are the Conservatives, Labour, Greens and Liberal Democrats.

Worcester's one Member of Parliament (MP) is Robin Walker of the Conservative Party, who has represented the constituency since the May 2010 general election. [33]

The County of Worcestershire's local-government arrangement is formed of a non-metropolitan county council (Worcestershire County Council) and six non-metropolitan district councils, with Worcester City Council being the district council for most of Worcester with a small area of the St Peters suburb falling under the jurisdiction of the neighbouring Wychavon District council. The Worcester City Council area includes two parish councils, Warndon Parish Council and St Peter the Great Parish Council, while the village of Claines, located to the north of the city, also falls within the administrative area of Worcester City Council.

Worcester Guildhall houses the local council and dates from 1721 (see History).

Coat of arms

The city of Worcester is unusual among English cities in having an arms of alliance as the main part of its coat of arms. The shield on the dexter side is the "ancient" arms: Quarterly sable and gules, a castle triple-towered argent . First recorded in 1569 but probably older, there is little doubt that it refers to Worcester Castle, now vanished. The shield on the sinister side is the "modern" arms: Argent, a fess between three pears sable . Despite its name, the modern arms goes back to 1634. It is said to represent a visit of Queen Elizabeth I to the city in 1575, when according to folklore, she saw a tree with black pears on Foregate and was so impressed with it that she allowed Worcester to have pears on its coat of arms. The city has used several mottos: one is Floreat semper fidelis civitas, Latin for "Let the faithful city ever flourish", while the one currently used is Civitas in bello et pace fidelis (A city faithful in peace and war). Both refer to Worcester's support for Royalists in the English Civil War. [34]


Aerial photograph of Worcester city centre Worcester, aerial 2018, geograph 5845772 by Chris.jpg
Aerial photograph of Worcester city centre

Notable suburbs include Barbourne, Blackpole, Cherry Orchard, Claines, Diglis, Dines Green, Henwick, Northwick, Red Hill, Ronkswood, St Peter the Great (also known as St Peter's), Tolladine, Warndon and Warndon Villages (once the largest housing development in the country when the area was being constructed in the late 1980s/very early 1990s). Most of Worcester is on the eastern side of the River Severn, including Saxons Lode. However, Henwick, Lower Wick, St John's and Dines Green are on the western side.


Worcester enjoys a temperate climate with generally warm summers and mild winters. However, it can experience more extreme weather and flooding is often a problem. [35] In 1670, the River Severn burst its banks in the worst flood ever seen by the city. The closest flood height to the Flood of 1670 was when torrential rains caused the Severn to flood in July 2007, which is recorded in the Diglis Basin. [36] This recurred in 2014. [37]

During the winters of 2009–2010 and 2010–2011, the city underwent long periods of sub-freezing temperatures and heavy snowfalls. In December 2010 the temperature dropped to −19.5 °C (−3.1 °F) in nearby Pershore. [38] The Severn and the River Teme partly froze over in Worcester during this cold period. By contrast, Worcester recorded a temperature 36.6 °C (97.9 °F) on 2 August 1990. [39] Between 1990 and 2003, weather data for the area was collected at Barbourne, Worcester. Since the closure of this weather station, the nearest is located at Pershore. [40]

Climate data for Worcester
Record high °C (°F)17.1
Average high °C (°F)7
Average low °C (°F)2
Record low °C (°F)−14.1
Average rainfall mm (inches)53
Source 1: [41]
Source 2: Barbourne and Pershore extremes (nearest stations) [40]
Skyline of Worcester viewed from Worcester Cathedral WorcestersSkyline.jpg
Skyline of Worcester viewed from Worcester Cathedral

Green belt

Worcester is in a regional green belt that extends into the surrounding counties. It is set to reduce urban sprawl between the cities and towns in the nearby West Midlands conurbations centred round Birmingham and Coventry, to discourage further convergence, protect the identity of outlying communities, encourage brownfield reuse, and preserve nearby countryside. This is done by restricting inappropriate development within the designated areas and imposing strict conditions on permitted building. [42]

Within the city boundary, there is a small area of green belt north of the Worcester and Birmingham canal and of the Perdiswell and Northwick suburbs. This is part of a larger isolated tract south of the main green belt that extends into the adjacent Wychavon district, minimising urban sprawl between Fernhill Heath and Droitwich Spa, and keeping them separate. The green belt was first drawn up under Worcestershire County Council in 1975; the size within the borough in 2017 amounted to some 240 hectares (2.4 km2; 0.93 sq mi). [43]

Demography and religion

The 2011 census put Worcester's population at 98,768. About 93.4 per cent were classed as white, of whom 89.1 percentage points were White British – higher than the national average. [44] The largest religious group consists of Christians, with 63.7 per cent of the city's population. [44] Those reporting no religion or declining to state an allegiance make up 32.3 per cent. The next largest religious group, Muslims, makes up 2.9 per cent. The ethnic minorities include people of Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Chinese, Indian, Italian and Polish origin, the largest single group being British Pakistanis, numbering around 1,900: 1.95 per cent of the population. This has led to Worcester containing a small but diverse range of religious groups; as well as the prominent Anglican Worcester Cathedral, there are also Catholic, United Reformed [45] and Baptist churches, a large centre for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a small number of Islamic mosques and a number of smaller groups for oriental religions such as Buddhism and the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.

Worcester is the seat of a Church of England bishop, whose official signature is the personal Christian name followed by Wigorn. (abbreviating the Latin Wigorniensis, meaning of Worcester). [46] This is also used occasionally to abbreviate the name of the county. The Archdeacon of Worcester, inducted in November 2014, had been Rector of St Barnabas with Christ Church in Worcester for eight years.


The city of Worcester, located on the River Severn and with transport links to Birmingham and other parts of the Midlands through the vast canal network, became a centre for many light industries. The late Victorian period saw the growth of iron-founders like Heenan & Froude, Hardy & Padmore and McKenzie & Holland.


Gloves, Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum Gloves, Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum, England - DSCF0752.JPG
Gloves, Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum

One flourishing industry was glove-making, which peaked between 1790 and 1820, when about 30,000 were employed by 150 firms. At this time nearly half the glove makers in Britain could be found in Worcestershire.

In the 19th century, the industry declined as import taxes on foreign competitors, mainly French, were much reduced. By the mid-20th century, only a few Worcester glove firms survived, as gloves became less fashionable and free trade enabled cheaper imports from the Far East. Nevertheless, at least three glove manufacturers survived into the late 20th century: Dent Allcroft, Fownes and Milore. Queen Elizabeth II's coronation gloves were designed by Emil Rich and manufactured in the Worcester Milore factory. [47] [48]


Lea & Perrins advertisement (1900) Leaperrins.png
Lea & Perrins advertisement (1900)

The inter-war years saw rapid growth in engineering and machine-tool manufacturing firms such as James Archdale and H. W. Ward, castings for the motor industry from Worcester Windshields and Casements, valve design and manufacture from Alley & MacLellan, Sentinel Valve Works, mining machinery from Mining Engineering Company (MECO) – later part of Joy Mining Machinery – and open-top cans from Williamsons, although G. H. Williamson and Sons had become part of the Metal Box Co in 1930. Later the company became Carnaud Metal Box PLC.

Worcester Porcelain operated in Worcester until 2009, when the factory closed due to the recession. The site still houses the Museum of Royal Worcester, which is open daily to visitors. [49]

One of Worcester's famous products, Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, is made and bottled at a Midland Road factory, its home since 16 October 1897. Messrs Lea and Perrins originally partnered a chemist's shop on the site of the Debenhams's store in Crowngate Shopping Centre.

Worcester has what is claimed to be the oldest newspaper in the world still in publication: Berrow's Worcester Journal . It traces its descent from a news-sheet started in 1690.

The surprising foundry heritage of the city is represented by Morganite Crucible at Norton which produces graphitic shaped products and cements for use in the modern industry. [50] The city is home to the European manufacturing plant of Yamazaki Mazak Corporation, a global Japanese machine tool builder established here in 1980. [51]

Worcester Heating Systems was started in the city in 1962 by Cecil Duckworth. The company was bought by Bosch and renamed Worcester Bosch in 1996. [52] [53]

Retail trade

The Kays mail-order business was founded in Worcester in the 1880s and operated from various premises in the city until 2007. It was then bought out by Reality, owner of the Grattan catalogue. The Kays warehouse was demolished in 2008 and replaced by housing. [54]

The city is a major retail centre, with several covered shopping centres to accommodate the major chains and many independent shops and restaurants, particularly in Friar Street and New Street.

Worcester's main shopping centre is the High Street, with several major retail chains. The High Street was partly modernised in 2005 amid controversy and further modernised in 2015, with current redevelopment of Cathedral Plaza and Lychgate Shopping Centre. Much of the protest came at the felling of old trees, the duration of the work (caused by weather and an archaeological find) and removal of flagstones outside the city's 18th-century Guildhall. [55]

The other main thoroughfares are the Shambles and Broad Street. The Cross and its immediate surrounding area are the city's financial centre for most of Worcester's main bank branches.

There are three main covered shopping centres in the city centre: CrownGate Shopping Centre, Cathedral Plaza and Reindeer Court. There is also an unenclosed shopping area immediately east of the city centre called St Martin's Quarter. There are three retail parks, the Elgar and Blackpole retail parks located in the inner suburb of Blackpole, and the Shrub Hill Retail Park in neighbouring St. Martin's Quarter. Retailers such as ASDA, B & M and Aldi are all located close to St Martin's Quarter.


Worcester Cathedral at night Worcester cathedral night2.jpg
Worcester Cathedral at night

The most famous landmark in Worcester is the Anglican Worcester Cathedral. Officially the Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary, it was known as Worcester Priory before the English Reformation. Construction began in 1084. Its crypt dates from the 11th century. It includes the only circular chapter house in the country. It houses the tombs of King John and Prince Arthur.

Near the cathedral is the spire of St Andrew's Church, known as Glover's Needle. The rest of the church was demolished in 1949. [56]

The Parish Church of St Helen, on the north side of the High Street, is mainly medieval, with a west tower rebuilt in 1813. The east end, re-fenestration and porch were completed by Frederick Preedy in 1857–1863. There was further restoration, by Aston Webb in 1879–1880. It is a Grade II* listed building. [57]

The high-water marks from the flood of 1670 and more recent flood levels are shown on a brass plate on a wall adjacent to the path along the river that leads to the cathedral.

Limited parts of Worcester's city wall remain.

The Hive, on the north side of the River Severn at the former cattle market site, is Worcester's joint public and university library and archive centre, heralded as "the first of its kind in Europe", and a prominent feature on the skyline. With seven towers and a golden rooftop, it has gained recognition, winning two international awards for building design and sustainability. [58] [59]

The city's three main open spaces Cripplegate Park, Gheluvelt Park and Fort Royal Park, the last on the site of an English Civil War battle. In addition, there is an open area known as Pitchcroft to the north of the city centre on the east bank of the River Severn, which is a public space except on days when it is used for horse racing. Gheluvelt Park commemorates the part played by Worcestershire Regiment's 2nd Battalion in the Battle of Gheluvelt in the First World War. [60]

Statue of Edward Elgar Edward Elgar statue.png
Statue of Edward Elgar

A statue of Sir Edward Elgar, commissioned from Kenneth Potts and unveiled in 1981, stands at the end of Worcester High Street facing the cathedral, yards from the original location of his father's music shop, which was demolished in the 1960s. [61] Elgar's birthplace was the nearby village of Broadheath.

There are also two large wooded areas in the city, Perry Wood and Nunnery Wood, covering 12 and 21 hectares. Perry Wood is often said to be where Oliver Cromwell met and made a pact with the Devil. [62] Nunnery Wood is integral to the adjacent Worcester Woods Country Park, itself next door to County Hall on the east side of the city.


Worcester Shrub Hill railway station Worcester Shrub Hill Station.jpg
Worcester Shrub Hill railway station


The M5 Motorway runs north–south immediately to the east of the city. It is accessed by junction 6 (Worcester North) and junction 7 (Worcester South). It connects Worcester to most parts of the country, including London, which is only 118 miles (190 km) using the A44 via the Cotswolds and M40. A faster journey to London is possible via the M5, M42 and M40, but with an increased distance of 134 miles (216 km).

The main roads through the city include the A449 road south-west to Malvern and north to Kidderminster. The A44 runs south-east to Evesham and west to Leominster and Aberystwyth and crosses Worcester Bridge. The A38 trunk road runs south to Tewkesbury and Gloucester and north-north-east to Droitwich and Bromsgrove and Birmingham. The A4103 goes west-south-west to Hereford. The A422 heads east to Alcester, branching from the A44 a mile east of the M5. The city is partly ringed by A4440.

Carrington Bridge on the A4440 is the second road bridge across the Severn, linking the A38 from Worcester towards Gloucester with the A449 to Malvern. It is one of Worcestershire's busiest roads. The single-carriageway bridge is due to be doubled by 2021, making the Southern Link Road dual between junction 7 of the M5 and Powick Roundabout. [63]


Map of railways around Worcester, showing location of stations Railways of Worcester.png
Map of railways around Worcester, showing location of stations

Worcester has three train stations. Worcester Foregate Street and Worcester Shrub Hill are in the city centre. A third station on the edge of the city, Worcestershire Parkway, opened in 2020.

The Cotswold line towards Great Malvern and Hereford crosses Foregate Street on an arched cast-iron bridge, remodelled by the Great Western Railway in 1908 with a decorative cast-iron exterior serving no structural purpose. [64] Between Foregate Street and the St John's area of the city, heading towards Malvern and Hereford, the line crosses the Worcester viaduct over the River Severn.

Worcester Shrub Hill lies about a mile east of the city centre on Shrub Hill Road. It is on part of today's Cross Country Route, looping off the Birmingham to Gloucester railway.

Alongside Worcester Shrub Hill station in Shrub Hill Road were the Worcester Engine Works. Their polychrome brick building was erected about 1864 and probably designed by Thomas Dickson. However, only 84 locomotives were built there and the works closed in 1871. [65] The chairman was Alexander Clunes Sheriff.

Both stations have frequent trains to Birmingham via Droitwich Spa, through Kidderminster and Stourbridge into Birmingham Snow Hill and Birmingham Moor Street then onwards usually to Dorridge or Whitlocks End, or via Bromsgrove and University and Birmingham New Street. These services are run by West Midlands Trains. From both stations, trains run to Pershore, Evesham and onto the Cotswolds, Oxford and London. [66]


The main operator in and around the city is First Midland Red. A few smaller operators provide services in Worcester, including Astons, DRM and LMS Travel. Diamond Bus operates a service from Kidderminster to communities along the A449. The terminus and interchange for many bus services is Crowngate bus station in the city centre.

Worcester Crowngate Bus Station Worcester Crowngate bus station - geograph.org.uk - 837171.jpg
Worcester Crowngate Bus Station

The city had two park and ride sites: off the A38 in Perdiswell and at Sixways Stadium next to the M5. Worcestershire County Council voted to close both in 2014 as part of a package of cutbacks. [67] The service at Sixways Stadium has since been reinstated, with LMS Travel operating the W3 route to Worcestershire Royal Hospital, but avoiding the city centre bus station. [68]


Worcester's nearest major airport is Birmingham, which is accessible by road and rail. Gloucestershire Airport is about 25 miles away and provided general aviation connections and scheduled services with Citywing to Jersey, the Isle of Man and Belfast. Citywing ceased trading in 2017 after entering administration.


Diglis Bicycle and Foot Bridge over the River Severn River Severn, Diglis Bridge.jpg
Diglis Bicycle and Foot Bridge over the River Severn

Worcester is on routes 45 and 46 of the National Cycle Network. [69] There are various routes around the city. Diglis Bridge, a pedestrian and Cycle bridge across the Severn, opened in 2010 to St Peter's with Lower Wick. [70]


The River Severn is navigable through Worcester, and here it links to the Worcester and Birmingham Canal, which connects Worcester with Birmingham and the rest of the national canal network. Historically used for the transport of goods, the canal network is now mostly used for leisure boating.


Worcester Library and History Centre Worcester Library and History Centre - The Hive - footbridge (6364861303).jpg
Worcester Library and History Centre

The University of Worcester was awarded university status in 2005 by the Privy Council, having been known since 1997 as University College Worcester (UCW) and before that as Worcester College of Higher Education. From 2005 to 2010 it was the fastest growing university in the UK, more than doubling its student population. The university has an independent Worcester Students Union institution. The city is also home to two colleges, Worcester Sixth Form College and Heart of Worcestershire College.

High schools

The high schools located in the city are Bishop Perowne CofE College, Blessed Edward Oldcorne Catholic College, Christopher Whitehead Language College, Tudor Grange Academy Worcester, Nunnery Wood High School and New College Worcester. The last caters for blind and partially sighted pupils aged 11–18.

Independent schools

Worcester is the seat of three independent schools. The Royal Grammar School, founded in 1291 and Alice Ottley School merged in 2007. The King's School was re-founded in 1541 under King Henry VIII, and is a co-educational day school standing next to Worcester Cathedral. St Mary's School, a girls' Catholic school, was the one remaining single-sex independent school, but closed in July 2014. Other independent schools include the Independent Christian School, the River School in Fernhill Heath and New College Worcester.


Entrance to the Worcester King George's Field King George's Fields SO8656.jpg
Entrance to the Worcester King George's Field


Festivals and shows

Every three years Worcester becomes home to the Three Choirs Festival, which dates from the 18th century and is credited with being the oldest music festival in the British Isles. The location rotates between the cathedral cities of Gloucester, Hereford and Worcester. Famous for championing English music, especially that of Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst, Worcester hosted the festival in July 2017, but had to postpone its 2020 festival until 2021. [73] [74]

The Worcester Festival established in 2003 by Chris Jaeger MBE occurs in August and consists of music, theatre, cinema and workshop events, along with a beer festival. [75] It ends with a free firework display on the banks of the River Severn on the Monday of the August bank holiday. The artistic director is now actor, director and writer, Ben Humphrey.[ citation needed ]

For one weekend a year the city plays host to the Worcester Music Festival – a weekend of original music performed by predominantly local bands and musicians. All performances are free and take place around the city centre in bars, clubs, community buildings, churches and the central library.

Founded in 2012, the Worcester Film Festival, places Worcestershire on the film-making map and encourages local people to get involved in making film. The first festival took place at the Hive and including screenings, workshops and talks. [76]

The Victorian-themed Christmas Fayre is a busy event in late November/early December, with over 200 stalls lining the streets, and over 100,000 visitors. [77]

The CAMRA Worcester Beer, Cider and Perry Festival takes place for three days each August on Pitchcroft Race Course. [78] It is the largest beer festival in the West Midlands and in the UK top ten with attendances of around 14,000. [79]

Arts and cinema

Huntingdon Hall Huntingdon Hall - geograph.org.uk - 209385.jpg
Huntingdon Hall

The famous 18th-century actress Sarah Siddons made her acting début at the Theatre Royal in Angel Street. Her sister, the novelist Ann Julia Kemble Hatton, otherwise Ann of Swansea, was born in the city. [80] Also born in Worcester was Matilda Alice Powles, better known as Vesta Tilley, a leading male impersonator and music hall artiste. [81]

In present-day Worcester, the Swan Theatre [82] stages professional touring and local amateur productions and is the base for the Worcester Repertory Company. Past heads have included John Doyle and David Wood OBE. The current artistic director of the company and the theatre is Chris Jaeger MBE.

Stars who started their careers in the Worcester Repertory Company and the Swan Theatre include Imelda Staunton, Sean Pertwee, Celia Imrie, Rufus Norris, Kevin Whately and Bonnie Langford. Directors too have made a name for themselves: Phyllida Lloyd starting her career as an associate under John Doyle.

Huntingdon Hall is a historic church now used as venue for an eclectic range of musical and comedy performances. [82] Recent acts have included Van Morrison, Eddie Izzard, Jack Dee, Omid Djalili and Jason Manford. The Marrs Bar is a venue for gigs and stand-up comedy. [83] Worcester has two multi-screen cinemas; the Vue Cinema complex is located in Friar Street and the Odeon in Foregate Street – both were 3D-equipped by March 2010.

The northern suburb of Northwick has the Art Deco Northwick Cinema. Built in 1938, it contains one of only two remaining interiors in Britain designed by John Alexander. The original perspective drawings are held by RIBA. It was a bingo hall from 1966 to 1982, then empty until 1991, a music venue until 1996, and empty again until autumn 2006, when it became an antiques and lifestyle centre, owned by Grey's Interiors, which was previously located in the Tything. [84] Worcester was home to the electronic music producer and collaborator Mike Paradinas and his record label Planet Mu, until the label moved to London in 2007. [85]



Radio stations

Mildred Arkell

The depression that hit the Worcester glove industry in the 1820s and 1830s is the background to a three-volume novel, Mildred Arkell, by the Victorian novelist Ellen Wood (then Mrs Henry Wood). [86]

Cadfael Chronicles

The well-researched historical novel The Virgin in the Ice , part of Ellis Peters' The Cadfael Chronicles series, depicts Worcester at the time of the Anarchy. It begins with the words:

"It was early in November of 1139 that the tide of civil war, lately so sluggish and inactive, rose suddenly to wash over the city of Worcester, wash away half of its livestock, property and women and send all those of its inhabitants who could get away in time scurrying for their lives northwards away from the marauders." (These are mentioned as arriving from Gloucester, leaving a long lasting legacy of bitterness between the two cities.)


Worcester is twinned with:

In February 2009 Worcester City Council's Twinning Association began discussing an application to twin Worcester with the Palestinian city of Gaza. Councillor Alan Amos introduced the application, which was passed at its first stage by a majority of 35–6, [88] but later rejected by the executive committee of the City of Worcester Twinning Association for lack of funding. [89]

Notable people

Edward Elgar Edward Elgar.jpg
Edward Elgar

In birth order:

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Worcestershire</span> County of England

Worcestershire is a county in the West Midlands of England. The area that is now Worcestershire was absorbed into the unified Kingdom of England in 927, at which time it was constituted as a county. Over the centuries the county borders have been modified, but it was not until 1844 that substantial changes were made. This culminated with the abolition of Worcestershire in 1974 with its northern area becoming part of the West Midlands and the rest part of the county of Hereford and Worcester. However, in 1998 the county of Hereford and Worcester was abolished and Worcestershire was reconstituted without the northern area, which was ceded to the West Midlands.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kidderminster</span> Human settlement in England

Kidderminster is a large market and historic minster town and civil parish in Worcestershire, England, 17 miles (27 km) south-west of Birmingham and 15 miles (24 km) north of Worcester. Located north of the River Stour and east of the River Severn, in the 2011 census, it had a population of 55,530. The town is twinned with Husum, Germany.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hereford</span> City in Herefordshire, England

Hereford is a cathedral city, civil parish and the county town of Herefordshire, England. It lies on the River Wye, approximately 16 miles (26 km) east of the border with Wales, 24 miles (39 km) south-west of Worcester and 23 miles (37 km) north-west of Gloucester. With a population of 60,800, it is by far the largest settlement in Herefordshire.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Battle of Worcester</span> 1651 final battle of the English Civil War

The Battle of Worcester took place on 3 September 1651 in and around the city of Worcester, England and was the last major battle of the 1639 to 1653 Wars of the Three Kingdoms. A Parliamentarian army of around 28,000 under Oliver Cromwell defeated a largely Scottish Royalist force of 16,000 led by Charles II of England.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Worcester Cathedral</span> Cathedral in Worcester, United Kingdom

Worcester Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral in Worcester, England, situated on a bank overlooking the River Severn. It is the seat of the Bishop of Worcester. Its official name is the Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Mary the Virgin, of Worcester. The present cathedral church was built between 1084 and 1504, and represents every style of English architecture from Norman to Perpendicular Gothic. It is famous for its Norman crypt and unique chapter house, its unusual Transitional Gothic bays, its fine woodwork, and its "exquisite" central tower, which is of particularly fine proportions. The cathedral contains the tombs of King John and Prince Arthur.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Malvern Hills</span> Mountain range in England

The Malvern Hills are in the English counties of Worcestershire, Herefordshire and a small area of northern Gloucestershire, dominating the surrounding countryside and the towns and villages of the district of Malvern. The highest summit affords a panorama of the Severn Valley, the hills of Herefordshire and the Welsh mountains, parts of thirteen counties, the Bristol Channel, and the cathedrals of Worcester, Gloucester and Hereford.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Malvern, Worcestershire</span> Spa town and civil parish in Worcestershire, England

Malvern is a spa town and civil parish in Worcestershire, England. It lies at the foot of the Malvern Hills, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The centre of Malvern, Great Malvern, is a historic conservation area, which grew dramatically in Victorian times due to the natural mineral water springs in the vicinity, including Malvern Water.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Great Malvern</span> Human settlement in England

Great Malvern is an area of the spa town of Malvern, Worcestershire, England. It lies at the foot of the Malvern Hills, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, on the eastern flanks of the Worcestershire Beacon and North Hill, and is the historic centre of Malvern and includes its town centre.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Malvern Link</span> Human settlement in England

Malvern Link is an area of Malvern, Worcestershire, England to the north and east of Great Malvern. The centres of Malvern Link and Great Malvern are separated by Link Common, an area of open land that is statutorily protected by the Malvern Hills Conservators. In 1900 Malvern Link Urban District, which had been formed only five years earlier, merged with Great Malvern to become Malvern Town. The population of Link in 2011 was 6,155.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of Worcestershire</span>

The area now known as Worcestershire has had human presence for over half a million years. Interrupted by two ice ages, Worcestershire has had continuous settlement since roughly 10,000 years ago. In the Iron Age, the area was dominated by a series of hill forts, and the beginnings of industrial activity including pottery and salt mining can be found. It seems to have been relatively unimportant during the Roman era, with the exception of the salt workings.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kempsey, Worcestershire</span> Human settlement in England

Kempsey is a village and civil parish in the Malvern Hills District in the county of Worcestershire, England. It is bounded by the River Severn on the west, and the A38 main road runs through it and is about 3 miles (5 km) south of Worcester. The village has a long history. Its name is derived from the Saxon "Kemys' Eye", or the island of Kemys. Kemys was a Saxon chief, whose island lay between marshes and the River Severn. One of the roads in Kempsey, Lyf's Lane, is named after another Saxon chief. The village was recorded in the 11th century Domesday Book as having a value of £7.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">St Peter the Great, Worcester</span>

St Peter the Great or St Peter's is a suburb in the civil parish of St. Peter the Great County, in the city of Worcester, in the county of Worcestershire, England. It is south of the city centre, on the east side of the River Severn, near Junction 7 of the M5 motorway. In the 2011 census, the parish population was recorded as 5,851.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Worcester Foregate Street railway station</span> Railway station in Worcester, England

Worcester Foregate Street railway station, opened by the Great Western Railway in 1860 in the centre of Worcester, England, is the smaller of the two stations serving the city, but more centrally located. The other station, Worcester Shrub Hill, is to the east. A third station, Worcestershire Parkway, is located just outside the city to the south-east.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Malvern Link railway station</span> Railway station in Worcestershire, England

Malvern Link railway station serves Malvern Link in Worcestershire, England. It is one of two stations serving the town of Malvern, the other being Great Malvern station.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Siege of Worcester</span> A siege that occurred during the First English Civil War

The second and longest siege of Worcester took place towards the end of the First English Civil War, when Parliamentary forces under the command of Thomas Rainsborough besieged the city of Worcester, accepting the capitulation of the Royalist defenders on 22 July. The next day the Royalists formally surrendered possession of the city and the Parliamentarians entered Worcester 63 days after the siege began.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Worcestershire in the English Civil War</span>

Worcestershire was the county where the first battle and last battle of the English Civil War took place. The first battle, the Battle of Powick Bridge, fought on 23 September 1642, was a cavalry skirmish and a victory for the Royalists (Cavaliers). The final battle, the battle of Worcester, fought on 3 September 1651, was decisive and ended the war with a Parliamentary (Roundhead) victory and King Charles II a wanted fugitive.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Diglis</span> Human settlement in England

Diglis is a suburb of Worcester, England. It is located around half a mile south of the city centre on the banks of the River Severn. The Worcester and Birmingham Canal starts in Diglis where it is connected to the Severn. Diglis Lock is a wide-beam lock allowing river craft access to Diglis Basin. Diglis Island is a sliver of land in the middle of the River Severn opposite the opening of The Worcester and Birmingham Canal, which has featured art displays and tours. Diglis House Hotel sits on the banks of the River Severn to the south of Worcester Cathedral. The area immediately next to the river is often affected by flooding such as in autumn 2000 and summer 2007. New apartments have been built in Diglis and there has been some investment in the waterfront areas which are popular with tourists. Diglis Bridge, a pedestrian and cycle bridge across the Severn, opened in 2010 linking Diglis and St Peter's with Lower Wick. In 2021, Princess Anne opened a fish viewing gallery at the Severn Bridge.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Worcestershire Parkway railway station</span> Railway station in Worcestershire, England

Worcestershire Parkway is a split-level railway station where the Cotswold and Cross Country lines cross near Norton, Worcester, England. It opened on 23 February 2020.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Butts Spur Line</span>

The Butts Spur was a freight railway line constructed around 1860 with the aim of linking Worcester Foregate Street railway station to Diglis where the Worcester and Birmingham canal joined the river Severn. From around 1892 the line was worked by a small wheeled 0-6-0 saddle tank locomotive No. 2007 constructed in Wolverhampton. It was hoped that goods arriving at Diglis from the river Severn would be transhipped to the railway. The line was used by Dent's factory and Stallards's distillery and brought cattle to the cattle market.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of Worcester</span>

Worcester's early importance is partly due to its position on trade routes, but also because it was a centre of Church learning and wealth, due to the very large possessions of the See and Priory accumulated in the Anglo-Saxon period. The city was sometimes important for strategic military reasons, being close to Gloucester and Oxford, as well as Wales, which led to a number of attacks and sieges in the conflicts of the early medieval period. For similar reasons, it was valuable to the crown in the English Civil Wars.


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General Worcester sources

Sources: Medieval history

Sources: Civil War

General sources

Further reading

Commons-logo.svg Media related to Worcester at Wikimedia Commons