Worcester (England)

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Worcester

Worcester (pronounced "wuster") [1] is an historic English cathedral city located on the river Severn, close to the border with Wales. Worcester is the county town of Worcestershire.

Understand[edit]

Worcester started life as a Roman period settlement. It is famous for the part it played in the English Civil Wars: the scene of some of the decisive battles, and of Prince Charles' escape, after in his defeat. Parts of the town still have buildings from this period, particularly Friar Street.

It has pleasant river walks, a medieval cathedral and the ruins of monastic cloisters. The medieval city walls remain in traces. Around the cathedral are picturesque Georgian residences.

Worcester is actually the ancestral home of the famous Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce. It's produced by the Heinz Corporation on its factory on Midlands Road in the city, where it has been produced since 1897. Worcester is also the home of one of England's better known county cricket teams.

Town planners[edit]

The city was heavily renovated during the 60s and 70s and not very sympathetically. Numerous old roads and courtyards were demolished. The last cathedral lychgate in England was demolished along with Sir Edward Elgar's shop to make way for a charmless hotel and a multi-storey car park. This is known locally as "The Rape of Worcester". However this overlooks the fact that many of the old buildings were little better than slums and were deeply unpleasant. Nevertheless, a look at old OS maps shows that the city centre was perforated by intricate old 'courts' which were almost all removed. A few wide roads were driven into the city to facilitate easy traffic movements. A feature of today's city is that many roads have historic buildings on one side and modern ones on the other due to road widening. Even the remaining historic roads are superficial - for example Friar Street has many beautiful buildings but look behind them and you'll see the concrete backs of nearby buildings. Having said all this, Worcester is a pleasant city which is safe and relaxed. More recent development is a lot more sympathetic, if a little conservative. There are still many interesting things to see and these are taken advantage of by several guided walks offered through the local tourist centre.

Orientation[edit]

The ancient city of Worcester is on the east bank of the River Severn. As the city's boundaries were redefined in modern times it has come to encompass the village of St. Johns, which is on the opposite bank. From the M5 motorway it is accessed either from Junction 6 (when approaching from the North), or Junction 7 (when travelling from the South).

The main axis of the city runs roughly North to South. The Cathedral sits at the southern end of the High Street (now pedestrianised). As you proceed North from the Cathedral you will walk along the High Street which is the main shopping street in the city. Where this becomes a road again (at the taxi rank) it's name changes to The Cross, and it's name then changes (again) to Foregate Street (where one of Worcester's railway stations is located). Continuing Northwards, the street changes it's name (again) to the Tything where Castle Street joins it and is also known as the A38 trunk road. The road then goes through several more name changes before it reaches the limits of the modern city about 2 miles from the city centre.

To the east of the High Street, and running parallel to it, is the Shambles, another pedestrianised shopping street. To the east of the Shambles is New Street, which going southwards, becomes Friar Street. Both of these streets are amongst the most picturesque streets (as long as you ignore the concrete circular ramp that disgorges from the mutlistorey car park into Friar street). Broad Street runs westwards from where the High Street becomes The Cross and runs down to the only road bridge across the Severn in the city.

It is important to realise that there is only the one road bridge across the river as it dictates the rather confusing one way system. At rush hour (and if the M5 motorway is closed) it is usually quicker walking around Worcester than driving! There is also a railway bridge, and two foot bridges. The first one, the Sabrina Bridge, is about 500m north of the road bridge just before the Racecourse stadium. A new foot bridge was opened in 2010 about a mile to the south of the Cathedral.

The area to the South east of the cathedral is known as Sidbury and is effectively the end of the city centre. Just after the Commandery the road forks - the lefthand fork, London Road (A44), heads South eastwards towards the motorway network, and the other fork heads towards Tewkesbury (as Commandery Road/Bath Road/A38). On the river Severn, about half a mile south of the Cathedral is Diglis Basin where the Worcester and Birmingham canal terminates and joins the river Severn. The warehouses, factories and wharfs in this area had fallen into severe dereliction, but most are now converted into apartments (though some are still in progress). The basin itself is now the home to large number of canal boats and other leisure craft and, particularly on a sunny day, makes for a pleasant stroll around. Currently this area lacks facilities - there is the Anchor pub, and not far away the Diglis Hotel. The lanes around Diglis are a labyrinth to strangers - the easiest way to get to it is to walk down the canal path from the Commandery (at the Commandery walk to the canal lock, and facing the lock turn left under the road bridge).

Get in[edit]

By air[edit]

London Heathrow Airport is linked directly to Worcester by a twice daily National Express Coach service. Journey time approximately 2 hours. Birmingham International Airport is Worcester's nearest airport from which there is a regular local rail service via Birmingham New Street Station.

By road[edit]

From London (113 miles), drivers should ideally take the M40 motorway north-westwards until the junction with the M42. From here, head westwards to the M5, where you should head south and watch for signs to Worcester.

Alternatively, from London, drivers could take the M4 west towards Bristol. At Junction 15 (Swindon) take the A417/A419 northwards. This will eventually bring you out at J11A on the M5, where you should join the M5 Northwards. The A417/A419 is mainly good dual carriageway, but there are a couple of miles of single carriageway road near the "Air Balloon" pub which can be rather congested at peak times. Alternatively conitnue along the M4 westwards until after Bristol where you can join the M5 heading North. Look for signs to Worcester.

Worcester is 27 miles from Birmingham, 111 from Manchester, 57 from Oxford, 25 from Cheltenham, 26 from Stratford-upon-Avon and 63 miles from Bristol.

Visitors approaching Worcester on the A38 from the north may wish to make use of the Perdiswell Park and Ride, open from 7AM to 7PM Monday to Saturday. The corresponding bus is number W1 and runs every 10 to 15 minutes throughout the day and takes about 10 minutes to reach the city centre. It stops at a limited number of stops en route, but one of them is Foregate Street railway station. The standard charge is £2.20 per person (which includes all day parking). A group ticket is also available for up to 7 people in the same vehicle and costs £3.50 in total. For under 19s the charge is £1. All tickets are available on board the bus or from a ticket machine at the car park. For full details see the City Council's website about Park and Ride: http://worcestershire.whub.org.uk/cms/park-and-ride.aspx

By Train[edit]

Worcester has two train stations, Worcester Shrub Hill and Worcester Foregate Street, Foregate Street Station is the closest to the town centre. Shrub Hill is easier for cars to access, as Foregate Street has no parking available.

Worcester is not on the main railway line between Bristol to Birmingham, but on a slower side line. It does have regular trains to Reading and London Paddington. The journey takes approximately 2 1/4 hours. Its also within easy reach from Cheltenham, Stratford-upon-Avon, Gloucester, The Malvern Hills, Evesham, Oxford, Hereford etc. Trains come on a relatively regular schedule.

By Bus[edit]

The Bus Station is situated at the bottom of CrownGate Shopping Centre. National Express coachway stop on the edge of the City and links with a scheduled city bus services that takes passengers into Worcester City Centre.

By Boat[edit]

The City stands on the banks of the River Severn and the Worcester - Birmingham Canal. There are some moorings available. Distances to Worcester from:- York - 228 miles, 110 locks, 115 hours cruising time. London - 174 miles, 223 locks, 140 hours cruising time. Birmingham - 32.5 miles, 61 locks, 34 hours cruising time Liverpool - 182 miles, 168 locks, 122 hours cruising time.

Get around[edit]

See[edit]

  • Worcester Cathedral. Open every day 7:30am-6pm. The Cathedral Church of Christ the King and the Blessed Virgin Mary, a place of worship since 680AD, the present building dates from 1084AD onwards. Attractions include the tombs of King John and Prince Arthur (elder brother of Henry VIII). Free entry. From Easter until the end of October the tower is open (weather permitting). There is a small charge for this (£3 for adults, £1 for children) but it is well worth it as there is a superb view of Worcester and the Malvern Hills. The entrance is via a small doorway on the North West corner of the North Transept, and the route goes over the North Transept and then into the base of the main tower (where the clock mechanism can be seen). The tower is also open on Bank Holidays and during the summer school holidays. The crypt is usually open to the public, and dating from 10th Century, is fascianting and atmospheric. The entrance to the crypt is just behind the Prince Arthur's Chantry in the South Transept.
  • College Green. Although most of the buildings around this square are used by the King's School or the Cathedral this is a public space, and is very picturesque and tranquil. It is immediately to the south of the cathedral and is reached either through the cathedral's cloisters, or from Watergate (on the River Severn foot path) or via Edgar Tower (a fortified gateway built in the mid 14th century and which formed the entrance to the monastic precinct). If you pass through the Watergate watch out for the markings in the block work which record how high the various floods have reached.
  • Royal Worcester Visitor Centre +44 1905 746000. Severn Street. Call first as the factory portion is currently being converted into housing. The Visitor Centre, Café and Shop are expected to remain, however.
  • Elgar's Birthplace Museum. The house where the great composer was born, a modern visitor centre and lovely cottage garden in beautiful countryside just outside Worcester City
  • The Commandery. A glorious Grade 1 listed site dating back to the 12th century.
  •    Greyfriars' House and GardenFriar Street, Worcester, WR1 2LZ +44 1905 23571, e-mail: . Built in 1480, and rescued from demolition in the 1930s.
  • Tudor House Heritage Centre. Friar Street.
  • Huntingdon Hall
  • Guild Hall, High Street
  • Cripplegate Park
  • Gheluvelt Park. Named after the Battle of Gheluvelt, a battle in the First World War, it is a popular and well maintained park to the north of Worcester. It includes a children's play area, and a band stand (which is used during the summer). There is also a 'splashpad' which is operated during the summer. In 2011 a number of external exercise machines were installed around the park towards the river.
  • Fort Royal Park

While it undoubtedly true that the planning decisions of the 1960s and 1970s robbed Worcester of a cohesive collection of period buildings a large number do survive. The trick is to look around (and up), particularly in the shopping areas. A good example, which is easily overlooked, is 61 Broad Street (currently used by the Skipton Building Society) which dates from the mid 18th Century and has Venetian style windows with Gothic glazing, each window being topped by a carving of a head.

Do[edit]

Festivals[edit]

Music[edit]

Sport[edit]

Worcester is home to:

Of course, there are numerous Golf Courses around the Worcester area. You can also canoe and row on the River Severn.

Theatre[edit]

Clubs[edit]

River Walks[edit]

On a sunny day the best way to see Worcester is to walk along the river. The paths are well maintained and being river bank walks they are all flat and easy going.

Either side of the main bridge on the East bank are North and South Quays (their names now an echo of when the city was an important river port). Note: the area around South Quay is being refurbished and is not due to reopen to the public until late May 2011.

The river bank by South Quay is a popular area to stroll and pass away some time. There are fountains set in the pavement near Brown’s restaurant, and usually a large number of swans congregate on the river nearby as they rely on the steady stream of visitors to feed them. Continuing south down the footpath you will come across Watergate (with marks on the wall to record the heights reached by various floods since the 17th century). Passing through Watergate will take you up into College Green and the cathedral environs. Carrying on along the river path will take you towards Diglis basin, and then, about a mile south of the Cathedral, Diglis Lock (a set of large locks on the river) and the new foot bridge. The area on the east bank of the river leading up to the new footbridge is a derelict industrial wasteland awaiting it’s turn for re-development. However crossing over the footbridge and heading north takes you along a leafy path through fields up to the main bridge. On certain days during the summer a rowing boat acts as a ferry across the river near the Watergate.

An alternative is to head north along North Quay and under the railway viaduct. This isn’t initially so visually pleasing as the area is host to a number of car parks and across the river is a prominent car hire firm based in a redundant petrol station. However as you pass under the railway bridge you will reach the race course (an area known as Pitchcroft). Just before the stadium itself you can cross the river using the Sabrina bridge and turn South again back to the main bridge (you can head North and continue along the Severn Way footpath, but there are no more crossing points until Holt Bridge many miles to the North). Alternatively you can stay on the East bank and continue to walk along Pitchcroft – as you leave the race course stadium area the path is between a splendid row of mature trees and it is possible to walk a loop around Pitchcroft. The trees on the eastern side have fallen victims to disease and many have been removed - many of their replacements however ‘drowned’ in the prolonged summer floods of 2007.

Learn[edit]

Buy[edit]

The Post Office is in WHSmiths on the High Street.

  • Crowngate Shopping Centre.
  • High Street etc. Pedestrianized. Usual high street shops plus a few one-offs. Adjacent pedestrianized shopping streets include Friar Street, The Shambles, Mealcheapen Street and Pump Street.
  • Out-of-town trading estates. Elgar Trading Estate at Blackpole. KFC, Dunelm Mills, Argos, Comet, Apollo, Homebase etc.
  • PratleysThe Shambles. Eccentric family-run crockery shop with furniture and general weirdness at the back. Not one for hyperactive children or bulls.
  • DurrantsMealcheapen Street. Huntin', shootin' and fishin' hardware shop. If you need a shotgun or a knife you can skin a deer with then this is the place.

Numerous second-hand bookshops and minor antiques shops on The Tything (the main northbound road out of Worcester city centre). Several arcades: The Hop Market (Foregate street), Reindeer Court (The Shambles/Mealcheapen Street/New Street), Market Hall (The Shambles/New Street).

Eat[edit]

  • Bindles BrasserieSidbury (Corner of City Walls Road and Sidbury),  +44 1905 611120. 6pm to 9:30 or 10pm. Comfortable bar cum informal dining area at the front of the brasserie is popular for tapas and a bottle of wine. Sunday brunch from 10am to 3pm is popular. From around £18.
  • BrownsThe Old Cornmill, South Quay +44 1905 26263. Currently closed for renovation.
  • DetroitsCastle Street (Walk north out of the city centre past Foregate Street railway station. Then turn left at the pedestrian crossing and walk down Castle Street towards the race course. Detroits is on the right hand side just before the entrance to the race course),  +44 1905 619047. Opened in March 2011 in what was formerly a car sales room. It has adapted to an American style diner fairly well.
  • Little Venice1-3 St. Nicholas Street +44 1905 726126. Midday to 11pm. Popular and reliable Italian restaurant in the middle of town.
  • Ostlers1 Severn Terrace +44 1905 612300. A nice evening meal restaurant with a good reputation. Popular with theatre- and race-goers due to it's proximity to both venues.
  • Thai Crystal109 Sidbury (From the Cathedral walk south down Sidbury, past the Commandary and on the left hand side on the corner with Wyld's Lane),  +44 1905 767017. Closed Mondays/. Good food, friendly and attentive staff. From the outside this restaurant could easily be overlooked - the Georgian sash windows make it difficult to see the interior, but the inside is a contrast - a slightly kitsch Thai village theme has somehow been fitted into a Georgian building. Good in the evening on a bright day with the sunlight on the buildings opposite. Set menus from around £18 per person.
  • The Balcony Cafe (Museum cafe), Worcester City Museum & Library, Foregate Street (Walk north out of the city centre past Foregate Street railway station and it is on the right hand side inside the City Museum & Library. When inside the entrance foyer turn right up the stairs and you will find the cafe.),  +44 1905 724488. Monday to Saturday 9.30am to 4.30pm. Great little cafe, set around the balcony on the 1st floor of the city museum and library (hence it's name). Good for a light bite, often with locally sourced food, in graceful surroundings.
  • The King's Head67 Sidbury +44 1905 726025. 10am to 11pm. Bar and Grill. Fairly smart, good service and food. Small garden area at the back which overlooks the canal.
  • The Karmic CafeThe Gallery, The Shambles +44 7961 507221. Monday to Friday 8:30am to 4pm, Saturday 9am to 5pm. Vegetarian coffee shop. First floor, overlooking pedestrianized street. Papers and books available to read. Pleasant and mainly frequented by non-hippies.
  • The Marwood40 The Tything (walk north out of the city centre past Foregate Street railway station, continue up the Tything (past The Dragon pub) and it is on the left hand side),  +44 1905 330460. A foody pub in a narrow Georgian building (it's only one window wide on to the street), but it goes back a fair way. Although some people have reported variable experiences the service is usually attentive and friendly and the food good.
  • The Pump House CafePump House Environment Centre, Waterworks Road, Barbourne (Quite far out of the town centre, but if in the Barbourne area, you can walk through Gheluvelt Park to reach the Pump House near the river. Alternatively walk to the far end of Pitchcroft (Worcester race course) and then into Waterworks road.),  +44 1905 734934. Wednesday to Saturday 10am to 4pm, excluding public holidays. Situated in what was formerly the pumping station for Worcester's drinking water supply it now hosts various environmental displays and an eco cafe for drinks and nibbles. Friendly relaxed atmosphere.

There are numerous curry houses along The Tything (the main northbound road out of Worcester city centre).

Drink[edit]

  • The Plough23 Fish Street (From the cathedral, walk down Deansway toward the bridge. It is a cream coloured building on the righthand side on the corner with Fish Street),  +44 1905 21381. Compact and bijou; no frills (just two rooms): like pubs used to be before... electricity. Good for chatters and real-ale drinkers. Also a wide range of whiskies.
  • The Dragon Inn51 The Tything (Walk north out of the city centre past Foregate railway station, up the Tything (A38), and it is on the left hand side shortly after the pedestrian crossing across Castle Street.),  +44 1905 25845. Unprepossessing, but a great local pub. Good beer - what more do you need?
  • The Cardinal's Hat31 Friar Street (When walking from the city centre along Friar Street towards the cathedral it is on the left hand side.),  +44 1905 22066. Ancient wooden framed building, reputedly from 1497. Unusual in that it only serves Austrian beers. Beers are served in steins and flutes which caused some issuing with the local Trading Standards department!
  • BushwhackersTrinity Street (A bar/restaurant/club pretty much slap in the middle of the city centre. Accessible from The Cross or Trinity Street),  +44 1905 26878. Loud, lively, popular (particularly with students and 'younger' clientele. Australian-themed. Not a traditional pub!

The largest local brewery Malvern Hills Brewery (MHB) [3] does some nice, pale but hoppy beers such as Black Pear available in several local pubs.

The local vineyard (yes, there is one) is Rosebank Vineyard at Fernhill Heath, to the North of Worcester on the road to Droitwich. Phone +44 1905 451439 for an appointment to view. Their Madeleine Angevine 2009 white wine won the Silver medal in the UK Vineyards Association's 2010 national competition.

  • CAMRA Real Ale Festival (On Pitchcroft (the race course) at the bottom of Castle Street). Annual beer festival held around the middle weekend of each August. The dates for the 13th Worcester Beer, Cider and Perry festival, to be held in 2012, are yet to be confirmed.

Sleep[edit]

Worcester suffers from a lack of decent hotels with any real spark about them. The best of the bunch are okay, but it would be pushing it to describe them as destinations in their own right.

City Centre[edit]

  • Diglis House HotelRiverside/Severn Street +44 1905 353518. Great spot in an old building on the river, and very close to the cathedral. Some of the rooms are in a modern annex, which is quiet smart. It's satisfactory, but could make a lot more from it's location. £55 to £150.
  • Ye Olde TalbotFriar Street. avoid
  • Worcester Travelodge, In Cathedral plaza, cheap, and fairly clean, good if running low on funds.

Connect[edit]

Stay Safe[edit]

As with the rest of the UK, in any emergency call 999 or 112 (from a land-line if you can) and ask for Ambulance, Fire or Police when connected.

If you are a deaf user requiring emergency assistance from Police, Fire or Ambulance text 80992 or use Minicom 0845 6000 303.

Worcester is generally a very safe place and has a much safer feel than most other cities in the West Midlands. However, there is a strong police presence at night time in the city centre (as with most UK towns cities the vicinity around some pubs and clubs can become fairly unpleasant late on a Friday or Saturday night). Avoid Dines Green, Warndon (not Warndon Villages) and Brickfields.

For non-emergency situations use 101 or 0300 333 3000 to contact West Mercia Police. If you wish to speak to a police officer in person, visit the police station on Castle Street in Worcester.

Hereford and Worcester Fire & Rescue Service - for General Enquiries contact 0845 1224454.

Hereford and Worcester Ambulance Service - for General Enquiries contact +44 1886 834200.

Severn Area Rescue Association is the Inshore Rescue boat and Land Search organisation covering the Severn Estuary, including the parts of the River Severn around Worcester. For General enquiries contact 0844 8460226.

Go next[edit]

  • Malvern Hills — a dramatic range of hills approximately 8 miles to the south west of Worcester. Great views on a clear day into Wales and to the Cotswold Hills.
  • Harvington Hall — a moated medieval and Elizabethan manor house with numerous secret "priest holes", 14 miles north of Worcester.
  •    Witley Court and GardensWorcester Road, Great Witley, Worcestershire, WR6 6JT +44 1299 896636. A spectular ruined stately home, 10 mile north west of Worcester. The ornamental fountain has been recently restored - when running it's central plume shoots up over 100 feet. adults £6.90, children £4.10, concessions £6.20.
  • Broadway — a stunningly beautiful Cotswold village, 22 miles South east from Worcester just off the A44.
  • Shelsley Walsh — first used in 1905 it is the site of the oldest motor sport venue in the world. Regular meetings through the year. Good for petrol heads and lovers of vintage cars amidst a beautiful rural landscape. 11 miles to the North west of Worcester.


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