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Worcester ( ) is a city and county town of Worcestershire, in the West Midlands of Englandmarker. Worcester is situated some 30 miles (48 km) southwest of Birminghammarker, 29 miles (47 km) north of Gloucestermarker, and has an approximate population of 94,000 people. The River Severn runs through the middle of the city, overlooked by the 12th century Worcester Cathedralmarker.

The site of the final battlemarker of the Civil War, Worcester was where Oliver Cromwell's New Model Army defeated King Charles I's Cavaliers, resulting in a ten-year period where Englandmarker and Walesmarker became a republic. Worcester is also the home of Royal Worcester Porcelain and was the birthplace of the composer Sir Edward Elgar.


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 Glevummarker (Gloucester) to Viroconiummarker (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.
A map of Worcester in 1806.
Tudor Buildings Friar Street
Tudor Building New Street

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 Weorgoran ceaster (settlement of the people by the winding river). The fact that Worcester was chosen at this time—in preference to both the much larger Gloucestermarker and the royal centre of Winchcombemarker—to be the Episcopal See of a new diocese covering the area suggests that there may have been a well established, and powerful, 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 1139, 1150 and 1151) during "The Anarchy", i.e. civil war between King Stephen and Empress Matilda, daughter of Henry I. This is the background to the well-researched historical novel The Virgin in the Ice, part of Ellis Peters' "Cadfael" series, which 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 lifestock, 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 having arrived from Gloucestermarker, leaving a long lasting legacy of bitterness between the two cities.)

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 Worcestermarker (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 Powickmarker. 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 Housemarker in Shropshiremarker and his eventual escape to Francemarker. Worcester was one of the cities loyal to the King in that war, for which it was given the epithet "Fidelis Civitas" ("The Faithful City"). This motto has been incorporated into the city's coat of arms.

In 1670 the River Severn broke its banks and the subsequent flood was the worst ever seen by Worcester. A brass plate can be found on a wall on the path to the cathedral by the path along the river showing how high this flood went, and other flood heights of more recent times are also shown in stone bricks. The closest flood height to what is known as The Flood of 1670 was when the Severn flooded in the torrential rains of July 2007.

The Royal Worcester Porcelain Company factory was founded by Dr John Wall in 1751, 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 Canalmarker 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.

During World War II, 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 Hallmarker (now part of the complex forming the Headquarters of West Mercia Police), 3 miles north of Worcester, and Parliamentmarker would have temporarily seated in Stratford-upon-Avonmarker.

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 Warndonmarker and St. Peter the Great Countymarker into the city.


In the 2007 election the City Council went from Conservative control to No Overall Control, however, the Conservative Party have the most seats overall with 17 out of 35 seats. Worcester has one member of Parliament, Michael Foster of the Labour Party, who represents the Worcester constituencymarker.


Notable suburbs in Worcester include Clainesmarker, Northwickmarker, St Peter the Greatmarker, Red Hillmarker and Ronkswood. Most of Worcester is on the eastern side of the River Severn; Henwickmarker, Lower Wick and St. John'smarker are on the western side.


Demography and religion

The 2001 census recorded Worcester's population at 93,353. About 96.5% of Worcester's population was white; of which 94.2% were White British, greater than the national average. The largest religious group are Christians, whom made up 77% of the city's population. People who reported having no religion or did not state their religion made up 21% of the city's population. Other religions totaled less than 2% of the population. Ethnic minorities include people of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, Italian and Polish origin, with the largest single minority group being the British Pakistanis, whom numbered around 1,200 persons and made up around 1.3% of Worcester's population. This has led to Worcester containing a small but diverse range of religious groups; as well as the commanding Worcester Cathedralmarker (Church of England), there are also Catholic and Baptist churches, a large center for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), an Islamic mosque, and a number of smaller interest groups regarding Eastern Religions such as Buddhism and the Hare Krishnas.

Worcester is the seat of a Church of England bishop. His official signature is his Christian name followed by Wigorn, which is also occasionally used as an abbreviation for the name of the county.


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.


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.

Worcester Porcelain operated in Worcester until 2008 when the factory was closed down due to the recession. However, the site of Worcester Porcelain still houses the Worcester Porcelain Museum which is open daily to visitors.

One of Worcester's most famous products, Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce is made and bottled in the Midlands Road factory in Worcester, which has been the home of Lea & Perrins since 16 October 1897. Mr Lea and Mr Perrins originally met in a chemist's shop on the site of the now Debenhams store in the Crowngate Shopping Centre.

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.

The Kays mail order business was founded in Worcester in the 1880s and operated from numerous premises in the city until 2007. It was then bought out by Reality, owner of the Grattan catalogue. Kay's former warehouse building was knocked down in 2008. Worcester is the home of what is claimed to be the oldest newspaper in the world, Berrow's Worcester Journal, which traces its descent from a news-sheet that started publication in 1690. The city is also a major retail centre with several covered shopping centres that has most major chains represented as well as a host of independent shops and restaurants, particularly in Friar Street and New Street.

Retail trade

Like many other town and cities Worcester has the traditional ‘High Street’, though in Worcester’s case that is the actual street name of the main shopping thoroughfare. High Street is home to the major stores. Part of the High Street was revamped in 2005 amid much controversy, many of the issues focussing on the felling of long-standing trees, the duration of the works (caused by the weather and an archaeological find) and the removal of flagstones outside the City’s 18th Century Guildhall. However, the revamped area has been mostly praised for its appearance, openness and brightness compared to the previous look. The other main thoroughfares are The Shambles and Broad Street, while The Cross (and its immediate surrounding area) is seen as the city’s financial centre with the majority of Worcester’s main bank branches located here.

There are three main shopping centres, those being CrownGate, Cathedral Plaza and Reindeer Court. CrownGate is the largest and is split in to two centres. Both centres incorporate and in some cases back on to major stores. CrownGate also includes an outdoor market which was previously located in Cornmarket, and as such often referred to at The Corn Market despite its current location. Cathedral Plaza is the next largest and was called the Lychgate Shopping Centre prior to its revamp and current, and somewhat, controversial name.

There are 3 out-of-town retail parks in Worcester. Elgar Retail Park and Blackpole Retail Park are next door to each other in the Blackpole area of the City, while Shrub Hill Retail Park is located immediately outside the City Centre area, next to Worcester Shrub Hillmarker railway station.


There are three main parks in Worcester, these being Cripplegate Park, Gheluvelt Park and Fort Royal Park, the latter being on one of the battles sites of the English Civil War.

Gheluvelt Park was opened as a memorial to commemorate the Worcestershire Regiment's 2nd Battalion after their part in the Battle of Gheluveltmarker, during World War I.

There are also two large woodlands in the city, those being Perry Wood, at 12 hectares, and Nunnery Wood, covering 21 hectares. Perry Wood is often said to be the place where Oliver Cromwell met and made a pact with the devil. Nunnery Wood is an integral part of the adjacent and popular Worcester Woods Country Park, itself next door to County Hall on the east side of the city.

Probably the most famous landmark in Worcester is its imposing Worcester cathedralmarker. The current building, formally named The Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary, was begun in 1084 while its crypt dates from the 10th Century. The chapter house is the only circular one in the country while the cathedral also has the distinction of having the tomb of King John.

Destinations from Worcester



The M5 Motorway runs north-south to the east of the urban area, and is accessed by Junction 6 (Worcester North) and Junction 7 (Worcester South). This makes the city relatively easily accessible by car to most parts of the country, including London which is only 120 miles/2 & half hours away (via the M5, M42 and M40).

Several A roads pass through the city. The A449 road runs south-west to Malvern and north to Kidderminster. The A44 runs south-east to Eveshammarker and west to Leominstermarker and Aberystwythmarker and crosses Worcester Bridge. The A38 trunk road runs south to Tewkesburymarker and Gloucestermarker and north-north-east to Droitwichmarker and Birminghammarker. The A4103 goes west-south-west to Herefordmarker. The A422 heads east to Alcestermarker, branching from the A44 a mile east of the M5. The city is encompassed by a partial ring road (A4440) which is formed, rather inconsistently, by single and dual carriageways. The A4440 road provides a second road bridge across the Severn (Carrington Bridge) just west of the A4440-A38 junction.


The city is served by 2 stations, Worcester Foregate Streetmarker and Worcester Shrub Hillmarker. Although featuring 2 tracks Foregate Street actually consists of 2 single working tracks, one of which forms part of the Birmingham-Malvern-Hereford line while the other is the end of the Cotswold Line, which Shrub Hill also serves. Both stations frequently serve Birmingham and nearby towns/cities. London is also served frequently by both stations via the Cotswold Line and, infrequently, via the Birmingham-Bristol/Gloucester-Swindon/Bristol-London lines. Train services to/from London are operated by First Great Western.

Although connected to an Inter City mainline only 2 miles away, in this case the Birmingham-Bristol 'Cross Country' line, Worcester is not served by the Inter City CrossCountry service. This makes Worcestershire the only county in England where 'Cross Country' services pass through but do not stop in during normal scheduled timetables. However, the proposed new station, Worcestershire Parkway will end this. Being the bigger of the 2 stations, and due to its location, Shrub Hill is often used as a stabling point and a through route for freight trains.


The main operator of bus services in and around the city is FirstGroup plc's First Midland Red Buses (operating as First) which, prior to mergers and acquisitions was once Midland Red West, itself one of the 5 companies that was formed from the split of the massive Midland Red operation prior to deregulation. A handful of other smaller operators provide services in Worcester, most notably Astons (Veolia) and Bromyard Omnibus Company. The terminus/interchange for many bus services in Worcester is CrownGate Bus Station located in the City Centre.

Worcestershire County Council operates the W1 bus service with a new fleet of high specification Mercedes Citaro vehicles. The W1 service is a frequent and direct limited stop service between the Worcester North (Perdiswell) Park & Ride site and CrownGate Bus Station. The service runs Monday to Saturday, from 7am to 7pm at a high frequency. The journey between the Park and Ride site and Worcester City Centre takes approximately ten minutes.

The buses stop at:· Worcester North (Perdiswell) Park & Ride Site· St Stephen’s Church· St George’s Square· Little London, Royal Grammar School· Foregate Street Rail Station· Worcester (Crowngate) Bus Station

Additionally, the Worcester Sixways Park and Ride site (adjacent to Junction 6 of the M5) is due to open in late 2008.


Worcester's nearest major airport is Birmingham Internationalmarker approximately 45 minutes by road via the M5 and M42 motorways.


Worcester is home to the University of Worcester (UW), which was awarded university status in 2005 by HM Privy Council. From 1997 to 2005 it was known as University College Worcester (UCW) and prior to 1997 it was known as Worcester College of Higher Education. The University is also home to the independent Worcester Students Union institution. The city is also home to two colleges, Worcester Sixth Form Collegemarker and Worcester College of Technologymarker.

High schools

The High schools located in the city are Bishop Perowne CofE Collegemarker, Blessed Edward Oldcorne Catholic Collegemarker, Christopher Whitehead Language Collegemarker, Elgar Technology Collegemarker, Nunnery Wood High Schoolmarker and New College Worcester which caters for blind and partially sighted students from the ages of 11 to 18.

Public schools

Private schools

Worcester is also the seat of three private schools, The Royal Grammar School and Alice Ottley Schoolmarker have recently merged to form the Royal Grammar School Worcester and Alice Ottley School, Worcester aka RGSAOmarker. The King's School, Worcestermarker was re-founded in 1541 under King Henry VIII. Saint Mary's Convent Schoolmarker, now the only all-girls school in the city, is the third private school in the city. Other private schools include the Independent Christian school, the River Schoolmarker in Fernhill Heathmarker.


Notable people

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 Worcester in the village of Broadheathmarker.Hannah 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.

2007 British Streetluge and Buttboard champion William Stephenson was born and still lives in Worcester.

Philip Henry Gosse, naturalist, was born in the city in 1810.

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

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

William Morris, Lord Nuffield, (founder of the Morris Motor Company and philanthropist), spent the first three years of his life in the city.

Poet and author Reverend Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy, famously known as "Woodbine Willy", was for some time the Vicar of St. Paul's 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.

Writers Mrs. Henry Wood and Fay Weldon were born here.

Worcester was home to electronic music producer and Aphex Twin collaborator Mike Paradinas and his record label Planet Mu, until the label relocated to London in 2007.

Cyclist Ernest Payne was born in Worcester and rode for the local Worcester St Johns Cycling Club. He won a gold medal in the team pursuit at the 1908 Summer Olympicsmarker in Londonmarker.

Worcester is also the home town of aviatrix Sheila Scott.

James White was born in Worcester. He founded the first advertising agency in 1800 in London.

See also People from Worcester.


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 the Three Countiesmarker - Gloucestermarker, Herefordmarker and Worcester. Famous for its championing of English music, especially that of Elgar, Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst, Worcester last hosted 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 runs as an event within the Worcester Festival.

The Victorian-themed Christmas Fayre is a major source of tourism every December. Elton John came to the Worcestershire Cricket Ground, New Road on Saturday 9 June 2006.

The 8th CAMRAmarker 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) half or pint glass, with this year's having orange writing.

The Worcester Beer, Cider and Perry festival is the largest beer festival within the West Midlands with the 2009 event being attended by 11,000 people. An extensive range of beers, ciders and perries are provided as well as a range of food and soft drinks. Bands perform on the Thursday and Friday evening sessions and throughout the day on Saturday.

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 (a six screen Vue Cinema complex located on Friar Street and an Odeon Cinema, boasting seven screens, at the heart of the city on Forgate Street).

In the northern suburb of Northwickmarker 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 RIBA). It was a Bingo Hall from 1966 to 1982 and then empty until 1991; it was then run as a music venue until 1996, and was empty again until Autumn 2006 when it became an antiques and lifestyle centre, owned by Grey's Interiors, who were previously located in The Tything.

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.

Twinning and planned twinning

Worcester is twinned with the German city of Klevemarker, the Parisian commune of Le Vésinetmarker, and its larger American namesake Worcester, Massachusettsmarker.

In February 2009, Worcester City Council's Twinning Association began deliberating an application to twin Worcester with the Palestinian city of Gazamarker. Councillor Alan Amos introduced the application, which was passed at its first stage by a majority of 35-6. However, the proposal was later rejected by the Executive Committee of the City of Worcester Twinning Association for reasons of lack of funding due to its present commitment to existing twinning projects.

See also


External links

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