There wasn't a category for the city centre so I plumped for the Cathedral, to submit this review. I have left the Cathedral to last as we take a stroll around the surrounding streets and along the river.
It was about three years ago, when we first encountered Worcester. We fancied trying a short break somewhere different and as I searched the cheap Travelodge rooms, Worcester kept popping up. Hmm, what springs to mind? Worcester Sauce. Umm . . . Edward Elgar. What else? Royal Worcester Porcelain? Well, that was the clincher as we both like a bit of Antiques Road Show and the dear old chap from the show, Henry, was resident celeb at the Royal Worcester museum. We also love churches and Cathedrals and Worcester has one of the finest. I booked two cheap-as-chips nights in the Travelodge and off we went.
Now, Elaine and I are big . . . on food . . . and since we were going there, I Googled Worcester Sauce and found they do factory tours and all sorts of ‘activities’. Seems that the luverly stuff was first concocted to try to reproduce the taste of another sauce – Indian – Raj - but it went wrong – fermented – and produced something even better!
Worcester city centre has one of the best selections of eateries we have ever come across, and that’s saying something for us. I have even stopped off there for lunch when driving that way on business.
On that first visit, we didn’t get to meet dear Henry and we didn’t get to the sauce factory either. This latest visit, our third, and we still haven’t got to the sauce factory – such is the delight that is Worcester. On our first visit, we found the Royal Worcester Porcelain museum addictive, the Cathedral addictive and the mix of Tudor streets and Victorian architecture in the city centre . . . addictive. So, we went back.
Now, Worcester itself: I’m not going to give you a history lesson and although Elaine and I have been there three times we have only scratched the surface of the compact city centre.
At a brisk scout-regulation 4mph march, you could probably get around pretty well, in less than an hour. But, that’s not the point. Like I say, there are some addictive things here. Let’s take a stroll around the bits that Elaine and I have explored, based at the Travelodge, which is adjoining the central multi-storey and shopping centre, which is about the most modern bit in the city apart from some Uni buildings and as modern bits go, there’s not a lot you can do except wait until it’s replaced with something nicer . . . but we sleep and park there and, to make the most of it, insist on a room on floor three or above. Floors three, four and five: west, present views of the western city, Cathedral and hills – the other side, east, delivers views over the Tudor city with a panorama of grand Victorian industrial architecture. Yeah, you’ll see a few AC plants on flat-roofs – but what a view.
Driving in from the east – M5 – the A44 gently descends into town and as it flattens out and starts to rise again, you’ll see to the Cathedral on your left. Get over into the right-hand lane and bear hard right, away from the traffic flow so you do a 180deg circle to the right. Keep your eyes peeled; the entrance to the multi-storey is immediately on your left. Once you’ve parked, whichever exit you emerge from, head up-hill to return to the ‘circle’ opposite the Cathedral. The ‘circle’, as we call it -but don’t be surprised if no one else does as it’s only our name for it - is home to the bronze statue of Sir Edward Elgar. He’s the one who wrote the music to ‘Land Of Hope And Glory’. He wrote so many of the much-loved, nationalistic pieces of classical music that we all know when we hear them – mostly on adverts - but don’t know who wrote it. [Note: not Hovis – that was a foreign chap – Freddy Dvorjak].
If you’re staying at the Travelodge, or coming from the multi-storey, head toward the Cathedral and take the little lane to the left of it.
The Worcester Porcelain Museum:
With the Cathedral on your right, walk down the gentle down-hill gradient that emerges onto Severn Street. After the archway on your right, continue straight ahead into Severn Street. You will pass a row of narrow terraced pottery-worker cottages on your right. Just after number 28, cross the street and you will see the entrance to the museum.
The buildings are the last standing, of the Worcester Porcelain works and as you stroll, leisurely, you can still see the ghosts of teenage girls and boys, hurrying past you in the dappled shadows, pulling their little brothers and sisters along, still sleepy, to get in the gate before six-thirty. They would work until nine o’clock, in silence, so looking forward to their half-hour breakfast at nine. Their working day ended at six in the evening. But don’t get too sentimental. They certainly would not have been. Their conditions of employment were better than many, and fines taken from youngsters’ wages for misbehaviour, were used to contribute to social outings.
College Green and the River Severn:
In contrast, leave the museum and re-trace your steps, right and uphill to that big arch that you passed on the way down. Left under that great arch – stroke the wood of the great door on your left – into College Green. Walk straight ahead. See the little doors on your right, along the ground-level of the great ship of the Cathedral? I heard a kid ask it’s Mum “What are those little doors?” Mum replied “For Hobbits”. No. She didn’t think it through, did she? The doors aren’t round. And they’re not in a hill. Obviously not Hobbit - No – it’s obvious from what I was taught in my 1960’s junior school classroom: People in olden-times were small. These little doors and their accompanying little windows were normal ways in and out for our ancestors . . . unless you can think of something better?
Straight on, you will come to a red brick wall with a lovely brick, oak-beam and whitewash house, overlooking the river. Turn left and go down the stone steps that lead you under the house. As you go under the house, look up. No lintels. No steel-work. The house spans the walk-way by a vaulted arch – just as in the architecture of the Cathedral, the technology of its time. As you walk underneath, take a look at the red brick wall on the left. Carved into the bricks, are the heights of floodwaters for many years. The water hasn’t quite reached the house yet but it’s been pretty close!
Now, down onto the riverbank. It is so peaceful. No matter what time of day, it is tranquil. No matter what the weather, no matter how many – or how few – college kids. No matter. Turn right and walk. Slow. Amble. Walking north, even on the chilliest spring or winter morning, the sun beams up the river from the south. Ponder - the urge to walk calmly and slowly - is it because as you walk north, you see the eddys in the river flowing south. It’s a little like paddling upstream, rather than walking. The wall on your right is part medieval riverside, part trading-wharf, part flood defence, with jagged remains of the old City Wall, mingled with red brick repairs older than memory. Look across the river at the boat house, it’s steps probably swarming with swans, greedily waiting for kids with bread.
You’ll see Worcester Bridge ahead, and just before it, take a right, uphill, past the remarkable church steeple – without a church. Anyone know why? I expect there’s a plaque on it, somewhere, explaining. Anyhow, uphill you go along Copenhagen St, past the fire station on your right and leaving the tranquillity of the river behind, emerge into the hustle and bustle of ‘Worcester Central’.
Use the push-button crossing to cross Deansway and walk uphill along Copenhagen St until you emerge onto the High St. Now, there are some good buskers around here. Do not confuse busking musicians with the idiots, banging incoherently on rubbish bins. Turning left on the corner of the High St and Broad St were three old blokes whacking out jazz classics on trumpet and two accordions, they were fantastic. They made that street work. They warmed the chilly, autumnal shopping. This is the best of English.
The High Street has some wonderful Victorian architecture and the thing with Worcester is, that if you cross east, through to St Swithians St and turn right, you will be in passages between – or on – Trinity St, New St or Friar St. This is the Tudor enclave. A really deep trip back in time. These buildings are seriously old. Touch them. Go inside. Eat and drink. No need to just look at history. Get in there – it’s not historic – it’s real every-day life.
Working your way back south, there are so many alleys and courts to explore. You’ll sort of see, why, after three visits, we’re still no experts on this compact, historic, warm and engaging English city.
Now, the Cathedral really is a thing in its own right: one of the largest and richest in the land it is home to one of the most magnificent organs on the planet. It deserves a leisurely tour. The size is stunning, especially when you consider that the vaults are all self-supporting. No lintels or girders here. I hope that someone is playing the organ when you visit. If there is, sit in the choir seats and be transported in time. Something interesting that you don't often see, is the crypt is open to the public. Don't miss it. It is amazing to think of the enormous building that towers above you. You can feel the compression in the pillars . . . thousands of tons pressing down into the earth. Those little doors that you saw when passing through College Green? Perhaps you can find out what they were for and let us know.
The Priors Parlour Coffee Shop does lovely teas, coffee, cakes and light lunches. A perfect refreshmant break between looking round the main Cathedral and descending into the crypt.
Talking about food: some of the places we have enjoyed on our walks around worcester and have reviewed, are: -
Asila Lounge. Moroccan. 100 High St.
Café Rouge. French. Friar St.
Nandos. Portuguese. Friar St.
Swan With Two Necks. Traditional old Inn. New St.
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