Worcester (England)Worcester (pronounced "wooster") is an historic English cathedral city on the river Severn, close to the border with Wales. Worcester is the county town of Worcestershire.
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 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 plannersThe city was heavily renovated during the 1960s 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. Worcester is nonetheless 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.
OrientationThe 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) its name changes to The Cross, and its name then changes (again) to Foregate Street (where one of Worcester's railway stations is located). Continuing northwards, the street changes its 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. These streets are amongst the most picturesque streets (as long as you ignore the concrete circular ramp that disgorges from the multistorey 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.
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 550 yards (500 m) north of the road bridge just before the Racecourse stadium. A new foot bridge was opened in 2010 about a mile (1.6 km) 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. 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).
By roadFrom London (113 miles), drivers should 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 continue 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 M-Sa 7AM-7PM. 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.
Worcester has two train stations, Worcester Shrub Hill and . 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 hr 15 min. It's also within easy reach from Cheltenham, Stratford-upon-Avon, Gloucester, The Malvern Hills, Evesham, Oxford, Hereford, etc. Trains come on a relatively regular schedule.
The Bus Station is 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 airLondon Heathrow Airport (LHR) is linked directly to Worcester by a twice daily National Express Coach service. Journey time approximately 2 hours.
(BHX) is Worcester's nearest airport from which there is a regular local rail service via Birmingham New Street Station.
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.
Worcester CathedralThe 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 GreenAlthough 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.
phone: +44 1905 746000address: Severn Street, WR1 2NDCall first as the factory portion is being converted into housing. The Visitor Centre, Café and Shop are expected to remain, however.
address: Lower Broadheath, WR2 6RHThe house where the great composer was born, a modern visitor centre and lovely cottage garden in beautiful countryside just outside Worcester City
phone: +44 1905 361821address: Sidbury, WR1 2HUA glorious Grade 1 listed site dating back to the 12th century.
phone: +44 1905 23571address: Friar Street, WR1 2LZBuilt in 1480, and rescued from demolition in the 1930s.
phone: +44 1905 612309address: Friar St, WR1 2NA
phone: +44 1905 722018address: High St, WR1 2EY
address: 45 Tybridge St, WR2 5BA
Gheluvelt ParkNamed 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.
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 (now 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.
Watch cricket at address: New Rd, WR2 4QQWorcestershire CCC play in Division Two of the County Championship.
phone: +44 1905 454 183address: Sixways Stadium, Warriors Way, WR3 8ZE
address: Hylton Rd, WR2 5JN
Go to the races at phone: +44 1905 25364address: Grand Stand Rd, WR1 3EJThey have both flat-racing in summer and jumps races in winter.
- You can canoe and row on the River Severn. Numerous golf courses include:
phone: +44 1905 757525address: Hindlip La, Hindlip, WR3 8SA
phone: +44 1905 422555address: Bransford Rd, WR2 4EZ
phone: +44 1905 611427address: The Moors, WR1 3LE
phone: +44 1905 611427address: CrownGate, WR1 3LDThe town's theatre.
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).
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 its 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 doesn't start as nicely 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 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). Or 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.
- University of Worcester.
- Adult learners may wish to study at Worcester College of Technology.
- Worcester 6th Form College for the 16-19 learners and some adult courses
phone: +44 1905 610065address: 54 Friary Walk, WR1 3LE
High Street etcPedestrianised. Usual high street shops plus a few one-offs. Adjacent pedestrianized shopping streets include Friar Street, The Shambles, Mealcheapen Street and Pump Street.
Elgar Retail Parkaddress: Blackpole Rd, WR3 8HPOut-of-town trading estate with KFC, Dunelm Mills, Argos, and Homebase.
phone: +44 1905 25247address: Mealcheapen St, WR1 2DHHuntin', shootin' and fishin' hardware shop. If you need a shotgun or a knife you can skin a deer with, then this is the place.
Several arcades: The Hop Market (Foregate street), Reindeer Court (The Shambles/Mealcheapen Street/New Street), Market Hall (The Shambles/New Street).
phone: +44 1905 26263address: The Old Cornmill, South Quay
Detroitsphone: +44 1905 619047address: Castle StreetSet in a former car sales room, it has adapted to an American style diner fairly well.
phone: +44 1905 726126address: 1-3 St. Nicholas StreetPopular and reliable Italian restaurant in the middle of town.
phone: +44 1905 612300address: 1 Severn TerraceA nice evening meal restaurant with a good reputation. Popular with theatre- and race-goers due to its proximity to both venues.
phone: +44 1905 767017address: 109 SidburyGood 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.
phone: +44 1905 724488address: Worcester City Museum & Library, Foregate StreetGreat little cafe, set around the balcony on the 1st floor of the city museum and library (hence its name). Good for a light bite, often with locally sourced food, in graceful surroundings.
phone: +44 1905 726025address: 67 SidburyBar and grill. Fairly smart, good service and food. Small garden area at the back which overlooks the canal.
phone: +44 7961 507221address: The Gallery, The ShamblesVegetarian coffee shop. First floor, overlooking pedestrianized street. Papers and books available to read. Pleasant and mainly frequented by non-hippies.
phone: +44 1905 330460address: 40 The TythingA 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.
phone: +44 1905 734934address: Pump House Environment Centre, Waterworks Road, BarbourneIn the former pumping station for Worcester's drinking water supply, it 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).
phone: +44 1905 611747address: 11 The TythingIndian cuisine in comfortable Georgian surroundings with a modern touch.
The Ploughphone: +44 1905 21381address: 23 Fish StreetCompact 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.
phone: +44 1905 25845address: 51 The TythingUnprepossessing, but a great local pub. Good beer - what more do you need?
The Cardinal's Hatphone: +44 1905 22066address: 31 Friar StreetAncient 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!
phone: +44 1905 26878address: Trinity StreetLoud, lively, popular (particularly with students and 'younger' clientele. Australian-themed. Not a traditional pub!
The largest local brewery Malvern Hills Brewery (MHB) 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 FestivalAnnual beer festival held around the middle weekend of each August. Buying a ticket in advance is recommended, as there is only a very limited number of tickets sold on the door. Over 100 beers and a selection of ciders, perries and wines.
phone: +44 1905 353518address: Riverside/Severn Street, WR1 2NDGreat 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.
phone: +44 871 984 6277address: Cathedral Plaza, 3 High St, WR1 2QSCheap, and fairly clean, good if running low on funds.
Ye Olde Talbotaddress: Friar Street
address: High Street
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 Health 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.
- 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 Gardens — a spectular ruined stately home, 10 miles north west of Worcester near Stourport-on-Severn. The ornamental fountain has been restored - when running its central plume shoots up over 100 feet.
- 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.