Big, noisy and dusty – that’s how I’d describe many cities but the city of Worcester, county town of Worcestershire, is a place I love to visit. When a small child, we used to visit my mother’s sister and family who lived there. I’m the one at the front, pictured here with my cousins in the summer of 1959. Designed by architect John Gwynn in 1781, the bridge in the picture is the only place within the city boundary that traffic is able to cross from one side of the River Severn to the other.
With young children if my own, Sunday afternoon outings would often see us in the city, walking alongside the Severn. Later I was based in Worcester for work on and off for around 20 years until 2011. One of my offices was exactly where a large branch of Waitrose is now sited. I think my desk was just about where the champagne bar sits!
Founded by the Romans, Worcester also has ample evidence of Saxon and Norman settlements, and by the Middle Ages had a population of around four thousand inhabitants. Nowadays the figure tops 100,000 but the centre still retains a quaint ‘market-town’ look in places.
There has been a Cathedral of sorts ever since 680 A.D. The present version, with it’s confusion of architectural style – Norman crypt, Gothic bays and Victorian stained glass windows, could present as a bit of a mish-mash but far from it, for it is, without a doubt, one to rival the more famous York Minster, and many visitors have proclaimed it finer. Rising 203 ft above sea level, the panoramic views across Worcestershire, should you care to climb all 235 steps, are breathtaking.
It offers a stunning backdrop for the The University of Worcester’s graduation ceremonies. Who’d have thought when I attended my daughter’s graduation there in 2007, that nine years later she’d be doing the same thing on my behalf.
Worcester is also home to the first library of it’s kind in Europe. The Hive was built as a unique joint venture between the County Council and the University of Worcester. With the public and university areas spread over five levels, it is a wonderful and inspiring place to study. I spent many happy hours working on assignments there (and a few in the cafe which offers the best hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows that I’ve ever tasted). Did I really just admit to that?!
Even those who don’t know Worcester may recognise the iconic ‘Evesham’ design of The Royal Worcester Porcelain Company but perhaps they don’t know that it is named after the Worcestershire town which is a major supplier of fruit and vegetables. The company’s museum houses collections of porcelain dating back to 1751.
Like me, you may have a penchant for Worcester Sauce. There have been ambitious imposters but nothing ever matches up to the real thing – Lea & Perrins. Dating back to the 1830s, it is still made to a secret recipe
Like most cities, Worcester has an abundance of eateries, my absolute favourite being The Olive Branch which is usually our first choice for special occasions (and even when there is nothing in particular to celebrate)! The tapas is better than any I have tasted in Spain, and I’ve done so in more than a few places. It’s one of those places that I never hesitate to recommend; I’m pleased to say that it’s found favour with everyone I’ve suggested it to. For £25 two people choose five dishes from a choice of around twenty. Husband and I choose two each and have a shared patatas bravas (spicy potato). I went recently with my daughter and the great thing is that, like me, she doesn’t choose meat dishes so there was more sharing.