With an intermediate station on the preserved Severn Valley Railway, Bewdley is an extremely attractive old town, the three arched Telford bridge over the Severn leading into Load Street with its many fine Georgian houses. A museum in the Old Shambles illustrates traditional local trades, including the making of rope and charcoal-burning; occasional demonstrations are given by craftsmen. Not far away is the West Midlands Safari Park, on the A456 Kidderminster road, a popular pleasure park with animal reserves and many other
The 14th-century spire of St Giles’ Church rises to 160ft, a landmark for miles, and the church contains the magnificent canopied tomb of Sir Giles Reed, whose family built the Reed almshouses in the main street. The Tithe Barn, carefully restored after a fire in 1980, is 14th century and one of the largest in England. Three miles north east, Bredon Hill, described by A E Housman in A Shropshire Lad, is reputed to offer views of 14 counties and is topped by ancient earthworks and a Gothic folly.
Broadway was described by Henry James as ‘the perfection of the old English rural tradition’, and is generally regarded as one of the most beautiful of Cotswold villages.
Droitwich stands on an agricultural plain by the River Severn and overlies a substantial bed of rock salt. It was the Romans who discovered this natural resource which was Droitwich’s earliest wealth. Later the market town was developed into an elegant spa by the 19th-century businessman John Corbett. He built the original St Andrew’s Brine Baths and, more flamboyantly, a chateau nearby at Dodderhill. This he designed in the style of Francis I. It is now the Chateau Impney Hotel. Some half timbered buildings survive in the town, which also has several interesting churches. St Andrew’s and St Peter’s are both medieval.
Droitwich lies in an area rich in magnificent country houses. Salwarpe Court, two miles south west, and Westwood Park, two miles north west, are both Elizabethan. To the west are 18th-century Ombersley Court, and the grounds of Witley Court, with their elegant classical fountains (the latter house was destroyed by fire earlier this century)
The town lies on the River Avon, at the centre of the fertile Vale named after it, a region of orchards. Evesham has many interesting old buildings, including the Round House, also known as Booth Hall, a charming half timbered structure that stands in the market place and was formerly an inn. In the Abbey Gardens are, besides the ruined abbey, two churches, St Nicholas and All Saints, and a lovely 16th-century bell tower. The Almonry, a 14th-century building connected with the abbey, houses a museum of local history.
Hartlebury Castle, built originally in 1268, has a 15th-century hall and includes many 18th-century alterations. Hartlebury Castle now contains a fascinating folk museum, the Hereford and Worcester County Museum, with a varied collection of exhibits.
Flemish weavers brought prosperity to Kidderminster in the 13th and 14th centuries, and the carpet manufacture for which the town is famous began during the 18th; a working model of an old carpet loom can be seen in the Museum in Exchange Street. The success of the
industry was reinforced during the 2nd half of the century by the building of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, designed by James Brindley. 19th-century mills dominate the town, and little remains of medieval Kidderminster except the church of St Mary and All Saints, which has a 13th century chancel, a 15th-century Lady Chapel, and interesting brasses and monuments. Sir Roland Hill, who introduced the penny post, was born here in 1795. Harvington Hall stands three miles south east; the 16th-century brick house is built around a late medieval original and contains a warren of secret passages and priests’ holes.
The Malvern Hills cover an area of 40 sq miles and are designated an area of outstanding natural beauty. The highest point is the Worcestershire Beacon 1394ft above sea-level -but the flatness of the surrounding land makes them appear higher. Nestling at their foot are no fewer than six places each with the name of Malvern: Great Malvern, Little Malvern, North Malvern, West Malvern, Malvern Wells and Malvern Link. The hills are rich not only in beauty but also in mineral water. Great Malvern is also famous for its public school where C S Lewis was a pupil and W H Auden taught. Its drama festivals have associations with George Bernard Shaw, J M Barrie and the music of Elgar. On the road to Malvern Wells is Elgar’s modest gravestone. Elgar used to enjoy flying kites on the hills and during his
walks found inspiration for his music.
Spetchley Park, built in 1810, is an imposing mansion. The grounds cover 30 acres. The partly14th-century church contains interesting monuments. Two miles north, the small church at Warndon has a picturesque timbered tower and a 15th-century font.
Stourport upon Severn
Stourport has several industries – the manufacture of carpets and chains, for example but its real interest is as an inland port. It was the creation of James Brindley, a Derbyshire farmer’s son, who, in 1756, determined to build a waterway linking the Rivers Trent
and Severn. The original warehouses survive, complete with a little wooden clocktower, and so does the Tontine Inn, opened 1788. The basm, carefully and sympathetically restored, is now used for pleasure craft.
Upton upon Severn
This little market town of oldfashioned shops and inns is remarkably unspoiled. Many of its houses are Georgian or older and the 14th-century tower of the demolished church (surmounted by an 18th century octagonal dome and cupola) looks out over the meadows of the River Severn. The early Baptist Church, built 1695, preserves old oak pews. Two of Upton’ s inns are of particular interest- The Bell, which has a real bell as its sign, and The White Lion, which features in Fielding’ s novel, Tom Jones.
Vale of Evesham
Much of the fertile land south and east of Evesham is given over to fruit growing and market gardening; the massed blossoms of orchards and flower fields are famous for their beauty in spring and early summer, and the area is particularly well known for its fine asparagus. Evesham itself is a town of historic significance; the Avon is navigable to small craft here, and a regatta takes place each May. Many of the surrounding villages are of interest: Offenham is one of the few places still to have a maypole; the mainly modern development of Badsey contains a timber-framed manor house which was once an infirmary for the monks of Evesham; Middle Littleton has the biggest tithe barn in the county and a perfect little village church, and Bretforton the famous 600-year-old Fleece Inn and several interesting dovecotes; Cleeve Prior is a prosperous village of broad streets and stone cottages set round a village green.
This county town and cathedral city stands on the banks of the Severn in an area of rich agricultural land. The cathedral, which overlooks the river and the city’s county cricket ground, is mostly early English in style although the oldest part – the crypt was built in the 11th century. In the lofty chancel are the tombs of King John, and the elder brother of Henry VIII, Prince Arthur, who died at the age of 15. Unfortunately much of Worcester has been rebuilt over the years but there are still several buildings to note in the old city centre. These include The Commandery and Tudor House which both house museums, Greyfriars a 15th-century Franciscan house, and the Guildhall. The latter, with its elaborate facade, is one of the finest examples of early Georgian architecture in the country. Worcester has become famous for its porcelain industry which was founded in 1751 as an alternative to the ailing cloth trade. The present factory in Severn Street is open by appointment and the Dyson Perrins Museum next door has the best collection of Worcester porcelain in the world, with pieces dating from 1751 to the present.