Around Worcester

 POWICK 2 miles S of Worcester on the A449 Powick Bridge was the scene of the first and last battles in the Civil War; the last, in 1651, ending with Charles hiding in the Boscobel Oak before journeying south to a nine year exile in France. Cromwell’s power had been overwhelming, and the long years of strife were at an end. Powick Bridge’s skyline is today dominated by Worcester’s first power station, built in 1894.

SPETCHLEY 3 miles E of Worcester on the A422 A Church All Saints Church, 14th century with a 16th-century chapel, is home to a fine collection of monuments to the Berkeley family, who owned adjoining Spetchley Park. The park, which extends over 12 hectares, has lovely formal gardens, wooded areas, lawns and a lake with an ornamental bridge.

HUDDINGTON 6 miles E of Worcester on minor roads A Huddington Court Two buildings of particular note: the simple little Church of St James, with a timberframed bell turret; and Huddington Court. The Court has been described as the most picturesque house in Worcestershire. An excellent example of a 16th-century timberframed building, it was once the home of the Wintours, a staunchly Catholic family who were involved in the Gunpowder Plot. 

When the plot was exposed and the conspirators finally arrested, both Thomas and Robert Wintour, cousins of Robert Catesby, confessed their guilt and were executed. The Court is a private residence, but you can get a good view of it from the churchyard. A mile or so north of Huddington lies the village of Himbleton, where the Church of St Mary Magdalene has a picturesque bell turret with a memorial clock.

ROUS LENCH 7 miles E of Worcester on a minor road A Rous Lench Court The Lenches are attractive little villages in an area known for its particularly rich soil. Rous Lench church has a chapel with monuments to the Rous family and an oil painting of Jesus in the house of Simon the Pharisee. The road to the hilltop village of Church Lench (a mile south), with the church at the very top of the hill, passes by Rous Lench Court, the seat of the Rous family for many centuries from 1382. The Court is a splendid half-timbered mansion with a tall Italianate tower in the beautiful gardens

ODDINGLEY 5 miles NE of Worcester on minor roads The parish church of Oddingley stands on a hill overlooking the Worcester & Birmingham Canal. Its principal treasure is the mostly 15thcentury stained glass in the east window, which is regarded as some of the finest of that period. Behind the communion rail is a memorial to a rector, George Parker, who was murdered in 1806 because of a dispute over tithes.

DROITWICH 6 miles NE of Worcester on the A38 A Church of the Sacred Heart B Heritage & Information Centre E Salwarpe Valley Nature Reserve This was Salinae, the place of salt, in Roman times. Salt deposits, a legacy from the time when this area was on the seabed, were extracted for 2,000 years until the end of the 19th century. 

The natural Droitwich brine contains about 2.5 pounds of salt per gallon - 10 times as much as sea water - and is often likened to the waters of the Dead Sea. The brine is pumped up from an underground lake that lies 200 feet below the town. Visitors do not drink the waters at Droitwich as they do at most other spas, but enjoy the therapeutic properties floating in the warm brine. The first brine baths were built in the 1830s and were soon renowned for bringing relief to many and effecting seemingly miraculous cures. By 1876, Droitwich had developed as a fashionable spa, mainly through the efforts of John Corbett, known as the Salt King. 

This typical Victorian businessman and philanthropist introduced new methods of extracting the brine and moved the main plant to Stoke Prior. The enterprise was beset with various problems in the 1870s and Corbett turned his attention to developing the town as a spa resort. 

He was clearly a man of some energy as he also served as an MP after the 1874 General Election. Many of the buildings in present-day Droitwich were owned by Corbett, including the Raven Hotel (a raven was part of his coat of arms) in the centre. His most remarkable legacy is undoubtedly Chateau Impney, on the eastern side of town at Dodderhill. It was designed by a Frenchman, Auguste Tronquois, in the style of an ornate French chateau, with soaring turrets, mansard roof and classical French gardens. It was intended as a home for Corbett and his wife Anna, but she apparently didn’t like the place; their increasingly stormy marriage ended in 1884, nine years after the completion of the flamboyant chateau, which is now a high-class hotel and conference centre. The Heritage and Information Centre includes a local history exhibition (Salt Town to Spa) and a historic BBC radio room (01905 774312). In the centre of the town is St Andrew’s

Church, part of whose tower was removed because of subsidence, a condition that affected many buildings, some of which stand at fairly alarming angles. One of the chapels, dating from the 13th century, is dedicated to St Richard de Wyche, the town’s patron saint, who became Bishop of Chichester. On the southern outskirts of Droitwich is the Church of the Sacred Heart, built in Italianate style in the 1930s and remarkable for its profusion of beautiful mosaics made from Venetian glass. Many of these mosaics also commemorate the life of St Richard.

 One of Droitwich’s most famous sons is Edward Winslow, born the eldest of eight children in 1595. He was one of the pilgrims who set sail for the New World to seek religious freedom and later became Governor of the colony. A bronze memorial to Edward Winslow can be seen in St Peter’s Church. Salwarpe on the southwest fringes of Droitwich, is truly a hidden hamlet, approached by a stone bridge over James Brindley’s Droitwich Canal. Opened in 1771, 

the canal linked the town to the River Severn at Hawford. The Church of St Michael, by the edge of the canal, has several monuments to the Talbot family, who owned nearby Salwarpe Court. Salwarpe Valley Nature Reserve is one of very few inland sites with salt water, making it ideal for a variety of saltmarsh plants and very well worth a visit.

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