Worcestershire

Area Map

[amazon_carousel widget_type=”SearchAndAdd” width=”600″ height=”200″ title=”” market_place=”GB” shuffle_products=”False” show_border=”False” keywords=”Worcestershire” browse_node=”” search_index=”Books” /]

Worcestershire (/ˈwʊstərʃər/ WUUS-tər-shər or /ˈwʊstərʃɪər/ WUUS-tər-sheer ; abbreviated Worcs) is a non-metropolitan county in the West Midlands of England. In 1974, it merged with the neighbouring county of Herefordshire to form Hereford and Worcester. This was divided in 1998, re-establishing Worcestershire as a county. The Malvern Hills forms the east–west border between the two counties, with the exception of West Malvern in Worcestershire.

The county borders Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, West Midlands, Warwickshire and Gloucestershire. To the west, the county is bordered by the Malvern Hills and the spa town of Malvern. The southern part of the county is bordered by Gloucestershire and the northern edge of the Cotswolds; to the east is Warwickshire. There are two major rivers flowing through the county, the Severn and the Avon.

The cathedral city of Worcester is the largest settlement and administrative seat of the county, which includes the principal settlements of Bromsgrove, Stourport-on-Severn, Droitwich, Evesham, Kidderminster, Malvern, and the largest town, Redditch, and a number of smaller towns such as Pershore, Tenbury Wells and Upton upon Severn. The north of the county includes part of the industrial West Midlands conurbation while the south of the county is largely rural.

There are many accents and dialects within Worcestershire. Kidderminster in the north of the county has had an influx of the Black Country accent, whereas Bromsgrove and Redditch have an accent more closely related to Birmingham. The rest of the county has retained the distinctive tones of the West Country accent, typified and made famous by The Archers, the world’s longest running radio soap opera, set in a fictional county situated somewhere between the (in reality, bordering) counties of Worcestershire and Warwickshire.

Absorbed by the Kingdom of Mercia during the 7th century and then by the unified Kingdom of England from 927 to 1707, it was a separate ealdormanship briefly in the 10th century before forming part of the Earldom of Mercia in the 11th century. In the years leading up to the Norman conquest, the Church, including the cathedral, Evesham Abbey, Pershore Abbey, Malvern Priory and other religious houses, increasingly dominated county. The last known Anglo-Saxon sheriff of the county was Cyneweard of Laughern, and the first Norman sheriff was Urse d’Abetot who built the castle of Worcester and seized much church land. Worcestershire was the site of the Battle of Evesham in which Simon de Montfort was killed on 4 August 1265. In 1642, the site of the Battle of Powick Bridge the first major skirmish of the English Civil War, and the Battle of Worcester in 1651 that effectively ended it.

During the Middle Ages, much of the county’s economy was based on the wool trade, and many areas of its dense forests, such as Malvern Chase, were royal hunting grounds. In the nineteenth century, Worcester was a centre for the manufacture of gloves; the town of Kidderminster became a centre for carpet manufacture, and Redditch specialised in the manufacture of needles, springs and hooks. Droitwich Spa, being situated on large deposits of salt, was a centre of salt production from Roman times, with one one of the principal Roman roads running through the town. These old industries have since declined, to be replaced by other, more varied light industry. The county is also home to the world’s oldest continually published newspaper, the Berrow’s Journal, established in 1690. Malvern was one of the centres of the 19th century rise in English spa towns due to Malvern water being believed to be very pure, containing “nothing at all”.

Worcestershire’s boundaries have been fluid for over a hundred years since the abolition of the form of local administration known as the Hundreds in 1889, but the continual expansion of Birmingham and the Black Country during and after the Industrial Revolution altered the county map considerably.

Worcestershire County Council came into existence following the Local Government Act 1888 and covered the historic traditional county, except for two designated county boroughs at Dudley and Worcester. The county also had many exclaves and enclaves, which were areas of land cut off from the main geographical area of Worcestershire and completely surrounded by the nearby counties of Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Oxfordshire. The most notable were Dudley, Evenlode, and the area around Shipston-on-Stour. In return, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Shropshire had their own exclaves within Worcestershire. These were found at Clent, Tardebigge and Halesowen/Oldbury (or the Halesowen Parish area) respectively and were transferred to or rejoined Worcestershire in October 1844 following the Counties (Detached Parts) Act 1844. This Act of Parliament was designed to eradicate the issue of ‘islands’ or ‘exclaves’, however Shipston-on-Stour remained associated with Worcestershire until April 1931 and likewise Dudley until 1966. The southern boundary of the county was also confusing, with parish boundaries penetrating deep into Gloucestershire and vice-versa. This was also eventually resolved following the Counties (Detached Parts) Act 1844.

Birmingham’s continuous expansion has been a large contributory factor to Worcestershire’s fluid boundary changes and associated housing issues. The district of Balsall Heath, which had originally constituted the most northerly part of the Parish of King’s Norton, was the first area of the County to be added to the County Borough of Birmingham on 1 October 1891. This was followed by Quinton Urban District, which was ceded to Birmingham in November 1909, and then by both the Rural District of Yardley and the greater part of the Urban District of King’s Norton and Northfield, which were absorbed into the City as part of the Greater Birmingham Scheme on 9 November 1911. As a consequence of the transfer to Birmingham, these areas were no longer part of Worcestershire and became associated with Warwickshire. Dudley’s historical status within the Diocese of Worcester and through its aristocratic links ensured that the island was governed on a largely autonomous basis. Worcester was also self-governing and was known as The City and County of Worcester.

In 1926, Dudley County Borough council purchased several square miles of land to the north of the town centre, a large percentage of which existed within Sedgley (Staffordshire), including Dudley Castle. This was in order to build the Priory Estate, a large new council estate on which construction would begin in 1929. The boundaries of Worcestershire were altered to include all of the proposed new housing estate in Dudley.

During the Local Government reorganisation of April 1966, Dudley expanded beyond its historical boundaries and took in the bulk of Sedgley and Brierley Hill and the south of Coseley as well as a small section of Amblecote. The Local Government Act redefined its status and the County Borough of Dudley became part of Staffordshire, the county which all of these areas had been part of. At the same time, Worcestershire gained a new county borough known as Warley, which was an amalgamation of Oldbury Urban District, Rowley Regis Urban District, the County Borough of Smethwick and parts of Dudley and Tipton. During these reorganisations, the area of the county council grew only where Stourbridge took in the majority of Amblecote Urban District from Staffordshire and the designation of Redditch in 1964 as a New Town. This in turn saw expansion into the area in and around the villages of Ipsley and Matchborough in Warwickshire. The Redditch New Town designation coincided with a considerable programme of social and private house building in Droitwich, Worcester, Bromsgrove, Kidderminster and along the Birmingham boundary at Frankley, Rubery and Rednal. Frankley Parish was later spilt into two parts with New Frankley and the area around Bartley Reservoir transferring from Bromsgrove District to Birmingham in April 1995. The small village of Frankley remained in Worcestershire and formed a new Civil Parish under the same name.

From 1974, the central and southern part of the county was amalgamated with Herefordshire and Worcester County Borough to form a single non-metropolitan county of Hereford and Worcester. The County Boroughs of Dudley and Warley along with Stourbridge and Halesowen were incorporated into the new West Midlands Metropolitan county. The West Midlands County Council existed for only a short period before abolition in April 1986 by the Government, though legally exists to this day as an administrative county and ceremonial county.

In the 1990s UK local government reform, the decision was taken to abolish Hereford and Worcester, with the new non-metropolitan county or shire county of Worcestershire regaining its historic border with Herefordshire.

The new county still excluded towns such as Stourbridge, Halesowen, Dudley and Oldbury, due to the reorganisation’s remit of dealing with only non-metropolitan counties in England. The new County of Worcestershire came into existence on 1 April 1998 as an administrative county and ceremonial county, although some cross-boundary organisations and resources are shared with the Herefordshire unitary authority, these include waste management and the youth offending service.

The post-April 1974 Hereford & Worcester districts of Redditch, Worcester, Bromsgrove, Wychavon and Wyre Forest were retained with little or no change. However the Leominster and Malvern Hills districts crossed over the historic border, so a new Malvern Hills district was constituted which straddled the pre-April 1974 county boundary to the west, south-west and north-west.

Worcestershire is a fairly rural county. The Malvern Hills, which run from the south of the county into Herefordshire, are made up mainly of volcanic igneous rock and metamorphic rock, some of which date from before 1200 million years ago. For more on the geology of the Malvern Hills, see the external links below.

Football is the most popular sport in the county, and by far the largest and most successful football club in the county is Kidderminster Harriers F.C.. Founded in 1877 as a running club and doubling as a rugby club from 1880, the football club was founded in 1886. In 1987, the club won the FA Trophy for the first time, and seven years later reached the fifth round of the FA Cup, also winning the GM Vauxhall Conference title in 1994 but being denied Football League status as their Aggborough Stadium did not meet capacity requirements. However, when the club next won the Conference title six years later, their stadium had been upgraded and promotion was granted, giving the county its first Football League members. However, the club’s Football League membership was short-lived, as Harriers were relegated back to the Conference in 2005 after just five years in the Football League, and have yet to reclaim their status.

The county is also represented by Worcester City of the Blue Square Premier South & Bromsgrove Rovers of the Southern Football League.

The county is home to the Worcestershire County Cricket Club, traditionally first stop on for the touring national side’s schedule in England. Worcester Rugby Football Club, the Worcester Warriors, whose ground is at Sixways, Worcester, were promoted to the Guinness Premiership in 2004.

The village of Broadheath, about 6 miles (10 km) North-West of the city of Worcester, is the birthplace of the composer Edward Elgar.

It is claimed that the county was the inspiration for The Shire, a region of J. R. R. Tolkien’s fictional Middle-earth, described in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien was thought to have named Bilbo Baggins’ house “Bag End” after his Aunt Jane’s Worcestershire farm. Tolkien wrote of Worcestershire: “Any corner of that county (however fair or squalid) is in an indefinable way ‘home’ to me, as no other part of the world is.”

Population totals for Worcestershire
Year Population Year Population Year Population
1801 107,151 1871 209,850 1941 294,660
1811 119,464 1881 229,455 1951 331,943
1821 135,658 1891 240,762 1961 374,267
1831 152,634 1901 250,620 1971 422,495
1841 159,862 1911 261,428 1981 477,538
1851 170,638 1921 261,533 1991 524,021
1861 190,244 1931 261,960 2001 542,107
Pre-1974 statistics were gathered from local government areas that now comprise Worcestershire
Source: Great Britain Historical GIS.

This is a chart of trend of regional gross value added of Worcestershire at current basic prices published (pp. 240–253) by Office for National Statistics with figures in millions of British Pounds Sterling.

Year Regional Gross Value Added Agriculture Industry Services
1995 5,047 225 1,623 3,200
2000 6,679 159 2,002 4,518
2003 7,514 182 1,952 5,380

Fruit farming and the cultivation of hops were traditional agricultural activities in much of the county. During the latter half of the 20th century, this has largely declined with the exception southern area of the county around the Vale of Evesham, where orchards are still worked on a commercial scale. Worcester City’s coat of arms includes three black pears, representing a now rare local pear variety, the Worcester Black Pear. The county’s coat of arms follows this theme, having a pear tree with black pears. The apple variety known as Worcester Pearmain originates from Worcestershire, and the Pershore plum comes from the small Worcestershire town of that name, and is widely grown in that area. John Drinkwater, the poet, wrote

Who travels Worcester county takes any road that comes when April tosses bounty to the cherries and the plums.

Worcestershire is also famous for a number of its non-agricultural products. The original Worcestershire sauce, a savoury condiment made by Lea and Perrins, is made in Worcester, and the now closed Royal Porcelain works was based in the city. The town of Malvern is the home of the Morgan traditional sports car. The painting, A Worcestershire Cottage by Arthur Claude Strachan is also of general renown.

The county town and only city is Worcester. The other major settlements, Kidderminster, Bromsgrove and Redditch are satellite towns of Birmingham. There are also several market towns: Malvern, Bewdley, Evesham, Droitwich Spa, Pershore, Tenbury Wells, Stourport-on-Severn and Upton-upon-Severn.

  • Worcestershire County Museum
  • Croome Court
  • Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings
  • Walton Hill and the Clent Hills
  • Malvern Hills – Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • Severn Valley Railway at Bewdley.
  • Wadborough
  • Bewdley – Riverside Historic Tudor Town
  • Worcester Cathedral
  • Great Malvern Priory
  • River Teme and valley
  • Tenbury Wells with its unique Pump Rooms.
  • River Severn at Worcester and Bewdley, River Avon at Pershore or Evesham
  • Witley Court at Great Witley. A burnt-out shell of a large English stately home, famous for its gigantic fountain, now restored to working order. Currently run by English Heritage.
  • West Midlands Safari Park
  • Hanbury Hall
  • Forge Mill Needle Museum at Redditch, the only remaining working needle mill in the world.
Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

No reviews yet.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.