The Beginnings of Worcester

  • 21 Jan 2019
  • Historical Studies
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Worcester was the first ford, coming up the Seven, at the head of the tideway which was not unduly affected by the tide, but equally important, there was sharp rising ground which provided a place of comparative safety for those using the ford. The rising ground which Willis Bund called 'the Tump', is that on which the King's School, Cathedral and the Old Palace now stand. To give some further protection, a bank was built around the tump and this developed into an enclosure surround by an earth rampart.

This site is one of the oldest occupied in the country, for it was fortified by the British, the oldest inhabitants of the land of whom history speaks. When the Romans came, they too, occupied the site, for many Romans remains were found when Castle Hill, at the southern end of the tump was removed in 1830, and from the vast amount of iron slag and cinders around the area of the present cattle market, it must have been an important iron producing area too.

Nothing is known of Worcester's history from the withdrawal of the Romans until A.D 655, when missionary priests settled on the tump, undoubtedly to provide shelter to travellers at that important crossing of the Seven. This Christian settlement must soon have become important, for in 680 a monk from St.Hilda's Abbey of Whitby named Bosel was sent to become the first Bishop of Worcester, and a priory was founded, the church of which was the precursor of the present Cathedral.

For the next three-and-half centuries the inhabitants of Worcester was harried by invaders, mostly by the Danes, coming up the Seven, and they appealed to Werferth, their bishop, to try and obtain additional protection for them. Warferth approached Ethelred, Earl of the Mercians, and Aethelflaed his wife, who with the consent of King Alfred and the Mercian Witan, had the town walled in about 889-899.