The Cathedral and Sidbury - Before Worcester

  • 6 Nov 2019
  • Historical Studies
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The beginnings of Worcester date from the Bronze Age when, some two thousand years before the birth of Christ, the first settlers arrived; but these were not on the banks of the Severn but on the high terrace east of the city between Elbury Mount and Crookbarrow Hill. The high ridge still shows circles and squares where once stood early settlements - from Elbury Mount in the north, which retained its defensive terraces until the 1850s, to Crookbarrow in the south, with its steep sides making a defensive mound or lookout, man-made on a natural hill. Cuggan, or Round Hill, at Spetchley, commanded the east, and the entrenchments on the precipitous western side of Red Hill (later used by Cromwell) were to guard the most vulnerable point of the fortress. That the Romans used Crookbarrow, probably as a fort and lookout station, is shown by the discovery of the collection of Roman coins there in the 18th century.

There is some evidence that in the 1st century AD the Romans occupied an earlier Iron Age fort and made a permanent settlement south of the cathedral, for many Roman coins and artefacts were found in the Old Palace grounds and at Castle Hill when the Norman motte was removed in 1833. In the late 2nd or early 3rd century, the defences of the settlement seemed to have been greatly strengthened. Below High Street, 7 feet down, and in other places are Roman roads pointing to a considerable town which might once have contained some fine buildings; and later in the 3rd century outside the walls, on the north side, there developed an extensive iron-producing suburb, for in an area from Broad Street to the railway viaduct and from the river to the Cross was a vast amount of iron slag and cinders. A street 32 feet wide, surfaced with iron slag, connected the workings to the town; and timber remains of a bridge, which crossed the river near the present railway bridge, were identified as Roman.