The City Walls and Gates

  • 15 Jan 2012
  • Worcester People and Places
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Willis Bund gave a clear outline of the walls in his paper The City of Worcester During the Great Civil War. He wrote: 'The line of the walls was as follows: Starting at the bottom of Dolday, which was then an important street .... There was on the bridge one of the city gates, the water gate. St Clement's church then stood inside the city walls; but so close to it that when the Parliamentary troops pulled down the wall at this point they pulled down the tower of the church, and the parish being poor, could not afford to rebuild it in stone so put up a wooden tower. From this point the wall ran east; remains of it can still be seen on the right hand-side in walking up the Butts; it crossed the end of Angel Street passing through the grounds of the Berkeley Hospital, crossing Foregate Street, through the Hop Market Hotel, along Sansome Street till oposite the Catholic Church; the present bend in the street at this point marks a bastion in the wall, it had up to here run almost due east; it now turned south-east, crossed St. Nicholas Street and ran along the west side of Watercourse Alley, which represented a stream that from this point formed the ditch.The wall crossed at the top of Silver Street, somewhere near the gardens, and then turned south, running along the back of the gardens of the houses that formed New Street and Friar Street to the top of Sidbury until it reached a point opposite Church Street, then it turned West, just taking in St.Peter's Church; here it turned north, crossed the brook called Frog Brook, which was afterwards covered in and called Frog Lane, now Diglis Street, and joined the Castle Wall'.

'Another wall was at some subsequent time built outside the Castle wall to the river bank. There does not appear to have been any continuous wall from this point along the river to St. Clement's Church, the walls only extended part of the way. From the Diglis Corner a wall extended up stream enclosing the castle, the monastery, and it would seem from the old plans, the house and garden of the Warmstry's, up the passage known as Warmstry's Slip. From here to the end of Quay Street the town was open. From Quay Street another wall extended to the bottom of Newport Street'.

Leyland, who came to Worcester about 1535 says there were six gates, and thus describes them: 'In the wall be six gates, the Bridgegate on Severn having a goodly square tower over it, a postern gate by St. Clement's Church, hard by the north side of the Bridge over Severn, the Foregate, a fair piece of work standing by the north, Sidbury gate standing east in the way from Worcester to London, St. Martin's gate, Trinity gate, this is but a postern'.

The Bridgegate must have been a formidable structure. Wharton a soldier in Essex's army who came to Worcester in 1624 said of it: 'A gate portcullis'. As on London Bridge, the heads of criminals were displayed on the Bridge gate, for the head of John Hind, a highwayman who was executed at Worcester in 1652 was displayed there. (He was a confirmed Royalist, only robbing Parliamentarians - even being reputed to have held up Cromwell near Huntingdon). Later his head was removed by night and buried in a City churchyard.

St Clement's gate was a postern gate which gave access to the river and Pitchcroft, and when St .Clement's Church was taken down in 1823, all traces of it were removed. The Foregate or Forest Gate stood between the Hopmarket Yard entrance and the gates of the Berkeley Hospital, and had a house attached to its west side that was used as a prison. The massive foundations were unearthed when the Hop Market Hotel was rebuilt on 1901. The gates were removed soon after 1702. St.Martin's Gate was a large gatehouse with two roads leading from it, one across Lowesmoor, and the other to the Alcester Road, It was through this gate that Charles II escaped at the Battle of Worcester. It was demolished in or soon after 1773. The Friar's Postern Gate (less commonly called the Trinity Gate) was in the walls adjoining the old Greyfriar's House, which gave the friars access to their cemetary outside the City Wall, the site on which the old friars of Sigley's Steam Confectionery still stands.

Sidbury, the great South Gate or London Gate stood close to the present canal bridge. It was destroyed in 1768. This gate was the scene of great slaughter in 1651, and a lucky escape for Charles II. He had reached the Sidbury Gate after retreating down the hill from Fort Royal, but refused to retire into Worcester. The gate were closed and he remained outside. The guns of the Fort Royal were now turned against the gate, and Cromwell's Life Guards were attacking from Bath Road, every one of them eager to take the young man captive or smite him with the sword. In the melee, one of Cromwell's troopers, seeing a mounted officer, tried to cut him down, but a Worcester citizen, William Bagnall, seizing Charles horse by the rein, guided it into the space between the gate and a broken-down annumition wagon. The trooper dared not follow, and Charles dismounted and crouched under the wagon, and was let through the gate into the City.

One other gate, Frog Gate, let into the Castle wall, not the City Wall, and gave access to Frog Mill, which stood where the Fountain Inn now stands. The course of Frog Brook, which appears to have been an artifical leat to supply the Mill, was filled in at the close of the 18th century.