The Growth of the City

  • 15 Jan 2012
  • Worcester People and Places
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The ancient boundaries of the City of Worcester comprised 318 acres, and so it remained until 1837. By 1905, they were 10 times as much, and there have been many further extensions since. In the 16th and 17th centuries building had extended outside the Forest Gate (Foregate) north as far as St. Oswalds Hospital. Leyland called it ' a long fayre suburb by north'. Buildings had overflowed outside Sidbury Gate, clustering around the ancient St. Wulstan's Hospital (the Commandery), and in Tybridge Street, from the bridgehead to Cripplegate. These buildings were mostly destroyed during the seiges of Worcester in 1643 and 1646, and in the battle of 1651. This accounts for the absence of buildings in the liberties earlier than Queen Anne, with the exception of the Commandery. By 1750 the City had begun to recover from the ravages of the Civil War and from the fines imposed by the Parliamentary authorities. These had been severe. After the 1646 seige a capital levy of 25% on every man's estate had been imposed, and after the 1651 disaster, the fines was even more severe, leaving the City impoverished. It was not until the 1720's that churches and houses began to be rebuilt. In 1750 the population was about 12,000, and for the most part of these were resident within the City walls. The parishes of All Saints and St.Andrew's were the most densely populated, containing one third of the whole population of the City. (how things have changed ! In 1902 the porportion had been reduced to one-twentieth, and by the 1970's, it is almost nill). The walls had been mostly destroyed -'slighted' - by order of Cromwell, and when building was again possible, the well-to-do-familiesbuilt fine houses beyond Sidbury Gate, on the site of the demolished fortifications around Fort Royal, Wheatsheaf Hill and Greenhill, and especially lining the highway in the northern liberty, into Claines parish to the Tything. Valentine Green wrote of this latter development: 'there hath of late years been selected as a part where one may enjoy retirement without absolutely taking leave of society'. Smaller houses had been built beyond St.Martin's Gate into Silver Street, and in a few places along the road across Lowesmoor. St.John's too, had obtained a few Georgian houses, but remained almost an isolated village clustering around the church and Bull Ring. Beyond the Liberty Post at the north end of Foregate Street began the parish of Claines, which like St.Martin's, has during the last 150 years become largely urban. While St. Martin's from the earliest days had an urban nucleus within the City walls, no part of Claines was included in Worcester until the extension of the City boundary in 1837. Up to that date even the dependent Tything of Whiston was a country hamlet, known to the Post Office as ' near Worcester '.