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Worcester History, United Kingdom

Worcester history – Antiquity and Middle Ages

Worcester is a city in England’s West Midlands, with a population of approximately 93,000 people. Most of the people know about Worcester because of the Worcestershire sauce, invented here in 1837 by John Weeley Lea and William Henry Perrins. Worcester’s history goes back to Antiquity, when the Romans founded the city around 50 A.D. The city had a prosperous economy, based mainly on iron industry and crafts. There is no proof of what happened after the Roman withdrawal in 407, but in the 7th century Worcester is again attested as an Anglo-Saxon settlement. The new settlement was given the name “Woegoran ceaster” and it became the seat of a bishop in 680. The first fortress was built in Worcester by Alfred the Great, and different other fortresses were built during the Middle Ages as a way of defense. The most devastating raid took place in 1041, when the city’s inhabitants refused to pay taxes to the king; the army sent to punish the insolence almost burnt the city to the grounds. But it soon recovered, and continued to flourish under Norman rule. In 1216 King John died and was buried in the Worcester Cathedral. Under Queen Elisabeth’s reign, the Royal Grammar School was given a charter; yet the first school in Worcester dates back to the 13th century, and had been run by the Catholic Church. In the 17th century Worcester gained the distinction ‘Fidelis Civitas’ after serving as provisory headquarters for king Charles II who had been defeated in the ‘Battle of Worcester’ (1651). Twenty years later, the city suffered enormous damages after the most devastating flood in its history.

Worcester History – Modernity

Economy fluctuated in Modern times, as industries were emerging and declining at a very fast rate, but Worcester continued to grow, based on its porcelain and glove manufacture. The population rose from 13000 inhabitants in 1800 to 46000 at the peak of the new century. During the 20th century, Worcester’s main industries switched to sauce making, printing, light engineering and tourism. Worcester was close to be the kingdom’s capital for a second time during World War II: emergency plans specified that, in case of a German invasion, the War Cabinet should be moved to Hindlip House near Worcester and the Parliament to Stratford-upon-Avon. Fortunately, it was not the case. Yet the city suffered another loss when most of the medieval centre was demolished during the 1950s and the 1960s to make room for a new architectural vision. Only a small part survived, and can still be admired today in downtown Worcester. The most outstanding feature remains the Worcester Cathedral, that has been witnessing Worcester’s history for almost eight centuries. For a deeper insight into the history of the region, the articles on Birmingham History and Bristol History can be of great help.

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