Worcester as a city has not done well at preserving its past. In fact the best preserved old buildings are there mostly because they were on the same street as the city jail for two hundred years, so nobody thought it was worth building something new there. Yesterday I suggested that a medieval church should have been converted into a bowling alley rather than demolished, so I was delighted to discover that one of Worcester’s surviving old buildings had a huge a bowling alley in the fifties.
The eighteen fifties, that is.
The most interesting building we visited today was Greyfriars, so called because it had been next door to a monastery until Henry VIII did his land grab, the city jail was built where the monastery had been.
Even though though the monastery hasn’t been there for five hundred years, Greyfriars sounds better than Jailbirds, so the name stuck. Like most old buildings it has been used for various things, including a brewer’s house and an umbrella shop. It had been allowed to fall into disrepair by absentee landlords until it was scheduled for demolition by the mid 20th century. Local activists managed to preserve it, and a dentist, Matley Moore, and his sister put up the money to restore it, so long as they could live there rent free for the rest of their lives. The building contains their rather eclectic collection of antiques, including a superb collection of cast iron doorstops, lovingly painted by the sister whose name I forget.
Oh, yeah, there were antique clocks and wallpapers and furniture and tapestries and curtains, but the doorstops!
The Tudor House Museum across the street celebrated the various uses the building had been put to, apart from bowling alley.
This included a Cadbury’s Chocolate shop, a dentist’s office, and an ARP (Air Raid Precautions) station in World War II.
Sadly the owners of the third old building I visited, the Commandery, have decided to focus on the very brief time it was used in the Civil War, rather than the time it spent as a hospital, a home, a school for the deaf, or a printing works.
Happily, they have preserved the authentic medieval plate glass windows.
Here are some wall paintings that were whitewashed over after the dissolution of the monasteries and were accidentally rediscovered in the 20th century.
This one is of a figure wearing nothing but a bishop’s miter being tortured on the rack.
Apparently this was just the thing for patients in a medieval hospital. You may be dying of plague, scurvy, and The Dreaded Lurgy, but at least you’re not being torn apart while wearing a silly hat.