History of Worcestershire

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Worcestershire was the heartland of the early English kingdom of the Hwicce, one of the peoples of Anglo-Saxon England. The exact boundaries of their kingdom are uncertain, though it is likely that they coincided with those of the old Diocese of Worcester, founded in 679–80, of which the early bishops bore the title Episcopus Hwicciorum. The kingdom would therefore have included Worcestershire except for its northwestern tip.[1]

Absorbed by the Kingdom of Mercia during the 7th century and then by the unified Kingdom of England from 927 to 1707, it was a separate ealdormanship briefly in the 10th century before forming part of the Earldom of Mercia in the 11th century. In the years leading up to the Norman conquest in 1066, the Church, including the cathedral, Evesham Abbey, Pershore Abbey, Malvern Priory and other religious houses, increasingly dominated county. The last known Anglo-Saxon sheriff of the county was Cyneweard of Laughern, and the first Norman sheriff was Urse d'Abetot who built the castle of Worcester and seized much church land. Worcestershire was the site of the Battle of Evesham in which Simon de Montfort was killed on 4 August 1265.

In 1642 the first major skirmish of the Civil War, the Battle of Powick Bridge, on the River Teme close to Worcester, occurred when a cavalry troop of about 1,000 Royalists commanded by Prince Rupert, a German nephew of the King and one of the outstanding cavalry commanders of the war, defeated a Parliamentary cavalry detachment under the command of Colonel John Brown[2] Worcestershire was again the focus of the Civil War when it was effectively ended by Cromwell's victory at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651

During the Middle Ages, much of the county's economy was based on the wool trade, and many areas of its dense forests, such as Malvern Chase, were royal hunting grounds. In the nineteenth century, Worcester was a centre for the manufacture of gloves; the town of Kidderminster became a centre for carpet manufacture, and Redditch specialised in the manufacture of needles, springs and hooks. Droitwich Spa, being situated on large deposits of salt, was a centre of salt production from Roman times, with one of the principal Roman roads running through the town. These old industries have since declined, to be replaced by other, more varied light industry. The county is also home to the world's oldest continually published newspaper, the Berrow's Journal, established in 1690. Malvern was one of the centres of the 19th century rise in English spa towns due to Malvern water being believed to be very pure, containing "nothing at all". [3]

In 1974 the county was merged with Herefordshire to form a large single administrative county of Hereford and Worcester which in 1998 was reverted to the original historical counties. Some changes in borders occurred with some areas such as Halesowen, Stourbridge, and the exclave of Dudley, which used to be part of northern Worcestershire becoming part of West Midlands metropolitan county. Yardley had already been made part of Birmingham in the county of Warwickshire. The post-1998 county therefore does not correspond exactly to the pre-1974 boundaries.[citation needed]

See also


  1. Hooke, Della (1985) The Kingdom of the Hwicce , pp.12-13
  2. Trevor Royle References pp 171-188
  3. Bottled Waters of the World. Retrieved 9 August 2009