From the porcelain collection at the Museum of Royal Worcester to the enchanting folly of Broadway Tower, Worcestershire is home to an array of unique and memorable historic sites.
Here are 10 of the most impressive historic sites and attractions in Worcestershire, inviting you to gaze on Elizabethan manors, step onto medieval battlefields, or tread through Second World War and Cold War history at Drakelow Tunnels.
Witley Court and Gardens is an elegant country estate that reached its peak in the Victorian period when it was the setting for extravagant parties and royal entertainments. After a devastating fire in 1937, however, it became one of the country’s most spectacular ruins.
Parts of the garden have been restored by English Heritage to give an idea of their Victorian glory. At the centre of the south parterre is the grand Perseus and Andromeda fountain, restored in 2003 to working order.
2. Worcester Cathedral
Overlooking the River Severn from a bank within Worcestershire’s county town, Worcester Cathedral is renowned for its elegant proportions, Norman crypt and the tombs it contains: those of King John (d. 1216) and Arthur, Prince of Wales (d. 1502).
The present structure of Worcester Cathedral was built between 1084 and 1504, though the cathedral was founded in 680. It represents a range of English architectural styles, from Norman to Perpendicular Gothic. The best exterior perspective of the cathedral is from banks further along the River Severn.
3. Broadway Tower
Located at the second-highest point in the Cotswolds on Broadway Hill is the exceptional Broadway Tower, a 65-feet high folly designed in 1794 by James Wyatt. Modelled in the form of a castle for the Countess of Coventry, a beacon lit above the tower could be seen 22 miles away from her house in Worcester.
The six-sided tower is one of the most beautiful follies in England. For William Morris, 19th century socialist and proponent of the Arts and Crafts movement, Broadway Tower was a retreat where he delighted being “among the winds and the clouds”.
4. Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings
Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings is an open-air museum in Stoke Heath, Worcestershire, which provides safe harbour for historic buildings wearied by neglect or displaced by new planning. The structures at Avoncroft represent over 700 years of history.
The museum was opened in 1967 following the dismantling and relocation of a 15th-century timber-framed house from Bromsgrove. It became England’s first open-air museum. Among the site’s 30 buildings are a fully functioning windmill and a post-World War Two prefabricated house.
5. Croome Court
Croome Court is an 18th century house in south Worcestershire, England, set within a landscape designed by Capability Brown – his first major architectural project. The Coventry family have owned Croome since the 16th century, thought today it is managed by the National Trust.
The visitor centre explains the history of Croome and also includes an RAF museum, which describes its use during World War Two as a secret military base.
Treading the border between Herefordshire and Worcestershire is the magnificent hillfort of British Camp. This substantial Iron Age earthwork sits astride Herefordshire Beacon in the Malvern Hills, and has expansive views over the surrounding countryside.
The multi-tired defences at British Camp enclose an area of 18 hectares, which was once given to dozens of hut circles that constituted a large settlement.
7. Harvington Hall
Harvington Hall is a manor house south east of the Worcestershire market town of Kidderminster, remarkable for its medieval moat and Elizabethan features. The moat dates to the 13th century, while much of a 14th century building survives behind a later facade.
The site today trades on the history of Recusant Catholics during the reign of Elizabeth I, during which time Mass was banned across the country and priests were hunted. It has cause to: its meandering passages may have been meant to confuse authorities in the event of a raid. The Hall, as well as its garden and coffee shop, is open Wednesday to Sunday between February and October.
8. Battle of Evesham Battlefield
On 4 August 1265, rebel barons led by Simon de Montfort confronted the future King Edward I near the town of Evesham, Worcestershire. De Montfort had become de facto ruler of England during the Second Barons’ War, but at Evesham he faced an army twice the size of his own and was defeated. Today the battlefield is accessible by the public along a self-guided trail.
9. Museum of Royal Worcester
The Museum of Royal Worcester, situated on Severn Street in Worcester, houses a fine collection of local porcelain works and exhibits focused on Georgian, Victorian and 20th century lives. Worcester porcelain was manufactured in the city between 1751 and 2008, and was widely known as luxury tableware. Though Royal Worcester continue to operate, production no longer takes place in the town.
10. Drakelow Tunnels
Lying beneath the ground north of Kidderminster is a former secret military complex covering some 3.5 miles, originally built as one of the World War Two shadow factories intended to reduce the risk of a collapse of production. Drakelow was assigned to the Rover car company, who were then manufacturing aircraft engines, and production was in full-swing by mid-1943.
The underground factory found new purpose during the Cold War as a storage site, but also as a seat of government designed to cater for over 100 people in the event of nuclear war. Tours of the tunnels are possible on open days, and a museum is in development.