The Medieval Church of St Michael, Worcester

Worcester Cathedral Phipson

Worcestershire Archaeology are currently excavating the Cathedral roundabout on Worcester’s College Street, discovering more about the streets that lined the north of the cathedral precincts until the 1960s, including the ancient lychgate.

Perhaps less well remembered is the little medieval church of St Michael that stood right against the north side of Worcester Cathedral, where the war memorial is now sited. This church was demolished in 1843.

The Church of St Michael the Archangel served a small and quirky parish, which included the Bishop’s Palace and the Castle. The parish remained officially outside the administration of both the City and the Diocese of Worcester until 1832. Eventually the parish was combined with others into Worcester Civil Parish in 1898.

The church was built in the north east corner of the churchyard, the most important cemetery in Worcester from Saxon times. The Archangel Michael was always considered to have a special interest in the burial of the dead.

A new St Michael’s was built in College Street – itself at that time a new road – in about 1840, with the old church demolished a few years later. Following a similar pattern of growth and change, this new St Michael’s was demolished in the 1960s, alongside building the City Walls Road and dualling College Street to create a inner ring road for Worcester.

The Worcestershire Archaeological Society published an article about the medieval church in vol XIX of Transactions. This 19th century watercolour painting of the original St Michael’s is included in the Worcester City museum collection.

Frances Ridley Havergal (1836-1879), religious poet and hymn-writer

Frances Ridley Havergal was born in Astley Rectory, Stourport on 14th December 1836, youngest child of Rev William Henry Havergal (1793-1870), and his first wife Jane.

William Henry Havergal became Curate at Astley, Worcestershire in 1822, and Rector three years later. After an accident in 1829, he was subject to bouts of paralysis, and had to lead a quiet life. This enforced leisure turned his attention to his favourite subject of music, and hymn tunes, chants, anthems and complete services flowed from his pen and were well received. He also wrote many sacred songs and carols which he set to music, the most famous of which is probably From Greenland’s Icy Mountains.

Frances wrote verses from the age of seven with remarkable fluency and her poems were published in Good Words and the best religious periodicals.

In 1852 she accompanied her father and his second wife to Germany where she studied music. She returned to England in December 1853 but revisited Germany in 1865-6 where she sought the opinion of the musician Hiller on her musical talents. Hiller saw talent in her melodies and highly praised her harmonies.

Frances Ridley Havergal’s first book of poems The Ministry of Song was published in 1869.

In 1878 she moved from Leamington to the Mumbles, South Wales where she died on 3rd June 1879. She is buried in Astley Churchyard. After her death in 1879, FRH’s works achieved a tremendous popularity, and many were reprinted in miniature or booklet form. Her most famous hymn is probably Take My Life and Let it Be.

Thirty of her books were published including:
Life Mosaic, 1879
Life Chords, 1880
Life Echoes, 1883
Collected Letters, 1887
My Bible Study – for the Sundays of the Year, 1885
Under His Shadow, 1879

More information about Frances Ridley Havergal at the Havergal Trust

Prince Arthur’s Funeral Pall

detail of clothiers pall

This great treasure from Worcester in the Late Middle Ages is on display in The Commandery on loan from the Clothiers Company. From the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries the Company used the pall to cover the coffin of deceased members during the funeral service. It is sometimes referred to as Prince Arthur’s pall as it has been claimed that it was used for a similar function at the funeral of Prince Arthur at Worcester Cathedral in 1502. Prince Arthur was the older brother of King Henry VIII and died, aged 15, in Ludlow only a few months after his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. This first marriage for the Queen was a key part of Henry’s argument for his break from the Roman Catholic Church.

There is no firm evidence that the pall was used at Prince Arthur’s funeral, but the embroidery has been dated from the correct period.

The vestments were decorated with the figures of saints, many of whom are identifiable from symbols, and a number of prophets or donors. The red velvet background has further symbols and floral designs, and there are four emblems with instruments of the clothiers which have been applied at strategic points where the pall would have draped over a coffin.

The pall was restored in 2007, with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Hermes by Elizabeth Frink

Our volunteer collections researcher, Deborah Keaveney, has discovered that the print Hermes by Dame Elisabeth Frink (1930-1993), dated 1988, in Worcester’s collection is an etching from an original drawing used to illustrate the book, Children of the Gods, Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece by K. McLeish, published in 1983.

Elizabeth Frink, Hermes, 1988. Etching and Aquatint on paper
Elizabeth Frink, Hermes, 1988. Etching and Aquatint on paper

Frink’s graphic work, like her sculpture, was based on human and animal figures as archetypes in characteristic and monumental forms. Flight was also a reoccurring motif in her work. Prior to creating the illustrations for Children of the God, Frink had also illustrated Aesop’s Fables in 1968 and of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in 1972.

The print in Worcester City museums collection depicts the Greek mythical god Hermes, the Messenger of the Gods. He is drawn as a lithe naked young man at the peak of his physical strength, leaping over the rim of the Earth on winged sandals, flying between Heaven, Earth and Underworld. He holds a Greek shepherd’s lyre in his right hand, created by using gut strings from the cattle he stole from the Gods. Apollo then made him guardian of cattle in return for teaching him to play the lyre. He was known as a mischief maker, but gifted with the powers of music and language. Mortals knew him as Herm, guardian of the home.

Mould for Livery Buttons

livery button mould

Marked Bullivant & Tipson, October 1830

Design for making livery uniform buttons; embossed design in the shape of a griffin.

Bullivant & Timpson were button makers, based on Great Charles Street, Birmingham, recorded in the trade directories from 1818 – early 20th century.

In the Worcestershire County museum collection.

Miniature Model Beer Engine

0125maThe model beer engine was made by William Stokoe (whose granddaughter-in-law donated it to the Worcester City museum collection in 2001) a water engineer working around Worcester circa 1900, and is thought to be an apprentice piece made by Mr. Stokoe during his training. The beer engine is believed to be a miniature copy of the type of pumps used to raise beer from the barrel to the glass in a traditional public house.

The beer engine has a wooden case decorated with floral marquetry. Inside the lower case are four working brass valves connected by rods to four working levers on the curved upper section of the case. The valves are also connected to four taps on the front of the model; below the taps is a lead lined sink with a small drainage hole. Access to the lower case and the drain is via a small door on the case front.


Mayors of Worcester, 1621 to 1651

  • 1621        Edward Hurdman
  • 1622        John Watts
  • 1623        John Hazelock
  • 1624        John Hanbury
  • 1625        Elias Rawlingson
  • 1626        John Smith
  • 1627        Richard Heming
  • 1628        John Brineton
  • 1629        Robert Farley
  • 1630        Henry Morley
  • 1631        Thomas Chetle
  • 1632        George Dauncey
  • 1633        John Nash
  • 1634        Humphrey Vernon
  • 1635        George Street
  • 1636        William Beauchamp
  • 1637        Roger Fairbourn
  • 1638        Thomas Huntback
  • 1639        Daniel Tyas
  • 1640        William Norris
  • 1641        Edward Foley
  • 1642        Henry Ford
  • 1643        S. Daniel Tyas
  • 1644        Thomas Hackett
  • 1645        William Evett
  • 1646        Edward Elvins
  • 1647        Robert Stirrup
  • 1648        James Taylor
  • 1649        Thomas Bearcroft
  • 1650        Thomas Lysons
  • 1651        Edward Elvins

Charles Ginner (1878-1952), Malvern Hills, 1940s

Charles Ginner’s landscape painting of the Malvern Hills demonstrates his signature style: the use of a small, regular touch of thick paint, a method that can give his paintings the appearance of densely worked embroidery.

Ginner was born in Cannes, France. In 1904 he began to study painting at the Académie Vitti under Paul Gervais. Unfortunately Gervais disliked Ginner’s bright palette so much that the student felt he had to leave. He settled in London in 1910 and became a founder member of the Camden Town Group which also included Duncan Grant and Walter Sickert.

In 1914 Ginner published a manifesto which encouraged artists to look at nature in more detail, to use solid pigment, and to be influenced by Cezanne, Van Gogh and the Post-Impressionists. His paintings became more concerned with observation and description, and he turned his attention from interiors to landscapes.

In the Worcester City museum collection.


Mayors of Worcester, 1750 to 1775

  • 1750 Samuel Parkes
  • 1751 Philip Tomlins
  • 1752 George Baylis
  • 1753 Edward Weston
  • 1754 Benjamin Pearkes
  • 1755 Thomas Lane
  • 1756 William Haden
  • 1757 John Corne
  • 1758 Timothy Edwards
  • 1759 Samuel Hill
  • 1760 Walter Haines
  • 1761 Thomas Wakeman
  • 1762 Thomas Giles
  • 1763 Thomas Cornwell
  • 1764 James Oliver
  • 1765 Charles Trubshaw Withers
  • 1766 Edward Squire
  • 1767 Joseph Millington
  • 1768 William Dowding
  • 1769 George Farley
  • 1770 Edward Wellings
  • 1771 William Davies
  • 1772 John Paine
  • 1773 Edward Jackson
  • 1774 William Mathers
  • 1775 John Williams