The English Civil war devastated much of the country, but as the stage of the last, brutal battle, Worcester was particularly badly affected.
Recovery was slow but sure and by the start of the Georgian period, Worcester was back up and running. One of the earliest newspapers in the country, the Berrows Journal, makes reference to events such as balls, cock fights, theatre and public breakfasts – even a cricket match between eleven one-armed men and eleven one-legged men, all whom were Greenwich Hospital pensioners. The one-armed men won.
The population of Worcester doubled between 1678 (10,000) and 1821 (20,000). This would normally indicate a prospering city, and while it is true that its status as a minor spa town did bring wealthy visitors, and all the splendid trappings of such wealth, to the city, this masked serious economic problems of the urban poor.
Areas like Bridgenorth and Kidderminster were growing in importance and diverting trade from Worcester. So while the local landed gentry and growing set of wealthy middle classes continued to make money outside the city, their investment in the city took the form of large mansions and town houses like those on Britannia Square, and the restoration of churches. Diversifying and developing the cities manufacturing base and infrastructure were somewhat neglected. Most workers were involved in the clothing industry which gave a very poor return for labour and there was stiff competition.
The poverty didn’t go unnoticed, however, and the local Whig professional classes tried to make improvements. Dr Wall set up the Worcester Porcelain Works in 1751 in order to try and reduce local unemployment and, along with pioneering Bishop Isaac Maddox, he founded the cities first infirmary on Silver Street – one of only seven such buildings outside London. This was succeeded by the Worcester General Infirmary in 1771 – the seat where Sir Charles Hastings later founded what was to become the British Medical Association.
The underlying economic fragility is shown as the size of the city in the early 19th century was the same as it had been in the later medieval period – its vastly bigger population living in increasingly squalid conditions.
Meanwhile, at the Commandery
An additional wing was added to the Commandery in this period, including a new set of windows which, given the tax on window glass at this time, would have been an ostentatious sign of wealth.
Records show that John Dandridge, an attorney at law and prominent man in the local property business, purchased a portion of The Commandery from the Wyldes for £917.00 in 1764.
The Dandridge’s only had a brief period of assumed happy living at The Commandery. Daughter Emelia Letitia died at the tender age of five in 1768, quickly followed by son Robert aged just three months old. In 1770, Mrs Dandridge died at around the age of thirty three, leaving John to care for five children. A notice in the July 26th edition of the Berrows Journal reads “On Friday last died at the Commandery in this City, Mrs Dandridge, wife of John Dandridge Esq. and one of the daughters of the Right Honourable Sir John Strange. The many amiable qualities she possessed endeared her to her relations and acquaintances, and make her death most truly regretted by them all.”
The Dandridge’s continued to live at the Commandery until 1806 when Richard Muggmence took occupancy.
In the same year that the Dandridge’s bought into the Commandery, Joseph Harris, a wool merchant, bought property adjacent to it from the Wyldes for £915. Just a year later, he also purchased the canal wing of The Commandery – possibly to lease as industrial units.
Another family associated to The Commandery at this time was the Camerons. They leased most of the garden wing from the Dandridge family. Thomas Cameron was a doctor. Originally from Edinburgh, he settled in Worcester as his family had Jacobite sympathies and Thomas presumably found England a more favourable place to live.
Thomas’ first wife Elizabeth endured a long illness. He later wrote about her suffering, and about their love and devotion to one another. She made her husband promise that, on her death, he would marry her friend Barbara Anne Plowden to which he agreed. The wedding took place exactly a week after Elizabeth’s death. Barbara Ann and Thomas had five children.