Do you know where your money is invested?

Worcester Old Bank dates back to 1772, but became a Worcester institution after its founder Joseph Berwick married his daughter Mary to Anthony Lechmere in 1787. Berwick brought his son-in-law into the business as a partner and eventually, the two families merged into the very respectable Worcester banking partnership of Berwick, Lechmere & Co.

Berwick’s success enabled him to build a new manor house at Hallow Park in the 1790s. But his business also had interests far from home: a mortgage holding on an estate in the Virgin Islands.

The Worcester Old Bank went from strength to strength – not suffering after Berwick’s death in 1798 – and the family moved in the best circles in Worcestershire. Lechmere was created a baronet in 1818 shortly after meeting with the Prince of Wales (later George IV) who was said to be much struck with Lechmere’s abilities. His son, Edmund Hungerford Lechmere, married the Hon Maria-Clara Murray, Maid of Honour to Queen Charlotte, the following year.

Berwick Lechmere Bankers first appeared in the London Gazette in 1844, demonstrating their solid reputation. After Lechmere’s death in 1849, the company continued to expand prudently to serve the financial needs of the people of Worcester. In 1862 a handsome new Worcester City and County Bank premises was unveiled on the Cross, Worcester. It became a limited company shortly after and this change facilitated more expansion. Over the next 30 years, 24 branches would open, serving the many farming and business families in Worcestershire and surrounding counties. Finally in 1889, the bank merged with Lloyds who still operate a branch from that 1862 building on the Cross. This cheque in Worcester’s museum collection dates from that final decade of the Worcester Old Bank before it became part of Lloyds.

Between his elevation to the baronetcy and the transfer of his bank to his son, Lechmere, in common with many hundreds of wealthy Britons, was in 1836 awarded compensation for the loss of an investment in the Caribbean. In Lechmere’s case this was £4,089 10s 3d – the price assessed as the loss of 286 people enslaved on an estate in the Virgin Islands: that mortgage interest that had belonged to his father-in-law.

While the 1807 Slave Trade Act had abolished the slave trade and halted the passage of slave ships from England across the Atlantic, it wasn’t until a quarter of a century later that ownership of slaves became illegal across the British Empire. Their exploitation continued to be core to maintaining profitable sugar plantations. It was not until the passing of the 1833 Slavery Abolition Act that slaves across the Empire finally gained a slow (up to seven-year) process towards freedom.

The 1833 Act also set out a plan to compensate those who owned slaves. The British government borrowed £20 million (about 5% of GDP at the time) to finance this programme. About half of these compensation payments were to families living in Britain who, like Lechmere, were not themselves active in the slave trade or as plantation owners but who held investments in the Caribbean whose profitability relied on slavery; these ranged from high society figures to the provincial landed gentry and even to clergymen.

Lechmere’s story can be read through the Parliamentary papers of the time, and through his business archives now held by Lloyds Bank. By contrast, the lives of the 286 black slaves were not recorded and can’t be shared, all history passes on to us is that assessment of their worth as an asset.

Worcester Mayor Henry Clifton on show

Henry Clifton was the Mayor of Worcester from September 1831 to August 1832. He held that office and oversaw the local response to the Worcester riots of November 1831 (a protest for labourers democratic rights that spread across the country, with particular bloodshed in Bristol), in recognition of which he was presented to King William IV.

The Worcester Herald, of Saturday 19th July 1834, carried a report on the first exhibition at the Worcester Athenaeum which featured this portrait. In the description of the works on show, the following entry notes:

94. – Portrait of Henry Clifton, Esq. in oil; wearing dark cloak, trimmed with reddish fur; the head well drawn; the features intelligent; the light and shadow broad, and the colouring mellow; the hands introduced, but not so firmly drawn; the general effect good, and the likeness highly creditable to the painter – 12th July 1834.

The painter was Frederick Thomas Lines (26th July 1808–10th April 1898), a well-regarded pupil of Sir Thomas Lawrence.

Frederick was one of five sons of Samuel Lines, all of whom were active in the Birmingham art scene. The oldest, HH, lived in Worcester for much of his life and the City has a fine collection of his work.

Samuel, the father, studied drawing at Joseph Barber’s Birmingham academy, and in 1807 opened his own drawing school. He was a much respected tutor, with classes notoriously starting at 5am. With a group of other artists, he went on to found a larger academy which eventually evolved into the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, one of the oldest art societies in England.

The portrait, like that of many other mayors of Worcester throughout history, now hangs in Worcester’s Guildhall.


Thanks to Kieran Owens, one of Art UK’s Art Detectives, for his research on this painting

Canal Scene by Trevor Owen Makinson (1926-1992)

Trevor Makinson was born in Southport, Lancashire and attended Hereford School of Art and Slade School of Fine Art.

He had strong connections with Hereford as a young man, being a member of the Farmer’s Club and showing with Herefordshire Arts and Crafts and Wye Valley Art Society.

Makinson was a confident artist right from his early days – he was an exhibitor at Royal Academy from 1943, he had a series of solo shows at Hereford Art Gallery from 1944 and it was probably from one of these that this painting was purchased when he was only 19 or 20. This sweet, gentle scene must have been a reassuring purchase by Worcester City Art Gallery’s museum committee just at the end of the Second World War.

Makinson was encouraged by Dame Laura Knight, who spent the Second World War in Malvern. She once described him as ‘an unrepentant adherent of the traditional representational school of British painters.’

Makinson went on to lecture at Glasgow’s School of Art and held a professorial chair at the University of Glasgow. His work started to experiment and develop a little more. More of his paintings (including some great self-portraits) by Makinson are held in museums across the UK and can be explored on ArtUK.

HMS Worcester

HMS Worcester was one of sixty-seven V and W Class destroyers in the British Navy, most serving in both world wars. Worcester was one of the last to be ordered in April 1918, built at Cowes and then launched in October 1919 so unlike many of her sister ships, she never saw active service in the First World War.

When built, these ships were the most advanced in the world and went on to be reliable, speedy and well-armed destroyers. Originally they were planned to be deployed in flotillas of 16, working together in fast, armed attacks. However early-twentieth-century communications were not sophisticated enough for this to be successful, so the flotillas were reduced to eight, including one larger ship with the flotilla’s senior officer and his staff on board.

By the Second World War, the V&Ws were used mainly as convoy escorts, although they could also engage with the enemy including submarines when needed. Some were converted to give them extra fuel stowage and became slower Long Range Escorts, others including HMS Worcester were designated as Short Range Escorts. Worcester reported for duty in September 1939 as part of the 16th Destroyer Flotilla and was put into service for escort and patrol in the English Channel.

The V&Ws working together were an essential and effective part of the heroic evacuations from Northern France in May 1940. HMS Worcester made six trips to Dunkirk as part of Operation Dynamo, rescuing 4,350 troops and bringing them back to Britain.

Worcester’s darkest hour was as part of the Channel Dash in February 1942. The German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the cruiser Prinz Eugen decided to take the direct route back to German ports from their station at Brest in Brittany. This meant travelling through the English Channel, where British forces believed they could stop them.

The operation was chaotic and unsuccessful with both the RAF and the Navy suffering many losses of men. HMS Worcester was the last in line as part of a torpedo attack and pushed in too close before firing. She was hit, lost bridge communications and power, and received six hits in total as she drifted. The ship was on fire and taking on water and the order ‘Prepare to Abandon Ship’ was given. Some aboard heard this as ‘Abandon Ship’ and went straight into the water. Her sister ships managed to pick up some of these sailors but some were swept away as the remaining flotilla swerved to avoid torpedos.

The German fleet soon ceased fire – assuming HMS Worcester was about to sink – and moved on through the Channel. Slowly Worcester’s crew managed to get one boiler going and enough water pumped out to enable her to move. The boiler had to use seawater and the crew jettisoned everything they could to keep the ship light enough to stay afloat. Somehow she limped back to Harwich.

26 men had been killed or fatally wounded and 45 were injured. HMS Worcester was able to be repaired and was pressed back into service. She was again badly damaged after detonating a mine in the North Sea in December 1943. This time she was considered too damaged to repair. Her final days of the war were spent as an accommodation ship and then she was broken up in February 1947.


In 1941-42, the people of Great Britain were asked to invest in war savings equivalent to the cost of building a new Navy vessel through an initiative called Warship Weeks. The residents of Worcester raised the enormous £769,173 in their Warship Week in March 1942, shortly after HMS Worcester’s tragic involvement in the Channel Dash. The City then formally adopted HMS Worcester and its crew. As with many other communities, Worcester’s sea cadet unit took on the name of the adopted ship after the war.


This painting of HMS Worcester was presented to the City of Worcester by the V&W Destroyer Association and hangs in the Guildhall. The Citys civic collection also includes the ship’s bell.

The V&W Destroyer Association was a group of those who served on these ships. They have collated many first-hand accounts of HMS Worcester, which can be read on their website.

Uncovering part of the original museum

The recent restoration and renewal work to the foyer at Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum uncovered a rather dusty but impressive Norton System pneumatic door closer made by William Newman & Sons. We believe this is likely to be original to the building, which first opened in 1896.

This lovely piece of metalwork allowed the door into the original reference library to close gently, without slamming. The door closer was first patented in 1813. The Norton referenced in this model’s name came from Boston, USA, who invented a closer to stop his church’s door slamming using air pressure rather than springs.

William Newman & Sons Ltd was a long-standing metal-working factory, starting in Wolverhampton in 1750 before moving to Birmingham in the 1820s. It specialised in door closers and two brands it first launched in the early 20th century – Briton and Vanguard – can still be spotted on many office doors today.


Thanks to Paul Collins, Worcester City’s Conservation Officer for his research on this discovery. 


Thomas Brock, one of Worcester’s most successful artists, was born in the City on the 1st March 1847.  He was the son of a local painter and decorator, William Brock, and together with his mother Catherine and elder sister Mary, lived at premises in St Paul’s Street and later Sidbury Place.

At an early age he began to show an interest in drawing and painting and when he was 10 years old he became a pupil of the School of Design in Pierpoint Street.  This institution produced many fine artists such as Benjamin Williams Leader and Edward Davis, along with local sculptors T Brown (who at the time was considered Brock’s superior) and porcelain modeller James Hadley.  He worked very hard at school often staying on extra hours and for his reward he won six medals, a book prize and a box of colours.

After leaving the school of design he signed up as an apprentice modeller for Kerr & Binns porcelain works where he completed his indenture.  His grandfather Joseph Brock was also a porcelain worker employed at Graingers Factory, and many people thought that this is where Sir Thomas took his artistic talents from.

At the age of 19 he went to London to work in the studio of John Henry Foley, and 1867 entered the Royal Academy Schools and a year later first exhibited at the Royal Academy, where in 1869 he won the Gold medal for his group – Herculus strangling Antaeus.  Foley died in 1874 and it was left for Brock to complete several unfinished commissions which included two statues that now stand in Dublin – Daniel O’Connell and Lord Gough, as well as Lord Canning in Calcutta.

In 1876 Brock and his wife Sarah, whom he had married in 1869, moved into Foleys’ empty studio in number 30, Osnaburgh Street, London, and it was from here that he executed most of his famous pieces including The Black Prince, Captain Cook and The Titanic Memorial.  For a time Lord Leighton, another famous sculptor, shared the studio as they had become great friends. Many of the top aristocracy of the time visited Sir Thomas at his studios, these included Queen Victoria herself and in later years King Edward VII and George V and his wife were also known to have called in.

Brock was a leading sculptor of this era and was one of the founder members of gifted artists that set up the British School of Sculpture.  He became famous for his busts, of which over 50 were made, several of which are now in the Worcester City collection including this one of Sir Douglas Galton, a prominent engineer from Worcestershire, Sir Charles Hastings and Earl Dudley.  Other sitters included Foley, Leighton, Rowland Hill and Queen Victoria. He also created many statues in cities both here and abroad including Sir S.S. Bengallee in Bombay, Gladstone in Liverpool, Bishop Hervey in Wells Cathedral and throughout London Gainsborough, Sir Richard Owen and many others.  He was also well represented locally with Richard Baxter and Rowland Hill in Kidderminster along with Bishop Philpott and Queen Victoria in the City of Worcester. He was commissioned to do many memorials and tombs and his crowning glory was The Victoria Memorial outside Buckingham Palace which led to his Knighthood in 1911.

As well as traditional sculpture, Brock will also be remembered for his sculpted designs of medals and coins including the highly acclaimed coinage of 1893. The Jubilee of 1887 was proving very unpopular with society including the Queen herself and in 1891 an advisory committee was set up to discuss the design of a new coinage. Artists from the Royal Academy were asked to submit their designs and the result was that Brock was awarded the task of sculpting the heads and tails of the new regal coinage.  These would be eventually minted in 1893 and were known as Old Head coins, many saying this was the best portrait of Queen Victoria to appear on British coinage. His initials T.B can be found beneath the Queens shoulders.

After leaving his native Worcester, Sir Thomas seldom returned, but he did visit in 1913 when he addressed the students at the Art School at the Victoria Institute. He was given the Freedom of the City in a packed Guildhall in the same year.

In 1905 Brock moved to Merrieweathers, a property in Mayfield, East Sussex where he continued his work until his death in 1922.  He left a wife and nine children and is buried in the Parish Church of Mayfield where his grave can be seen inscribed SINC MOMENTO ARTES QUAS PROFULIT.   

Research by Garston Phillips

Rediscovering The Angler

This watercolour, The Angler by David Cox, came into the Worcester City museum collection in 1915 as part of a large bequest from the Reverend and Mrs Sale of Holt. The Reverend Sale knew the artist David Cox personally and purchased several works directly from the Cox family. David Cox was born and trained in Birmingham and spent several years as a struggling artist teaching drawing in Hereford. He began to flourish as an artist during his 40s and by the time of his death in 1859 he was considered one of Britain’s greatest watercolourists.

This painting was lost for many years, until a selection of British watercolours were being prepared for an exhibition in the art gallery. During the move, one of the pictures suffered a crack to the glass. The broken glass was carefully removed, the picture taken from its frame and behind it was this; another picture. This was the missing David Cox picture from The Sale Bequest collection… it had been hidden for over half a century.

Wartime Christmas Cake from Stork Wartime Cookery

This Wartime Christmas cake recipe comes from the Stork Wartime Cookery Book by Susan Croft, published by the Stork margarine company in London, 1946, from Worcester City museum’s fascinating social history collection.

Stork margarine was launched in Britain in the 1920s and its fame grew during WWII, when access to items such as meat and dairy were strictly rationed. The Stork cookery service was launched to provide recipes for housewives on how to produce good food despite the rationing whilst advertising Stork products as a dairy alternative for each recipe. It also contains useful sections on “How to save your dinner if air-raids come” (hint – first turn off the cooker), how to make “Emergency Bread” if transport difficulties hold up bakery deliveries, and how to save money by using different cuts of meat such as tripe and even brains.

This recipe is relatively indulgent in comparison and much more enticing – a Christmas cake that could be sent to friends or family in the forces. Three different decoration styles are suggested depending on whether your cake is intended for a soldier, a sailor or an airman. The navy recipe comes first, ‘as befits the senior service,’ according to the recipe.

Charlie Fothergill

A Lost Generation

This photograph in Worcester City’s collection shows the triumphant HJ George, romping home as winner in the Open Half-Mile, at the Worcester Royal Grammar School’s 1915 sports day.

For ‘open’ events, all students were allowed to participate, with the younger boys being given head starts based a sliding scale in yards. George, being in his last year at the school, started from ‘scratch’ (without any advantage).

The school magazine tells us that for the annual sports day on 20 May, 1915 “the weather conditions were splendid and the events were keenly contested”. Although it mentions the event was held quietly “owing to the War”, it was not until several editions later that the magazine starts to list pages of casualties. A year into the First World War, the enormous impact it would have on this generation of young men was still ahead.

In the Half-Mile (Open) George, running from scratch, covered the course in good style, and had little difficulty in obtaining first place. Bakewell (scr.) was second, with Maund (10 yds.) and Johnson (10 yds.) third and fourth respectively.”

George also came second in the Open Quarter-Mile, and Woolfe House was particularly pleased that through his efforts they managed to beat School House in the Grammar School’s cricket tournament that year. Cyril Hemus from School House and George opened the batting for the school cricket team and most sporting matters saw them up against each other. Hemus won many of the 1915 annual sports track and field events, and had also won the school heavyweight boxing and the fives competition that year. He scored a perfect 115 points in the 1915 Officer Training Corps shooting competition.

Both boys would join artillery regiments after leaving school – George to the Royal Garrison Artillery and Hemus initially to the Artist Rifles and then to the Royal Field Artillery. George was wounded in early 1918 but survived the war, coming back to the school’s annual sports day in 1919 to take fourth place in the 220-yard old boys’ race.

Hemus was never able to take up the scholarship he won in Natural Sciences at Brasenose College, Oxford. He died of wounds sustained in action in France in March 1918 and was awarded the Military Cross “for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When the Battery was in action and being subjected to a most intense gas-shell bombardment, his courage and coolness were most marked, and by constant supervision he ensured that all gas masks were kept adjusted with the result that no casualties were caused owing to gas”.