CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Cotswold Life today CLICK HERE

Pershore Abbey, Worcestershire

PUBLISHED: 17:18 04 February 2010 | UPDATED: 14:35 20 February 2013

Perthshore Abbey in Abbey Park, dominated by its early 14th-century tower

Perthshore Abbey in Abbey Park, dominated by its early 14th-century tower

Pershore is dominated by its abbey, now the parish church, by blossom in season, and by an overwhelming sense of Regency. <br/><br/>Words and photography by Mark Child

Pershore is all about its abbey. The abbey is all about its lantern tower and the vaulted presbytery or nave that was formerly the choir. Of course, there is more to this little town than this amazing survival of its Benedictine association; but, superficially at least, there is no doubt that many people come to see what remains of the Norman abbey of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Edburgha. The latter was the granddaughter of King Alfred, and it was after her relics were brought to Pershore, thereby establishing the abbey on the pilgrim 'A' list with the usual flurry of miracles claimed thereafter, that SS Peter and Paul were dropped from the original dedication, in her favour.


The whole economy and structure of Pershore devolved on its abbey, which was a Saxon foundation. In 861, King Ethelred confirmed a land charter on Pershore Abbey that had apparently been granted during the reign of Coenwulf of Mercia, earlier in the ninth century; Pershore Abbey is said to have been founded on it by St Oswald in 689, but to have fallen on difficult times in the tenth century. The Benedictines came to the abbey in 972, it was destroyed by Aelfhere c976, but was up and running again within seven years or so. Fire destroyed the Saxon building in 1002, and a new church was financed by Aelfhere's son, Earl Odda, who was eventually buried there himself in 1056.


In the eleventh century too, Edward the Confessor appropriated some of the Pershore Benedictines' possessions in the town, which he bestowed on his newly created abbey at Westminster. This put the matter of trade in Pershore into some hiatus, and exactly which abbey controlled various rights became a matter of conjecture. So too, over the years, were there squabbles about the relative responsibilities of the competing abbeys in the religious buildings at Pershore.


At Domesday, it was the Abbey of Westminster that had the borough of Pershore. The former nave at Pershore, which was used by the townspeople before the Dissolution, contained the altar of Holy Cross. When the monastery came down and the nave was destroyed, the citizens of Pershore paid 400 for what was left to the east of the crossing, moved in and took Holy Cross with them. The Dissolution seemed to sideline the town, and any independent economic recovery was slow; not until the mid-1700s did it show signs of prosperity.


Visually, Pershore Abbey is a golden gem, set in the green cushion of parkland that was once the site of the whole abbey - whose full extent we do not know - and the range of canonical buildings associated with it. It had its misfortunes: the abbey and a large section of the town was burnt in 1223, it suffered storm damage in 1269, and there was another fire that affected the building in 1288. It was then that the Norman tower came down, bringing with it the presbytery roof. At the Dissolution, the last abbot, John Stonywell, handed it over in 1539, and the usual destruction ensued. In the following centuries, appropriated stones, gargoyles, moulded capitals, etc. from the old abbey became a convenient source of materials for new building projects around the town, and some of this can still be seen.


What remains is the great crossing tower of c1335, built on the arches of the Norman tower that preceded it; the presbytery of five bays, with foliated capitals, single-course clerestory and triforium, and vaulted roof of c1420; two lateral chapels; the early Norman south transept; part of the north transept; and the apsidal sacrarium that was built in 1847 on the site of the former Lady Chapel. Its treasures are numerous. "See if you can spot the green man," said the lady in charge of bookstall and visitor watching when we called, "and don't crane your necks; do use the mirror." It is a good idea because, fifty-two feet from the floor of the church, there are forty-one medieval bosses. The green man hides in the second large boss - some three feet in diameter - from the west end. The church was restored by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1864.


Outside the abbey, in the spring, there is a colourful reminder that Pershore is one of the delights on that thoroughly modern visitor attraction, the Blossom Trail. Indeed, until well into the 19th century, gardening was the principal occupation in the town; there was a large area of gardens adjacent to the abbey grounds, and, in the vicinity, upwards of five hundred acres devoted to growing a wide range of soft fruit. The area has traditionally been one for market gardening, and one in which the resident population has for generations been swelled by seasonal workers as various products came to be harvested. Between March and May, the blossom that illuminates this part of Worcestershire - the Vale of Evesham - was historically that of apple and pear trees. These days, however, the blooms that link Pershore with churches everywhere are delphiniums and cornflowers, grown by Charles Hudson on the Wyke Manor estate. Six generations ago, this thousand-acre family farm had 148 permanent workers on it; eight years ago, there were just three.


Ten years ago, Charles was looking to diversify from wholly arable, when he was struck by the idea that real petals would be a much better alternative to artificial confetti, which is banned at Pershore Abbey, and, increasingly, at churches all around the country. Now, he has sixteen acres devoted to growing a range of flowers, of which the delphinium predominates, providing the raw material for his Real Flower Petal Confetti Company. This has five full-time employees, involved in what Charles describes as 'natural products, naturally processed'. Especially grown roses provide the company with petals, which have to be freeze-dried to retain their original colours.


In season, an army of casual workers moves about the colourful fields, picking the blooms that make up the thousands of bespoke orders the company now gets for colour-coordinated natural confetti. There are some two hundred seasonal pickers on the company's books, and on any day between the last week of June and the end of July, about fifty of these will be in the fields. Typically, they pick 16,000 pints of petals - enough to fill two hundred two-foot cube boxes. Sometimes, Charles plants in a particular design; for example, the RAF emblem, with a heart in the centre, for the RAF Benevolent Fund; and the four-acre Union Jack, which made it into the Guinness Book of Records for the largest carpet of flowers. Visitors to the confetti fields - and there were around 9,000 last year - help to raise money for charities.


In 1827, the Pershore Yellow Egg plum was discovered by George Crooke in Tiddesley Wood. Within six years, it was being grown commercially. There is also the Pershore Purple plum, now more than a century old, to be reckoned with, and the Pershore Emblem plum discovered by Ged Witts on his allotment, and launched in 2000. The Pershore Purple was produced from the Pershore Yellow Egg, as were other varieties. These were at the heart of a century-long plum industry hereabouts, which had all but expired by the 1960s.


Plums were central to the Pershore Flower Show from 1875, when it was first organised. The town's connection with the fruit culminates in the annual Plum Fayre, held on August Bank Holiday Monday - in 2007, on 27 August - which this year will include craft and art exhibitions, musical attractions, boat trips on the River Avon, and a Gardeners' Question Time.


Tiddesley Wood, carpeted by bluebells in May, is another good reason to visit Pershore. Throughout the year, it is brimming with fauna and flora, and, from the meadows about it, there are fine views of the town. The Worcestershire Wildlife Trust took over the 185-acre woodland site about twenty-five years ago, when it bought the freehold from the Church Commissioners, as well as a long lease held by the Forestry Commission. The Trust has since managed the area as a broadleaf and conifer nature reserve, open to the public. Each May, the Trust's South East Worcestershire Group holds the Tiddesley Wood Spring Open Day, when they give guided walks, organise bug hunts, have live music on site, and offer selections of gifts and crafts. It was here, last year, that the Worcestershire Friends of the Earth held a poll into who members of the public thought was primarily responsible for tackling issues affecting climate change.


Plums are also in evidence here, for the WWT obtained a grant to restore a field, adjacent to its wood, which contains one of the oldest plum orchards remaining in the vale of Evesham. Plum trees have been there for eighty years, but natural decay means that they are gradually disintegrating. This is good news, at least in the short term, for the noble chafer; this rare and disappearing beetle lives in association with the fungi and decay found in old fruit orchards, and has set up home in the plum trees at Tiddesley Wood. Some years ago, the beetle became the subject of a national biodiversity action plan, aimed at keeping it going.


Keeping the beetle happy in Tiddesley Wood has involved the Trust's South East Worcestershire Group, over the last three years, in funding and planting some three dozen plum trees where terminal decay had left gaps. This year, another one hundred new plum trees have been planted alongside the old orchard in order to ensure a continued succession of desirable habitats for the noble chafer. The Worcestershire Wildlife Trust obtained a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to carry out the work, and a donation from the JS Lewis Foundation - set up to commemorate the founder of the John Lewis Partnership - enabled new trees to be bought.


The River Avon runs to the east of the town, and is crossed, side by side, by two bridges, where there has been a ford since Saxon times. One is a modern structure that was built in 1926. The other is a six-arched, medieval, stone-built bridge that dates from 1413, when it was erected by the monks of Pershore Abbey to succeed a wooden structure that carried the old way into Pershore across the river. It has been much repaired and restored, and was resurfaced to take carriage wheels in the eighteenth century. Some of the patching up in the arches is due to damage sustained in an action of 1644, when Royalists, on their way to Worcester, destroyed a section so that the Parliamentarian army could not follow them. Stone used at the time was said to come from the ruins of Elmley Castle.


This is now a picturesque spot with a small car park, within easy walking distance of the town centre. All manner of wildfowl and riverside creatures can be seen from the picnic area, leisure craft pass by, and there are fine walks alongside the river. Fishing is available here, and there are moorings for pleasure craft.


Pershore is predominantly a brick-built market town, with a main street that was almost entirely either rebuilt or re-fronted in the 18th century. Its buildings are mostly two-storeys high, with some nice three-storey Georgian or Regency faades; almost all of the buildings in High Street are now either public buildings or engaged in commerce or trade. Few are earlier than the seventeenth century, although there is some older timber framing to be seen from alleyways and backs. Much of this is to the rear of High Street and Bridge Street, where the plots of land run as far as the river, on which there are private moorings. Some of the buildings in High Street still have timber-framed sections inside. There is a timber-framed barn, possibly 17th-century, that has been converted to residential, and, close to the abbey, the former almonry building - now also residential - that was restored in 1973 by the Worcestershire Historic Buildings Conservation Trust. Many of the town's properties are listed, and, overall, Pershore has been recognised by the Council for British Archaeology as being one of fifty-one in England deemed to be of major historic importance.


Because central Pershore is relatively small, it is possible to see all of its retail and architectural attractions, and not go away with a sense of having left something out. Market rights were granted to the Abbey at Pershore by King Edgar in 972. Most of the retail and commercial interest there is found in High Street, Bridge Street, Church Street, and Broad Street, which is essentially the old market place. This was opened up, 1836-7, when a number of ancient houses were demolished at its east end, thereby allowing it to connect with the main thoroughfare. Street markets continue to be held in the Broad Street car park, and the town also has a covered retail market that opens between Wednesday and Saturday.


Ornamental Regency balconies are an attractive feature of the town centre. When combined with old shop frontages - as at W.L. Brown, the traditional-style ironmonger, and beauty products retailer Ogles next door - they are an absolute delight. Almost opposite, on the corner with Broad Street, there is another range which acts as a terrace for the patrons of Whistler's restaurant and wine bar, giving them a decent view of the Georgian square and the abbey's tower. This building was formerly the Three Tuns Hotel, allegedly a stopping-off place for the young Princess Victoria in 1830. There is another cast-iron balcony of note on Bedford House, across the road.


Broad Street, giving access to the abbey church as well as the adjacent church of St Andrew, clearly developed as a fashionable quarter, and it still retains an air of buzzing activity. At one corner is the Baptist Church founded in 1658; it was built up in 1843 and has a conservatively polychromatic faade of 1888. There are some independent traders here, and access to the town's small shopping precincts; there are also some handsome three-storey, three-bay Regency residences. This residential symmetry is so visually pleasing; the windows have large, wedge-shaped keystones, some bow windows, and triangular-headed doorways that, like the occasional serpentine walls that one comes across, are something of a feature. They are also to be found in Bridge Street. This continuation of the main shopping centre is nonetheless mostly commercial and residential, but is worth walking along for the several classical doorways built into the 18th-century frontages; several have various decoratively glazed lunette fanlights beneath open triangular pediments.


The Star Inn dates from c1470 and has gardens that run down to the Avon. Once, it was the coaching house for horses and travellers on the route between London and Aberystwyth and it comes with the ghost of a young coachman who is said to have died from a fall from his horse in the archway. It also has heavy oak beams and an ancient hand-carved staircase. Next door, is the Brandy Cask, which was patched up following a fatal crash on it by a Wellington bomber in 1943. The original building here was possibly a riverside warehouse for wool; its deeds date from 1779, when it was a residential property with premises at the rear for bottling beers, wines and spirits. The present owner has a collection of such bottles beginning with 18th-century examples. The property was owned by the same family from 1779 until 1920, when it became a hostelry. The integrated Brandy Cask Brewing Company brews two or three beers for sale in the pub, including Brandysnapper, which is a local favourite.


Perrott House, built c1770 in Broad Street, is considered to be the finest residence in the town. It is also of three storeys and three bays, with a Venetian doorway, Venetian windows in the two lower stages, and square-headed tripartite windows to the upper level. The central bay is pedimented.


Nothing in Pershore is on a large scale, but the whole town bustles. You will find that most of the free car parking in the centre is restricted to two hours, but there is nothing to stop you from moving your vehicle about the various sites. The style of its retail is very much geared to the resident population, for whom it caters comprehensively, if modestly; it has numerous independent shops bearing names that are unknown outside the town; and, as far as I can tell, only one of its several charity shops is a national organisation. It is pleasantly old-fashioned in its approach to trade, and there is a fair smattering of gift shops and arts and crafts shops that visitors expect to find in our country towns.


Exactly where the town sees itself in history is displayed in several rooms at the Heritage Centre adjacent to the town hall, and you will need to mount stairs and go in a rather small lift to see it all. Much of the collection relates to the town's story during the twentieth century, and in particular the war years. One of the main exhibits recalls the fatal Wellington bomber crash of 1943 in Bridge Street, where a plaque commemorates the incident on site. Another devolves on the air force station at Pershore; there is information about the women's land army; the work of the Women's Voluntary Service is remembered; and the town's connection with HMS Scimitar - launched 1919, scrapped 1947 - is described. Pershore RDC 'adopted' this 'S'-Class destroyer during the Second World War, when she took part in the evacuation from Dunkirk. There are many detailed models, such as a lifeboat, and carts and wagons; much by way of photographs and memorabilia; exhibits about the traditional craft industries that took place in the town; some relicts of Victorian Pershore; and a replica kitchen. The Heritage Centre is staffed and operated by volunteers of the Pershore Heritage and History Society, and is open between Wednesdays and Saturdays from Good Friday until the end of October.


Pershore's past is well looked after in the modern interior of the town hall building, whereas the town's new venue for contemporary arts is housed in Portland House, High Street, which was built in 1760 as a fine residence for a wealthy merchant. The building had been variously in trade since 1895, latterly in conjunction with the Pershore Theatre Arts Association, whose joint funding arrangements with the Wychavon District Council required them to raise sufficient capital to convert the building into an arts centre. This was achieved with additional aid from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the Number 8 Community Arts Centre now has a contemporary 250-seat auditorium, a dance studio, exhibition space, training room, box office and caf bar. It has a restored brick and stone faade, and Georgian windows, whilst its modern ornamental balcony is wholly in keeping with those of eighteenth-century Pershore nearby. In 2005, the project won a Distinction in Building Award, and was the winner of the Action for Market Towns Award as the most outstanding national project in all categories. For a full programme of events, visit www.number 8.org.


St Andrew's church, opposite the abbey, was originally built at the time of Edward the Confessor. It was for the use of the Abbot of Westminster's tenants, who were effectively not welcome at Pershore Abbey once its lands had been acquired by Westminster and the tenants no longer paid rent to the local abbot. The present structure dates from 1147 and has a Perpendicular tower. The church was appropriated by the abbey of Pershore in 1241, and the grant was confirmed in 1327. It was deconsecrated in 1972 and now, having been internally remodelled, serves as a parish hall, and as a visitor centre during the summer season. The walkway through the churchyard leads into a garden that includes modern sculpture, and continues beside the new town hall into High Street.


There is a part of Pershore that is very much about gardens and gardening. This is Pershore College, the first to be chosen as a Royal Horticultural Society Centre, and recent winner of the Green Gown award as Britain's greenest college, given for its 'exemplar of good practice in all things environmental and sustainable'. For example, green waste is composted, the use of peat has dropped to a very low level, and rainwater is collected in a huge reservoir to irrigate the commercial plant nursery. The RHS Centre on site offers free gardening advice by telephone from RHS advisor Bob Hares, and you can buy plants at the plant centre, which is open seven days a week.


Formal horticultural training was established in Pershore in 1893; some sixty years later, the first seventeen students arrived at the Avonbank site, which has since developed into a college with an international reputation. Past students include Charles Notcutt, now owner of the garden centre chain across East Anglia, the Midlands and the South-East, and Chris Beardshaw, who has made a name for himself with television series like The Flying Gardener and Hidden Gardens. Pershore College has won five gold medals for horticulture and garden design, nine silvers and silver gilts, and several 'best in show' awards at Chelsea, Malvern and other gardening events sponsored by the Royal Horticultural Society. You can learn more about Pershore College at www.pershore.ac.uk, where you can also join up for their regular gardening newsletter.












Pershore is all about its abbey. The abbey is all about its lantern tower and the vaulted presbytery or nave that was formerly the choir. Of course, there is more to this little town than this amazing survival of its Benedictine association; but, superficially at least, there is no doubt that many people come to see what remains of the Norman abbey of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Edburgha. The latter was the granddaughter of King Alfred, and it was after her relics were brought to Pershore, thereby establishing the abbey on the pilgrim 'A' list with the usual flurry of miracles claimed thereafter, that SS Peter and Paul were dropped from the original dedication, in her favour.


The whole economy and structure of Pershore devolved on its abbey, which was a Saxon foundation. In 861, King Ethelred confirmed a land charter on Pershore Abbey that had apparently been granted during the reign of Coenwulf of Mercia, earlier in the ninth century; Pershore Abbey is said to have been founded on it by St Oswald in 689, but to have fallen on difficult times in the tenth century. The Benedictines came to the abbey in 972, it was destroyed by Aelfhere c976, but was up and running again within seven years or so. Fire destroyed the Saxon building in 1002, and a new church was financed by Aelfhere's son, Earl Odda, who was eventually buried there himself in 1056.


In the eleventh century too, Edward the Confessor appropriated some of the Pershore Benedictines' possessions in the town, which he bestowed on his newly created abbey at Westminster. This put the matter of trade in Pershore into some hiatus, and exactly which abbey controlled various rights became a matter of conjecture. So too, over the years, were there squabbles about the relative responsibilities of the competing abbeys in the religious buildings at Pershore.


At Domesday, it was the Abbey of Westminster that had the borough of Pershore. The former nave at Pershore, which was used by the townspeople before the Dissolution, contained the altar of Holy Cross. When the monastery came down and the nave was destroyed, the citizens of Pershore paid 400 for what was left to the east of the crossing, moved in and took Holy Cross with them. The Dissolution seemed to sideline the town, and any independent economic recovery was slow; not until the mid-1700s did it show signs of prosperity.


Visually, Pershore Abbey is a golden gem, set in the green cushion of parkland that was once the site of the whole abbey - whose full extent we do not know - and the range of canonical buildings associated with it. It had its misfortunes: the abbey and a large section of the town was burnt in 1223, it suffered storm damage in 1269, and there was another fire that affected the building in 1288. It was then that the Norman tower came down, bringing with it the presbytery roof. At the Dissolution, the last abbot, John Stonywell, handed it over in 1539, and the usual destruction ensued. In the following centuries, appropriated stones, gargoyles, moulded capitals, etc. from the old abbey became a convenient source of materials for new building projects around the town, and some of this can still be seen.


What remains is the great crossing tower of c1335, built on the arches of the Norman tower that preceded it; the presbytery of five bays, with foliated capitals, single-course clerestory and triforium, and vaulted roof of c1420; two lateral chapels; the early Norman south transept; part of the north transept; and the apsidal sacrarium that was built in 1847 on the site of the former Lady Chapel. Its treasures are numerous. "See if you can spot the green man," said the lady in charge of bookstall and visitor watching when we called, "and don't crane your necks; do use the mirror." It is a good idea because, fifty-two feet from the floor of the church, there are forty-one medieval bosses. The green man hides in the second large boss - some three feet in diameter - from the west end. The church was restored by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1864.


Outside the abbey, in the spring, there is a colourful reminder that Pershore is one of the delights on that thoroughly modern visitor attraction, the Blossom Trail. Indeed, until well into the 19th century, gardening was the principal occupation in the town; there was a large area of gardens adjacent to the abbey grounds, and, in the vicinity, upwards of five hundred acres devoted to growing a wide range of soft fruit. The area has traditionally been one for market gardening, and one in which the resident population has for generations been swelled by seasonal workers as various products came to be harvested. Between March and May, the blossom that illuminates this part of Worcestershire - the Vale of Evesham - was historically that of apple and pear trees. These days, however, the blooms that link Pershore with churches everywhere are delphiniums and cornflowers, grown by Charles Hudson on the Wyke Manor estate. Six generations ago, this thousand-acre family farm had 148 permanent workers on it; eight years ago, there were just three.


Ten years ago, Charles was looking to diversify from wholly arable, when he was struck by the idea that real petals would be a much better alternative to artificial confetti, which is banned at Pershore Abbey, and, increasingly, at churches all around the country. Now, he has sixteen acres devoted to growing a range of flowers, of which the delphinium predominates, providing the raw material for his Real Flower Petal Confetti Company. This has five full-time employees, involved in what Charles describes as 'natural products, naturally processed'. Especially grown roses provide the company with petals, which have to be freeze-dried to retain their original colours.


In season, an army of casual workers moves about the colourful fields, picking the blooms that make up the thousands of bespoke orders the company now gets for colour-coordinated natural confetti. There are some two hundred seasonal pickers on the company's books, and on any day between the last week of June and the end of July, about fifty of these will be in the fields. Typically, they pick 16,000 pints of petals - enough to fill two hundred two-foot cube boxes. Sometimes, Charles plants in a particular design; for example, the RAF emblem, with a heart in the centre, for the RAF Benevolent Fund; and the four-acre Union Jack, which made it into the Guinness Book of Records for the largest carpet of flowers. Visitors to the confetti fields - and there were around 9,000 last year - help to raise money for charities.


In 1827, the Pershore Yellow Egg plum was discovered by George Crooke in Tiddesley Wood. Within six years, it was being grown commercially. There is also the Pershore Purple plum, now more than a century old, to be reckoned with, and the Pershore Emblem plum discovered by Ged Witts on his allotment, and launched in 2000. The Pershore Purple was produced from the Pershore Yellow Egg, as were other varieties. These were at the heart of a century-long plum industry hereabouts, which had all but expired by the 1960s.


Plums were central to the Pershore Flower Show from 1875, when it was first organised. The town's connection with the fruit culminates in the annual Plum Fayre, held on August Bank Holiday Monday - in 2007, on 27 August - which this year will include craft and art exhibitions, musical attractions, boat trips on the River Avon, and a Gardeners' Question Time.


Tiddesley Wood, carpeted by bluebells in May, is another good reason to visit Pershore. Throughout the year, it is brimming with fauna and flora, and, from the meadows about it, there are fine views of the town. The Worcestershire Wildlife Trust took over the 185-acre woodland site about twenty-five years ago, when it bought the freehold from the Church Commissioners, as well as a long lease held by the Forestry Commission. The Trust has since managed the area as a broadleaf and conifer nature reserve, open to the public. Each May, the Trust's South East Worcestershire Group holds the Tiddesley Wood Spring Open Day, when they give guided walks, organise bug hunts, have live music on site, and offer selections of gifts and crafts. It was here, last year, that the Worcestershire Friends of the Earth held a poll into who members of the public thought was primarily responsible for tackling issues affecting climate change.


Plums are also in evidence here, for the WWT obtained a grant to restore a field, adjacent to its wood, which contains one of the oldest plum orchards remaining in the vale of Evesham. Plum trees have been there for eighty years, but natural decay means that they are gradually disintegrating. This is good news, at least in the short term, for the noble chafer; this rare and disappearing beetle lives in association with the fungi and decay found in old fruit orchards, and has set up home in the plum trees at Tiddesley Wood. Some years ago, the beetle became the subject of a national biodiversity action plan, aimed at keeping it going.


Keeping the beetle happy in Tiddesley Wood has involved the Trust's South East Worcestershire Group, over the last three years, in funding and planting some three dozen plum trees where terminal decay had left gaps. This year, another one hundred new plum trees have been planted alongside the old orchard in order to ensure a continued succession of desirable habitats for the noble chafer. The Worcestershire Wildlife Trust obtained a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to carry out the work, and a donation from the JS Lewis Foundation - set up to commemorate the founder of the John Lewis Partnership - enabled new trees to be bought.


The River Avon runs to the east of the town, and is crossed, side by side, by two bridges, where there has been a ford since Saxon times. One is a modern structure that was built in 1926. The other is a six-arched, medieval, stone-built bridge that dates from 1413, when it was erected by the monks of Pershore Abbey to succeed a wooden structure that carried the old way into Pershore across the river. It has been much repaired and restored, and was resurfaced to take carriage wheels in the eighteenth century. Some of the patching up in the arches is due to damage sustained in an action of 1644, when Royalists, on their way to Worcester, destroyed a section so that the Parliamentarian army could not follow them. Stone used at the time was said to come from the ruins of Elmley Castle.


This is now a picturesque spot with a small car park, within easy walking distance of the town centre. All manner of wildfowl and riverside creatures can be seen from the picnic area, leisure craft pass by, and there are fine walks alongside the river. Fishing is available here, and there are moorings for pleasure craft.


Pershore is predominantly a brick-built market town, with a main street that was almost entirely either rebuilt or re-fronted in the 18th century. Its buildings are mostly two-storeys high, with some nice three-storey Georgian or Regency faades; almost all of the buildings in High Street are now either public buildings or engaged in commerce or trade. Few are earlier than the seventeenth century, although there is some older timber framing to be seen from alleyways and backs. Much of this is to the rear of High Street and Bridge Street, where the plots of land run as far as the river, on which there are private moorings. Some of the buildings in High Street still have timber-framed sections inside. There is a timber-framed barn, possibly 17th-century, that has been converted to residential, and, close to the abbey, the former almonry building - now also residential - that was restored in 1973 by the Worcestershire Historic Buildings Conservation Trust. Many of the town's properties are listed, and, overall, Pershore has been recognised by the Council for British Archaeology as being one of fifty-one in England deemed to be of major historic importance.


Because central Pershore is relatively small, it is possible to see all of its retail and architectural attractions, and not go away with a sense of having left something out. Market rights were granted to the Abbey at Pershore by King Edgar in 972. Most of the retail and commercial interest there is found in High Street, Bridge Street, Church Street, and Broad Street, which is essentially the old market place. This was opened up, 1836-7, when a number of ancient houses were demolished at its east end, thereby allowing it to connect with the main thoroughfare. Street markets continue to be held in the Broad Street car park, and the town also has a covered retail market that opens between Wednesday and Saturday.


Ornamental Regency balconies are an attractive feature of the town centre. When combined with old shop frontages - as at W.L. Brown, the traditional-style ironmonger, and beauty products retailer Ogles next door - they are an absolute delight. Almost opposite, on the corner with Broad Street, there is another range which acts as a terrace for the patrons of Whistler's restaurant and wine bar, giving them a decent view of the Georgian square and the abbey's tower. This building was formerly the Three Tuns Hotel, allegedly a stopping-off place for the young Princess Victoria in 1830. There is another cast-iron balcony of note on Bedford House, across the road.


Broad Street, giving access to the abbey church as well as the adjacent church of St Andrew, clearly developed as a fashionable quarter, and it still retains an air of buzzing activity. At one corner is the Baptist Church founded in 1658; it was built up in 1843 and has a conservatively polychromatic faade of 1888. There are some independent traders here, and access to the town's small shopping precincts; there are also some handsome three-storey, three-bay Regency residences. This residential symmetry is so visually pleasing; the windows have large, wedge-shaped keystones, some bow windows, and triangular-headed doorways that, like the occasional serpentine walls that one comes across, are something of a feature. They are also to be found in Bridge Street. This continuation of the main shopping centre is nonetheless mostly commercial and residential, but is worth walking along for the several classical doorways built into the 18th-century frontages; several have various decoratively glazed lunette fanlights beneath open triangular pediments.


The Star Inn dates from c1470 and has gardens that run down to the Avon. Once, it was the coaching house for horses and travellers on the route between London and Aberystwyth and it comes with the ghost of a young coachman who is said to have died from a fall from his horse in the archway. It also has heavy oak beams and an ancient hand-carved staircase. Next door, is the Brandy Cask, which was patched up following a fatal crash on it by a Wellington bomber in 1943. The original building here was possibly a riverside warehouse for wool; its deeds date from 1779, when it was a residential property with premises at the rear for bottling beers, wines and spirits. The present owner has a collection of such bottles beginning with 18th-century examples. The property was owned by the same family from 1779 until 1920, when it became a hostelry. The integrated Brandy Cask Brewing Company brews two or three beers for sale in the pub, including Brandysnapper, which is a local favourite.


Perrott House, built c1770 in Broad Street, is considered to be the finest residence in the town. It is also of three storeys and three bays, with a Venetian doorway, Venetian windows in the two lower stages, and square-headed tripartite windows to the upper level. The central bay is pedimented.


Nothing in Pershore is on a large scale, but the whole town bustles. You will find that most of the free car parking in the centre is restricted to two hours, but there is nothing to stop you from moving your vehicle about the various sites. The style of its retail is very much geared to the resident population, for whom it caters comprehensively, if modestly; it has numerous independent shops bearing names that are unknown outside the town; and, as far as I can tell, only one of its several charity shops is a national organisation. It is pleasantly old-fashioned in its approach to trade, and there is a fair smattering of gift shops and arts and crafts shops that visitors expect to find in our country towns.


Exactly where the town sees itself in history is displayed in several rooms at the Heritage Centre adjacent to the town hall, and you will need to mount stairs and go in a rather small lift to see it all. Much of the collection relates to the town's story during the twentieth century, and in particular the war years. One of the main exhibits recalls the fatal Wellington bomber crash of 1943 in Bridge Street, where a plaque commemorates the incident on site. Another devolves on the air force station at Pershore; there is information about the women's land army; the work of the Women's Voluntary Service is remembered; and the town's connection with HMS Scimitar - launched 1919, scrapped 1947 - is described. Pershore RDC 'adopted' this 'S'-Class destroyer during the Second World War, when she took part in the evacuation from Dunkirk. There are many detailed models, such as a lifeboat, and carts and wagons; much by way of photographs and memorabilia; exhibits about the traditional craft industries that took place in the town; some relicts of Victorian Pershore; and a replica kitchen. The Heritage Centre is staffed and operated by volunteers of the Pershore Heritage and History Society, and is open between Wednesdays and Saturdays from Good Friday until the end of October.


Pershore's past is well looked after in the modern interior of the town hall building, whereas the town's new venue for contemporary arts is housed in Portland House, High Street, which was built in 1760 as a fine residence for a wealthy merchant. The building had been variously in trade since 1895, latterly in conjunction with the Pershore Theatre Arts Association, whose joint funding arrangements with the Wychavon District Council required them to raise sufficient capital to convert the building into an arts centre. This was achieved with additional aid from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and the Number 8 Community Arts Centre now has a contemporary 250-seat auditorium, a dance studio, exhibition space, training room, box office and caf bar. It has a restored brick and stone faade, and Georgian windows, whilst its modern ornamental balcony is wholly in keeping with those of eighteenth-century Pershore nearby. In 2005, the project won a Distinction in Building Award, and was the winner of the Action for Market Towns Award as the most outstanding national project in all categories. For a full programme of events, visit www.number 8.org.


St Andrew's church, opposite the abbey, was originally built at the time of Edward the Confessor. It was for the use of the Abbot of Westminster's tenants, who were effectively not welcome at Pershore Abbey once its lands had been acquired by Westminster and the tenants no longer paid rent to the local abbot. The present structure dates from 1147 and has a Perpendicular tower. The church was appropriated by the abbey of Pershore in 1241, and the grant was confirmed in 1327. It was deconsecrated in 1972 and now, having been internally remodelled, serves as a parish hall, and as a visitor centre during the summer season. The walkway through the churchyard leads into a garden that includes modern sculpture, and continues beside the new town hall into High Street.


There is a part of Pershore that is very much about gardens and gardening. This is Pershore College, the first to be chosen as a Royal Horticultural Society Centre, and recent winner of the Green Gown award as Britain's greenest college, given for its 'exemplar of good practice in all things environmental and sustainable'. For example, green waste is composted, the use of peat has dropped to a very low level, and rainwater is collected in a huge reservoir to irrigate the commercial plant nursery. The RHS Centre on site offers free gardening advice by telephone from RHS advisor Bob Hares, and you can buy plants at the plant centre, which is open seven days a week.


Formal horticultural training was established in Pershore in 1893; some sixty years later, the first seventeen students arrived at the Avonbank site, which has since developed into a college with an international reputation. Past students include Charles Notcutt, now owner of the garden centre chain across East Anglia, the Midlands and the South-East, and Chris Beardshaw, who has made a name for himself with television series like The Flying Gardener and Hidden Gardens. Pershore College has won five gold medals for horticulture and garden design, nine silvers and silver gilts, and several 'best in show' awards at Chelsea, Malvern and other gardening events sponsored by the Royal Horticultural Society. You can learn more about Pershore College at www.pershore.ac.uk, where you can also join up for their regular gardening newsletter.












0 comments

More from Out & about

Yesterday, 13:15

Tracy Spiers takes an impressive, if hypothetical, budget on a shopping spree in Cheltenham’s independent stores

Read more
Yesterday, 12:23

Get out and enjoy seasonal celebrations with a Cotswold twist

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

If you’re looking for things to do in the Cotswolds this month, we have gathered plenty of events for you to pop in your diary

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Hundreds of participating National Lottery-funded visitor attractions across the UK are saying ‘thanks’ to people who have raised money for good causes by buying a lottery ticket, including a number of venues in the Cotswolds

Read more
Monday, December 3, 2018

“We’re looking forward to lots of festive fun this Christmas festival and hope to welcome lots of people to our town.”

Read more
Monday, November 26, 2018

“Faringdon upholds old-fashioned values through its traditional shops, personal service and shop owners who go the extra mile to make their customers feel at home.”

Read more
Friday, November 23, 2018

Home to some of the country’s most breathtaking architecture and picturesque gardens, the Cotswolds boasts plenty of beautiful stately homes you need to visit. We pick eight special locations that are made even more magical during Christmas time

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Taking the classroom outdoors is fun, inspires fresh ideas, broadens horizons – and encourages a new generation to enjoy and care for the Cotswolds

Read more
Monday, November 19, 2018

Chipping Campden – once the meeting place for a council of Saxon kings – now offers the warmest of welcomes to all its visitors, from the humble shopper to the seasonal shin-kicker

Read more
Thursday, November 15, 2018

As well as three days of action-packed racing and tradition, there’s plenty to do away from the course at this year’s November Meeting. Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster, shares his 14 suggestions on how to make the most of your time at Cheltenham Racecourse

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Warwickshire town of Alcester is considered one of the best understood Roman settlements in the country. Tracy Spiers digs below the surface to discover its hidden jewels

Read more

Thanks to the impact of ground-breaking comedy This Country, the quiet market town of Northleach has become one of the Cotswolds’ hottest film locations. Katie Jarvis is sent to investigate

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Stephen Roberts walks in the footsteps of the Oxford scholar who enjoyed attending parties dressed as a polar bear, and once chased a neighbour while dressed as an axe-wielding Anglo-Saxon

Read more
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

I send this postcard from Cirencester, complete with the discoveries and viewpoints from four members of my family – both the young and not so young

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory A+ Education

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search