The City of Worcester in the county of Worcestershire, can be found in the southern part of the West Midlands, nestling on the banks of the river Severn. A city steeped in history, known for its glove making past and Royal Worcester porcelain, its impressive gothic Cathedral is “home” to the infamous King John, of Robin Hood fame, whilst the world renowned and original Worcestershire sauce is still made in the city.
When you find yourself walking around the pedestrianised city centre and look up above the shop facades you will notice attractive Georgian architecture mixed amongst the more modern. However, slip down a side street and you may just be lucky enough to find yourself facing a black and white Elizabethan building. One of which is Tudor House.
After navigating your way to the Tourist Information, aka the Guildhall, aka the town hall, on the High Street, stroll on a little further and turn left down Pump Street. A short walk brings you to a little crossroads. If you turn left into New Street. you will eventually come to a picturesque black and white pub where King Charles II escaped to after the Battle of Worcester, named rather aptly…. King Charles II.
On this occasion however we will turn right into Friar Street, which has more than its fair share of black and white buildings, including Greyfriars school and friary, which is a National Trust property and also visitable.
Passing Greyfriars, the Tudor House is on our right. This long building has had a mixed and interesting past, from a modest glove merchant’s house to public house, WW2 Air Raid Warden’s station, to medical centre, before finally becoming a museum. Interestingly a Mr Cadbury bought the property to serve the community and made a sweet factory nearby in the early 1900s. Indeed, the museum itself looks like it could be found on the front of vintage chocolate box.
As soon as you step inside the museum you are taken on a journey back hundreds of years to the end of the Middle Ages, directed up an old staircase to the first floor where five main rooms await. Begin in the merchant’s bed chamber then wander through the other rooms, filled with items of furniture, a large loom, tools for weaving and making cloth, and various related historical articles, as well as food and traditional clothing.
Mounted to the walls are information panels telling you about the exhibits and past inhabitants, especially interesting regarding the experiences of the children that lived in the house. While little mice have been hidden around the museum for the young guests to search out and count on their visit. It is also interesting to see a cut-out panel of the original wall, showing the wattle and daub construction. In fact, the museum has thought very carefully about its younger guests with an activity table scattered with papers, real quills, and ink to test out and Elizabethan clothing to get dressed up in.
This larger room leads into a last one describing the building’s more recent life in WW2 and as a subsequent medical clinic. Down another staircase brings you into the courtyard and alleyway back to the entrance, where you will find the two last rooms. These highlight Tudor House’s past as a public house.
As this is indeed an Elizabethan building and features the typical architecture of the period, there isn’t a lift unfortunately, so wheelchair access is limited to the ground floor, where the toilet is situated in the courtyard. Aside from the café and a children’s activity table upstairs there are no other seating areas but this isn’t really an issue due to the museum’s intimate size and the café’s ample seating area.
The volunteer staff are very friendly and helpful whilst the rooms are well lit, open and clean. The shop has a great selection of historical themed gifts, such as quills, books, plush toys, mugs, fun packs, postcards, etc….
Entrance is free, although donations are warmly welcomed, especially as the museum relies on them to survive. Opening times are 10am - 4pm Wednesdays to Saturdays.
All in all, the museum’s presentation is honest and unpretentious, with a friendly atmosphere, leaving you feeling inwardly content after your visit. It is also child friendly and a real hidden jewel in. Worcester’s cultural crown.
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Olivier C Dorrell is the author of British Officer’s Peak Caps of the Second World War (Schiffer Books, 2014) and is the Webmaster of the Worcestershire Militaria Museum, virtual museum. He is interested in art and history, military history in particular, and is a keen visitor and supporter of museums and the unique experiences they offer.