Worcester's Tudor House
Worcester is famous as being one of England's most picturesque cities. Sitting on the banks of the river Severn, Worcester boasts a stunning cathedral, ornate town hall, castle walls, and a Commandery from the English Civil War. The city is thick with history and culture, and is popular with tourists and shoppers alike. Hidden around the corner from Worcester Cathedral on the historic Friar Street, is one of Worcester's finest hidden gems. Supported and staffed by volunteers, Tudor House is an amazing museum with collections that span the many different uses of the building's long life. With leaded glass and timber frames, this beautiful period building must be seen if you are visiting the city.
The Building's History
Tudor House has been many things over the years. The sandstone foundations are believed to have been laid in the 13th Century, built when Worcester was still a walled city with a castle. Between 1500 and 1550, the timber framed building was erected, likely by a wealthy landlord who saw the building split and used by different craftsmen and traders. Over the years it was used by tailors, weavers, bakers, cloth-makers, and a painter.
The building spent about two hundred years of its life as a public house known as the Cross Keys Tavern. Ale was brewed on the site, and it was a place where the local craftsmen and traders would take refreshment and entertain themselves.
In 1909, it was purchased by Richard Cadbury of the famous chocolate making Cadbury family of Bournville in Birmingham. Strict Quakers who abstained from alcohol, they believed that drink brought nothing but misery and deprivation. Richard Cadbury renovated the building, transforming the tavern into the Tudor Coffee House which was opened to the poor as a coffee shop and bakery. Teas and meals were served on the first floor, with the ground floor selling Cadburys confectionery.
In 1921, the Tudor building was sold and became a school clinic where the children of Worcester city would come for their inoculations and dental check-ups.
During the Second World War (1939-1945), it became an Air Raid Warden's Post and Billeting Office, to help keep the city safe from the dangers of air raids and find homes for evacuee children and soldiers returning from war.
Preserving the Building
In 2004, the Worcester Heritage & Amenity Trust (W.H.A.T.) stepped in to make sure that the building was preserved for the public to enjoy. Focussing on the various uses of the building over the years, a museum was created which is run by a team of volunteers who are passionate about the place.
Some parts of Tudor House are too delicate to open up. There is a rare decorative plaster ceiling in the Tudor room on the first floor. As the building has aged, the ceiling has warped, and the floor above sags. To protect the ceiling from collapse, the second floor is closed to the public.
Tudor House operates thanks to donations, volunteers, and income brought by visitors. It is thanks to the generosity of those that care for the place that it continues to be maintained and operate as a museum.
Tudor House is split into various rooms which feature displays from its long history. Throughout the year, items may be rotated to keep visits interesting for those coming to the museum. There are also many events and talks that one can attend, and I recommend that you see their website to learn more. Details are in the information about visiting the museum.
On the ground floor, the front room to the right represents The Cross Keys Tavern, where the traders and craftsmen would come to relax after a hard day's labour.
To the rear of this room is a display featuring items from the Second World War, when the building was used by an Air Raid Warden and a Billeting Officer.
The front room on the left of the building is a working tea room where refreshments and cakes may be purchased, and is presented in the traditional style used by the Cadbury family when the museum was the Tudor Coffee House.
Behind this is the Weaving Room, where you can learn about the lives of those that crafted cloth in the 16th and 17th Centuries and see the type of loom that they would use.
Through the door into the rear yard, various historical items can be seen including a stock and pillory, which were used to punish minor criminals. An old water pump can be seen, along with some fascinating information about how dirty water from such devices spread terrible diseases in cities. You can learn about how the Cholera outbreak of the late 19th Century affected Worcester.
From the tea rooms up a set of stairs, can be found the Tudor Room with a replica child's bed, toys, and dressing up sets. Whilst the adults can gaze in wonder at the rare Tudor plaster ceiling, and wattle and daub wall section, children can have fun getting hands-on with the exhibits.
Across the landing is a replica of a mid 20th Century dental clinic. I can't imagine that the building was visited with such fondness by children in those days, rather terror!
To end of the landing is a room that is filled with a display of Worcester's important industries. Famous for Worcestershire Sauce and Royal Worcester Porcelain, the city has earned a strong reputation over the years for its quality of goods and skill of labourers which are celebrated here in the Industry Room.
On the opposite side of the building, is the Ante Room. This is where weavers and cloth makers would have lived. Through the Ante Room is the Heritage room, thought to have been the site of the restaurant when the building was under ownership by the Cadburys. The beams and joints of the building can be seen beautifully, and this room is used for talks hosted by the Trust.
A short walk away from Worcester Cathedral, Tudor House is located on Friar Street.
Visiting Tudor House
Open every Wednesday and Saturday, 10:00 - 16:00
From mid-May to mid-September, it also opens on Thursdays, 10:00 - 16:00
Visit the museum's website for details
Entry is free. Donations are received with gratitude to help maintain the building and preserve it for future generations.
There is a tea room serving drinks and cakes, with a gift shop. As this is a period building, those with mobility issues may struggle with the stairs. Very family friendly with plenty of opportunities for children to get hands-on, and even try out period costumes. There is plenty of car parking nearby with the museum just a short walk from the NCP College Street car park.
© 2015 Pollyanna Jones