204: Worcester

OS Explorer map 204, Worcester & Droitwich Spa – I do not own this map, and had not visited it before starting this blog. Visited for this post 13th August 2018.

My previous post told of a trip that Millicent and I made in August, to visit our friend Erithacus in Aberystwyth, where she was staying for a few weeks, on a summer course learning Welsh at the university there. The morning after our time with Erithacus, Millicent and I left Aberystwyth for England once more.

However, unlike on the way out when I collected Millicent at Rugby station, near my Northamptonshire home, we took a different route on the way back – I wanted to go to visit my Oxford friend No Longer Hairy in Gloucester, so I dropped Millicent instead at the station in Worcester, it being vaguely on the way and having direct London trains. After a pleasant drive to Worcester, during which Millicent taught me about medieval England from the Norman Conquest to King John, and I taught him about the phonology of consonants, [1] we arrived a good two hours before his train. Therefore, we did what comes naturally, and visited the cathedral!

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Looking down the river at Worcester Cathedral

It was a very nice cathedral, with bits being added and altered significantly for many centuries, so it was fun playing “spot the architectural period” with Millicent as my much more knowledgeable guide.

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Inside Worcester Cathedral

We spent well over an hour there in the end. The Cathedral is the resting-place of several notables, including King John and Prince Arthur, elder brother of the eventual Henry VIII, whose tombs were present and pretty.

There were little displays about Saints Oswald and Wulfstan (of Worcester [2]), which were pleasant, and then we got to go into the tremendously exciting crypt, which is (a) huge and (b) really old, with bits dating from the Anglo-Saxon cathedral.

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Worcester Cathedral’s crypt

We then went outside and admired the lovely cloister, and the unusual huge round chapter house.

I went into the shop and bought a fridge magnet while Millicent used the toilets – I always try to buy fridge magnets in new places and have a little collection. By this time it was getting rather late, so we made a hurried walk back to the car before I dropped Millicent off at the station. I then bought myself some lunch before driving off to Gloucester to meet up with No Longer Hairy, about which see my next post!


[1] I have at least a vague idea of what is going on in terms of major events and periods and so on in British history from about the 16th century onwards, and for pre-Norman times, but later medieval history is a big old gap for me; that was why I asked Millicent, who knows amazingly much about history, to try to fill it a little!

I then tried to do the same for him with the phonology – Erithacus and I talk about linguistics quite a lot, and have had trouble in the past getting Millicent to understand what we’re saying, since he, like most people, doesn’t have that intuitive an understanding of what’s going on in his mouth when he makes speech sounds. I therefore explained the topic to him rather more patiently than we’ve tried before, and it went pretty well. I am promised that hee will continue on from King John with me on another occasion, and I will move onto vowels and then to common types of sound change and the history of some major ones in English, and the Germanic and Romance languages more broadly.

[2] St Oswald of Worcester, tenth-century Benedictine reformer, Bishop of Worcester and later Archbishop of York, needs to be kept separate from St Oswald of Northumbria, 7th-century king of Northumbria and Bede’s Favourite Man Ever. This is easy enough. The Wulfstans of late Anglo-Saxon England are much more of a mess, though, as this section of Wikipedia’s Wulfstan disambiguation page shows:


We’re talking about St Wulfstan, Wulfstan II of Worcester (died 1095), notable for being the one English bishop who managed to hang on for a long time post-Conquest. He is not the same as Wulfstan (died 1023), who was also Bishop of Worcester, but was then Archbishop of York, but is also known as Wulfstan II, due to the existence of Wulfstan I of York. Bleh. And there’s Wulfstan Cantor, Wulfstan of Winchester, who while not that likely to be confused with the others, kept popping up in my dissertation last year, and wrote some apparently great lost work of musical theory.

Wikipedia, I think you mean “only English born bishop after 1075 for a while” – there are, I’m pretty sure, rather a few English born bishops in England at the moment, and have been for rather a while.

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