Overley Bridge [c.1920]
Town Hall and Brewery at Alcester [c.1906]
The Old Rectory at Butter Street 
Malt Mill Lane at Alcester [c.1906]
High Street at Alcester [c.1907]
Bowling Green at Meeting Lane 
Greville Effigies in Parish Church 
The Old Church Clock Mechanism 
The Old Post Office in Church Street 
Perrymill on Evesham Street 
Alcester stands on the confluence of the River Alne and River Arrow and, although the centre of the town has shifted slightly, the settlement is of Roman origin. Traces of a defensive wall suggests that Alcester was a place of significance and several important Roman roads converged here, notably Ryknild Street and the saltway from Droitwich. The A435 has been laid on the former railway that served Alcester but this helps to maintain low traffic density in the town centre.
There were two key river crossings at Alcester that enabled traffic to pass through the town and stimulated growth and trade down the centuries. The road from Worcester to Stratford passed over Oversley Bridge, whilst Gunnings Bridge served those travelling to-and-from the north. Mentioned as early as 1274, the latter was previously known as Gunnyld Bridge. These river crossings have shaped the town down the years. With key arterial routes radiating out from Alcester, the town was quite an important coaching stop, particularly as it was on one of the main routes from London to Shrewsbury and Holyhead.
The commercial centre of ancient Alcester was probably based at the southern end of the modern High Street. Although partly in-filled in more recent times, this part of the street was more expansive and once known as The Bull Ring. Heading northwards, the thoroughfare narrows and winds around the church to join Henley Street. Buildings used to encircle most, if not all of the churchyard, though a disastrous fire probably did for the properties on the south-eastern side. The church itself was not spared and had to be rebuilt. However, Butter Street is a lovely remnant of the earlier development.
It has been suggested that the narrow thoroughfare, once known as Shop Row, got its Butter name as it receives little sunlight due to its orientation and the closeness of the buildings and, consequently, was ideal for the sale of dairy products and provisions. Seems logical enough! The oldest properties stand on the east side and adjoin the churchyard, whereas the buildings on the west side date from the 18th century onwards. Where the street opens out slightly at the southern end there is the Old Rectory [see gallery above], a three-storied red brick house built in 1796 but extended to the rear during the Victorian period. It is an attractive building despite its simplicity. A brick dentil cornice is partially hidden and the windows feature whitewashed rusticated stone flat arches with keystones.
At the northern end of Butter Street and next to the Holly Bush public house stands Churchill House. The frontage of 1688 is later than the original timber-framed structure so, both visually and historically, this is a much more complex building. The initials of Thomas and Eleanor Lucas can be seen in the leaded rainwater head to the right. The building was once noted for an elegant iron balcony but this had been removed by the time of this 2009 photograph. I am not sure if this feature has been restored to the frontage. Access to the balcony was via the doorway that features an architrave, entablature, and broken curved pediment. Above this, modillions are a key component of the carved wood egg and dart cornice. However, it is the misalignment of the frontage's key features that lend to the building's wonderful character.
The cottages and former shops in Butter Street are not as grand as Churchill House but each property adds their own individual character to the townscape. The above whitewashed brick cottages are typical in that they date from the early 17th century but were re-fronted some 200 years later. However, rather than detracting from the older appearances, the 16-pane sash at No.5, for example, adds charm to façade. The two-storey canted bay at No.3 complements the stepped nature of the adjacent properties.
After soaking up the setting that is Butter Street you can step back further in time by visiting the parish church of St. Nicholas. The oldest part of the building is the lower section of the west tower which was constructed in the 14th century and repaired in 1983 after being struck by lightning. The south-east corner features a semi-octagonal projecting stair-turret. The tower is embattled and incorporates pinnacles, all added at a later date, probably during the 18th century. Note the unusual angle of the clock - it was placed diagonally so that it can be seen clearly from the High Street. Dating from around 1682, the old mechanism of the clock [see gallery above] was put on display inside the nave during 1988, some 13 years after it had been superseded by an electrical system.
The main body of the church was rebuilt between 1729-33 following a fire which destroyed much of the building's older fabric. Directed by Francis Smith of Warwick, the reconstruction was undertaken by Edward and Thomas Woodward of Chipping Campden. As with most churches that have been tinkered with over generations, there are elements of many styles but the 18th century work is classical in character and features colonnades of five bays with Doric columns. There are extraordinary alabaster effigies [see gallery above] of Sir Fulke Greville and his wife Lady Elizabeth Willoughby plus a faithful dog at her feet. Sir Fulke Greville was Lord of the Manor and High Sheriff of Warwickshire. Look out also for the wonderful tapestries of life in Alcester during the 1980's, comprised of work by many local organisations.
Alcester's Town Hall stands at the top of Butter Street in the shadow of the church tower. Replacing the market cross, the building dates from 1618 when Sir Fulke Greville, Lord of the Manor, donated £300 for a new market house. A market had operated in Alcester since the late 13th century and in 1292 Walter de Beauchamp first sought a royal grant for an annual fair. The upper storey of the Town Hall was not added until 1641, almost a quarter of a century after the ground floor had been erected. This was meant to be of matching stone but the cost proved prohibitive so timber was used. A plaque on the building records that the hall was purchased in 1919 by public subscription from the lord of the manor, the Marquis of Hertford, as a permanent memorial to the men of Alcester and Oversley who gave their lives in World War One.
The Old Malthouse stands on the corner of Church Street and Malt Mill Lane and, until 1984 when a house in Henley Street was found to be of cruck construction, it was thought that this was the oldest house in Alcester. Dating from around 1500, the L-shaped building is unusual in that it had jetties to both the front and side. There are two gable heads to the close-studded building between which a passageway led to a rear courtyard.
The Edwardian photograph [above] shows that a cycle shop once traded from the premises. This was operated by the cycle agent and hairdresser Edwin Stanton. Outside the shop there are advertisements for Rover and New Hudson Cycles. During this period there was also a cycle manufactory in the town. In 2009 the shop on the corner of Malt Mill Lane was an outlet for Italian wines.
Of course, a website devoted to pubs cannot overlook a building called The Old Malthouse. Within the gardens of the nearby award-winning sheltered housing scheme is the remains of a medieval malting kiln, originally sited on the opposite side of Malt Mill Lane, probably behind the Old Malthouse. There was another maltings behind the Baker's Arms, along with a brewery at the Angel Hotel, a few yards from the Old Malthouse. The Alcester Brewery Ltd. was a larger concern and operated from Church Street, supplying a small estate of public houses.
Opposite the Old Malthouse on the other corner of Malt Mill Lane stands Malt Mill House. This building's frontage features colour-washed brick, stone quoins and a string course from the late 18th and early 19th centuries but conceals an older structure dated 1610. I believe that the house fronted the former Excelsior Needle Works, one of several needle manufactories in Alcester that survived into the 20th century. One of the largest needle factories was that of the Minerva Works close to the railway station.
The adjacent property to Malt Mill House in Malt Mill Lane dates from the 16th century and features a jettied upper story, partly of close-set studding, and with an oriel window. Much of the lower section of Malt Mill Lane consists of cottages erected in the 18th century. The restoration and development of Malt Mill Lane has been recognised with a number of accolades, including the Royal Institute of British Architects Architecture Award in 1986, the Civic Trust Award in 1992 and the RIBA Housing Design Award in 1993.
Henley Street has retained a number of historic houses and a couple of former taverns, including the Red Horse Inn and the Greyhound's Head. There are fine timber-framed properties on both corners of Meeting Lane - they can be seen here in an Edwardian photograph when they were used as commercial premises.
No.44 Henley Street is on the south corner of Meeting Lane and, like the nearby Golden Cup Inn, is thought to date from the middle of the 17th century. The house has square framing and a gabled north end.
Dating from the early 17th century, No.42 has a jettied upper story on both the Henley Street frontage and the gabled south end in Meeting Lane. The property is originally thought to have been of three bays, as suggested by the carved scroll brackets.
Meeting Lane was formerly known as Meeting House Lane as the thoroughfare was the location of the old Baptist Chapel thought to have been used from 1650. On the opposite side of the lane is Oak House, another early 17th century property of square framing with a jettied upper story on moulded scroll brackets. At the end of the lane behind a tall brick wall is a bowling green which, according to local folklore, has been in use since the Elizabethan period.
Returning to Henley Street, on the eastern side to the north of Meeting Lane stands the quaint-looking Arden House, an early 17th century building with two gables, one of which looks like it is junior to the other! The right-hand side of the property has a jettied upper floor. Across the road from Arden House stands No.19, now known as Cruck House.
It was not until 1984 that the history of this house was revealed. It was found that it was of cruck construction and it is believed to be of 14th century origin, possibly as early as 1350. The crucks are, however, part of the internal structure so cannot be appreciated from outside. The house was enlarged some 200 years after its original construction date. The L-plan of the house was created by the extension of a projecting gable.
Returning to Church Street one encounters the Baptist Chapel of 1859, built to replace the earlier place of worship in Meeting House Lane. The red brick building is of stucco and features a moulded string course, cornice and parapet. The date 1859 can be seen within the pediment that crowns a short projection. There are tripartite windows above the main entrance which are flanked by round-headed windows. The interior has some original furnishing.
By the time non-conformity took hold in Alcester, the town had developed a reputation for drunken and vulgar behaviour associated with drinking plenty of ale. The Reverend Samuel Clarke dubbed the town 'Drunken Alcester.' The rector was to play a key role in 'cleaning' up the town. Three dissenting congregations emerged in Alcester with the Presbyterians and Quakers also founding meeting houses in the town. The Methodists were less successful in establishing themselves in Alcester where the locals tended to beat them up a bit before, in one case at least, the poor minister was dragged through the streets. The first Baptist minister is thought to be John Willis who preached here for a congregation based in the town and surrounding area.
Church Street has some elegant Georgian frontages looking out across to the church and town hall. The Limes, typically, is largely dated to the early-mid 18th century but has elements from an earlier century. However, the front of the building, featuring imitation ashlar render with whitewashed quoins, dates from the early-mid 19th century when Church Street would have looked quite fashionable. The doorway was probably re-modelled around this time and features plain Doric pilasters and entablature with a fanlight window.
Nos. 20 and 21 act as an interface between Church Street and the High Street. These date from the early 17th century and were probably jettied but have since been underbuilt with shops. The adjacent property in High Street also features square framing and two gables with geometrical panels. Many of the buildings in the High Street date back to the 17th century but have additions or alterations from the 18th and 19th centuries. These will be discussed within the pub pages for Alcester.
At the southern end of High Street there is a group of buildings that were erected in the former Bull Ring. Here you can see the corner section of High Street and Stratford Road, a red brick building dating from the late 18th or early 19th century. On the opposite side of Stratford Road is a former house of around 1790 later converted into a bank. This has some rather fine windows on all three floors. On the ground and first floors there are two Venetian windows recessed within gauged brick relieving arches. On the second floor there are two Diocletian windows.
Most visitors to the town concentrate so much on the area around the church that they tend to overlook Evesham Street. However, in addition to having a couple of former public houses, the thoroughfare has a good degree of interesting architecture. The buildings tend to be of a later date than in the town centre. For example this pair of shops on the corner of Birch Abbey date from the mid-19th century.
Built in the Neoclassical style, Acorn House dates from around 1800. It was looking a little untidy when this photograph was taken but looked unoccupied. The property has an attached coach house so must have been owned by one of the town's more prosperous families. The front door has Greek Doric three-quarter columns with dosserets and triglyphs and a broken pediment with dentils. Like the doorway, the ground floor's tripartite windows are recessed within round arches. They feature raised pediments above the central sash.
The railway arrived at Alcester in 1866 as the Birmingham to Gloucester route
did not serve important towns such as Redditch, Alcester and Evesham. A line
from Barnt Green to Redditch opened in September 1859 but Alcester was first
connected to Evesham, some two years before the line was completed to the north.
Goods trains were first used on the line opened by the Evesham and Redditch
Railway but was soon followed by passenger trains on September 17th 1866. A
passenger service between Evesham and Redditch operated for almost 100 years
before it was closed in July 1964.