diamond geezer

 Monday, July 22, 2019

KIDDERMINSTER (pop 55,000) is the largest of the towns along the Severn Valley Railway but has the least character, for which we can blame carpets. The town's cloth industry switched over to making woven carpets in the 18th century and trade never looked back... at least until the 1970s. Although a few streets of redbrick municipal survive, elsewhere post-industrial redevelopment has done its thing and the architecture does not inspire. The town's most esteemed son is Rowland Hill, the stamp man, who merits a statue outside the town hall and a shopping mall he'd not be proud of. Across the canal an old carpet mill has been transformed into a Premier Inn and a critically-important Debenhams (it's OK, they're closing Wolverhampton's, not this one). The town's not especially economically bereft, but the density of charity shops is (to my southern eyes) outstanding.



But there is one attraction you should make time to visit, indeed I made it my first stop of the day, and that's the quintessentially-titled Museum of Carpet. This exists thanks to a group of volunteers who collected underfoot ephemera while the town's carpet mills were closing down, and also thanks to a national supermarket chain. Morrisons opened a huge new store on the site of Stourvale Mill in 2012 and had their arm twisted to allow the Museum to take over the offices at one end, which means once you're through the electronic doors you turn left for carpet heritage and right for the checkouts.



A full history of carpets runs the length of the building, at least as far as it relates to Kidderminster. The presentation's very nicely done, whether your interest is machinery, working conditions or the topology of knotting. A video history shows how the number of mills in the town advanced and declined, and which one Queen Victoria used by royal appointment. An art gallery at the far end displays exhibitions on a vaguely weave-y theme. There aren't a lot of actual carpets, not unless you gain access to the study centre upstairs, but you will see two huge powered looms on which they were made and might even get to watch one in action.



I got to watch a small hand loom in action, programmed by patterns of pegs rather than long chains of punched cards. For this I have to thank a volunteer called Janet who led us enthusiastically through the complex set-up and subsequent shuttling, eventually knocking up another few rows of communal cloth. The volunteers really make the museum, no question about it, and I felt thoroughly churlish handing over just £2.25 for my half price Art Fund admission fee. I also walked away with my own museum-produced sample of double-sided Kidderminster weave from the shop, choosing from four different West Midlands football team colour pairings. A minor delight. [5 Kidderminster photos]



BEWDLEY (pop 9,000) lies astride the river Severn and until the 1770s was an important inland port. Here goods from the West Midlands were transferred to boats bound for Bristol, that is until James Brindley connected the Staffs & Worcs Canal to Stourport instead and the town's economy tanked. What remains is a delightful tourist-friendly town with narrow Georgian streets (delightful unless you're trying to drive through, in which case it looked like queueing hell). Everything centres around Thomas Telford's bridge, for years the only crossing of the river Severn for miles, thankfully bypassed downstream in 1986.



The waterfront is splendid and very much the place to hang out with refreshments (on my visit, heavily dominated by fish and chips). Sitting here it's hard to imagine the place as a dockside, nor indeed the river rising up and flooding everything as has happened on several occasions over the centuries. That's just one of the tales told at Bewdley Museum, an unexpectedly successful attempt to integrate history sustainably at the heart of the town. Its cloistered walkway is lined by small galleries and craftspersons' workshops, opening out at the far end into a half-decent cafe and the town's Jubilee Gardens, making it plain and simply 'the place where everyone goes'.



One display celebrates the life of Stanley Baldwin, Bewdley's most famous politician, who rose to become Prime Minister three times between 1925 and 1937. Here's the New Testament he took his oath on in the Commons, here's his pipe and tobacco, and if you walk for five minutes you can see the house where he was born. I thought Lower Park Place was going to be the grand one with the big gates, but instead it was the townhouse opposite with the ornate porch, bollards out front and a telltale plaque. Uplifted from this quiet corner to dealing with the General Strike and the Abdication, our PMs come from the most random places. [8 Bewdley photos]



BRIDGNORTH (pop 12,000) is the unmissable town, a former Norman settlement perched on a promontory above the Severn. This proved the utterly obvious place to build a castle, although later owners chose the wrong side in the Civil War so all that remains are the ruins of one tower tilted precariously at an angle of 15°. The inner bailey has become an attractive garden of remembrance, although I'd question the need for a topiary warplane, naval destroyer and armoured tank as a centrepiece to the flower beds. Adjacent is a strikingly Georgian domed church, courtesy of Thomas Telford, while the outer bailey morphed into two elegant rows of townhouses.



One of the town's medieval gates survives, assuming you count a complete Victorian rebuild as survival, with the town's museum lodged on the upper levels. It only opens a few days a week, so on my visit I missed out. The arch below the gate is narrower than it is high so provides a major obstruction to traffic entering the high street. A further blockage is the half-timbered town hall erected on sandstone pillars in 1652, slap bang in the middle of the street, its oak-framed interior off limits unless you turn up on a Saturday morning or are thinking of getting married. The adjacent shops appear to be all those that Kidderminster lacks, including a Prezzo, Edinburgh Woollen Mill and several non-Wetherspoons.



Bridgnorth exists at two heights - the High Town to the north of the castle and the Low Town by the river. Views of the latter from the former can be spectacular. The two are connected by a winding medieval street called the Cartway, which is very narrow and indirect, or down a flight of approximately 200 steep stone steps. This is hardly conducive to a cohesive community, so in 1892 the Bridgnorth Cliff Railway was inaugurated, and is still operated by the same private company. It's the UK's only inland funicular, irredeemably cute, and operates with impressive frequency throughout the day for just £1.60 return.



Step into the tiny kiosk at the top of the climb to start your adventure. If you wanted to see the winding mechanism you should have popped into the tearoom alongside. Unless the cabins are on the move you'll be able to progress through into the streamlined interior and take your seat on one of the wooden benches. You may not get long to admire the view before the upper operator dings, and the lower operator double-dings back, and down you go. I timed the descent at 58 seconds, a goodly proportion of this being the braking to prevent a crash at the bottom. But there's not so much to see in the Low Town, so you may soon be back accompanied by whichever shoppers, schoolchildren and daytrippers are making the return journey. [8 Bridgnorth photos]


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
853
arseblog
ian visits
londonist
blue witch
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
linkmachinego
in the aquarium
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
dirty modern scoundrel
from the murky depths
exploring urban wastelands

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain
#coronavirus

read the archive
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
metro-land
capital ring
river fleet
piccadilly
bakerloo

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
boredom
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters
iceland

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
thunderbirds
routemaster
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
amsterdam
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
typewriters
doctor who
coronation
comments
blue peter
matchgirls
hurricanes
buzzwords
brookside
monopoly
peter pan
starbucks
feng shui
leap year
manbags
bbc three
vision on
piccadilly
meridian
concorde
wembley
islington
ID cards
bedtime
freeview
beckton
blogads
eclipses
letraset
arsenal
sitcoms
gherkin
calories
everest
muffins
sudoku
camilla
london
ceefax
robbie
becks
dome
BBC2
paris
lotto
118
itv