Rediscovering Droitwich

After 31 years living in this small Worcestershire town, I was amazed the other evening at some of the things I’ve walked past on many an occasion and not known about or noticed.

Looking towards Friar Street

Looking towards Friar Street

The local history society advertised a talk & walk down Friar Street and the High Street, then back round via Tower Hill, looking in particular at the history of the mediaeval timber-framed buildings, some of which have since been revamped and disguised, of course, or present a sober facade to the main road and reveal surprises when you go along the backs of the buildings…

Half-timbered building, brightly coloured.

Rear of Star Yard

The walk was led by Rob, an archaeologist from the Worcestershire council service and he spoke knowledgeably about the context in which Droitwich developed.

Archaeologist with exhibits box

Rob and his box of ‘goodies’

Husband and I decided this would be a nice thing to do, particularly as we knew there had been some recent discoveries thanks to dendrochronology, dating the wood in the timber-framed houses. This has led to setting the building date of one shop in particular quite a lot earlier than previously thought.

A well-disguised timber-framed mediaeval building!

33 High Street – dating from 1339

I’ve often complained that towns and cities have become homogenised with the corporate shop frontages and chain stores, and that you only see the character of a town when you look up as you walk around, but even then I’ve missed things in my own home patch, it seems.

Priory House woodwork detail

Priory House woodwork detail

There were lots of little details to look at in the woodwork,…

Chantry Cottage detail

Chantry Cottage detail

…and stonework, from gargoyles & grotesques and recycled church windows in/on the pub and other assorted additions like this plaque…

In God is All Our Trust

In God is All Our Trust

…in the fancy brickwork of the chimney of Priory House and many other little gems.

Chimney - looking up.

Priory House chimney

Rob had also brought along a selection of local pottery finds, both Roman and later. I’d not come across the Oxfordshire white-ware before, to my knowledge, and rather liked the mortarium or grinding bowl with the bits of gravelly stone set into the pot to help with the process.

Pottery fragment

Oxfordshire white-ware mortarium

The detail that really made me smile, however, was the early mediaeval IKEA discovery – actually in plain view all these years but I’d not picked it up before. Four of the beams in the side of a building on the High Street  and the main beam below bear carpenter’s marks, the Roman numerals I-IV, to show which go where – presumably early flat pack!

Detail of woodwork with carpenter's marks

Carpenter’s Mark IV on main beam and roof angle…

I know the Romans ‘flat-packed’  their forts in much the same way, but just hadn’t clocked this example, despite having walked up and down that High Street on innumerable occasions! One spot that I have always enjoyed particularly underlines the chequered history of the mediaeval buildings; this the little courtyard in the modern precinct, which shows how these buildings were adapted over time – right down to the addition of all the ugly modern trappings!

Huddle of mediaeval buildings

All sorts… Stone, brick infill, timber-framed…

Don’t forget, then, as you go about your daily business, just look up and see what you’re missing – and who might be watching you…

Gargoyle

Look who’s watching…

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