Town Tour - "Walk the Walk or Ride the Ride"
Page updated 1 Jan 2016
Take a tour of Droitwich Spa either by walking or on a bicycle.
On the other hand walkers can do a shorter or longer walk depending on how fit they feel.
Your tour starts in the centre of town at St. Richard’s House in Victoria Square.
St. Richard’s House used to be the frontage to the old Brine Baths, which closed in 1974.
The new Brine Baths opened in 1985 and this was located just around the corner. As part of the Droitwich Spa Hospital facilities run by BMI it provided relaxation, beauty treatments plus a gymnasium, as well as helping people who suffered from rheumatism or stress.
The brine in the baths is denser than the Dead Sea and was the only new Spa facility to be built in Britain in the last century. Sadly, this has now been closed to the public, but there are moves afoot to establish another Brine Baths experience in our Spa Town, as widely publicised.
Across the road is the Raven Hotel, the central part of which stands on the site that was known as the Manor of Wyche. St. Richard, the town’s patron saint was born here.
The present building was erected in the reign of Elizabeth I and is a timber-framed structure.
It is said that King Charles I is reputed to have lodged here for three days on his way to storming the city of Leicester in 1645. The majority of the inhabitants of Droitwich Spa during the Civil War were supporters of the King and suffered severely after Oliver Cromwell’s victory over the King. The Hotel used to be twinned with The Chateau Impney but in 2014 was sold and will be developed in keeping with its surroundings
Across the road from the Raven Hotel is the town’s Public Library, which stands on the site of the Salters Hall.
John Corbett opened this building in 1881, as a place of recreation for the salt workers and townspeople. Corbett was known as the "Salt King" owning workings at Stoke Prior. When the demand for salt began to fall it was Corbett who made Droitwich into a Spa Resort town.
Salters Hall held up to 1,500 people and the ground floor became a popular venue for dances, concerts, lectures and other social activities. There was a balcony, library and reading room above.
Although John Corbett promised in his opening speech that the hall would become the property of the town upon his death, this was not the case and his will placed the property into the hands of the Corbett Trustees.
The Trustees subsequently sold it to Mr. Charles Henry Everton in the early 1930’s. He demolished the hall in 1933 and built the Salters Super Cinema in its place.
After the interest in cinema waned in the 1960’s the hall went through a period of neglect and was threatened by demolition. It was at this point the plan for a Public Lending Library was drawn up and accepted by the Town Council.
The building still retains the gallery and the proscenium arch of its cinema days.
Cross over the road and walk down St. Andrew’s Street. Keeping to the left you pass under the clock on the side of the library.
Turning left at the end of the library you will see a modern day sculpture dedicated to the salt workers who made Droitwich Spa famous.
Returning to St. Andrew’s Street, carry on down the road and turn left alongside The Spinning Wheel restaurant.
You are entering the shopping precinct and on the right hand side you will see a mural modelled in clay, depicting important buildings and historical items in Droitwich Spa.
These buildings are The Brine Baths, Canal Bridge, Chateau Impney, Font in St. Andrew’s Church, Friar Street Houses, Old Cock Inn, Priory House, Raven Hotel, Sacred Heart Church, a Salt Barge, Salters Hall, St. Augustine’s Church and the Old Town Hall.
You will see many of these on the tour.
Retracing your steps to St. Andrew’s Street and proceeding down the street you will see St. Andrew’s Church on the right hand side.
Due to subsidence the church tower became dangerous and had to be dismantled in 1928. The subsidence was caused by the extraction of the brine for the salt workings.
Entering the church you will see the bells stored one inside the other in the north aisle. The main part of the church dates from 1290, but there are some earlier parts including carvings on the capitals of the arches, which support the tower. It is said St. Richard was christened here, although not in the current font which is dated some four centuries later.
The chapel in the northeast corner is dedicated to St. Richard. One of the memorial tablets in the church is dedicated to Captain Norbury who fought with Admiral Benbow in the West Indies.
Opposite St. Andrew’s Church is the old Town Hall. This was built in 1825 and superseded a building called the “Exchequer”.
The council chamber was upstairs and the ground floor, which was open behind the pillars, was used for a weekly market, which spilled into the square, which was the medieval centre of the town.
Turn right by the side of the church and walk along the High Street.
You will see that buildings on the south side of the street are leaning at peculiar angles, again caused by brine extraction. At one time the High Street was level even within living memory.
Turn into Gurneys Lane, which is on the left hand side.
This is the site of the last brine pumping station operating between 1850 and 1921.
The brine was heated in large pans and when the liquid evaporated the remaining salt crystals were packed into boxes for transport.
An enormous amount of fuel was needed in the evaporation process producing a large amount of pollution from all the salt works.
At first wood was used for burning depleting the surrounding woodland. Coal became the main fuel in 16th century.
Turn back into the High Street and go left along to the end.