Town Tour - "Walk the Walk or Ride the Ride"
Page updated 1 Jan 2016
At the end of High Street, the black and white building on the corner on the right hand side is Bullock’s 15th century café.
The building had ceased being a café for several years whilst it housed the Wychavon District Council One-Stop Shop. Wychavon's early austerity measures saw it become uneconomically viable, and January 2016 Bullocks reopened.
Adjacent to Bullocks Café there is an area of ground, where when it was excavated in March 1999, a 14th century glazed horseman was found.
From a print by Brian Amor © 2000
This and other artefacts are on display in the Heritage Centre.
Turn left out of the High Street into Queen Street, and follow it to the junction of the Hanbury Road and Saltway at a set of traffic lights.
Over the junction ahead of you is Chapel Bridge.
This is the site of the ancient entrance to the town and the crossing of the River Salwarpe. This crossing was guarded in Roman times and a fort stood on the top of Dodderhill up to your left hand side.
In medieval times Chapel Bridge was the site of an unusual church, a dependent chapel of St. Peter’s.
In 1781 the historian, Dr. Treadway Nash, described how packhorses would be led through the middle of the building when the river was too high to be forded.
The chapel was demolished in 1763. In the 14th century Droitwich was enclosed by ditches instead of walls and access was through toll gates, one at the junction of Queen Street and the High Street and one near the Raven Hotel in St. Andrew’s Street.
Today the bridge carries the A38.
Carry on up the A38 under the railway bridge and up to the traffic lights at the top where on your right hand side you will see the Chateau Impney Hotel (you may have to walk or ride up a little way to get a view of the hotel).
This is the house built by John Corbett in the form of a French Chateau reputedly in honour of his French born wife in 1875.
Three thousand men were involved in the construction of the building, totally transforming the landscape creating 120 acres of parkland, lakes, waterfalls and tropical gardens and over 3,000 varieties of trees were planted.
Turning around and retracing your route back towards town and you will pass one of the wooden signs for Droitwich Spa depicting a man making salt.
Shortly on your right you will come to Church Road.
Turn up the road and follow it all the way to St. Augustine’s Church on Dodderhill.
The remains of two roman forts have been found in this area.
During excavations in 1977 & 1985, 85 objects of pottery, bronze and coins were found.
A Norman church stood here in 1220 AD.
The church was originally built in the shape of a cross with a tower in the centre. It is thought subsidence caused the church to be redesigned and strengthened. The north transept is part of the twelfth century building and it was re-faced with brickwork around 1840.
Subsidence has been a continual problem causing distortion of floor levels. John Corbett who was patron of the Church of England Living of Dodderhill was instrumental in the restoration of the Church. Captain Norbury is also buried here. It has been rumoured that there is a secret passage from Dodderhill to Norbury House in the town, but this is extremely unlikely.
From the churchyard you can obtain a panoramic view over the town and countryside.
Leave the church grounds either by returning down the road to where it joins Crutch Lane and then right down Crutch Lane to the A38..... or in the far left hand corner of the churchyard there is a footpath leading down to the side of the railway bridge on the A38.
Passing under the railway bridge turn right into Vines Lane. The slopes of the hill used to be a huge vineyard in Roman times, hence the name Vines Lane. Below in the Salwarpe Valley were the salt pits. There were probably five of these each surrounded by evaporating pans made of lead.
The Romans built straight roads radiating out from Droitwich Spa to carry salt to their legions in different parts of Britain. Vines Lane is now a cul-de-sac and as you proceed up the road you will see that it divides with an island in the middle. This island is the site of a well. It was filled in years ago, but the brine still came to the surface and the road was divided to avoid the wet area. In 1977 a spring appeared again and covered the area with salt, but the spring has now been capped.
At the end of the island you will see the Gardeners Arms Public House and this is a perfect opportunity to stop for food and refreshments!
Opposite the Gardeners Arms there is a bridge over the River Salwarpe into Vines Park and just to one side is a statue of St. Richard de Wyche .
This was once a place of pilgrimage with flowers being brought every year on April 3rd. Once in the 13th century the main salt pit at Upwych dried up and Richard de Wyche, as he was at that time, blessed the well and the brine ran again.
He later became Bishop of Chichester and following his death was made a Saint.
In Vines Park the river Salwarpe and the canal run parallel. In 1767 James Brindley, the first real civil engineer, surveyed the route for a canal to join Droitwich to the River Severn at Grimley and this led to a six mile canal being opened on March 12th 1771.
This allowed vessels to sail from the Salt Wharfs in Droitwich, taking their cargos directly to the port of Bristol.
These vessels were known as Trows and for the salt trade had were developed into a special version, which became known as With Barge or “witches”. Their masts were on winches to allow them to sail under bridges and they were able to take the maximum cargo on a shallow draught.
The canal was necessary because the River Salwarpe was often too low in summer for the transportation of the salt.
Built by James Brindley the Droitwich Barge Canal was opened in 1771 and abandoned in 1939 through an act in July of that year. On 1st July 2011 the canal was reopened after nearly 40 years of campaigning and restoration work by enthusiasts from the Droitwich Canal Trust.
The canal is part of a leisure 'cruising circuit' – the Mid Worcestershire Ring. The Ring allows boats, cyclists and ramblers to make a 21-mile circular journey through some of the UK's most beautiful and historic countryside, from the Worcester & Birmingham Canal to the River Severn, through the city of Worcester and back to Droitwich Spa.
*** Visitors arriving by narrow boat can join the tour here and follow it until you return to the canal. ***
Follow the canal towpath to the second swing bridge where you need to make a decision.
You can either cross over the bridge back into the town or continue on the towpath to the canal basin with the Railway Public House at the top end (another chance to stop for refreshments).
Here also is a chance to see any of the colourful narrow boats moored in the basin.
From here retrace your steps back to the swing bridge.