AT one time it laboured under the title of “Worcester’s scruffiest street”, so whatever happened could only be onwards and upwards for The Butts.

Currently there’s a wrangle over the future of the large empty building at the bottom of it – in the modern era Images nightclub but historically the warehouse of a large corn and seed merchants – and if that gets sorted the area will be well on the way to the renaissance that was promised as long ago as 1989.

To be fair, the arrival of the glitter ball Hive history centre in 2012 gave The Butts a huge shot in the arm and now things are pretty tidy, if not aesthetically beautiful, all the way up to the junction with Shaw Street.

The name of the street harks back to the days when every man had to prepare for the defence of his city. Just to the north of the city walls was a wide open area which had long been used as a practice ground for archery. Through this land, which was mainly orchards, runs The Butts. Worcester Infirmary was built nearby with the walk connecting it to the city in line with Infirmary Walk as it is today.

One of the features of The Butts in the early 19th century was a Cold Bath. Mentioned in records in 1802, this stood on the south side of the street and was marked at one time by the presence of Bath Cottage and Bath House. It was fed by an underground stream and held the claim of being one of the purest waters in the kingdom at a time when it was fashionable to bath and wash at such places.

The city wall was eventually demolished eastwards from Bath House (which itself has gone), but parts of it remain on the west (river) side of The Butts where houses were built on top of it. One of these is Northwall House, an 18th-century property with a 19th century Gothic-style faced decorated with coloured tiles.

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It was home to Worcester’s first grammar school for girls and later became a private house. However, after it fell empty in 1985 the Grade II building deteriorated badly, squatters moved in and with parts of the roof gone it was open to the weather. Fortunately a major private restoration programme in the mid-1990s got it back on track.

About 100 yards down the street towards the river is Rack Alley, at the side of the former Images nightclub, which climbs over the old city wall to the historic area of Dolday, now disappeared beneath the Crowngate development. Its name arises from its association with the cloth trade and many 18th century engravings show the racks built on the open land nearby.

Sadly any cloth hanging from racks there today would be polluted by the fumes from traffic on one of Worcester’s busiest roads, which now looks a bit smarter. Although that wasn’t difficult.