Everywhere we step in Worcester, there is a tale waiting to be told.

Some people may question this statement and argue that some areas of the city are modern and therefore devoid of a story. But that’s not the whole picture.

The Crowngate Shopping Centre was opened by the Duke of Gloucester in 1992. Today, people stand waiting for the bus in the bus station, browse the brightly lit shops above or park their cars in the multi-story carpark, not realising the wealth of heritage the site holds.

Between 1985 and 1986 an archaeological excavation took place on what was to be the Crowngate bus station.

This was my first brush with Worcester’s past. It had a lasting effect on me, giving me the enthusiasm to create ‘Discover History’ in 2003.

The bus station site has a fascinating history, spanning centuries. A site which was originally occupied by Roman houses and workshops stretching down to the River Severn. The area was eventually abandoned and became farmland used for grazing sheep for the thriving wool industry.

However on June 5, 1347, William Beauchamp, Lord of Elmley purchased the land now labelled ‘Belassis (finely situated.)’ 

A Dominican Friary was built on this land and flourished for many years. The 16th century historian and traveller John Leland said: “This ground is the highest plot in the town and hath a fair prospect.” The Friary was constructed from stone, timber and even topped off with a tiled roof. It was a self-sufficient community within the new city wall.

The dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536 eventually led to the sale of the Friary, with much of the structure being sold and recycled to anyone with money.

William Hoo bought the church roof for £4.15s.1d. John Grene bought a door for 2s and Thomas Chapman a plank for 2d! The Monastic garden survived the dissolution because it was leased out as the ‘Church Garden’ or ‘Quire Gardens’ as late as 1606. Cloth was often left to dry in this area after being dyed by the city cloth workers.

In the 1700s, land within the city was in short supply, so the Friary site was built on. Dr Nash in 1780 takes up the story in his history of Worcestershire - “The Monastery stood where gardens now are at the top of Friars Alley, behind Smock Alley running up to Angel Lane. One Butler, a Flax Dresser, has built a row of neat houses, and Fitzer, a Grocer another row on part of the site. These houses are now called Blackfriars.”

Unfortunately this area became overcrowded, which in turn led to numerous cholera epidemics. Gin dens, crime and a serious lack of sanitation all forced the city elders to look at improving the area.

They described the area as in ‘a filthy and unwholesome state so as to be a nuisance.’ Action was slow and even during the Great War this area was still a slum. By the 1960s full scale demolition was ordered on a number of sites across Worcester including the Crown Gate bus station site. This led to the 1960s development. This consisting of a multi-story carpark, flats, shops and indoor market, affectionately known as ‘Blackfriars’. The second time the term was used in its history.

In the 1980s this site saw further changes when the 1960s structure was partly demolished to make way for the Crowngate Shopping Centre. The Archaeological excavation was led by the late Charles Mundy, Archaeologist and friend. The Friary remains were found, along with numerous cess pits and rubbish dumps from the Medieval period. Also unearthed were Roman road surfaces, back yards and Iron slag. The shadows of timber buildings and a substantial 17th century earthwork was also uncovered. Safe to say, this is more than ‘just a bus station.’