BACK in the early 1980s Worcester finally got to grips with what to do with a problem right at its heart.

In an area that stretched along the east side of Angel Place, from Broad Street to Angel Street, stood three of the city’s landmark buildings, all of which had seen far better times. There was the Corn Exchange, the defunct Scala Cinema and the fading Crown Hotel. In their day, all had played a mayor role in local life, but that day was long gone and they combined to create a scruffy back lot which was at odds with the commercial buzz all around.

Then in 1981, the Inn Leisure Group of Cheltenham was given the go-ahead for a multi-million pound transformation of the area to create “an intimate and prestigious layout of shops” along the centuries old coaching inn entrance of the Crown Hotel and through new passageways to Angel Place and Angel Street.

As my former colleague Mike Grundy commented at the time: “It’s the most exciting and attractive development I have seen in Worcester for many years and shows again, like the impressive Hopmarket transformation, you don’t need to destroy vintage buildings to produce excellent new shopping facilities.” The scheme became known as Crown Passage and it was indeed a jewel in Worcester’s crown.

The Corn Exchange in Angel Street was completed in 1848 in record time by local builder Joseph Wood, who was in competition with another corn exchange being built in the Cornmarket. Wood’s building went up in four months and enabled “450 gentlemen of the farmers party, together with members of the nobility” to celebrate their success at its opening. Designed by noted architect Henry Rowe it stood 70ft long by 60ft across and was as high as it was wide.

After corn ceased to be sold there it was used for many purposes including for political meeting, as a popular boxing hall between 1900-1930, and later as an auction room. In more recent years it became part of the Ikea shopping chain.

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The Crown Hotel dates back to Georgian times and during the hey-day of stage coach travel was the perfect coaching inn. It had a large coachyard and stables s ticket office and commercial room and also a “glee room”, which was used for concerts and singing. There was also a very popular Men Only Room. When the railways eventually took over from horse drawn coaches, the Crown still served as place where travellers could purchase a ticket to take them the hour long coach journey out to Spetchley station to catch a train.

The Scala cinema, on the corner of Angel Pace and Angel Street, opened in November, 1922. It was an independent operation, not part of a national chain, and was well known for its opulent interior.

It became the first cinema in Worcester to have CinemaScope installed. This was launched in March, 1954 with the film The Robe starring Richard Burton, Jean Simmons and Victor Mature. The Scala closed in 1973, but 10 years later had its own role in Worcester’s Crown Passage production.