MANY, many moons ago, long before Love Island and I’m a Celebrity had people glued to the TV, a marginally less cerebral Worcester pastime used to be popping down to The Cornmarket to watch a public flogging.

Today that area of the city is a rather bland bit of land which only really serves as a cut-through from City Walls Road to The Shambles and High Street. But there was a time when it was an enclosed square, a vibrant and happening place where rather a lot did happen.

There were public stocks and a pillory, which provided endless entertainment for the hoi polloi, who could  fling rotten fruit and worse at those sentenced to be restrained therein, and it was where whippings of naughty people were carried out.

Worcester News:

King Charles House from a painting showing how it was in 1651

Public whippings in The Cornmarket took place well into the 19th century and they were not necessarily a stationary affair. There is an account of one chap called Francis Morris being “whipped for a space of one hundred yards”.

Which would seem to indicate the severity of his punishment depended on how many blows the person with the whip could get in before Morris completed the course.

Worcester News:

Worcester’s much-missed Public Hall in The Cornmarket shortly before it was demolished in the 1960s

Although the main gallows were on the city boundary at Red Hill, in the early days there was another set in The Cornmarket and as an added attraction the severed limbs of the victims were often displayed there as well. As they were after the Gunpowder Plot convictions.

The location originally got its name because it was the main city market place where the chief commodity was corn. This was stored at the surrounding inns and sold by sample in the open air, until a covered corn market was built there in the mid-1800s.

But this closed after a better one was created in Angel Street and the building was converted into a music hall.

The real character of The Cornmarket was destroyed by the awful demolition of the Public Hall in the 1960s, which removed its northern boundary. Until then it had been a genuine city centre square, lined by the Hall, King Charles House and various old taverns and shops. The sort of period setting that much could be made of today.

But the old Hall, an excellent performance venue where everyone from Charles Dickens and Sir Edward Elgar to the “Bijou Minstrels  with Tom Thumb” and post-war dance bands had appeared, needed much renovation which no one could afford.

So down it came, ostensibly to make way for City Walls Road. But in the end the road passed to one side and the site is now a tarmacked car park.