AS 1902 dawned and with Father Christmas barely unhitched the reindeer,  a white bearded clergyman arrived in Worcester who was thankfully better at religion than choosing real estate. 

Charles Gore came from Westminster Abbey, where he had been a canon, on promotion to Bishop of Worcester and seeing himself as a liberally and socially minded man of the people, he declined to take up residence in his rather dislocated official home of Hartlebury Castle, preferring to be  more in touch with his flock.

The property he chose to call home was a fine late-18th century town house, a hundred yards or so from The Commandery at the bottom of Fort Royal. Subsequently it has become better known as the Loch Ryan Hotel.

However Gore rather let his eye for convenience get in the way of due diligence. For as any member of his new flock would have told him, the City Council was on the verge of replacing its tired old horse drawn tram system with electric and a major junction was planned right outside the house.

And so it came to pass that Gore moved into his new home, where the London and Baths roads meet, in February 1902 and within a year gangs of navvies begin ripping up the adjacent road.

Poor Gore found the racket from picks, shovels, sledgehammers and earthy labourers unbearable and soon decanted himself to an equally impressive, but considerably quieter, Regency pile in Lansdown Crescent, now known as the Bishop’s House.

Keeping house for him was his young niece Diana Ogilvy, a lady who went on to achieve local fame as the first woman mayor of Worcester and welcomed Edward, Prince of Wales, to the city in 1932 to open the widened and reconstructed bridge over the Severn.

Gore proved a bit left field for Worcester and many of the local clergy did not approve of his socialist views. On the first Sunday after his consecration as Bishop he nipped off between cathedral services for a wander on the Malvern Hills.

No problem there, but Gore took an ordinary 3rd Class cheap return from Foregate Street station, mixing among the usual flotsam of Sunday afternoon excursionists. It was typical of Gore, but shocked many of his church contemporaries.

He also shopped at Worcester Co-op at a time when many local clergy and churchgoers opposed the movement. Indeed he was denounced at the Birmingham Congress by Father Ignatus, “the seer of visons”, who claimed under Gore’s care he had a premonition of Worcester Cathedral falling over.

Some irony then that Charles Gore was the man responsible for the northern section of Worcester Diocese dividing off to become the Diocese of Birmingham with him as its first bishop.

He left Worcester after only three years and devoted a large part of his personal fortune to the new venture. For the worshippers of Brum, Father Christmas had indeed arrived.