NOT long before the start of the First World War, soldiers of the Worcestershire Regiment were involved in one of the most contentious events to occur in peacetime Britain when they opened fire on a civilian crowd.

In August 1911, 150 men of the Ist Battalion under the command of Major Brownlow Stuart were called to suppresses rioters in Llanelli. The summer had been swelteringly hot and there were national and local strikes in the major industries on an unprecedented scale.

Llanelli was a major railway hub and became the focus of much action in the railway workers strike. With 500 strikers supported by 5,000 sympathisers there was considerable disorder in the town and on August 19, during the negotiations, a train containing strikebreaking workers was held up, so Major Stuart ordered his men to use bayonets to disperse the crowd.

The train passed slowly, but was pursued by strikers who boarded it and put out the engine fire, immobilising the locomotive. Troops followed, but found themselves boxed in a cutting as miners approached, some throwing stones. The Riot Act was read and Major Stuart then ordered his men to fire shots towards the crowd.

Two young men were shot dead. One was a 21-year-old tinplate worker named John 'Jac' John, who "had joined the picket line to support his less fortunate townsmen." The other was a 19-year-old youth named Leonard Worsell, who was not involved in the conflict, but had just come out into his back garden when he heard the commotion. In his report Major Stuart claimed his soldiers were firing warning shots and were unaware of the men when they did so, but other witnesses claimed they were deliberately targeted.

The strike was eventually resolved by negotiations in London and at a coroner’s inquest the jury returned a verdict of justifiable homicide.

This was just one of several important August events to be featured in Worcester’s History and Heritage Calendar and here are some more.

August 5, 1788: George III arrived in Worcester for The Music Meeting, the forerunner of the Three Choirs Festival. Local scribe Valentine Green was assigned the job and reported: “On Friday 8 August 1788 his present Majesty at 1130 attended the Cathedral to hear the Oratorio from the Messiah by Handel at which near 3000 persons were present, an assembly so numerous and brilliant seemed to strike the Royal Eye with pleasing surprise. On 9 August the King went to the China Factory and was pleased to leave ten guineas for the workmen.”

August 13, 1575: Historian Valentine Green was there again and wrote: “On Saturday 13th August in the 17th year of the reign, our most victorious sovereign Lady Elizabeth came towards this City riding upon her palfrey. Mr Bellu an orator began his oration at the end of which people cried with loud voice unto whom she said often times I thank you all. She passed towards the Cathedral where she diligently viewed the tomb of King John together with the Chapel and tomb of her dear uncle Prince Arthur.” Royal reporting as it was.

August 22, 1679: Father John Wall was executed at Red Hill on the city boundary at Whittington. He was the last Worcestershire martyr and the last man in England to be executed because of his religion. He became caught up in the incident called the Titus Oates Plot apparently to kill the King Charles II and overthrow the Church of England and Protestantism. Father John had been the priest in charge of the Catholic Chapel at Harvington Hall, near Kidderminster. He was committed for trial at Worcester charged with High Treason convicted and sent to the scaffold. His body was buried in St Oswald’s graveyard and his head sent to the Roman Catholic abbey at Douai in Berkshire.

August 25, 1964: Worcestershire became County Cricket Champions for the first time when Gloucestershire were defeated by an innings and two runs at New Road. Roy Booth, the best wicket keeper never to play for England, clinching victory with the stumping of Ken Graveney off the bowling of Norman Gifford. There was still a nervous wait until news came through from Southampton that Warwickshire, the Pears closest rivals, had been beaten by Hampshire.

On August 31 the following year, Worcestershire retained the County Championship with only seven minutes of the match against Sussex at Hove remaining. Needing 132 to win in the final session, six wickets were lost before Dick Richardson hit the winning runs. It was the County’s seventh consecutive win to cap a remarkable end to the season.

August 26, 1802: Lord Nelson came to Worcester to receive the Freedom of the City. Accompanied by his mistress Lady Emma Hamilton and, rather bizarrely her husband, they went to the Worcester Chamberlain China Factory and ordered a set of porcelain called a breakfast service along with other dishes at a total cost of £120, which would be about £6,500 in modern money. Nelson died at Trafalgar 21 October 1805 leaving this collection in his Will for Emma who could not pay and the collection was sold. It is now scattered in public and private collections.

August 26, 2004:The Pump House Environment Centre project in Waterworks Road, backed by Duckworth Worcester Trust, was opened. The building was converted in two phases with renewable energy technologies used, including ground source energy, wind turbines and solar panels. Displays on environmental issues were installed for the public opening. Since those early days DWT has remained dedicated to conservation and protection of the environment with many projects involving volunteers, while founder Cecil Duckworth, who died in 2020, remains one of Worcester’s greatest benefactors.