QUITE what the shopkeepers of Worcester in the 1600s would have made of the UK’s current immigration policy Heaven Knows, because to them anyone who lived outside the city walls was a “foreigner”. Never mind that you only lived just down the road at Peopleton or Powick, you were not one of them and not overly welcome to come plying your trade in their backyard.

This distinction, which today would doubtless be labelled discrimination, came to a head when the city burghers, in the shape of the local Chamber (the body responsible for governing trade in the city), decided to move Worcester’s main meat trading area. A move necessitated because more and more “foreign” ie “country butchers” were coming the sell their wares in Worcester.

Previously a rather ad hoc area of meat stalls, or shambles as they were known, had assembled around The Cross and whether or not the old city butchers wanted to relocate they had no option in the face of an expansionist Chamber.

To cope with the foreigners and to bring some order to the situation, in the mid-1600s it was decided to make Baxter Street, a small lane which ran parallel to High Street, Worcester’s meat retail centre and change its name to Shambles Street. Later it became simply The Shambles.

In 1990 George Lewis, who had been 30 years a police office in the old Worcester City Force, spoke of his time as a young beat Bobbie patrolling the narrow, bustling street in the 1940s and 50s.

He recalled that at one time The Shambles had eight pubs - the Atlas, the Baker’s Arms, the Coach and Horses, the Liverpool Vaults, the Market Tavern, the Butcher’s Arms, the Market Hall Vaults and the New Inn.

All but three had gone by the time George arrived, but there were still no less than 17 butchers’ shops, many with their own slaughter house at the back. When a beast that objected to being killed, escaped and ran amok up the street it was Pamplona brought to Worcester as the crowds scattered. Although George with his police cape made an unlikely matador.

There were also eight grocers, three fishmongers, two green grocers an ironmongery, a furniture business, a china dealer , a boot and shoe shop, a confectioner, a clothes shop, fish fryer, a florist , a tripe dresser and a Woolworths Bazaar. There were also barrow boys and flower sellers.

George said the best time to visit The Shambles was on a Saturday evening in winter when the shop windows were ablaze with lights and the butchers were auctioning their left over weekend joints.

He explained: “It was in the days before fridges and butchers sold off their meat at knock-down prices because they would obviously have to throw it away otherwise.”

At the time The Shambles also had one of Worcester’s most distinctive buildings. The black and white property stood at the north end of the street at its junction with even narrower Church Street and was the home of ironmongers J and F Hall. When the business ceased in 1961, developers wanted to knock it down and put a supermarket on the site. To its credit, the City Council refused the proposal. But the builders appealed to Whitehall and won. What a surprise.