WORCESTER’S Cornmarket area has seen quite a few disparate events over the centuries. It was the place where the public gallows used to stand, where soldiers would parade, where public whippings took place and where Charles Dickens and Edward Elgar would pause before entering the Public Hall to perform. But a wedding venue? Not your average.

Yet there was a time when people chose to tie the knot there, in the open, with a ready made wedding party of passing strangers and gawpers.

The man behind this practice was John Nash, a very notable local citizen with a flair for being a bit left field for his day. He lived in one of Worcester’s most striking black and white properties, the suitably named Nash’s House in New Street, about 300 yards from the Cornmarket. Among other things Nash was a local Justice of the Peace, which in the 1600s meant he could marry people, a ceremony for which he saw no need of a church.

Instead he would ask the relevant couple, plus associates, to meet him in the Cornmarket and he’d wander down the street from his house and perform the necessary. After which presumably all would repair to one of the many surrounding hostelries and Nash wouldn’t have far to walk home.

He was a quite remarkable man. He was born into a wealthy family of clothiers in 1590 at a time when Worcester was the largest clothing manufacturing town in the country, employing 8,000 people on 380 looms.

In his 72 years, Nash was a city alderman, Worcester’s mayor, its member of Parliament during Charles I’s reign, a Roundhead Captain of Horse, local administrator and successful merchant. To his credit, he used much of his wealth to help the city’s poor.

He founded Nash’s Almshouses off New Street, probably by renovating the derelict Throgmorton almshouses which had provided accommodation for old soldiers. Originally called New Street Hospital, Nash’s Almshouses occupy the same site today, accessed off New Street via the narrow Nash’s Passage.

John Nash also purchased the land on which the Royal Infirmary was built.

On the eastern side of the part occupied by Worcester cattle market, he built another row of almshouses to provide accommodation for twenty five old folk to live rent free with a small pension, free coal and light and a clothing allowance. These existed well into the second half of the twentieth century before being demolished in the 1970s as part of a redevelopment of The Butts area.

John Nash’s tomb is in St Helen’s church and he left orders in his will that the part relating to his charitable bequests should be publicly read by the Town Clerk from the steps of the Guildhall each year on the first Friday in Lent. For his trouble the TC would be paid five shillings. Something that went out of fashion as quickly as getting married in the Cornmarket.