I WONDER if any of our letter/text/email writers to the editor who hanker after the “good old days” are referring to the 1840s when regular midnight orgies were held in Worcester.

Fortunately not City Council sponsored so there was no penny on the rates to cover, they were organised by the socialist movement, which was big up north but made less impression the further south it came. If orgies were a recruiting tool, they obviously had their geographical limitations.

In Worcester the socialists were based in a building called the Halls of Science on the corner of Temperance Street and Providence Street, which acted as their educational spearhead.

However it was not an unmitigated success and GJ Holyoake, a lecturer in the movement and employed at the hall in the Blockhouse district of the city at a salary of sixteen shillings a week, wrote rather disparagingly of the efforts of the Faithful City socialists.

He said: “English socialists expected to improve society by showing the superior reasonableness of the changes they sought. A small branch of these propagandists existed in Worcester where an enthusiastic carpenter had enlarged and fitted up an oblong workshop as a lecture room. Some sympathisers who never appeared in the hall furnished means of purchasing material. These humble lecture rooms were called ‘halls of science’, not that we had much science, merely a preference for it.”

To their misfortune, the socialists seem to have got on the wrong side of the Church, which was a lot more influential then than now. But they were considered more of an irritation than a threat, a member of St Paul’s in the Blockhouse congregation writing: “ With the exception of the immoral tendencies of the Halls of Science, balls and midnight orgies, they do not seem to occasion much annoyance to the inhabitants.

“They and their companions in recklessness may be seen on a Sabbath morning with no coats on, smoking pipes in the open street or at their own doors, while the decent and God-fearing population around them are quietly wending their way to church.”

By 1855 the socialists had quit the street corner building, but it continued to attract lively gatherings. In October of that year the Worcester Herald reported on a Mormon Lecture in the hall given by Elder Evans on the subject of polygamy.

This obviously attracted far more interest than midnight orgies for the place was packed and a mini-riot ensued. The Herald writer adding: “A great disturbance took place and the police were sent for. The proprietor has since refused to lend it again for such disgusting purposes.” Best go back to the orgies, they caused less bother.