Monday 10 January 2011

Alfred Taylor House, Worcester

Earlier today my Wife and I visited Malvern, we were checking out some furniture for my daughter. On the way back we stopped off in St. Johns, Worcester and visited two of my favourite charity shops, the first is the Air Ambulance Book Store, always worth a browse and the second is this Help The Aged/Age Concern shop that is situated in the Alfred Taylor House and the subject of this post.

These shops known as 43 - 49 St. Johns were once a Medieval Hall House, circa 1500. The earliest documents relating to the building date from 1717, sixty-six years after The Battle of Worcester.

Built as a Hall House, the fine chamfered beams show that this was not an ordinary village house. The beams are made from Oak that probably grew in Malvern Chase, the Wyre Forest or more distant Feckenham and show great beauty. The beams in the bedroom show candle burns!

The building has defied destruction, warfare, religious strife as well as all the storms and gales of centuries and was possibly built to serve some purpose pertaining to Worcester Cathedral and its Monastery.

We know that the land around St. Johns was rich agricultural land and there are records of "eighty couples of rabbits to Worcester Cathedral and six to Worcester Convent" which were to be sent at certain specific times. Rabbits in the early fourteenth Century fetched the same price as Beef - a farthing a pound!

The Hall later became four sub-standard tenements or messuges. Upon restoration there were many, many layers of wallpaper and beneath these and again hidden behind a twentieth century fireplace there emerged a large noble looking fireplace, which although defaced in parts due to insensitive builders is most likely sixteenth century in age. On the fireplace there are two shields with all of the heraldic trimmings gone but which still show signs of what appears to be diocesan arms - three stone roses, with five petals and a beautifully worked central boss. In addition there are now traces of an elaborate triangular pattern.

Behind the fireplace was found a doll - no ordinary doll, but a Witch Doll. Square faced, masked in plaster its foot peg like and etched with a claw design. Its black chest faintly marked with the drawing of a Goats Head. On its back a piece of paper with the faded words "Help me to...."

Upstairs is an old door it had been covered up for at least fifty years with layers of wallpaper, on the inside of the door appears to be royal effigies. Part of the bedroom wall of 43, now restored carries traces of a wall painting.

History states that in 1717 Thomas Holland, tenant of Mr. Hanson sublet this property to Thomas Smith a gunsmith in the parish of St. Helen's. From 1717 to 1894 records show that these tenements came to belong to Mr. Thomas Smith the Elder and were passed down through their heirs until in 1894 they came into the ownership of Mr. Christopher Funnel of Kansas City, USA. He had inherited them from his wife who left England for America in 1881 and died the following year in March 1882.

Tenants living there in 1894 were James Morgan, Maria Sefton, Daniel Spiers and Herbert Sleight.

These extracts have been taken from a photocopied sheet that is available from The Age Concern Shop and were further extracted from a book called; The Medieval Hall House That Defies Destruction by Gladys Keithley.

If ever you are in the area - this building and its small gardens are well worth searching out and visiting.


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