The late 19th century saw a gradual improvement
within the urban environment, prompted in 1868 by the Artisans and
Labourer's Dwellings Act which gave City Corporations the powers
to demolish or improve insanitary dwellings. This process was a
slow one in Worcester, however, and while new housing developments
sprang up for the city's workers in the outlying suburbs (at Little
London, in the north of the city, for example), along the city's
main roads, and beside the canal - significantly extending the size
of the city by the time of the First World War - it was not until
the 1920s and '30s that the old medieval slums within the city centre
were cleared - freeing a substantial amount of land for new development.
Building of course continued for the city's more prosperous citizens,
and the best surviving examples of this period can be found in Barbourne
Terrace, Stephenson Terrace and along Battenhall Road.
This period of late Victorian and Edwardian expansion marks the
final transition between the old medieval town and the modern city,
and while this transformation and subsequent development resulted
in the loss of much of the ‘old’ character and fabric of the place
(particularly between the High Street and the river, the southern
end of Friar Street and the High Street, and at Blackfriars), this
might not have seemed such a bad thing to a 19th century factory
worker living in the slums on Birdport.
If nothing else has really changed in the economic and geographic
factors which drive the city's prosperity today, though the strategic
importance of the Severn has been replaced by the M5, the population
can at least enjoy the story of their city's past within a degree
of comfort, at home on the Web or in one of the City's museums,
without fear of disease or invading armies, and within a built environment
which retains a mixture of both old and new - for everyone's benefit!
So what happens next?