Many thanks to Paul Harding, Assistant SSI (School Staff Instructor) of the King’s School CCF for this fascinating write-up on a recent archaeological dig in Worcester featuring the site of Warmstry House, the home of OV Dr Thomas Warmstry who was Dean of Worcester from 1661 until his death in 1665.
Wessex Archaeology recently dug some boreholes and took some environmental samples from the Copenhagen Street Car Park in Worcester. The site was once part of the sweeping gardens of Warmstry House.
This fine mansion was occupied by Dr Wall in 1751 and became the ‘Worcester Tonquin Manufactory’ or ‘Bone China works’. The site was then occupied by Dents Glove Factory up to the point it was completely demolished in the 1960s, to make way for the Technical College (now Heart of Worcestershire College) and Copenhagen Street Car Park!
Warmstry House was described in great detail in the Gentleman’s Magazine from January 1836. Sylvanus Urban said it was ‘A large and handsome mansion…..one of the finest specimens of ancient internal domestic architecture in the City of Worcester.’
The house can also be seen in some early drawings and maps of the City. The building seems to have been in the shape of a ‘quadrangle, with a court in the centre.’ It was built in Palace Row within a stone’s throw of the Bishops Palace. It stood at the top of a lane which became known as Warmstry Slip. This ran parallel to Copenhagen Street to the River bank.
Dr Thomas Warmstry was the 2nd Dean of Worcester to have been educated at The King’s School, Worcester. He was born in 1610 in the City, with his father William Warmstry Esq being the Registrar of the Diocese. After moving onto Brasenose and Christ Church Colleges in Oxford he became the Rector of Whitchurch and eventually the Clerk to the Worcester Diocese. He went on to witness the devastation of the English Civil Wars and in particular the surrender of Worcester following the Summer Siege in 1646.
During the Restoration he was installed as Dean of Worcester in October 1661. Thomas seemed to have been a very popular choice, as it resulted in a ‘great public rejoicing.’ He was escorted to the Deanery by 100 horsemen. He was also met by the Clergy and 40 King’s Scholars at College Gates. They then processed into the Cloisters to the singing of ‘Te Deum.’
Warmstry House had been the family home for many years. However the house could have been built at the end of the Medieval period during the reign of King Henry VII. Sir William Windsor – 2nd Lord Windsor – ancestor of the Earl of Plymouth was said to have connections with this building.
After the Warmstry family, came the Plowden family who occupied the Mansion until Dr Wall moved in creating the China Works mentioned earlier. Several alterations had been made by this time and as the building became a factory in the centuries that followed, the original house would have disappeared inside extensions, workshops and kilns.
All we have to tell us how fine a house it was are a few descriptions and stylised drawings on maps. The Gentleman’s Magazine said –
‘A few of the old rooms are preserved in their original state, and have been much admired by those who delight in viewing the relics of past ages.’
’The library of the house is a lofty and spacious room wainscoted with oak, carved in various parts with different devises and the arms of the family of “Warmstry”. Around the room much can still be seen of the antique bookshelves, edged with a scalloped border of green cloth.’
The house would have been very spectacular. Another room was the parlour which was described as –
‘Wainscoted round with oak, and over the fireplace is a very curious specimen of armorial ensigns, carved in wood and bearing the marks of great age.’
Before the car park and college were built several trenches were dug by archaeologists. Antiques and Royal Worcester Porcelain expert Henry Sandon was involved in these excavations to learn a little more about the development of the Bone China Industry in 1751.