A journey down the Severn from Thomas Harral’s Picturesque Views of the River (1824) [Text only version]




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20. The Wyre Forest


Image: Near Bewdley, Worcestershire from Blackstone Park. The natural attractions of this part of the Severn brought tourists to the area in the 18th and 19th centuries. Nearby Spring Grove House, built by the local chemical manufacturer, Samuel Skey, between 1787 and 1790. In the late 20th century, it became part of another tourist attraction; Spring Grove House lies within the grounds of the West Midlands Safari Park.


[Image from Thomas Harral, Picturesque Views of the Severn, 1824.

Shropshire Records and Research]

“Eastward from the footbridge, is a little hamlet with a chapel called the Foreign of Kidderminster; close to which is Spring Grove, seat of the late Jonathan Skey Esq and now (we believe) of John Taylor Esq. “The House is a large white building, situated in a park, the north wall of which is skirted by the road to Kidderminster. Spring Grove forms a pleasing object in the scenery, and the views which it commands are very fine”


The late S. Skey, Esq. introduced a useful breed of mules, for agricultural purposes as well as for the saddle, into this part of the country. They were produced from grey, or white, mares, and a white spotted foreign ass. Some of the more beautiful, nearly milk-white, were reserved for Mr Skey’s carriage. All the farm work upon the estate – a light sandy soil - was performed by this race of mules.


On the western side of Bewdley, in a commanding situation, are the park and mansion of Ticken Hill….Here the view is singularly wild, romantic and delightful. The forest of Wyre, famous in past ages for the abundance and superior quality of its timber, has long been robbed of nearly all its verdant glory. Still, however, it forms a large nursery for oak poles and underwood, with here and there a timber tree in reserve.


About a mile below the town, from that part of the river which is seen in the plate entitled “Near Bewdley, from Blackstone Park,” the town, with its bridge, and Ribbesford church, are seen to great advantage. Here, on the eastern bank of the stream, rises a lofty wood-clothed range of cliffs, denominated Blackstone Rocks. The shrubs, shooting from the fissures and interstices of the rocks, spread forth their wild and verdant branches in every direction, forming gay festoons, and sweetly recessed arbours, in every fantastic variety that imagination can conceive. The contrast, thus produced, with the extended plain which lies beneath the cliffs of Wynterdine and Ribbesford, on the western bank, is eminently and beautifully picturesque.”


Harral, vol. 1, p 295-301.


21. Stourport


Image: Stourport, Worcestershire, from above the Bridge. Stourport was a creation of the Industrial Revolution. The opening of the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal in 1771 led to the growth of a new town where the canal met the Severn.


[Image from Thomas Harral, Picturesque Views of the Severn, 1824.

Shropshire Records and Research]


“A little below Lickhill, on a sudden turn of the Severn, the bridge and town of Stourport break most pleasingly on the view. On the left, approaching the bridge, are some vinegar works, a foundry, and a spinning manufactory.


The flourishing town of Stourport affords a striking instance of the advantages which result from commercial industry, when judiciously exercised. Scarcely more than fifty years ago, the site which it occupies was a sandy barren, unprofitable heath, with only a few lonely cottages, exhibiting a picture of devastation and poverty.


At this time Stourport contains from three to four hundred houses, with numerous wharfs and warehouses. The streets are good; some of the dwellings may be termed elegant; and most of them are respectable, neat, and commodious. The town resembles a sea-port in the heart of the kingdom.


The commercial creation of Stourport…is attributable to the Trent and Severn, or Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal, the basin of which…forms a dépôt of communication between the central and western parts of the kingdom. This canal, one of the earliest works of the celebrated Brindley, was commenced about the year 1768, and finished in 1771, at an expense of £105,000….It is truly astonishing to observe the quantities of coal, iron, grain, flour, hops, apples, china ware, and other goods which are daily and hourly in transit by this communication.”


Harral, vol. 2 p1-4


22. Stourport Bridge


Image: Stourport, Worcestershire from below the Bridge.


[Image from Thomas Harral, Picturesque Views of the Severn, 1824.

Shropshire Records and Research]


“The bridge of Stourport, seen in the two accompanying views, was built soon after the completion of the basin. Its first stone was laid in the month of March 1773; and, in September, 1775, it was passable. The cost was £5,000. It consisted of fifty-two arches, three of which, as represented in the plates, were over the river, and forty-nine upon land to make the approaches. The bridge, however, after standing only a few years, was destroyed by a great flood, occasioned by a sudden thaw. Previously to the thaw, there had been a severe frost and a heavy fall of snow, and the immense quantities of ice which 4 were hurried down by the over-swollen torrent swept away every obstruction, with the most desolating fury.


This disaster led the inhabitants of Stourport to determine on the erection of an iron bridge, with an arch of such extent as to preclude the possibility of danger from any overflow of the stream. In consequence of this determination, the present beautiful structure was raised. It consists of a single arch, of one hundred and fifty feet span, and about fifty feet in perpendicular height above the surface of the water.”


Harral, vol. 2, p 5.


23. Worcester


Image: Worcester. The county town of Worcestershire and a regional religious, cultural and economic centre.


[Image from Thomas Harral, Picturesque Views of the Severn, 1824.

Shropshire Records and Research]


“In proceeding down the Severn, the bridge, the cathedral, and the several church steeples of Worcester, rising beyond the race-ground, impress the mind of the spectator with an idea of a larger city than that which actually lies before him. The Malvern Hills, to the right, constitute a fine back-ground and give a bold relief to the principal objects in the town; but perhaps the most pleasing point of view in which the whole can be contemplated, is the one chosen by Mr Ireland (the artist of the engravings who visited the area in the 1790s), a little below the bridge.


The city of Worcester, agreeably situated in a rich vale upon the eastern bank of the Severn, and nearly in the centre of the county,…is about four miles in circumference. Its environs are distinguished by their beauty and fertility; its numerous outlets are eminently pleasing; and, in its broad, handsome streets, paved and lighted, and its well-built, modern brick houses, it wears the aspect of wealth, consequence, and comfort. The situation is dry and salubrious; and, from the extensive water-works, which were erected some years ago, about a mile above the bridge…the whole neighbourhood is abundantly supplied with one of the essential elements of cleanliness and health.


Worcester Bridge…more than half a century ago…had fallen to decay, and from its narrowness, it was found extremely inconvenient. In consequence…, the parliamentary representatives of the city, presented the sum of £3,000 to repair the old, or build a new bridge. The latter was determined on; money was borrowed to carry the plan into effect; the first stone was laid…on the 25th July, 1771; and the bridge was completed and opened in the year 1781. Mr John Gwynne was the architect.


The grand sweep of the bridge, from bank to bank is nearly two hundred and seventy feet. Archways, for the towing paths, are so constructed as to prevent interruption to the passage over the bridge. The approach to the bridge on each side of the river is open and commodious; the quays are spacious, convenient, and easy of access; and a fine street – Bridge Street, opening to Broad Street – leads the traveller into the middle of the city.


Three centuries ago Worcester was much celebrated for its manufacture of broad cloth; but that, as well as the manufacture of carpets, has long since disappeared. More than six thousand persons are said to be employed at this time in glove-making; and the distillery trade of Worcester is considerable. The manufacture, however, in which, with the exception of Derby, Worcester stands unrivalled, is that of porcelain. The chief establishments are those of Messrs. Flight, Barr, and Flight, and Messrs. Chamberlain and Co. patronized by their late and present majesties. In the beauty of its designs, in the brilliance and durability of its colours, and in the excellence of its material, the Worcester porcelain is said to be superior to that of any manufactory in Europe.


An important communication is maintained between the city of Worcester and the town of Birmingham – and also amongst the several towns of that are seated on the banks of the Severn below Worcester, and the great sea-port and manufacturing towns of the north – by means of the Worcester and Birmingham canal.”


Harral, vol. 2, p 53-55, 75-77.


24. Worcester to Upton-on-Severn


Image: Junction of the Teme with the Severn. Powick Church From Clerkenleap below Worcester.


[Image from Thomas Harral, Picturesque Views of the Severn, 1824.

Shropshire Records and Research]


“On leaving Worcester, the Severn, having received the waters of the Salwarp, the Droitwich canal and the Beverburn, acquires additional breadth; and at about two miles and a half below the bridge, its volume is further increased by the reception of the Teme.

The river Teme rises in Radnorshire, and enters the county of Worcester at its north-western extremity, a little above Tenbury…. The river is supposed to derive its name from the extraordinary swiftness of its progress.


The Teme, though not eminently serviceable as a navigable stream, is highly ornamental to the country through which it passes. The fertile vale of Teme possesses every variety of wooded banks, of open verdant lawns, and of gently swelling knolls. For more than twenty miles, its borders are enriched with corn and pasture land, hopgrounds, orchards, etc.


By the windings of the stream, the pleasant little market town of Upton-upon-Severn lies twelve miles south from Worcester….There are no manufactures of importance here, but, from the advantage of a bridge, and of a harbour for the barges employed in the Severn navigation, the trade is considerable.”


Harral, vol. 2, p 83-84, 101


25. Tewkesbury


Image: Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire from the Upper Lake.


[Image from Thomas Harral, Picturesque Views of the Severn, 1824.

Shropshire Records and Research]


“By the tortuous windings of the Severn, the large, respectable, and populous town of Tewkesbury is about seven miles south-east from Upton, and thirteen or fourteen miles northeast from Gloucester…It is delightfully situated in the vale of Evesham, on the eastern side of the Upper or Warwickshire Avon, near the confluence of that river with the Severn, and between the Carron and Swilgate streams, which flow into the Avon; the former above, and the latter a little below the town. Thus nearly surrounded by water, it is entered from different points by three bridges; the chief of which, over the Avon, from the Mythe to Tewkesbury Quay, was constructed of iron in the autumn of the year 1822….At present, the manufacture of nails, of cotton stockings, and the business of malting, are the chief sources of wealth and employment, in this town.”


Harral, vol. 2, p 118, 130


26. Gloucester


Image: Gloucester, from above the Bridge. Gloucester was an ancient foundation, distinguished by its medieval cathedral. By the time of Harral’s visit, the city had become an elegant regional centre.

[Image from Thomas Harral, Picturesque Views of the Severn, 1824.

Shropshire Records and Research]


“This ancient and respectable city, occupying a gentle eminence which rises on its eastern side from the Severn, is in the vale of Gloucester. The city of Gloucester, with its suburbs, is nearly three miles in circumference….Previously to the improvement of the city, by act of parliament, in the year 1749, the houses were chiefly of timber; but are now principally of brick, and well built; and the streets are paved and lighted.


Gloucester has long enjoyed the pleasures of a theatre, of assembly rooms, and of a triennial musical festival, established by members of the choirs of Worcestershire, Gloucester, and Hereford. Of late years, the attractions of the city have been much increased by the discovery of a spring in its environs. The water…in its essential impregnations, is said to surpass that of Cheltenham and Gloucester.”


Harral, vol. 2, p 148, 181.


27. Gloucester’s Economy and the Severn Trade


Image: Gloucester Bridge and West Gate. Gloucester developed as an industrial and trading base, route over the river and major port. Many Severn barges and trows exchanged their cargoes at the port. Larger vessels transported goods to Bristol and other British towns. The Gloucester Port Books survive as a major historical source for the economy of the Severn and the British coastal trade in the 18th and 19th centuries.


[Image from Thomas Harral, Picturesque Views of the Severn, 1824.

Shropshire Records and Research]


“In the reign of Henry VIII, a bridge of stone arches was erected over the Severn….Since Mr Ireland (the artist responsible for the engraving) visited Gloucester, this bridge…having fallen to decay, has been taken down, and the bridge has been replaced by an elegant structure, of a single arch, eighty-seven feet in its span. The new bridge from a design by Smirke, is of stone, from the Forest of Dean, faced with Cornish granite.


The associated companies of Gloucester are now as follows; - Mercers, including apothecaries, grocers, and chandlers; Smiths and Hammer-men, including ironmongers, cutlers, saddlers, and glaziers; Metalmen, including goldsmiths, braziers, pewterers, and pin-makers; Weavers; Tanniers; Butchers; Bakers: Joiners: Coopers: Shoemakers; tailors: barbers; and Glovers.


At present, the chief trade of Gloucester arises from the pin manufacture, the hemp and flax-dressing business, and the navigation of the Severn. A bell foundry has existed here more than three centuries. Gloucester has its Custom-house, at which, though few foreign entries are made, considerable business is done with coasters.”


Harral, vol. 2, p 177-178.





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