April 9, 2017

Evan Corrigan: Diary of a visit to Worcester … England, that is

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Courtesy Evan Corrigan / Facebook

Evan Corrigan, with the mayor of Worcester and other local officials and hosts, outside The Guildhall, our sister city's version of City Hall.

Evan Corrigan, 20, is a Worcester native and Fitchburg State University junior on a student exchange program in Germany. He is a member of the Burncoat High class of 2014.

Evan Corrigan

For the past several weeks, I have been living in Europe. I am very fortunate to have this opportunity of a lifetime. I am staying in Kamp-Lintfort in North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany.

My classes at Hochschule Rhein-Waal University of Applied Sciences did not start until April 3, so I took advantage of the time off and went to Prague on one weekend, and England the following week. I flew from Düsseldorf to Birmingham. When I arrived in Birmingham, I hopped on the train and I was on my way to see the Worcester on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

My visit to Worcester, England, was in the works for a few months. I reached out to the Mayor’s Office (Worcestershire), and I was put in touch with Liz Smith, the chair of the Twinning Committee in the other Worcester. Liz put me in touch with Lord Richard Faulkner, and we were discussing my trip for a while as well.

Liz had arranged for Derek and Pam to meet me at the train station.

Derek and Pam are members of the Twinning Committee. [Editor’s note: Made popular in Europe, twinning is the act of creating cultural and cooperative ties between municipalities.] They met me at the bottom of the platform stairs with an “Evan Corrigan” sign. They drove me to my bed and breakfast, and afterwards we went to Liz’s house for dinner and dessert. I tried British tea for the first time, but unfortunately tea is not for me.

We spent a few hours there, and I got to meet Liz and her husband, Stan. I felt very welcomed to Worcester, almost like I was being welcomed back home across the pond.

The following morning, Pam picked me up at my B&B and we drove back to her house to meet up with Derek and wait for their daughter to drop off their granddaughter. All of us walked around the city together.

I got to see their Worcester’s downtown, which is completely geared toward foot traffic. In this we could learn a thing or two from our sister city. After going through downtown, we went up to a park where there used to be a fort, the site of the final battle of the English Civil War in 1651.

Courtesy Evan Corrigan / Facebook

Downtown Worcester, England.

Afterward, Pam went back home to drop off her granddaughter, and she met up with us at an old church building that was tastefully converted into a restaurant.

The food there was quite good, but what stood out about the experience was that it gave me a feeling about how to properly reuse an old historical church. We just so happen to have our own churches in Worcester, Mass., that need a new use. We should look to the other Worcester for examples of how to repurpose buildings properly.

Courtesy Evan Corrigan / Facebook

A renovated church-turned-restaurant should be food for thought for our Worcester.

After lunch, we took a trip to the Commandery. This building dates to the 1000s, and has served a multitude of purposes throughout the millennium. We went to dinner at a restaurant that was inside a farmhouse from the 1500s, and that too was converted in such a tasteful fashion. After that, we went our separate ways again.

That Friday we started off the morning by taking a trip to the Mercian Regiment Museum (formerly Worcestershire Regiment Museum). It is a small museum that shows the history of the military unit. The Worcestershire Regiment dates back to 1694, and has served in numerous conflicts throughout British history, including both world wars.

It was amalgamated with the Sherwood Foresters to form the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment in 1970. That was then combined with the Cheshire Regiment and the Staffordshire Regiment in 2007 to form the Mercian Regiment. As someone who is really into history, I am jealous that our history does not go back very far in the United States.

Following our trip to the museum, we went out for a quick lunch, I do not remember what it was called, but I do remember it tasting good and having lamb in it.

About 1 p.m., we made our way to the Guildhall. The Guildhall serves as their City Hall now. Its construction began in 1721, a year before Jonas Rice founded our Worcester for the third and final time. This is where I met up with Liz Smith, Lord Faulkner and Mayor Paul Denham.

The mayor took me for a tour of the Guildhall. We started with his office, which had a throw that was gifted from Worcester, Mass. On it were various buildings from our city, most prominently City Hall. He showed me the 400-plus-year-old ceremonial sword of Worcester, and explained to me the history of the golden chain that the Mayor of Worcester wears. The chain dates to the 1800s and has been passed down ever since.

Courtesy Evan Corrigan / Facebook

With Mayor Paul Denham

We then went upstairs to see a room that is not typically open to the public. Inside was all of their twinning documents, including the one with Worcester, Mass., signed in 1999 by then-Mayor Raymond Mariano. There was also a letter from President Bill Clinton acknowledging the twinned pair.

Following that we went to the main hall. It has one of the most beautiful ceilings I have ever seen. It is very difficult to describe, and pictures do not do it justice. This is one of the things you would have to see for yourself to truly understand how impressive it is.

From there, we saw the last place on our Guildhall tour, the City Council chambers. Their council does not meet in full very often — only six times a year, to be exact. When councillors do meet, the meetings are certainly not short.

Next I was taken to see the Worcester Cathedral. Parts of the building predate the 1100s, and it was the burial place of King John. This part of the tour was taken over by Lord Faulkner. Unfortunately, the tower of the Cathedral was closed to the public, so it looks like I will have to go back to the city someday.

Courtesy Evan Corrigan / Facebook

Worcester Cathedral

After touring the magnificent building, we went to the café. There we discussed our desires for our twin cities to grow closer and develop a deeper relationship with one another. To put it simply, Worcester, England, takes twinning more seriously than Worcester, Massachusetts, but part of my going there was in an effort to make that change going forward.

I am hoping to see a beautiful relationship form between the two Worcesters. I am excited to see the enthusiasm on their end, and hope that we can channel it into something constructive.

[The twinning agreement was set up with the hope of cultural and business exchanges, but in our Worcester the idea died down after Mariano left office.]

After my tours, I went off on my own to get dinner. Afterward I walked around the town, but much to my disappointment, the stores close around 6 p.m. or earlier there. This is one thing we do a lot better with in Worcester, Mass.

About 7 p.m. I met up with Derek and Pam at the Guildhall again for the mayor’s charity Brass Concert. It was in the main hall, so I had a lot of time to study the craftsmanship around me. Before the concert began, I got to talk with the mayor for a good 20 minutes or so, which was really nice.

The mayor spoke to the audience about the concert and its charitable nature, but he also made a nice mention of their guest from the other Worcester. I stood up for the recognition. After his speech, the concert began. During the intermission, a surprising number of people came up to talk to me. I guess being from Worcester, Mass., does mean something!

I had several good conversations with different people before the show continued.

After the show, I went back to my B&B for the final time, for I was catching the 10:24 train to Manchester the following morning. I thanked Derek, Liz and Pam for making me feel very welcome in their city and in their homes.

Derek and Pam expressed their interest in visiting our side of the Atlantic in the next couple of years. It would be their second time visiting our Worcester.

All in all, I had a great experience and met some excellent people. So far, this has been my favorite part of the trip, and it is not a place that tourists typically visit. Sometimes, traveling off the beaten path can be a very fruitful experience. No matter how large or small of a role I played, I am honored to have been a part of A Tale of Two Worcesters.

5 thoughts on “Evan Corrigan: Diary of a visit to Worcester … England, that is

  1. Evan, I was so excited to read your article. Both of my daughters spent a semester abroad at the University of Worcester so I was fortunate to have spent time in the city while visiting them. I loved my time there as did my daughters. I will be in England in July and hope to make a quick side trip to Worcester. Thank you for a beautifully​ written story!

  2. An interesting and worthwhile story. Nice job, Evan! You write well. You have increased my desire to go to England and visit the “other” Worcester. Your discussion and nice photo of the church converted to a restaurant seems particularly relevant to our Worcester at this time. Be aware, though, that our Worcester has a good amount of history packed into its nearly 300 years. Maybe you will join the ranks of those who study it?

  3. When Evan returns to Worcester UK perhaps he should explore its industrial history, including
    glove making and the relationship to the Black Country and pottery making.

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