An eagerly anticipated interactive visitor experience opens at The Commandery Worcester on the weekend of Saturday 29–Sunday 30 July, 10.00am–5.00pm, accompanied by living history displays from the UK’s oldest re-enactment society, The Sealed Knot.
The Commandery expects to welcome in excess of a thousand visitors within the first few days of opening its magnificent gates to Worcester’s Civil War Story, an immersive experience that centres on Worcester’s defining role in the final battle of the English Civil War, the Battle of Worcester, in 1651.
The event is one of the most significant periods of Worcester’s history, as the city witnessed the opening and closing conflicts of the English Civil War, from the initial skirmish at Powick in 1642 to the final clash at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, during which The Commandery became the Royalist battle headquarters.
Visitors can discover stories of intriguing characters, divided families, betrayal and military tactics that changed the course of the next 350 years of history as they walk through an entire wing of the beautiful Grade I listed building, starting in the Great Hall.
They will be immersed in the atmosphere of the 17th century, surrounded by the smells of gunpowder, atmospheric film scenes, the sound of arguing Royalist and Parliamentarian voices, the sights of opulent aristocratic life and the chance to try their hands at battle strategy.
Countless characters will be part of the journey; the Presidents’ Rooms will celebrate the visit of future US Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson to Worcester in 1786. Such is Worcester’s importance in the story of democracy that Adams stood on Fort Royal Hill and exclaimed that “this is holy ground, much holier than that on which your churches stand. All England should come in Pilgrimage to this Hill, once a Year.”
The UK’s oldest re-enactment society, The Sealed Knot, will be supporting the opening weekend at The Commandery with a living history camp that provides a glimpse into life in the midst of the Civil War, and the August bank holiday weekend will present The Storming of Fort Royal, supported by Worcester Re-enactors.
A programme of repairs, refurbishment and redecoration has achieved upgrades to the building’s heating, electrical and fire protection systems, redecoration in a wide range of rooms, repairs to the roof and pest treatment and damp prevention, to preserve the beautiful building for generations to come.
The experience will continue to be developed. Civil War City trails will encourage visitors to explore Civil War stories throughout the whole city, and a near-field communication technology project will add new layers of interpretation to the exhibition using tablets.
Worcester City Council has underpinned its significant Civil War history by investing £380,000 into the project, in addition to £96,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and further funding from Worcestershire County Council, Arts Council England, the Friends of Worcester Museums and Art Gallery, Worcestershire Ambassadors, Worcester Re-enactors, The Sealed Knot, Worcester War Games and Raise Partnership.
Worcester’s Civil War Story at The Commandery
Open from Saturday 29 July
Worcester’s Civil War Story evokes the momentous build-up to the Battle of Worcester. Discover a new interactive exhibition at The Commandery, former Royalist battle headquarters in 1651, and experience a pivotal moment in English history. Step into the dramatic debate between Royalist and Parliamentarian beliefs, test your strategic skills in the battle room and come face-to-face with fascinating characters such as Oliver Cromwell.
The following special events will take place at The Commandery to complement the launch of the exhibition:
Saturday 29 – Sunday 30 July (10.00am-5.00pm)
Worcester’s Civil War Story Opening Weekend
Be one of the first to explore Worcester’s Civil War Story at The Commandery, an exciting new experience telling tales of a desperate city under siege. Step through the majestic Commandery gates and meet Royalist soldiers, handle formidable weaponry and see remarkable relics from Worcester’s extraordinary past.
Saturday 26, Sunday 27 and Monday 28 August
10.00am–5.00pm (from 1.30pm Sunday)
The Storming of Fort Royal
Witness a pivotal moment in English history when Royalist troops were attacked and forced to flee into Worcester City as Cromwell’s Parliament forces faced the King’s Men on Fort Royal Hill. Join in with preparations for battle in a living history camp evoking the sights, sounds and smells that happened in this very place over 350 years ago.