Britain at its best: old tales and charm abound in the charming river town of Upton upon Severn in Worcestershire
- Neil Clark visits Upton upon Severn and finds it has ‘splendid’ architecture
- He says the lack of chain stores is another reason why this town is so special
- He visits The Pepperpot, the most remarkable monument of the city
You could say it was a night at the pub that changed British history. On August 28, 1651, Royalist troops were celebrating in a cozy tavern (believed to be Ye Old Anchor) in Upton upon Severn, a town held by the forces of Charles II.
But they had forgotten to remove the plank on which the locals could cross the River Severn.
At daybreak, a team of 18 elite commandos from General John Lambert’s Parliamentary Forces approached. Fierce fighting ensued and Cromwell’s New Model Army prevailed. The Royalists then retreated to Worcester, where just a week later they suffered their final defeat.
Does it slowly: Neil Clark visits Upton upon Severn (pictured) which he says redefines the word ‘attractive’
But, of course, the monarchy eventually survived and now we have another King Charles on the throne. So it might be a good time to visit. Before the railways, the Severn was Britain’s most important commercial waterway. Upton flourished as a major port – the only place you could cross the river between Worcester and Tewkesbury.
The town’s most notable landmark is The Pepperpot, the last remnant of the 13th-century church that takes its name from its hexagonal lantern and copper cupola. Inside is a heritage center where I learn that trows was the name of the two-masted ships that sailed the Severn carrying up to 120 tonnes of goods. They were towed by men until 1812.
Across the street is the Tudor House Museum, whose three floors house the most eclectic collection of everyday objects I have ever seen. My guide, Jim, shows me everything from pottery and lace to old pipe tobacco tins and Victorian dolls. There is also an exhibit honoring Upton’s most famous son, the war hero, Admiral William “Bill” Tennant, the man responsible for the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940.
The Severn has been both friend and foe to Upton, bringing prosperity and flooding. New defenses were built after 2007, but by early 2020 the waters were within half an inch of breaching them.
With its mix of timber frame buildings and splendid Georgian facades, Upton redefines the word ‘attractive’. It’s not just the splendid architecture, it’s the lack of chain stores that makes the city so special.
There is a traditional pastry shop with candy jars in the display case, a model train shop, a card shop and the Stitchery for all your sewing needs.
Above is The Pepperpot, a 13th-century church considered Upton’s most notable landmark
The church houses the town’s Heritage House
At Cook’s Bakery you can buy large pieces of caramel shortbread for just £1.15. G. Shinn Country & Leisure Wear (owner: Mrs. Shinn), is where comedians Bob and Paul got excited about the range of fishing tackle in their popular TV series Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing.
Henry Fielding refers to the White Lion Hotel as a “house of very good repute” in his bawdy 1749 masterpiece Tom Jones; the Rose Room and the Wild Goose Room mentioned there are still in use.
The cast of the classic 1970s BBC drama series Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy stayed at the hotel during filming. In the lobby there is a signed photograph of George Smiley himself, aka actor Sir Alec Guinness, thanking the staff for their kindness.
Neils says it’s the lack of chain stores that makes the town “so special”. Pictured is an independent confectionery
Crossing the river on the city’s last bridge, dating from 1940, I head for the marina.
As I enjoy fish and chips on the waterfront, a friendly couple from Coventry ask me if I’ve been downtown. “It’s like going back to the 1950s.”
You could also say the 1850s – or 1650s for that matter.