Circle Insights

Why Worcester is a perfectly balanced place to live

Tolga Necar

In this fourth blog of our series looking at balanced locations, we’re travelling to Worcester, a captivating city in the heart of the West Midlands known for its storied history and architecture, triumphant sports and social culture and vibrant community gatherings.  

Worcester is packed with hidden gems and old haunts, medieval heritage sites and palatable dining options. These are a few of the many driving factors behind Worcester earning its place on our list of perfectly balanced places to live per our report, Six Pillars of Success: Building Resilient Places”.

If you have yet to read our blog that introduces these pillars, we consider a ‘perfectly balanced’ place to be:  

  • One that houses a suitable mix of chain and independent retailers at optimal sizes
  • Supplies unique offline experiences that meet the community’s needs
  • Provides community infrastructure that supports daily living
  • Offers adequate residential properties for the community
  • Offers employment opportunities and flexible working spaces
  • Encourages time spent outdoors in green spaces

So, what exactly are the driving factors behind Worcester being a perfectly balanced place to live?

Pillar 1: Representation & proper sizing of independent & chain retailers

While many larger chain retailers like Primark, New Look, The Body Shop and Boots can be found in Crowngate Shopping Centre, plenty of independent retailers are situated in the heart of Worcester, especially on Friar Street. From clothing shops and bridal studios like You Boutique and Perfections Bridal Studio to pet shops and toy shops like Paw & Co and The Entertainer, there is no shortage of retailers catering to the community’s unique needs.

Pillar 2: Uniquely tailored offline experiences

Events are a big deal in Worcester– from open-air concerts to community festivals, there is always something happening to engage and entertain visitors of all interests.

The Victorian Christmas Fayre is one of such examples. A beloved annual event that captures the essence of Victorian England by transforming the streets of Worcester into a scene reminiscent of the era of Queen Victoria, the Fayre fills the city streets with market stalls that offer traditional festive treats and crafts. Several historic buildings throughout the city also take part in the celebration, opening their doors to guests to awe at the Victorian era’s opulence. 

In the summer, locals and horse racing enthusiasts flock to Pitchcroft Park (otherwise known as Worcester Racecourse), a renowned thoroughbred horse racing venue. The annual Worcester Fringe Festival also brings theatre and arts aficionados to the city in the summer to revel in over 60 events dedicated to theatre, music and comedy at various venues. The musical fun doesn’t stop there— Worcester Fake Festival is returning to Pitchcroft Park this summer to deliver a tribute-based music event to local music lovers.  

Throughout the year, historical events paying tribute to Worcester’s rich history such as the Civil War Soldier School at The Commandery also offer children an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Civil War soldiers.  

Football and cricket also form important parts of the city’s sports culture. Football is one of the most widely followed and played sports in the city, and cricket becomes particularly popular during the summer months. 

The High Street, Friar Street and New Street are also brimming with cafes and coffee shops (both independent and chains), pubs and restaurants. In fact, a recent initiative to renovate the Worcester Foregate Street railway station arches, The Arches, has brought together a new cluster of trendy restaurants, coffee shops, breweries and even axe throwing.  

Friar Street and New Street are also home to two of the city’s oldest, most historic pubs. The Cardinal’s Hat Inn on Friar Street is the oldest in the city, dating back to the fourteenth century. The King Charles House on New Street has a special tie to British history, as the home that King Charles II fled after defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, aided by New Street’s residents holding the Cromwell army back for the King’s successful escape. 

Pillar 3: Engaging community infrastructure

In terms of amenities and services, Worcester’s High Street features large chain supermarkets like Tesco, banks like Barclays, NatWest and Lloyds, pharmacies like Boots and a Post Office. Neighbouring Friar Street and New Street house a number of barbers and hairdressers, as well as beauty salons.  

Worcester Cathedral in the heart of the city dates to the 12th century, showcasing the grandeur of English Gothic style. It not only serves as a place of worship, but as a cultural hub that hosts many events throughout the year. 

The Hive, a modern, high-tech library with rooms to hire and a cultural programme that sits alongside more traditional library resources, is also a thriving community resource accessible by university students and the public.  

Pillar 4: Support social cohesion through optimised residential design

At £44,246 per annum, household incomes in Worcester are in line with the UK average. Housing costs align with average earnings, with a range of affordable options from historic city centre properties to more modern developments beyond the centre available. With the average price of a home being £254,728 (5.8x the average earnings) and private rentals hovering around £701 PCM (19% of average earnings), Worcester’s affordability compared to most places of its size is evident. 

Pillar 5: Sufficient & accessible work opportunities for the local population

With 9.6% of Worcester’s adult population being full time students (above the national average, and likely a result of the University of Worcester’s presence), both educational and working opportunities are easily within reach.

The city’s prominent manufacturing scene has created many job opportunities in sectors like engineering and logistics. Full and part-time employment rates (at 45% and 14% respectively) sit above the national average. 2.3% of the population is unemployed but looking for work, a rate slightly below the national average.

This year, the Worcestershire Skills Show will also be taking place, exposing Year 7 to 10 students to an array of industries to help them understand what businesses are looking for in future employees and determine the necessary skills and qualifications to pursue their future career goals.  

Pillar 6: Appealing open spaces for the community to dwell in

Worcester’s green open spaces provide an escape from city life while also encouraging gatherings.  

For those interested in exploring the city on foot, daily walking tours are offered by guides from Discover History, Worcester Walks and Faithful CityWalk. For the adventurers, self-guided tours and trails of the City’s Guildhall, the Worcester Heritage Walk and more are available.

Britain’s longest river, the River Severn, runs through the city and offers walkways along the water with plenty of surrounding open spaces to spend time in. In the warmer seasons, boating enthusiasts can be seen rowing boats or canoes, and anglers can be found on the riverbanks. Those opting for a leisurely stroll or vigorous jog can utilise the pathways.

For a serene escape just a stone’s throw from the city centre, locals and visitors will find Gheluvelt Park, offering expansive green space and captivating landscapes, opportunities to hire paddleboats or row boats on Barbourne Brook, or play tennis. The park holds more significance than just its beauty— it memorialises the Battle of Gheluvelt, a defining moment in World War I that helped secure victory for the Allies.

Stay tuned for our next pick of a ‘perfectly balanced’ place to live in our upcoming blog.

To learn how our six property pillars can help ensure you are creating resilient places, please speak to one of our Placemaking and Property experts.

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Tolga Necar