Worcester City is currently enjoying an exciting renaissance. The arrival of St Martin’s Quarter has brought new life into the area, increasing footfall and boosting the local economy. To capitalise on this change, Worcestershire County Council undertook a number of improvements in the Cornmarket area, as part of the first phase of the Worcester Transport Strategy. This work has built on the improvements already delivered in Lowesmoor and involved improving the quality of the area, enabling the Cornmarket to further benefit; not just a critical link to the heart of the historic city centre, but also as a place in its own right.
The Cornmarket (formerly known as Mealcheapen) is thought to have been laid out around 1200 AD, around the time that the city walls were built through the area. St Martin's Church was the first building to be constructed here, in around 1000 AD.
The Cornmarket was dominated by St Martin's Gate, which was only demolished in 1787. This was the main access into the city from the east. The original Cornmarket was much larger than it is today, and extended to include the area fronted by the Church of St Martin. The area thrived as a market place from the middle ages up until the later part of the 20th century, when the market was relocated to Angel Place.
Today, Worcester's Cornmarket remains an historic part of the town centre, busy hub for leisure activity, independent retailers and natural stage for the City's annual Victorian Fayre. There was significant potential to enhance to Cornmarket to ensure it plays an important role as a focus for Worcester's economic and social activity.
The Elements of the Scheme
Worcestershire County Council and Worcester City Council have worked closely together to develop the scheme, which involved:
- A complete reconstruction of Queen Street (South), the Cornmarket and New Street (North) as currently aligned, using high quality materials
- Enhanced street lighting – modern white light throughout public space
- Provision of limited, high quality street furniture
- Inclusion of public art to create sense of place and further improve the attractiveness of the area
- Provision of metered electrical supplies
- Formalisation of loading and parking arrangements in the Cornmarket
The overall objective of this project was to design and implement a high quality scheme to improve, enhance and reclaim the Cornmarket as a focal space for the city.
The scheme was compliant with the vision for the City set out in the Worcester City Master plan and the Worcester Transport Strategy. The Cornmarket is a vibrant, people-focussed place that is a showpiece of modern public realm design in an historic setting.
The scheme design required a sound understanding of urban design, historic environment issues, transport and development issues and opportunities. It also required a clear appreciation of the overarching requirements for securing a sustainable form of development, which benefits all users.
The renaissance of the Cornmarket has lead to wide-ranging benefits, including:
- A legible gateway into Worcester's historic City Centre, which embraces its setting and welcomes visitors into the city
- The creation of a successful, thriving pedestrian-focussed place where people can congregate for social and community interaction, including café culture
- The creation of a flexible public space, which is easily adapted to host the Worcester Victorian Fair and other events and activities
- The creation of a high quality public realm, which provides a suitable setting for the attractive historic architecture which surrounds it.