During Three Choirs week in Worcester, we are looking at some of the buildings in which events are taking place and seeing what we can find out about them from publications in the Cathedral Library.
The first concert, on Saturday afternoon, took place in Huntingdon Hall. What is now a popular concert hall is described in a book entitled “Nonconformity in Worcester” by the Reverend Urwick MA, published in 1897. The book tells how a preacher, George Whitefield, under the patronage of Lady Huntingdon, established a number of chapels round the country. After his death, his work was continued and the Countess of Huntingdon’s Chapel was built in Worcester and opened in 1773. It proved so popular that in 1804 a larger chapel was opened, which in 1815 was extended to seat 2,000. However, what the Reverend Urwick could not have known was that by the 20th century, the congregation had diminished until it was closed down. There was a public appeal for the building to be retained and it was converted into a concert hall in the 1980s, retaining many of its original features.
On Sunday, concert goers went to an organ recital at Kidderminster Town Hall, where there was also a special event for children. This Town Hall was not the original, which stood at the bottom of the High Street and was probably in a state of disrepair when, in the 1830s, it was decided to replace it with a new building. A company was formed called ‘Kidderminster Public Rooms’ and was funded by selling shares and raising donations, of which £900 came from William Brinton who had founded Brinton’s Carpets. Designed by J.T. Meredith of Wolverhampton, the new Town Hall was inaugurated in 1855 with a two day concert featuring many renowned musicians – in fact many famous names have appeared at the Town Hall since, including the Rolling Stones and Tom Jones. Originally it consisted of only two main rooms, the Corn Exchange and the Music Room but it was extended by the addition of a new building in the 1870s.
The concert which took place on Sunday was the first of a series showcasing the finest organs in Worcestershire. The organ at Kidderminster Town Hall was funded with money raised by public subscription and built by William Hill and Son in 1855 at a cost of £826. It is now one of the oldest surviving municipal organs and has been maintained largely in its original form.
One of today’s concerts was at All Saints Church, Evesham. We have found a lovely old picture of this church:
Another, the late night concert, is at St Helen’s Church, Worcester:
The parish of St Helen’s is thought to be the oldest in Worcester. The exterior of the church itself is Victorian but inside evidence of its ancient origins is to be seen. For many years St Helen’s contained part of the County and Diocesan Record Office and but it is now again a place of worship.