Property: A Square with an Enduring Sense of Elegance and Style; Serene Residential Squares Are Rare outside the Affluent Boroughs of London. Ross Reyburn Reports on a Fine Example of Urban Planning Closer to Home

The Birmingham Post (England), November 4, 2000 | Go to article overview

Property: A Square with an Enduring Sense of Elegance and Style; Serene Residential Squares Are Rare outside the Affluent Boroughs of London. Ross Reyburn Reports on a Fine Example of Urban Planning Closer to Home


Byline: Ross Reyburn

Worcester's Britannia Square offers a breathtaking example of that sadly neglected example of enlightened town planning, the English residential square.

Little more than ten minutes walk from the city centre, the Regency square is an architectural surprise hidden away less than 100 yards from The Tything route to the city centre.

With its wealth of trees, narrow road widths and pleasing variety of wonderful white stucco houses dating from the greatest English architectural era, it has an appealing intimacy missing from the grander London squares.

'Britannia Square is without doubt the finest residential square in the West Midlands,' says leading Worcester estate agent Andrew Grant, who has been selling homes there for 30 years.

'A lot of people get a surprise when they come to Worcester and they suddenly see this beautiful Regency square. It is a Conservation Area where all the houses are Grade II listed and they are very, very fussy about any alteration at all.'

The square's larger houses rarely come on the market but currently Andrew Grant has a seven-bedroom three-storey stucco house on offer pounds 750,000, the highest guide price he has put on a Worcester property.

Described by William Cobbett as 'the neatest and handsomest town I ever saw', Worcester was suffering serious overcrowding problems when the 19th century arrived.

'Inevitably the more prosperous professional and merchant classes looked for an escape into a more congenial atmosphere, near to their work and yet with some degree of fresh air and social exclusiveness,' says baroque music teacher Gwenyth Baker, former secretary of the Britannia Square Residents Association.

'The time was ripe for speculators to build Worcester's first superior suburb.'

Thus was Britannia Square created on a former flax fields sold at auction in December 1809. Today the square has over 50 homes facing the Alice Ottley Junior School neatly located in the centre of the square surrounded by spacious grounds.

The square's homes range from town houses to detached residences, some with rear gardens dropping down to the Pitchcroft Racecourse with the River Severn beyond.

Dutch shutters, wrought iron verandahs, a wealth of attractive trees, the occasional rooftop urn, lawns and circular drives offer a pleasing variety of design styles.

The Regency properties, sometimes built in the Georgian style, have only the occasional Victorian bay window offering a visual disruption.

It has been described as England's last purely residential Regency square but it does have a home for the elderly as well as the school. But the air of exclusivity remains.

'When we moved in 13 years ago, someone called around and said 'Are you going to paint your door purple?' recalls Baker with a smile.

'I would say there is no grand architecture in the square but the houses have an elegant charm - no two are the same. I find Regency architecture more attractive than Georgian. A lot of Georgian architecture is very predictable, too perfect almost whereas Regency has more surprising features.'

Beneath the square can be as well protected as above ground.

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Property: A Square with an Enduring Sense of Elegance and Style; Serene Residential Squares Are Rare outside the Affluent Boroughs of London. Ross Reyburn Reports on a Fine Example of Urban Planning Closer to Home
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