Blue Plaque – Sarah Siddons

The “Greatest British Actress”, Sarah Siddons, 1755 – 1831

Sarah Siddons (nee Kemble) was the eldest of 12 children of Roger and Sarah Kemble, a Worcestershire family who led a troupe of travelling actors. Through her mother’s care in sending her to the schools in the towns where the company played, Sarah received a remarkably good education, even though she was accustomed to making appearances on the stage while still a child. She and her brother attended Thorneloe House in Barbourne, Worcester.

Aged 18 and newly married to a fellow actor, she was playing Rosalind in As You Like It in a barn in Worcester when theatrical producer David Garrick offered her an engagement. When she appeared with him at Drury Lane, London, she suffered from stage fright and was a failure, but in 1782 she appeared again to great acclaim and for many years played tragic roles to perfection, never comedy.

William Hazlitt wrote that “passion emanated from her breast as from a shrine. She was tragedy personified.”

The Blue Plaque above the coffee shop opposite the Guildhall celebrates the location of the ‘Barn’ where she performed, in the yard of the King’s Head public house. The plaque was unveiled on 12th August 2020 by the Mayor of Worcester, Councillor Jo Hodges.

Blue Plaque – Jim Capaldi

A BLUE plaque to honour rock star Jim Capaldi, one of Evesham’s most famous musical sons, has been unveiled on the wall of the Town Hall, where he made some of his earliest appearances in the 1960s.

After starting out with local group The Sapphires, Jim progressed through Worcester-based outfits The Hellions and Deep Feeling, before becoming a founder member of progressive rock band Traffic, which enjoyed considerable chart success. He later had a successful solo recording career and became a campaigner on environmental and child poverty issues.

Some Jim’s former band colleagues were there for the unveiling, which had been arranged by his former partner Anna Capaldi-Gibley through the Civic Societies of Worcester and the Vale of Evesham and was carried out by his brother Phil,  himself a noted drummer and music teacher.

“This is a great thing as a tribute to Jim and for all those who remember him when he was growing up around here,“ said Phil. “And its great that we have been able to unveil the plaque on what would have been his 76th birthday.”  Anna added: “I just wanted to do this for Jim’s brother and sisters so there will always be a place in Evesham for him.”

Jim Capaldi was 60 when he died of cancer in London in 2005 and his ashes were flown over to India and scattered on The Ganges river. He was born into a musical family. His father Nic was a well known local musician and music teacher and young Jim followed in his footsteps, founding his first band The Sapphires when he was only 14. Evesham Town Hall was one of their regular gigs, along with other nearby venues in the town centre.

In 1963 he formed The Hellions, which included Dave Mason, Gordon Jackson and John “Poli” Palmer, and then Deep Feeling, which drew in Dave Meredith and Luther Grosvenor. Both groups made several records, but it wasn’t until the formation of Traffic in early 1967 that Jim tasted real success.

This band featured Steve Winwood, from chart toppers The Spencer Davis Group, and its first release “Paper Sun”, with the lyrics written by Jim, was a Top Five hit in the summer of 1967 – nostalgically remembered as the Summer of Love. Traffic built a reputation as one of one of the UK’s finest progressive groups and had several hit records, but with Steve struggling with health problems, Jim took time out for solo projects and in 1975 reached number four in the charts with his version of the Everly Brothers “Love Hurts”. Among his many other achievements, he wrote the soundtrack to the award winning film “The Contender”.

Jim married Brazilian-born Aninha E S Campos in 1975 and lived in Brazil for several years.  He became involved in environmental causes and action to help Brazilian street children. Because of this charity work, the Capaldis were guests of Tony Blair at the Prime Minister’s country house, Chequers. Jim also remained much involved with the music industry – recording 11 solo albums featuring the likes of George HarrisonSteve WinwoodPaul Weller and Gary Moore – and was preparing to work on plans for a reunion tour of Traffic when cancer finally claimed him.

All his old Deep Feeling band mates – Luther Grosvenor, Dave Meredith, Poli Palmer and Gordon Jackson – were  there for the unveiling of his Blue Plaque on a sunny summer day, which very much summed up the life of Jim Capaldi.

No. 2 Midland Rd Railway Yard

Overview& history

Midland Road was named in the middle of the C19 after the Midland Railway (MR) established its base there, the proposed site was known as the “Midland Yard”.

Midland Railway operated between 1844 to 1922; it became the successor to the Oxford, Wolverhampton and Worcester Railway (OWWR). In 1860 it amalgamated with several other railway companies to become the West Midlands Railway, which in turn became amalgamated with the Great Western Railway GWR) in 1863.

Goods Shed

The goods shed consists of seven bays in red brick, with buff brick head details to windows, with limestone cills and siding doors (roller shutters fitted to front elevation), to rear and west gable, full height double wooden doors. Windows double diamond pattern of steel. Pediments below eaves have oculi above which is a double dentilled course of buff and blue brick. Blue canted brick, tops a red brick plinth. Single storey approximately 9 metres tall to ridge; some northern lights.

To the front elevation is a raised single storey structure, probably 1930-1940 in date, which now houses the heating system for the building.

Internally there are 6 cast iron columns running the length of the shed with a flange head which helps support 6 full width steel beams fixed into the front and rear wall of the shed. Unfortunately there are no makers marks on any of the columns or beams. The beams carry braced trusses of steel on to which are fixed roofing boards, unsure of roof covering.

The cellars are accessed externally down a flight of steps to the rear of the building, approximately 4 metres below ground floor. There are series of vaulted arches the full length of the building. There are two openings within the ground floor, which probably had cranes above them for lifting out and dropping in bonded goods. Cast iron down pipes run from the roof valleys into the cellar and below the cellar floor. There are a series of vents with iron railings fitted to them to double window width. There is a weighing table with a complete set of scales.  

Offices

Joined to the warehouse and possibly pre-dating the shed is the former Midland Railway offices of six bays in red brick with slate roof and single stack.Blue dentil course with a buff brick parapet and limestone copers on top. Blue canted brick on top of red brick plinth, matching the adjacent shed. The windows match those of the shed, only smaller in scale and constructed of timber, not steel. Original front door with overlight, original floorboards to entrance and a typical mid C19 stick baluster, curtailed staircase with handrail. It is possible that there is a cellar below, but this has yet to be verified.

Below is an e-mail about The Midland Railway Goods Station at Worcester from David Postle, archivist at Kidderminster Railway Museum: “This [The Shed] was authorised by the Midland Railway Additional Powers Act 1863 and was opened on 17 April 1868. It was closed on 28 February 1988. The Goods Shed would have been designed in the Architect’s Department at Derby during the period John Sanders was the company architect, and contains details such as windows and doors which were common to a lot of Midland Railway buildings of that period. Unfortunately, I can’t find any reference to the contractor who built it. It was wholly owned by the Midland Railway and not part of Worcester Joint Station (Midland Railway and Great Western Railway jointly ran Shrub Hill station), so the staff were Midland Railway employees and would have worn Midland Railway uniforms, and from 1923, LMS. It would have been used for loading and unloading general goods traffic carried largely by the Midland Railway itself, and almost certainly had internally hand-operated cranes”.

Midland Railway uniform circa 1902
Copyright The Science & Society Picture Library
Taken from Worcestershire in History
Alec Macdonald 1943 Press Alliances Ltd
Midland Yard railway sheds
Roof spans and trusses
Façade details to bay
Arched passageways to basement
Opening in ground floor to allow goods to be stored in the basement
Original weighing scales

No. 1 The Shakespeare Café, 78 High Street, Worcester

THEN and NOW

Conservationist Carl Jukes is picking a couple of buildings each week from old books and then adding some of his photos to show features/rooms that most people won’t have seen before!

No. 1 The Shakespeare Café, 78 High Street, Worcester. This was also the pie shop that King George III and Queen Charlotte visited in 1788, bought and ate pies. The cook’s house still survives in Henwick Road today.

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