Monday 1 May 2017

Greyfriars House and Garden

I think I was in my late 20s when I developed an unexpected passion for Countryfile. It's not the rare breeds of sheep that I love, nor the farmers finding a lucrative sideline in making crisps out of turnips. It's the people they interview - the people that have devoted their ENTIRE LIVES to protecting a certain species of moss, or a specific type of bat that I've never even heard of.

And I know what you're thinking. You're thinking: "But Scone Blogger! You yourself have selflessly devoted your ENTIRE LIFE to a noble cause - the noble cause of scones!" To which I reply: "This is undoubtedly true, and at times it is very challenging, but sitting in tea rooms eating jam is not the same as standing in a freezing barn with a torch, looking for a colony of greater horseshoes that might not be there". 

ANYWAY. I mention this because Greyfriars House and Garden in Worcester would 100% be a car park today if a group of extremely determined individuals had not devoted their lives to opposing the council and saving it from destruction.

Greyfriars House

Greyfriars - the happier history:
  • Greyfriars House was originally built in the 1480s for a Thomas Grene
  • He was High Bailiff of Worcester and wanted to show off his wealth
  • After Grene died, it was passed through various owners and tenants
  • It was acquired by Francis Street who sold it to the council for £100 and rented it back for £5 a year
  • The Streets were staunch Royalists, as was most of Worcester - the Streets ended up leaving Greyfriars during Cromwell's rule
  • The house was subsequently divided up with various residents and tenants moving in - it was used as a pub, and was home to a greengrocer, a milliner, a book dealer, an umbrella maker, a tinsmith, and even a fish fryer
But then came tough times:
  • By 1912 Greyfriars was in a poor state and by the 1930s it was derelict
  • The Worcestershire Archaelogical Society tried to rescue the building but no deal could be reached with the owner
  • In 1936 the council ordered its demolition
  • However, the archaelogical society was not deterred and fought on
  • In 1939, all demolition work was stopped because of the outbreak of war
  • In 1943, a man called William John Thompson bought the property and carried out emergency repairs but he couldn't continue to fund it long-term
The Moores to the rescue:
  • Matley and Elsie Moore were siblings who offered to restore Greyfriars at their own expense as long as they could live it in
  • They collected the contents of the house that we see today
  • They were interesting characters - Alan the guide told us that they often held tea parties and if you didn't show up or send a thank you letter afterwards, you didn't get invited back
  • They were very frugal, so the house was bitterly cold in winter
  • Matley didn't like televisions or radios or anything that made a noise - Elsie had to keep her radio in her bedroom
  • They had a controlling mother - after she died in 1953, Elsie used her money to buy three shops opposite Greyfriars to save them from demolition
  • The Moores left the contents to the NT in their wills, with the stipulation that no ropes or barriers would be used and visitors could roam freely
Parlour at Greyfriars
The Parlour, where Matley and Elsie Moore used to sit.
No TV = no Countryfile, which is very sad

Other things I learned today that I didn't know:
  • In the 1400s, all men were required by law to practice archery every Sunday
  • Worcester is a really, really lovely little city - why didn't I know this?
But onto the bad news. I'm afraid I let you all down on this scone mission. Greyfriars did have a little tea room and they probably had scones, but I didn't stop for any. They were short-staffed and not really supposed to be open on a Monday and, well, I just couldn't face being the only one dinging a little bell for service and demanding that someone come running to bring me tea. I know. Pathetic.

Greyfriars Garden
The garden at Greyfriars - you can sit and drink your tea on the patio
when it's not pouring down, as it was when I went

So I basically need you all to go to Greyfriars and do my job for me - let me know how you get on?

Greyfriars House: 5 out of 5
Scones: 0 out of 5 because I didn't ask for any. I'm so sorry, everyone. 
Chances of me being sacked as Scone Blogger: 5 out of 5

STOP PRESS! Greyfriars House Revisited!

OK, maybe "STOP PRESS!" doesn't quite work when 6 years have passed but anyway: today, March 23rd 2023, I went back to Greyfriars. My aim was to right the wrongs of my first visit, when I failed to ding a little bell and find out if they had any scones. 

This time I was very much in luck: the lovely woman in the cafe told me that the scones were fresh out of the oven, which cheered me up immensely. I think I've said the words "it's hard to ruin a fresh scone" to every journalist in the universe over the past three weeks, since I finished the National Trust Scone Quest at the Giant's Causeway.

I'm pleased to tell you that the Greyfriars scone proved me right: it was a fantastic scone. Slightly warm, fluffy, a good amount of fruit, and baked to perfection. A triumph.

Greyfriars scone

I ate my scone in the Greyfriars garden, which I highly recommend. It's a lovely little tranquil spot.

Greyfriars Cream Tea

I then went for a wander around Worcester cathedral. It contains the tombs of King John and Prince Arthur among others, so that was very interesting.

King John tomb
King John's tomb in Worcester cathedral

Scones: 5 out of 5!

1 comment:

  1. I think that the law that every man practise archery is still on the statute book and has never been repealed.

    I wouldn't even trust my sons with a sharp pencil, so I'm not sure where that leaves us...