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Summary Article: Worcestershire
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Two-tier county of west central England. Herefordshire and Worcestershire existed as separate counties until 1974, when they were amalgamated to form the county of Hereford and Worcester; in 1998 this county was divided back into Worcestershire and Herefordshire, which regained their pre-1974 boundaries.

Area 1,735 sq km/670 sq mi

Towns and citiesWorcester (administrative headquarters), Bewdley, Bromsgrove, Evesham, Kidderminster, Pershore, Stourport, Tenbury Wells

Physical Malvern Hills in the southwest (highest point Worcester Beacon 425 m/1,394 ft); rivers Severn with tributaries Stour, Teme, and Avon (running through the fertile Vale of Evesham)

Features Droitwich, once a Victorian spa, reopened its baths in 1985 (the town lies over a subterranean brine reservoir); Three Choirs Festival at Great Malvern

Agriculture cereals (oats, wheat), fruit (apples, pears), hops, vegetables; cider; much of the county is under cultivation, a large part being devoted to permanent pasture, notably for Hereford cattle

Industries carpets (Kidderminster), chemicals, engineering, food processing, needles and fishing tackle (Redditch), porcelain (Worcester), salt

Population (2001) 542,100

Famous people Richard Baxter (minister), Samuel Butler (writer), Edward Elgar (composer), A E Housman (poet), William Langland (poet), Francis Brett Young (writer)

Topography Worcestershire is bounded to the north by West Midlands, Staffordshire, and Shropshire; to the west by Herefordshire; to the southwest by Gloucestershire; and to the east by Warwickshire. The land surface of Worcestershire varies, the south and southwest being hilly, while through the centre run the river valleys, with the Lickey Hills and the Clent Hills in the north. The North Cotswold Hills and Bredon Hill lie along the southeast border of the county. Worcestershire is well wooded and contains the two ancient forests of Wyre and Malvern Chase. Canals connect the Severn with the Midland canal system.

Ecclesiastical history The greater part of the county was at one time in the hands of the church, and there were no less than 13 great monastic foundations. Of these there are ruins at Pershore and Evesham, both dating from the 8th century; Worcester Cathedral, and the priory church at Malvern, also of the same date; and ruins at Bordesley and Astley dating from the 13th century.

Architecture The county is rich in domestic architecture of the Tudor and Georgian periods, and possesses a number of notable country houses.

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