Thursday, June 10, 2010


Stopping by works on a summer evening

Driving round a one-way system in Worcester the other evening I came across this gigantic building. I’ve passed it several times before, always resolving to stop and take a look, so this time I pulled up and marvelled at its decayed magnificence. Here, surely was a factory from the era of Victorian optimism, and what stronger symbol of Victorian optimism than the railways? This is the former Worcester Engine Works built in 1864 to the designs of Thomas Dickson. Dickson’s strong façade of polychrome brick, with its tall windows, big pediment, and clock tower at one end was a bold statement, suggesting that this was a veritable palace of industry.

The Engine Works formed part of a wave of engineering and railway factories that were started in the city in this period – no doubt it was hoped to give the place a boost in the wake of the decline of some of its traditional industries, such as glove-making and nail manufacturing, which were losing out to mass production. Alas, by the time the building was opened the railway boom was at an end and the engine works did not thrive. Demand fell, the business passed to the West Central Wagon company in 1872 before being closed and the equipment sold off in 1876. After various different uses, the vast building is languishing – it seems to be largely empty and plants are taking hold here and there, but its multicoloured brickwork, cleverly imitating classical details, is still impressive. It seems to be crying out for some manufacturer to take it over.

Pediment and frieze, detail


Unknown said...

Yes, like you I've passed, and resolved to return to, this striking building several times. Thank you for doing the leg work for me. It looks good enough to deserve a personal visit too though.

Peter Ashley said...

A fine example of just how broad railway related architecture can be, quite apart from the more recognised and ubiquitous stations and signal boxes.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Peter: Yes. The railways influenced our architecture in many ways. Not just works like these and the ones in, say, Swindon, but also housing for workers.