Worcestershire (abbreviated Worcs or, in some older sources, Wigorn) is a non-metropolitan county in central England. Worcestershire pre-dates the Norman Conquest of 1066. For a brief period of 24 years in the late 20th century (1974–1998) it was merged with neighbouring Herefordshire into the county of Hereford and Worcester.
Worcestershire borders Herefordshire to the west, Shropshire to the north west, a small part of Staffordshire to the north, the West Midlands to the northeast, Warwickshire to the east and Gloucestershire to the south. The Malvern Hills lie on the southern part of the border with Herefordshire.
The cathedral city of Worcester is the largest settlement and administrative seat of the county. Excluding this city the largest town in the county is Redditch; other principal settlements are Bromsgrove, Stourport-on-Severn, Droitwich, Evesham, Kidderminster and Malvern, while smaller towns include Bewdley, Pershore, Tenbury Wells and Upton upon Severn. The north-east of Worcestershire includes part of the industrial West Midlands conurbation, while the rest of the county is largely rural. Administratively the county is divided into six districts: Worcester, Redditch, Wychavon, Malvern Hills, Wyre Forest and Bromsgrove. These districts were all created in 1974 when the county of Hereford and Worcester was initiated.
Absorbed by the Kingdom of Mercia during the 7th century and then by the unified Kingdom of England from 927 to 1707, it was a separate ealdormanship briefly in the 10th century before forming part of the Earldom of Mercia in the 11th century. In the years leading up to the Norman conquest, the Church, including the cathedral, Evesham Abbey, Pershore Abbey, Malvern Priory and other religious houses, increasingly dominated county. The last known Anglo-Saxon sheriff of the county was Cyneweard of Laughern, and the first Norman sheriff was Urse d'Abetot who built the castle of Worcester and seized much church land. Worcestershire was the site of the Battle of Evesham in which Simon de Montfort was killed on 4 August 1265. In 1642, the site of the Battle of Powick Bridge the first major skirmish of the English Civil War, and the Battle of Worcester in 1651 that effectively ended it.
During the Middle Ages, much of the county's economy was based on the wool trade, and many areas of its dense forests, such as Malvern Chase, were royal hunting grounds. In the nineteenth century, Worcester was a centre for the manufacture of gloves; the town of Kidderminster became a centre for carpet manufacture, and Redditch specialised in the manufacture of needles, springs and hooks. Droitwich Spa, being situated on large deposits of salt, was a centre of salt production from Roman times, with one of the principal Roman roads running through the town. These old industries have since declined, to be replaced by other, more varied light industry. The county is also home to the world's oldest continually published newspaper, the Berrow's Journal, established in 1690. Malvern was one of the centres of the 19th century rise in English spa towns due to Malvern water being believed to be very pure, containing "nothing at all".