Category: Warwickshire

OTD: The Birth and Death of Shakepeare

On this day (or a day close to it), the famous English playwright William Shakespeare was born. Unfortunately the exact date is unknown but the 23rd is the date celebrated around the world. The house where he was supposedly born still exists and I saw it (exterior only) when I visited Stratford-upon-Avon in September 2019. The city is a treasure house of all things Shakespeare and I had intended to revisit the city this year but Covid-19 put a spanner in my works and I am not going anywhere.

Shakespeare’s father John lived and worked here from 1551, and he married Mary Arden in 1557 and had eight children of which William was the third. William inherited the house, as the eldest surviving child, on John’s death in 1601. 

There is a nice blogpost at Heritage Calling that deals with Shakespeare’s Life through buildings that is worth looking at, and I know I am going to hunt down some of them when next I am in Stratford-upon-Avon. 

By some strange co-incidence William Shakespeare died on or close to his birthday in April 1616. The parish register states that he was buried on 25 April 1616, but it is likely that he was not buried on the day he died. He is buried in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, and the inscription on his grave reads:

Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.

The grave of William Shakespeare

There are 5 graves beyond the railing and the first two on the left are of Anne Hathaway, the wife of William Shakespeare (1556-1623) and next to her is the grave of William Shakespeare (1564-1616).  The other graves are of his daughter Suzanna, son-in-law Dr John Hall and Thomas Nash, his grandson-in-law. 

There is no doubt that Shakespeare played a major role in the development of the English language, and he is probably one of the most disliked playwrights that are studied in schools. Alas, poor Shakespeare, I knew him well… 

DRW © 2020 Created 23/04/2020. 

Malvern Priory

Continuing where we left off…

One of the reasons for my visit to Great Malvern was to see Malvern Priory, and I was not disappointed. What is the difference between a Priory and a Cathedral? The internet gave me this answer which more or less is what a former minister told me at the Priory. 

Cathedral: Any church (regardless of size) that is the seat of a bishop and therefore has a cathedra (literally a teaching chair or seat, usually in the form of a throne).

Priory: A monastery headed by a prior, who is subordinate to an abbot, analogous to priests being subordinate to a bishop. Usually the prior also wears a type of cross around their neck as a badge of office. 

The Priory I was visiting on this day was a former Benedictine monastery c. 1075 – 1540 and is now an Anglican parish church. It also has the largest display of 15th-century stained glass in England.

It is bounded on one side by the churchyard which has quite a lot of legible headstones but I did not really tarry in the churchyard for a change.

The interior plan conforms to what most Anglican churches look like in shape, although parts of the building are much older than others. The plan below I scanned from the information leaflet I got at the Priory. I will try to show images of as many of the markers as I can.

Entrance to the building is underneath the scaffolding in the image below.

I was very surprised when I went inside because the building is wonderfully light and airy and does not have the heaviness of many of the churches I have been in. The stained windows are absolutely spectacular although they are impossible to photograph and to do them justice. 

The Great East Window and High Altar

Looking towards the High Altar

The church was a monastery for over 450 years until in 1541 it was bought for the princely sum of £20 by the local people to save it from destruction, it has served as the parish church for Great Malvern ever since. 

Chapel to the left of the great east window

There is a very beautiful memorial to Sophia Thompson who passed away in 1838, in the North Transept. 

and there are two magnificent “Millennium Windows” that were installed in 2004. 

St Anne’s Chapel is equally beautiful. 

The Misericords (mercy seats) in the chancel look very solid and uncomfortable and they must have been very bad for the rheumatism in winter. Actually the word I would use for them is “unforgiving.”

And do not forget to look up! This is the ceiling of the crossing between the two transepts.

Ceiling in the Chancel and Nave

The organ is by Nicholson of Malvern from 1879, but was heavily rebuilt and restored by Rushworth and Dreaper in 1927 and 1977. It was further overhauled by Nicholson in 2003 and is a Certified Historic Organ

The War Memorial is a very beautiful one and may be found at the back of the Nave and opposite the entrance.

The Font is close by as is the memorial to Henry Edward Francis Lambert. The bowl of the font dates back to the Normans.

Looking back towards this memorial from the crossing you can see the large organ on the left.
Between St Anne’s Chapel and the Chancel is a fine memorial to John Notsford and his wife Jane who both died in the 1580’s. After the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 John Notsford bought most of the Priory land and monastic buildings. His daughter Anne is kneeling at the foot of the memorial.

One unusual feature that I saw were a wall of tiles that were made locally in the 15th century in over 100 different designs. 

One quirky item I discovered is outside the walls although it has a direct connection to the Priory and is worth investigating. 

Prior Walcher. The second Prior at Great Malvern, Walcher of Lorraine, may have been England’s first astronomer. In the 9th century, when Arabic scientific scholarship was world leading, Lorraine in north east France was a route for advanced Arabic knowledge to spread through the Medieval West.

Having learnt in Lorraine to predict eclipses, Walcher became famous for observing celestial events with an astrolabe and created tables charting the dates of new moons from 1036 till 1111. He translated an important scientific work into Latin, making it accessible to English scholars and helped to introduce Arabic numbers to England.” (Information disk on railing)

The coffin lid of Prior Walcher.

Inscription on the coffin lid in St Anne’s chapel – rescued from burial at the site of the South Transept cloister garth c1711.:-

“Worthy philosopher, good astrologer, born in Lorraine, a pious humble man (monk):
Prior of this sheepfold (monastery); here lies in his coffin, a geometrician and
For Walcherus the people weep: the clergy everywhere grieve. The first light of October
brought this old man death. Let every faithful man pray that he lives in Heaven.


Exterior buildings

There are a number of other buildings outside the Priory that connect to it. The most visible being the gatehouse which is now a museum. Unfortunately I could not get a clear shot of the front of the building.

I was hoping that the back of the building would match the front but it doesn’t.

This building is the Abbey Hotel, although I am not sure what part of it is hotel and what part is not.

The Priory is walled on the one side so it is not easy to get an image of that side of the building, however I did manage a few great angles.

That concludes my visit to Malvern Priory. It is a beautiful building and in a very good condition. It is light and airy and very welcoming. It was definitely different from the Cathedrals I have seen and it is slightly smaller than Tewkesbury Abbey. And like our Abbey it is a survivor, and long may it be with us. 

Random Images

DRW © 2019. Created 13/09/2019.

Oh great! it’s Great Malvern (1)

Great Malvern….  it really is great. I know because on this last day of my leave the weather finally cleared and I was able to get there. How do you get there? in my case I bussed to Evesham and then caught the train I would have returned from Oxford with. It continues its journey from Evesham to Pershore, Worcester Shrub Hill, Worcester Foregate, Malvern Link and finally Great Malvern. The line actually continues to Ledbury and Hereford but this train terminates at Great Malvern. It does not make a lot of sense, but I suspect there is some arcane reason behind it all.

(1500 x 409) Approaching Worcester, with the cathedral in the distance

I am starting this post from when I climbed off at my destination but will deal with the station at the end of the post. Exiting the station I headed for Avenue Road which would take me up into the town itself. However, when I checked the traffic to cross I did a double take and headed for the building below instead. 

This beauty was built as the Imperial Hotel and was designed  by famed architect E.W. Elmslie. It opened in 1862 and was apparently connected to the station via a tunnel. The building was taken over  for use as a school by Malvern Girls’ College in 1919 and it is currently known as Malvern St James Girl’s School. Distraction over it was time to head towards town. I had two destinations in mind: the War Memorial and Great Malven Priory. Everything else was incidental. Fortunately I had some sort of map but also found this handy map on an information board near the station.

As you can see it is not a large town and restricted on one side by the steep Malvern Hills.  I was not too sure whether I wanted to tackle those though, it was one of those wait and see things. Theoretically the War Memorial would have been the first item on my agenda as it was situated in front of the Library. The Priory I would do second as it was still a bit early in the day. I had planned for a 3 hour day, although I did have information about a later train if my schedule fell behind

It is literally uphill all the way to town and you can see the hill in the distance. It made Bredon Hill look like a pimple.  Eventually Avenue Road merged with Church Street and I was in an area of very pretty buildings, many of which had lost their original context. 

To get to the library I should have turned right at this intersection but decided to just keep on going till I bumped into a hill. 

That road is steep! I was now on the pavement that bordered the Priory churchyard and not too far from the hill.  

The road curves to the right and runs parallel with the foot of the hill, it is marked as A449 and called Worcester Road.  The images below were all taken in the road.

Holly Mount United Reformed Church

It was time to turn around and see whether I could find the library from one of the gaps in the buildings but that was a waste of time. My intention now was to backtrack to Church Street and then go in the opposite direction towards what is known as Belle Vue Terrace where I saw Sir Edward Elgar looking down at the traffic in Church Street.

He lived in the town for 13 years and established himself as a composer of international stature. I also encountered him in Worcester

Seeing as I was in the area I decided to at least make an effort to “head for the hills”, although it was turning out to be somewhat of a warm and sunny day and that would make extended climbs difficult.

There was a park next to this creeper covered building (Mount Pleasant Hotel), and I headed towards it. 

I was finally able to get a better view of the Priory from here. 

I could only admire the statue of the two buzzards by Walenty Pytel which was unveiled in 2013. It is an awesome piece of art!

And then I was going uphill! (via 99 steps I may add). 

(1500 x 590)

The view was amazing but the slope was getting steeper all the time. Those 99 steps were not even the end of the start!  The path just kept on going upwards. Eventually I came across a small building that called itself St Ann’s Well Cafe. 

Inside the building was a small ornate fountain. Unfortunately a sign on the door read “The water from this spring has failed bacteriological tests and should be boiled before use!”

And that pretty much encapsulates one of the things that Great Malvern is famous for: Spring Water and the “water cure”. “Rainwater filtering through cracks in the rock emerges from over 100 springs around the hills. in 1085, Benedictine Monks founded a Priory here, benefiting from the pure water. Centuries later, a fashionable Victorian water cure made Malvern a magnet for wealthy visitors. Facilities were built as a result which, with the town’s natural charms attracted writers, artists and musicians….” (Text from an information board).  So, the only water I was going to get would be from the bottle that I filled up from my kitchen tap in Tewkesbury! 

Ever upwards!

But by now I was starting to tire. There was no way I could tell how far I still had to go before I hit the top and I was not going to commit myself to more of this so decided to call it quits and head back down the hill, pausing for a look at the view. There are actually very few places where you can see the view from as the hill is quite heavily treed. 

At some point of my descent I came to the road and had the choice of where I wanted to exit the area from and I decided to take St Ann’s Road. 

And then I was almost back where I started and headed towards the War Memorial and library.  I was glad to be out of the hills though. It was a killer! Having said that I am going to start a new post because there are too many images for a single post. Use the arrow to turn the page.


The library building

DRW © 2019. Created 13/09/2019