Little Malvern - St Wulstan

Ledbury Road, Little Malvern, Worcestershire WR14

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A large and striking Gothic church on a dramatic hillside site, designed by Charles Bucknall for the Benedictines. Bucknall’s intended eastern apse was never built and the east end remains roughly finished in brickwork. The interior is handsome but is now plainly decorated, apart from the northeast chapel with its glass and reredos by Hardman and the (later) small octagonal baptistery with its elaborate wall painting. The churchyard is the burial place of Sir Edward Elgar.

The present church was built on land given by the Berington family of nearby Little Malvern Court, who had maintained their Catholic faith after the Reformation. Funds were raised by public subscription and the building was opened in December 1862. It was and remains in the care of the Benedictines from Downside. The donated site is on the east face of the Malvern Hills and slopes sharply downwards from the road.

There have been few alterations to the church since it was built. A timber west gallery was constructed in 1884 to house the 1870 Nicholson organ which had originally been set in the southeast tribune overlooking the altar. A small southwest baptistery was added, probably in about 1890, with a richly decorated interior. 

In 1920 the wife of the composer Sir Edward Elgar was buried in the churchyard and in 1934 the composer himself was buried by her side.

; responding to this, Charles Bucknall’s original design proposed a large hall church with an apsidal-ended chancel all over a tall crypt. In the event, only the nave, northeast (Lady) chapel and southeast sacristy were completed, with the eastern arch to the intended chancel bricked up.  

The blocked archway at the unfinished east end was originally dominated by a large cross and surrounding decoration, according to Bellenger all in painted tapestry (a medium favoured by Bucknall). This was removed or painted over in the early 1960s, when the original altar was replaced by the present grey marble one with matching rails, the gift of William Berington.

By the mid-1990s the building was in poor condition and over the next decade or so substantial funds were raised and grants obtained to replace the roof covering, repair the exterior and restore the decoration of the interior, including the baptistery.

On the north side of the church was built a small detached schoolroom, which was restored in 2007 to serve as a parish room. The tall house to the southwest of the church was apparently built in 1873 by Mr Perkins (builder of the church) as a private residence for himself. It was used as the priest’s house from 191o, became a hotel in 1917 and later a school, before reverting to its original use as a private house.

See list entry, below. The description of the plan is not wholly accurate; the building comprises a tall aisleless nave, a tall northeast chapel under triple cross-gables, a substantial southeast addition containing the sacristy and an octagonal southwest baptistery (an addition of c1890) with a conical roof with alternating bands of regular and fishscale slates.  The interior wall surfaces are now all painted in plain colours, apart from the baptistery, which has an elaborate scheme of painted decoration of c. 1890. The windows are all clear glazed with small quarries, apart from the windows of the vaulted northeast (Lady) chapel which have stained glass depicting the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, by the Hardman firm and installed between 1882 and 1892.  Over the altar in the chapel is a panel of elaborate ceramic decoration which is also by Hardman & Co. Near the high altar is an elaborate memorial brass to Abbot Dunstan Scott, the founder of the church.

LIST DESCRIPTION:

CHURCH OF ST WULSTAN

List entry Number: 1098787

Grade: II

Date first listed: 23-Feb-1987

 

LITTLE MALVERN CP A 449 SO 74 SE 2/157 Church of St Wulstan GV II

 

Roman Catholic church. 1862 by B Bucknall. Rubble with limestone dressings and slate roof. Comprising a nave and south transept and south baptistry. Windows have Geometrical tracery. At the west end is a rose window. The west doorway is pointed and moulded in three orders with angle shafts. Above is a gabled band. The carving is incomplete, with rough stone blocks intended for head stops, crockets and gargoyles. The north wall of the nave is of five bays separated by buttresses and has windows of two pointed lights with quatrefoils. The north wall of the transept is of three gabled bays, which have windows with three trefoiled lights with tracery. The south wall of the nave has one bay to the west of the hexagonal baptistry and five to the east. The baptistry has chamfered pointed windows. At the south end of the south transept is a turret. It has a gable facing east which has two windows each of two traceried lights at an upper level. The east wall of the nave is of brick, with a blocked chancel arch and a blocked arch to a crypt. The chancel has remained unbuilt.

 

Interior: the windows have inner stone arches separated by slim shafts which carry the roof trusses, which have carved braces to high collars. At the west end is a gallery of pitch pine with organ. A three-bay arcade of pointed arches opens into the north transept which is vaulted. The blocked chancel arch is moulded and pointed.

 

(BoE, p 215).

 

Listing NGR: SO7708840972

 

Elgar’s grave

 

ELGAR'S GRAVE, APPROXIMATELY 20 METRES SOUTH OF CHURCH OF ST WULSTAN

List entry Number: 1178469

Grade: II

Date first listed: 23-Feb-1987

 

LITTLE MALVERN CP A 449 SO 74 SE 2/158 Elgar's grave, approximately 20 metres south of Church of St Wulstan

 

GV II

 

Tomb and headstone of Sir Edward Elgar (died 1934) and Lady Caroline Elgar (died 1920). Sandstone. Headstone has rounded top, below which is carved a small rampant lion with motto. Inscribed: "Pray for the Soul of Caroline Alice Lady Elgar ... the dearly-beloved wife of Edward Elgar Kt. She died ... 1920. In memory also of the above named Edward Elgar. Born June 2nd 1857. Died February 23rd 1934". In front is a flat tomb of sandstone flags inscribed: "Elgar".

 

Listing NGR: SO7707940934

Diocese: Birmingham

Architect: Charles Bucknall

Original Date: 1862

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Grade II