Newtown Road, Malvern, Worcestershire WR14
A modest Gothic design of the 1870s, considerably enlarged in the 1990s. Something of the original character of the interior has been preserved, with the original west gallery and reredos, but the finishes and many of the furnishings are modern. There is some good stained glass by Hardman and others.
The Benedictine association with Malvern goes back to the eleventh century, when under Bishop Wulstan, Aldwin, a monk from Worcester, began work on the priory.
Great Malvern’s popularity as a spa greatly increased after the arrival of the railway in 1859. In 1871 a Catholic priest named Fr McCluskey, one of a party of American tourists, obtained permission to say Mass in a private house named Aldwyn Towers. Here a mission was later established by the Benedictines from Downside under Fr H. B. Bulbeck OSB. A site for a new church was given by John Hornyold of Blackmore Park, and the present building, designed by T. R. Donnelly of Coventry, was opened by Bishop Ullathorne in October 1876. It was a simple Gothic structure, with an aisleless nave and sanctuary under one roof and a small presbytery to one side. The Empress Eugenie is reported to have pronounced it ‘the most devotional church she ever prayed in’ (Donnelly obituary, The Tablet, 4 July 1908).
In 1891 the Benedictines from Douai, Northern France, escaping anti-clerical legislation, acquired Conellan College in Great Malvern (a former hydropathic establishment) with a view to transferring their whole monastery establishment. They also took over the care of St Joseph’s parish. In 1904-5 a church dedicated to Our Lady and St Edmund, designed by Peter Paul Pugin (who died before the church opened; the work was overseen by Sebastian Pugin-Powell) was built to serve the monastic community, to which St Joseph’s would serve as a chapel of ease. In the event, the main Douai community established itself at Woolhampton in Berkshire, and in 1918 the community moved there, whereupon Conellan College was sold to Malvern College. St Joseph’s became the parish church, with St Edmund’s a chapel of ease. The parish continued to be served by Benedictines from Douai until 1996, when it came under diocesan control. At this time Our Lady and St Edmund was sold to Malvern College. In 1997 St Joseph’s was enlarged by the addition of aisles and a western narthex and parish room (architect John D. Holmes of Leamington Spa). The enlarged church was opened in June 1998.
The church is built of purple Malvern rubble stone with Bath stone dressings and roof coverings of red tiles. The original church comprised a single rectangular block with nave and sanctuary under a continuous pitched roof. In the 1990s enlargement the nave roof was continued down over new north and south aisles. The original paired aisle windows were reset as triple windows under cross-gables and the new aisles were continued across the west end to form a narthex with a parish room. The new work employed the same materials as the old.
At the west end the gable of the original church with a three-light plate tracery window rises above the new narthex with its plain stone walls, and modern central gabled doorway. The side walls have large cross-gables to the aisles with three trefoiled lights under each. The east end has a spherical triangle window with three quatrefoiled lights set above a stone panel carved with Benedictine symbols.
The simple character of the original interior has been changed by the creation of north and south aisles, with the original timber hammerbeam roof now supported on substantial timber posts on rustic-looking brick plinths, with elaborate timber bracing. The aisleless western bay contains the original timber organ gallery (the organ was not installed until 1929). The original Gothic timber rood screen, illustrated in the centenary publication, has long gone, and the timber pulpit was taken out in post-Vatican II reordering. The sanctuary retains its original high altar and elaborate timber reredos, with painted figures of six saints (c.1883) and a simple forward altar/table. There is stained glass by Hardman in the east window (1889) and on the north side (1889). The re-set aisle windows contain memorial stained glass of c1936 which is generally of lesser quality, with the exception of half of a good window to Emily Henrietta Merewether by Arthur Orr (c. 1924) in the north aisle. Other windows are by Goddard & Gibbs, 1948. The seating consists of individual bleached limewood chairs, presumably of 1998.
Architect: T. R. Donnelly; John D. Holmes
Original Date: 1876
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed