Great Malvern Priory

Great Malvern Priory

Coordinates: 52°06′37.72″N 2°19′42.92″W / 52.1104778°N 2.3285889°W / 52.1104778; -2.3285889

Great Malvern Priory

Great Malvern Priory

Country United Kingdom
Denomination Church of England
Churchmanship Broad Church
Dedication Saint Mary and Saint Michael
Parish Malvern
Diocese Worcester
Province Canterbury
Vicar(s) The Revd John Barr
Curate(s) The Revd Dr Mary Barr
Organist/Director of music David Iliff

Great Malvern Priory in Malvern, Worcestershire, England, was a Benedictine monastery c.1075-1540 and is now an Anglican parish church.



An ancient carved head and shoulders similar to the Lustymore Island figure on Boa Island, County Fermanagh was excavated from the grounds of the Priory. It is now housed in St Ann's Chapel. A Celt (a prehistoric axe-like tool) was also excavated during the 18th Century.[1]

During the reign of Edward the Confessor, Saint Wulfstan, the Bishop of Worcester, encouraged a hermit named Aldwyn to found a monastery in what was then the wilderness of Malvern Chase. According to the Worcester Monastic Annals this work began in 1085.[2]

Aldwyn was succeeded by Walcher of Malvern, an astronomer and philosopher from Lorraine.[3]

Walcher's tomb lid was rescued from burial at the site of the South Transept cloister garth c. 1711. It is now housed in St Anne's chapel. The inscription on the lid reads:-

Philosophus bonus dignus Astrologus lotharingus, Vir pius et humilis, Monachus prior hujus ovilis Hic jacet in cista Geometricus et Abacista, Doctor Walcherus. Flet plebs, dolet undique clerus. Huic lux prima mori Dedit Octobris seniori; Vivat ut in coelis Exoret quisque fidelis. MCXXXV.

A good philosopher, a worthy Astrologer of Lorraine, A pious and humble man, the prior monk of this fold, Here lies in a casket, a geometer skilled in the abacus, Doctor Walcher. The people weeps, the cleric grieves everywhere. To him, our elder, the first day of October brought death; That he should live in heaven may every faithful soul pray. 1135.[4]

The Priory was built for thirty monks on land belonging to Westminster Abbey. A charter from Henry I in 1128 AD refers to Great Malvern Priory as 'the Priory of St. Mary'. In 1154–1156, Westminster Abbey obtained a Papal bull from Pope Adrian IV which confirms a strong dependency of the priory of St Mary, Malvern, on the Abbey of Westminster.

An 18th century document in the Worcester County Record Office states that in the 18th year of King William's reign (1083?), the priory was dedicated to St Mary the Virgin. Within the 'Victorian History of the Counties of England: A History of Worcester', edited by W. Page, there is an account of the foundation of the monastery in Bishop Guilford's Register of 1283. It describes how hermit Aldwyn petitioned Urse d'Abetot, the Earl of Gloucester, for the original site (of the Priory) in the wood, and land "as far as Baldeyate"; that he collected monks, and adopted the Rule of St. Benedict; dedicating the monastery to the Virgin Mary - but occasionally under patronage of both St. Mary & St. Michael.

15th century stained glass East Window.

On the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1541, local people raised £20 to buy the building to replace their decaying parish church.[5]

The present building dates from 1085, with mainly 15th century structure, floor, and wall tiles. Extensions to the original Norman architecture church began around 1440 in the Perpendicular style and work continued until 1502.[2] The great square central tower is very similar to that of the nearby Gloucester Cathedral; it was built by the same masons. It was redesigned in Perpendicular style by Sir Reginald Bray) and has a very plain interior. The chancel is also Perpendicular in style, and contains the monument of John Knotsford (died 1589), a participant in the dissolution of the former monastic foundation. It is largely thanks to his patronage that the church, and particularly its medieval glass, survived so well.

The fine collection of stained glass ranges from medieval to modern, and includes 15th century and 19th century windows. The north transept window, depicting the Coronation of St. Mary, was a gift from Henry VII in 1501, and another from the Duke of Gloucester, later Richard III. A careful restoration was carried out in 1860 under the direction of Sir George Gilbert Scott, the famous architect, who also designed the roof of the nave in imitation of the medieval original.

Present day

The church has around 500 on the parochial council electoral roll. Services are a mixture of traditional elements with some modern elements. The choir is well established. There are several active groups for children and young people. The church sponsors several "Mission Partners".

The current incumbents are the Vicar of Malvern, Rev. John Barr, and his wife Rev. Dr. Mary Barr. A past incumbent was the Christian writer Anthony C. Deane.


The Nicholson organ dating from 1879, restored/rebuilt 1927, 1977, 2003

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.[6] The specification of the organ is listed at the National Pipe Organ Register.[7]


  • 1818 John Southall
  • 1836 William Reeves
  • 1840 Mrs William Walker
  • 1843 Thomas Bissell
  • 1843 George Norman
  • 1847 John Boulcott
  • 1847 Alfred Wheeler
  • 1850 William Haynes
  • 1893 Allan Pattison (formerly organist of St. Michael's College, Tenbury)
  • 1895 Charles de Sousa
  • 1899 Alban Claughton
  • 1904 Frederic Wadely
  • 1910 Louis Hamand
  • 1946 John Durham Holl
  • 1973 Harold Hullah
  • 1977 Richard Dacey
  • 1980 Graham Davies
  • 1983 Tony Hemson
  • 1984 David Cooper
  • 1996 Nicholas Woods
  • 1999 Nigel McClintock
  • 2000 Andrew Wilson
  • 2006 Martyn Lane
  • 2008 David Iliff


15th century misericord depicting a Wyvern.

The twenty-two 15th century misericords and twelve 19th century misericords are divided into three subsets: a modern set that do not seem to follow a pattern, depictions of mythical beasts and representations of the "Labours of the months". It appears that some of the modern misericords replaced 5 of the labours, but this is still a useful record.[2]

It is possible that the same person who carved the misericords at Worcester Cathedral and Ripple St Mary, was responsible for the 15th century misericords, as they bear more than a family resemblance.

Labours of the Month

  • NH-02 Swine-heard, dressed in the usual flat cap, doublet and hose, and pointed shoes, knocking down acorns. Representing October.
  • NH-06 Man with bag fastened to a strap over his shoulders with a seed container on his left. He is a seed-sower and represents March.
  • NB-01 Man seated at a table holding up a wine cup in each hand. Probably representing January.
  • NB-02 Man reaping or weeding. In his hands he holds two implements to tend the corn. Possibly representing April, June or August.
  • NB-04 Man with a scythe. Representing June.
  • NB-05 Smiling man carrying a bunch of grapes in his left hand and a basket in his right. Representing September.
  • SB-06 Man holding a large bunch of flowers in each hand. Representing May.


Further reading


  1. ^ Garrard, Rose (2010) A Malvern Treasury Garrard Art Publications ISBN 9781905795567
  2. ^ a b c Wells, Katherine (2009) Tour of Great Malvern Priory p.2., Friends of Great Malvern Priory ISBN 0951029444
  3. ^ Dolan, John Gilbert (1910).New Advent Malvern in the Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.
  4. ^ Great Malvern Priory: Prior Walcher of Lorraine Retrieved 22 September 2011
  5. ^ Wells, Katherine (2009) Tour of Great Malvern Priory p.3., Friends of Great Malvern Priory ISBN 0951029444
  6. ^ Historic Organ Certificates Retrieved 3 August 2011
  7. ^ National Pipe Organ Register: Great Malvern Priory Retrieved 3 August 2011

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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