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A visit to Elgar’s birthplace “the Firs” in Lower Broadheath started well with lunch in the courtyard of the property which has been operated since last year by the National Trust.
A tour of the gardens revealed a statue of Elgar gazing out over the Malverns in the distance together with a fresco of him on his much loved bicycle.
A short video detailing the families history was viewed followed by a guided tour of the cottage of Elgar’s birth by very informative guides. Elgar was born in the cottage in 1857 the only one of 7 siblings born there and where he lived for the next 2 years before the family moved to No. 10 High Street,Worcester where his father opened his music shop.
Elgar eventually became a piano tuner and was able to display the royal seal of approval from the Dowager Queen Adelaide living then in Great Witley Court.
Elgar was known for his love of nature, riding his bike and flying a kite whereas writing music was seen as a chore. He wrote the scores with a fountain pen as they were never altered the music already composed in his brain ready for documentation. International fame came his way after he wrote the Enigma Variations in 1899, although his wife Caroline Roberts was always convinced of his talent. She acted as his business manager and social secretary, dealt with his mood swings and was a ‘perceptive musical critic’.
Elgar was awarded a baronetcy in 1931 choosing the title Sir Edward Elgar 1st Baronet of Broadheath – after the village where he was born.
An entertaining and educational evening with Henry Sandon who identified and valued several items produced by members of the audience including a twin handled C19 vase, a late C19 Dresden vase featuring a street scene and a female Toby Jug by Martha Gunn who used to assist ladies bathing in Regency days in Brighton who were “taking the water”. Henry brought a photo of himself valuing Ozzy the Owl at an Antiques Road Show in Northampton carried in a plastic carrier bag before being valued at £20,000 and later sold for £22,000 now residing in the Potteries Museum in Stoke on Trent.
He then invited all present to the re-opening of the revamped Worcester Porcelain Museum on 30th June 11am.
At the end of the evening he was presented with bread pudding by one of his most avid fans who has clocked up 220 road show visits and a box of cheese from the Civic Society.
Mustn’t forget to help him celebrate his 90th birthday on 2nd August!
Even with such a busy life he managed to find a ‘cosy’ home in Worcestershire namely Wolverton Hall where with his wife he raised a family of 4 sons and where he attempts to spend as many weekends as possible his favourite place being the garden where he writes the odd novel or 2 in longhand, only fitting for a descendant of the brother of poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
During the talk given by James Pettifer on 14th November in St. Andrews Hall on the origins of what became known as Pettifer’s Yard i.e. 19 High Street, he showed an old map of what was a Saxon settlement around Pershore with the Avon even then becoming known as a trade artery. We were told that if Chaucer is read it is made clear that the Saxon times produced the equivalent of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll!
Amongst No. 19’s claim to fame was being one of the first in Pershore to have a Thomas Crapper toilet installed, although the building at the rear was an C18 woolbarn during the times when wool stapling was at its height and one of the sources of local wealth.
A talk was given by Keith Goddard one of the extremely knowledgeable trustees of Number 8, beginning with a little of the history of the building originally called Portland House and much more about the conversion from a very rundown building to a community centre featuring a theatre, dance studio, meeting rooms and café.
He showed an early photo dated approx. 1890 with the next one dated 1905 featuring a retail shop called Greenhous with a Georgian style frontage after which in 1960 the Co-op installed 2 bay windows, it later became the YMCA charity shop.
Wychavon District Council agreed to buy the building and after 5 years when Number 8 proved it was a viable proposition, agreed a 99 year lease at a literally peppercorn rent. Number 8 Theatre and Community Arts Centre opened its doors in December 2004 having run a makeshift cinema for a while every Saturday night at the rear of the charity shop.
The various phases of the building were shown from excavating a mediaeval cooking pot which it is rumoured later became a chamber pot, found in a cellar under the rear yard of the property, through to its latest refit his year after which it was officially re-opened on 28th September. Who knows what the future holds?
From the outset the community enjoyed daily Anglo-Catholic worship which continues to the present time. Residency in the community has been expanded to welcome practising Anglicans from anywhere in the country. Many visitors still attend Sunday celebrations of the Mass.
Both the Almshouses and St Leonards Church, a masterpiece of Victorian Gothic architecture, were designed by Philip Charles Hardwick,a member of the Oxford Movement. This was reflected in the Anglo Catholic choir school tradition. The choristers, who boarded within the community, sang in daily services until the choir school closed in 1945.
The church is famous for its frescos, devised by Revd James Skinner, the first vicar-warden. Frescos of saints, (female!) surround the walls of the St Leonards. St Leonards, a grade 1 listed building, continues to benefit from the generous donations of benefactors.
Within the community were the cloisters, reconstructed medieval chapel, theological library and the Grand Hall. It was there that two of the residents plied us with coffee, tea and cake.
He gave a brief history of the company, owned by the two Sicilian Billie brothers still very much involved after 22 years. The company employs 400 mainly Eastern European workers living in accommodation provided by the company including the converted Victoria Hotel in Pershore.
Tomatoes are planted in January and ready for picking in about 10 weeks without any spraying, don’t think anyone realised until we were shown around the glasshouses that each plant stem is about 30m long and bears up to 43 trusses all hydroponically grown and fertilised by bees brought in specially.
Rainwater harvesting assists the hydroponic growing and water is constantly pumped along each row. Plants finish cropping in November allowing a couple of months for clearing and burning before replanting in January although the waste plants can’t be fed into the anaerobic digester because of the amounts of string around which the stems entwine in the glasshouses.
Many thanks to John and staff for an enjoyable and informative visit and it was good to learn that these very same tomatoes can be bought in our local greengrocers.
Even more photos were enjoyed via the digital expertise of Chris Ludlow who showed not only photos inherited from his parents but many from his own vast collection via his laptop screen.
The morning also presented an opportunity for chats over a cup of tea and an opportunity for old and new residents to intermingle. The main request of the morning after a cuppa was for a similar exhibition next year – so watch this space!
We also saw Thomas the Tank Engine having been brought from its home in Llangollen for this special event day
After the tour came the cream tea served on the 2.45pm train to Cheltenham Racecourse when a couple of our male members were invited to ride on the footplate for part of the journey.
A delightful journey through the beautiful Gloucestershire countryside bathed in sunshine.
After Alice’s death in 1920 Edward developed other female friendships including, particularly, another Alice.
Elgar first big success came with ’Variations on an an original theme’(Enigma) in 1899, a masterpiece in form and presentation.
Our speaker, during his research on Sir Edward Elgar, thought he might have cracked the ‘Enigma’ of the variations, written mainly in the key of G major, with some in the minor, but ending in G major; Edu….in….G major becomes E ni Gma. Will we ever know?
This typically Georgian style walled kitchen garden set in the grounds of Croome Court is now open to the public most weekends during the summer and is well worth a visit. You never know, tea with homemade scones may be on the menu and you will be made very welcome. For more details see: croomewalledgardens.com
A slide show was given detailing some of the disasters and successes of navigation on the river including the now infamous 2007 flooding and the recent damage done to Bidford Bridge by a tractor almost going through the wall detailing ANT’s role in the rebuilding.
ANT is now professionally run with the aid of many regular volunteers and it is the first time that the River Avon has been run under one authority since 1717.
Clive reported that Jack Hegarty MD and Chief Executive of Wychavon & Malvern Hills District Councils has just been appointed Chairman of the Board of ANT trustees and that the future is looking bright.
How did the plum win WW1
It fed the troops made into jam
Who ate it in the trenches with their spam.
A fascinating evening with photos of not only some of the troops but also their families left behind in Pershore, together with copies of some heart rending letters.
The arrival locally of Belgian refugees and eventually German prisoners of war helped with the essential harvesting of crops, although the main burden fell on what became the Womens Land Army. Prior to the war 60% of food was imported which was obviously affected when submarines effectively stopped the convoys.
Also mentioned was the formation in 1916 of Pershore WI providing women with practical help, friendship and support during some of the darkest times in Britain’s history.
Many thanks go to Prof. Maggie Andrews and historian Jenni Waugh who gave the presentation after doing research with the assistance of Worcester Uni students and local groups.
Following this we travelled by lift to the next level where there was the ability for the actors to practise being suspended above stage as were were now on the third floor, the suspension attachment matching the ceiling height.
On this floor we proceeded to the stage area of The Other Place and sat on balcony seats overlooking the stage and it was explained that further seating which was retracted could be brought forward in front and below us to provide more seating whilst giving flexibility for using most of the floor space when the seats were retracted.
Jack told us in detail how the plays were planned, scenery constructed and/or mimicked for rehearsal purposes and the director and cast chosen. Generally there was a four month lead time for each play in rehearsal.
After this, we were taken into the costume store and saw hundreds of costumes and accessories which are now housed in this one place, having previously been scattered across Stratford and now stored in avenues reflecting the different eras chronologically.
Jack and Tricia returned us to the first floor level where delicious pastries and coffee awaited us.
Our Chairman Judy Dale welcomed all visitors and following the official meeting a presentation was given by Keith Goddard on the history of the formation of Pershore’s Number 8 Theatre and Arts Centre. This was followed by a members discussion covering possible updating of listed buildings both internal and external, together with the national compilation of war memorials.
After lunch in the White Horse Judy Dale had organized a guided tour around Pershore Abbey and for those fit enough, a trip up the tower. Two of the WestMASA visitors Jacob Rock and Louisa Davidson were given a whistlestop tour of the town and invited to return for a more relaxed trip sometime in the future.
Leominster’s magnificent 13th century church was originally part of a medieval Benedictine priory. Although the priory is no longer, as a victim of Henry V111’s dissolution of the monasteries, the monastic church still survives.
In the church we saw the last ducking stool used in England. This was a form of punishment used for wives whose husbands felt they were too opinionated. Another use of the ducking stool was to test for witches. If the poor suspect died she was thought to be innocent, but if she survived the ducking, then obviously, the devil had saved her. She was then executed
Pembridge had some wonderful timber framed buildings along its main street. Our knowledgeable local guide, Brian Draper, told us that the practice of decorating timber-framed houses by painting the beams black and the panels white, was a relatively recent one. This was to emphasise the pattern of the timber frame, and became common in Victorian times. Many houses prior to the eighteenth century were often left unpainted to weather naturally. Panels had lime wash applied, sometimes tinted with natural ingredients. Brian said that it was not uncommon for animal blood had been used for this purpose. It was a relief to see that the red panelled house we saw was nothing like the colour of blood!
There was a lunch stop at Kington, a Welsh boarder market town. It was near here that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had his inspiration for ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles.’ Myth has it that a huge evil black dog caused havoc throughout the area. Even after its death locals were haunted by the dog’s spirit. Eventually the spirit was captured, put in a bottle, and thrown into a lake. If you find a bottle at the bottom of a lake do not open it or……
We drove through a number of delightful villages and had a stroll around Weobley, where Charles 1 stayed on the way back from the battle of Naseby in 1645. The spire of the fine church is a landmark for miles around. Our last stop was at the Monkland Cheese Dairy/Café where there was tea, cake and the opportunity to sample the various cheeses. The perfect end to a perfect day!
What is not always known is that he studied at the Guildhall of Music becoming a music teacher at the Royal Grammar School Worcester and a lay clerk in the Worcester Cathedral choir. This apparently, all changed after he found mediaeval and Roman pottery in his garden and became a “potaholic” in love with pottery and porcelain and being appointed curator of the Worcester Porcelain Company and the Dyson Perrins Museum at the Royal Worcester Factory in 1966 until 1982. His main claim to fame though is obviously presenting the Antiques Road Show, being voted in 2000 Antiques Personality of the Year (not because of his age!) and appointed MBE in 2008 for his services to broadcasting, the ceramics industry and charity.
He brought a collection of china and demonstrated how to use a teapot designed for Queen Victoria which is self pouring together with another one which is filled through a hole in the base as it has no lid – has to be seen to be believed!
Nonetheless, a very modest and entertaining man with a vast fund of knowledge and tales of his life ranging from being a strict schoolmaster to an expert ceramics valuer.
There are not many people who can stand for an hour and a half talking nonstop without a script and keeping their audience mesmerised.
Various items of china were passed around some featuring plum designs (of course, what else in Pershore) and of course, a replica of Ozzie the Owl.
I am sure that everyone would welcome a return visit by Henry some time in the future.