Priory GatehouseGreat Malvern
Abbey Road
Worcestershire WR14 3ES

 

The Priory Gatehouse and the parish Church of SS Mary & Michael, Great Malvern are the oldest buildings still standing in Great Malvern. Both are all that remains of the medieval Benedictine priory built around 1086.

The Priory Gatehouse was the only entrance to the Benedictine monastery of Great Malvern. The present building dates from c 1480 and was home to the porter who monitored the movement of people and goods in and out of the Priory estate. He was expected to be cheerful, polite, and welcoming at all times.

Under the archway you can still see the huge oak timbers from which the great gates hung. A small rectangular window called the Porter’s Squint can still be seen in the archway, in front of the huge hinged wooden gateposts. Visitors had to declare their business to the porter, who kept watch from within.

In medieval times the Malvern woodlands were very isolated. Nevertheless, they were a popular Crown hunting ground and the Benedictines welcomed many Royal visitors to their monastery. Amongst them were Henry VII and his wife, Elizabeth of York, and their sons Arthur and Henry (later Henry VIII).

The Dissolution
After Henry VIII closed all the monasteries in the 1530s, only Malvern’s Priory Church and Gatehouse survived.
 
Around 1560 the gatehouse was extended on the south side and you can still see the red Tudor brickwork and the mullioned windows. The little angel above the arch is thought to be John Knotsford, who owned the building at that time.
 
In the early 19th century the gatehouse upstairs was used as a court and there was a prisoner’s cell downstairs on the east side. You can still see the metal bars at the window. There was also a fruit and game shop downstairs on the west side.
 
The gatehouse was remodelled in 1891. On the north side a battlement was added and the crumbling façade was re-faced. A controversial extension was added on the west side, destroying its symmetry.
 
Later, solicitors, estate agents and architects had offices in the building. Edward Elgar’s dear friend, architect Arthur Troyte Griffith had his office in the gatehouse. Sir Edward Elgar was a regular visitor and when he composed his Enigma Variations, Troyte became Variation No. VII.
 
In 1978 an ice cream van became wedged under the archway causing a huge amount of damage, after which traffic was banned from driving through the arch. At that time the priory gatehouse was used as lodgings for the staff at the nearby Abbey Hotel.
 
In 1980 the owners, de Vere Hotels, generously gave the ancient building to Malvern Museum Society.
 
The gatehouse is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and Grade II Listed. It now houses the excellent Malvern Museum of Local History.
 
For more information about the museum visit this website’s article ‘Malvern Museum’.
 
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Google Map - Priory Gatehouse, Great Malvern