Little Malvern Priory
(Church of England)

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The Priory Church of St Giles, Little Malvern

Little Malvern Priory (LMP)

WR14 4JN

Parish Profile

Dec 2019

The Church’s location and status, the Parish and the Local Area

Little Malvern Priory (St. Giles) is situated in a beautiful location on the East side of the Malvern Hills in Little Malvern, Worcestershire. The view of the Church from the east (approaching along the A4104 from Welland) is featured in many paintings, photographs and cards.

The church is part of the Diocese of Worcester within the Church of England, which, with Hereford and Gloucester, is one of the “Three Choirs” Dioceses. Worcester Diocese has a rich history about which much more can be found on the Diocesan website. It comprises two Archdeaconries – Dudley, with 7 Deaneries, and Worcester, with 6, one of them Malvern.

Malvern is a spa town and civil parish. It is spread along the Malvern Hills, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Its centre, Great Malvern, is a historic conservation area, which grew dramatically in Victorian times due to the natural mineral water springs in the vicinity, including Malvern Water. To the North of that are North Malvern and the former independent urban district of Malvern Link, while to the South lie Malvern Wells and then Little Malvern. West Malvern is on the Herefordshire side of the hills. These regions are all now contiguous and are collectively referred to as The Malverns.

In 1942 Britain’s radar research activity was moved to Malvern, bringing a large number of research scientists, engineers and supporting staff. By the 1970s the MOD research establishment had grown to many thousands of professional people. Since the 1990s these numbers have fallen and the current successor organisation, QinetiQ Ltd, employs around 600 people in Malvern but other small high tech companies have grown up around it during the last decade.

The parish of Little Malvern, located at the Southern tip of the Malverns, is very small, containing just 26 dwellings. Amongst them and adjacent to the church is Little Malvern Court, which is significant in the life of the church (see below).

Founded in 1127, Little Malvern Priory was a small Benedictine monastery. By the 15th century the side chapels, transepts and nave had fallen down, leaving the present church which comprises only the original tower and chancel. The only part of the older monastic buildings to survive the dissolution was the eastern portion of the medieval house, which now forms part of Little Malvern Court.

Before 1938 the church of Little Malvern was under the protection of Little Malvern Court and the Berington family, who although they were Roman Catholic were very fond of LMP and had kept it in a good state of repair, at significant cost to themselves. Proposals in 1938 to amalgamate the parish with other local parishes were resisted, and an endowment was received from, and a trust set up by, a Miss Hookham (a member of the congregation at the time) on condition that LMP was not united with any other parish. After heated debate with Diocesan representatives, LMP continued as a parish with its own vicar.

From 1964 until 1989 LMP had an independent stipendiary incumbent, the Revd. Cox. He was followed by stipendiary incumbents; the Revd Michael Dunn  and the Revd Graham McNamee. 

In 1981 after considerable further debate, there was a period of about five years when it was a united benefice with All Saints & St Peters. After that Little Malvern Priory had its benefice restored.

The present incumbent, Revd. Canon Eric Knowles, has now served the Priory for 29 years. Our Lay Patron is the owner of Little Malvern Court, Mrs Alex Berington, who is an Anglican who is a member of the PCC and loyal supporter of the church.

The Church building and Churchyard

In the choir stalls there is 13th century oak, which is protected by regular waxing. There is other historical woodwork including the rood screen. The East window holds glass of European significance, and much of the remainder of the glasswork in the Priory is of substantial historical importance, as are the floor tiles in the chancel.

The nave contains fixed pews and the font is at the West end. The choir was extensively repaired by the Berington family in 1864 after its roof collapsed.

There is a small single-storey entrance porch / foyer built in 1964, which was crowded by the inclusions of displays of historical photographs and artefacts for the interest of visitors alongside notice boards and leaflet stands. It has recently been substantially tidied and de-cluttered.

Off that there is a useful utility / flower room and toilet. The cupboards and worktop in the utility room have recently been restored and enhanced.

There is an access door from the Court into the porch.

A defibrillator is kept in the boiler room off the porch.

The medieval floor tiles in the chancel had long been noted as part of the historical fabric of LMP, but it has only recently been realised that they may be of national significance. The Diocesan Advisory Committee was therefore invited to give advice on their care, and the British Museum was contacted. It was unaware of the LMP tiles and has asked for a photographic record of them.

The Church and Churchyard are surrounded by the lands of Little Malvern Court. The path from the North door of the church runs North to the entrance on the A4104. On the opposite side of that road is a car park belonging to the Court, which Mrs Berington allows to be used for Church services and other functions. There are signs at the car park entrance to Little Malvern Priory and Court.

Burials and interments of ashes still take place in the churchyard, which is maintained in a good state by volunteers.

Ministerial Support

The present incumbent, Revd. Canon Eric Knowles, has now served the Priory for 29 years. (He is sometimes referred to in documents as the Vicar or the Chaplain.) He and his wife Valerie live in their own home in Malvern.

The stability afforded to LMP by Eric’s long service has been a great blessing

 
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