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Recent History of Little Malvern Priory

The ten acres now surrounding Little Malvern Court used to be part of the monastic grounds, including fish ponds. Little Malvern Court and its gardens are open to the public on certain days.

In recent times there have been several proposals to amalgamate Little Malvern Priory with Malvern Wells.

The first time was in 1930 but this was abandoned due to the opposition of the then Vicar,

Rev JG Barrow and the Berington family.

The proposal resurfaced in 1938 when most people’s attention was on the threat of war. The basis of the idea was the paucity of clergy, the lack of sufficient work for a priest to do at Little Malvern Priory, lack of cash and a very small geographical area with a small number of residents, most of whom were Roman Catholics.

The diocese thought it would be sensible to unite the parishes of Little Malvern Priory and Malvern Wells as most of the worshippers were from outside the parish boundary and could go to their own parish church. This would provide considerable savings by using St Peter’s as the parish church and Little Malvern Priory as a “chapel of ease” with occasional services only. The other proposal was to unite the benefices, where each church would retain its identity but share the parish priest.

At that time the church was in reasonable repair, having been well looked after by the Berington family and the congregation. The church was recognised as being an “exceedingly precious heritage” because of being a typical Minster church on a small scale. The cash problem was addressed by an endowment from a Miss Hookham (a member of the congregation at the time) of £4,500 on condition that Little Malvern Priory was not united with any other parish. She gave a further £4,500 in trust for the priory.

There was also a problem with the “advowson”. This is the “gift” of the living or the patronage of the church and was held by the Berington family. As far as I can ascertain, they could not legally exercise their right of patronage because they were Roman Catholic. The legal patrons were one of the Oxford Colleges. In practical terms this had not mattered much but was added to the arguments in the furore.

There was clearly a long (2.5 hours) and heated meeting between the representatives of the Diocese and the parish in December 1938. Mr W Berington ( the great grandfather of the current Thomas Berington ) said what a privilege it was to be the patron of the living which had been granted to his forebears by Queen Mary 1st (Philip and Mary) and handed down to the Berington family by marriage. He felt that union with St Peters would effectively remove the patronage, which should legally stay in place for his lifetime. He also said that the money from Miss Hookham would provide a “living wage” for a vicar and relieve the Diocese of the expense. He felt that the job would suit a ‘part time’ or retired priest. He added that as Patron of the living he was “best of friends” with the parishioners in spite of being a catholic and was upset by the periodic threats to the independence of LMP.

The eventual outcome was the continuation of Little Malvern Priory as a parish with its own vicar.

In 1954, The Society of Friends of Little Malvern Priory was formed and since then nearly a quarter of a million pounds has been raised towards various projects to maintain the building for all those who call by to visit or to worship at the regular services (at least once a week, often more) held in this very special Priory Church.

In 1981 the benefices of Malvern Wells, the Wyche and Little Malvern Priory were united. Yet another episode happened after the retirement of Rev JET Cox in 1987, when Rev Dunn became priest in charge. Eventually, after further time, effort and energy had been expended, Little Malvern Priory became “independent” (i.e. self-financing, although still a Parish within the Diocese of Worcester, and within the Malvern and Upton Rural Deanery).

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