VISIT | Discovering Elgar's Birthplace and his True Home at The Firs | Worcestershire
Seeing the Heart of a Composer
Take no preconceptions, it matters not if you know nothing of the man but here at the Firs you will find Edward Elgar - man and composer
Discover the music man through his possessions, his inspirations and the place that meant more to him than any other - where he was born
It is all about the cottage and the garden - simply that!
"...the cottage - full of evocative history and musical heritage..."
Maybe it was just because the gardener lady left the gate open for us; the small wooden garden gate of Elgar’s cottage. And beckoned us in. Maybe it was because there was only her and us in the quiet, pleasant rural space on a Monday afternoon with only the birdsong for company; and the sunshine trying to smile on Elgar’s cottage garden. Maybe it was because she told us of the old cottage and the garden, the cottage plants, her only blooming flower and her hopes for the gardening year ahead. And his figure, his life size statue sat on his bench in the far corner of the garden, looking over his beloved Malverns in perpetuity. Whatever it was, it set a tone. Rural. Countryside. Sleepy. Cherished. Maybe it was just because we saw the home that Elgar and his daughter wanted us to see.
The Firs at Lower Broadheath is run under stewardship by the National Trust. It has all the front-end gloss, the bonhomie, the social questions, the tearoom but… this place is a little different, once you get behind it, beyond the brand to see the place. For before the Firs was NT, it was the Sir Edward Elgar Birthplace Trust. The Victorian redbrick cottage where Edward Elgar was born in Lower Broadheath, the little village outside the great Cathedral city of Worcester. The young Edward only spent two years of his life here but it resonated with him, throughout his long life. So much so that when he was made a baronet in 1931 – he requested it be ‘Baron Elgar of Broadheath.’
Edward Elgar was a self-learned classical musician and composer. Perhaps the finest English composer there has ever been. Most renowned for his Land of Hope and Glory, our second anthem but also the Enigma Variations or his violin and cello concertos. His was a time of patriotic fervour and royal pageantry. But his life and history remains relevant to this day; and in this small village of Broadheath in Worcestershire, this place The Firs remains.
The cottage was acquired in 1934 by what was then the Worcester Corporation on Elgar’s death after a request from Elgar before his death and his only child, daughter Carice. It was at her behest that the Elgar Birthplace Trust came into being. She organised her father’s belongings. In 1938, it was first opened as a museum filled with the items from Elgar’s houses.
And thus over the next decades, thousands filed through this small cottage to see the legacy and the shadow of this great Englishman, the great composer. And let’s be clear that as an old cottage, it is cramped, it has a tight staircase, the cottage is not an access-all pass for those with limited mobility. But that is its charm. It is an old cottage, with an old-style cottage garden, a summerhouse retrieved from another of Elgar’s many houses – replete with art, sculptures, paintings, and photographs. Items and suggestibles to give you enough clues to hint of the atmosphere of this place that gave Elgar such memories. And if you stand at the leaded windows and glance out, stooping to see – you can catch that glimpse… Maybe something that Elgar never recaptured. The rural idyll with its perfect views of the Malverns.
The statue at the bottom of the garden is perfect. An impressive shadow of the man sat in perfect reflection overlooking his most perfect view. Take a seat next to him to see what he did – and then remember those bars of music he created. For you do not need to know Elgar’s music, or even of the man himself to appreciate this cottage. For if places tell you about people, you just need to sit in the quiet of this garden to see the man Edward Elgar – you need not know his music. Steeped in English countryside, idolising the simplicities that he recognised, and the stirring of emotion that could be beheld by your senses.
There are simple touches here and there. The rusting garden roller sat in an authentic angle. The small gravestones marking the demise of Elgar’s dogs. The old gate. The chess game left in hanging anxiety as though the great man had just left the building. But this is in perfect isolation exactly what Elgar wanted us to see. Him.
There is background enough for those who want to know more of the musician, the composer, the man in detail in the many bits of the display and interpretation boards set in the modern visitor centre. There is more than enough to piece together the basic facts of Elgar and for those who know of the man and want to know more. But perhaps before you do any of that – go outside. Go through the gate, go into the garden, wander through the cottage at a snail’s pace and then stand at distance and see what you know now.
For those who like to wander, there are a couple of trails which lead from the site around Elgar’s familiar fields and farms. But stay awhile here just long enough to know a bit more, stay a bit more curious, ask a few more questions.
Further Information |
Edward Elgar's home at The Firs is operated by the National Trust with admissions charges for non-members and open at certain times of the week.
For more information - head over to their website
Directions and Map |
Find The Firs in the little village of Lower Broadheath just outside the west side of Worcester clearly signed from the road