VISIT | Touring the Elgar Route | Worcestershire
Follow in Edward Elgar's Footsteps
Take a journey through the life of Edward Elgar
Discover his inspiration and affection for these places set around the Malvern Hills and downlands around it
An Elgar soundtrack is optional but quite frankly there is no better place to play it
"...this journey through Elgar history..."
Picture this if you will - the sound of Elgar’s Cello Concerto plays out of your headphones or car speakers as you stand at British Camp on the edge of the Malvern Hills; or as you look up from the village where he was born at Lower Broadheath and see the Malverns in view. Or at the countryside around you, the unescapable features of the spa town of Malvern, and of the Cathedral cities of Worcester and of Hereford. For this was all Elgar. These were the backdrops to his life.
Edward Elgar is a bit of a local hero in these parts. You are in Elgar’s England. These were the fields, the skies and the character that made Elgar. The greatest English composer there has ever been.
The Elgar Route is a driving/cycling route that takes you on a casual tour around the buildings, houses, places and outside areas closely associated with the composer Edward Elgar.
There are brown signs highlighting the Elgar Route across Worcestershire and parts of Herefordshire. But, a word of note, some signs date from a previous age and some from another. And there have been different phases of this particular tour of Edward Elgar’s life.
The route can be done piecemeal or in one long jaunt. Places I would suggest to you include:
Elgar’s birthplace – The Firs in Lower Broadheath: now owned and run by the National Trust (so therefore fee-paying to enter) but a visit to the cottage is a must for all Elgar fans.
Malvern town centre: take in the town that Elgar knew so well.
Malvern Hills – British Camp: it is an essential part of discovering the Malvern Hills and Elgar’s relationship with it, to climb up onto these hillsides and see what the man saw.
St Wulstan’s Church, Malvern: where Elgar, his wife and his daughter are buried. It is clearly signed with the Elgar Graves. Pay your due respects on this tour of Elgar’s life.
Upton-upon-Severn: a lovely spot with great views of the Pepperpot and the River Severn where Elgar frequently frequented.
Worcester: the great Cathedral city – where there is much to see such as the Cathedral itself where Elgar played and the memorial window lies, the plaque on the High Street where Elgar lived above the music shop or the statue of Edward Elgar himself which faces the Cathedral
There are extra options to include such as Hereford city itself where a blue plaque lies on the corner of Vineyard Road for his house Plas Gwyn or ancient Mordiford village which sits on double bridges outside Hereford where Elgar spent time walking.
If you undertake the Elgar Route, realise this – that this is not about place, or of memorial, but of finding the spirit of the land that Elgar loved. That at the soul of his music were these places. The places he returned to. Yes – this was his home, but it was perhaps also his inspiration and his salvation.
So follow the route, find these places and try to see beyond the place but to the raw materials, the backbone of the land – the river Severn, the Malvern Hills, the Worcestershire/Herefordshire countryside.
For those who have some idea about Edward Elgar, they may cite Pomp and Circumstance, Land of Hope and Glory or indeed his Cello Concerto. But there was more to this man.
Largely self-taught, Edward Elgar gained his initial musical learning from the fact that his father had a musical shop and tuned pianos. His woman who became his wife was probably the single biggest influence on his life: Caroline Alice Roberts. She was known as Alice, and then later Lady Elgar; but Elgar had begun simply as her violin/piano teacher. Alice’s family considered her to have married down, and particularly as he was a Catholic. But Alice remained her husband’s biggest cheerleader. Edward was lost when she died in 1920.
In May 1912, just a month after the sinking of the HMS Titanic in the Atlantic Ocean, Elgar appeared with six other renowned conductor at a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London to pay tribute to the bandmaster and his musicians, eight of whom died when the ship sunk after being hit by an iceberg on its maiden voyage. Henry Wallace Hartley, the bandmaster with his players played as the ship sank around them; their last tune pertaining to be ‘Nearer, My God, To Thee’. Elgar conducted his own Enigma Variations. There were nearly 8,000 people there that day, it was Empire Day, so many came for the occasion including the families of the bereaved musicians, royals and dignitaries. When ‘Nearer, My God, To Thee’ was played, the audience began to cry.
Elgar appeared many times at the Three Counties Festival. He may have moved around the country at various points but he seemed to always return back where he came. After leaving to go to London after his wife’s death, he returned back to Worcestershire and the village of Kempsey just outside in the late 1920s.
Sir Edward Elgar died in 1934 and was buried at St Wulfstan’s Roman Catholic Church on the edge of Malvern where his wife and daughter are also buried. He had come home. His final resting place high on the Malvern escarpment.
His spirit hangs low here. In fact, it probably never left. And when at some point on your journey, you press play on Elgar’s Enigma Variations, on Nimrod perhaps then stop the car on some pleasant view, or some quiet corner and hear Elgar’s soundtrack to his home.
Directions and Map |
Starting points available at any of the places listed above in and around Malvern/Worcester