Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Great Malvern Priory
Great Malvern Priory, in Malvern, Worcestershire, was a Benedictine monastery c.1075-1540 and is now a parish church. During the reign of Edward the Confessor, Saint Wulfstan, the Bishop of Worcester, encouraged a hermit named Aldwyn to found a monastery in what was then the wilderness of Malvern Chase. According to the Worcester Monastic Annals this work began in 1085.
The Priory was built for thirty monks on land belonging to Westminster Abbey. A charter from Henry I in 1128 AD refers to Great Malvern Priory as 'the Priory of St Mary'. In 1154-1156, Westminster Abbey obtained a 'bull' from Pope Adrian IV which confirms a strong dependency of the priory of St Mary, Malvern, on the Abbey of Westminster.
An 18th century document in the Worcester County Record Office states that in the 18th year of King William's reign (1083?), the priory was dedicated to St Mary the Virgin. Within the 'Victorian History of the Counties of England: A History of Worcester', edited by W Page, there is an account of the foundation of the monastery in Bishop Guilford's Register of 1283. It describes how hermit Aldwyn petitioned Urse d'Abitot, the Earl of Gloucester, for the original site (of the Priory) in the wood, and land "as far as Baldeyate"; that he collected monks, and adopted the Rule of St. Benedict; dedicating the monastery to the Virgin Mary - but occasionally under patronage of both St. Mary & St. Michael.
On the dissolution of the monasteries in 1541, locals bought the building for £20 to replace their decaying parish church.
The present building dates from 1085, with mainly 15th century structure, floor, and wall tiles. The original Norman church was extended in the years between 1450 and 1500. The great square central tower is very similar to that of the nearby Gloucester Cathedral; it was built by the same masons. It was redesigned in Perpendicular style by Sir Reginald Bray) and has a very plain interior. The chancel is also Perpendicular in style, and contains the monument of John Knotsford (died 1589), a participant in the dissolution of the former monastic foundation. It is largely thanks to his patronage that the church, and particularly its medieval glass, survived so well.
The fine collection of stained glass ranges from medieval to modern, and includes 15th and 19th century windows. The north transept window, depicting the Coronation of St Mary, was a gift from Henry VII in 1501, and another from Duke of Gloucester, later Richard III. A careful restoration was carried out in 1860 under the direction of Sir George Gilbert Scott, the famous architect, who also designed the roof of the nave in imitation of the medieval original.
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