Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Little Malvern Priory

File:Little Malvern Priory Hills.jpg

Nestling amidst rolling hills, Little Malvern is a tranquil place today. However, the priory’s story is not without its share of drama. Tradition asserts that Margaret of Anjou was taken prisoner here after the Battle of Tewkesbury (1471), thereby ending her tenacious struggle against the House of York. Certainly Little Malvern, which is not far from Tewkesbury, does fit a contemporary description of Margaret’s place of capture: ‘a poor religious house’. The priory was never particularly wealthy. Only a handful of monks were resident by this time. 

Margaret’s association with Little Malvern, assuming it did occur, was necessarily rather fleeting. The visit of another prominent figure had more lasting significance. This took place in 1480, when the local bishop, John Alcock, Bishop of Worcester, inspected the priory. Alcock was highly regarded by Edward IV; he was tutor to Edward, Prince of Wales, and also presided over the prince’s council. Even so, Alcock did not neglect his ecclesiastical duties. Appalled by his findings at Little Malvern, considering the priory to be a ‘pernicious example’, Alcock took radical action. The unfortunate prior resigned (doubtless he was encouraged to do so), and the four other monks were sent for retraining at Gloucester.

In the monks’ absence Alcock took the opportunity to rebuild sections of the priory. The renovations in the church included a stained-glass window (now sadly incomplete) which depicted Edward IV and his family. The window was commissioned from the workshop of two local craftsmen, Richard Twygge and Thomas Wodshawe, who went on to establish a national reputation.

In 1482 Alcock decided that the monks of Little Malvern were ready to return, albeit under the direction of a new prior. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries part of the priory became a private house, although the church remains a place of worship.

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