They say that when buying a house, that some people just ‘know’ when they have found the right place for them. But what happens when ‘that’ house happens to be an enormous former school, is falling down and needs extensive renovation? Well, you need A Plan.
The current owners Bernard & Anna Taylor purchased ‘The Grove’ in 2013 from Julia Palmer-Price. From the outset, restoring what is now Elmslie House was about more than wanting a family home. It was also about reclaiming a building of significant importance to Malvern that had fallen into disrepair, and opening it up for the benefit of the community. Three weeks after taking ownership, this importance was recognised in the form of a Grade II listing. All work that had commenced to tackle the most urgent structural repairs had to stop as we were asked to re-submit our plans, this time for Listed Building Consent. Our biggest challenges have been the east-facing balcony, the south-facing bay, eradicating dry rot, replacing entirely the electrics and plumbing and converting the basement, once a very large damp store into a self-contained 3 bed apartment. In addition, the garden has been re-landscaped, and the perimeter Malvern stone wall completely re-built.
The ground floor has been sub-divided to create a ‘public’ space, incorporating the one-time billiard room, built by Dr Weir in 1884, and The Lawnside School stage added onto it in 1923. This space has been transformed over recent months to create a concert venue, now with its own PA and lighting system, and it is used weekly for exercise classes. We host monthly music gigs, and are starting to hold regular Designer-Maker craft markets. We are also currently in talks to put on various art exhibitions for local artists. We have also in recent weeks had a ‘bar’ built to enable us to host such events with more ease.
We re-named the house after its architect and first owner, E. W. Elmslie, who also built The Imperial Hotel, now home to MSJ. There are details in both buildings which bear familiar motifs – the boot scrapers outside the front door being just one example. In fact, our house logo is taken from stone carvings found both in and outside the house – and not dissimilar to the design found on the Great Malvern Station ironwork (also designed by Elmslie).
From 1929-39 Lawnside played host to the Malvern Festival which meant artistes such as Edward Elgar and George Bernard Shaw visited – the latter had his portrait painted by Dame Laura Knight here in 1933. And so things have gone full circle, as we are thrilled to say that the house will once again be a part of the annual Malvern Festival in 2016, with a date already booked in for National Poetry Day on October 6th.
For more information on the events going on at the house, please check the Calendar tab, alternatively, why not sign-up to receive our regular Newsletters?