Archaeology at The Firs

Painting of the cottage garden by Buckler

After opening the Birthplace to the public in the 1930s, Carice had the garden redesigned using a painting by John Chessell Buckler as her inspiration.

Painted in 1856 only a year before Edward Elgar was born in the cottage, the painting shows the garden with an arch, standard roses near the house and two central paths all of which are still here today.

We believe Buckler was a good friend of the family and painted as a favour to Elgar’s father and the family depicted are believed to be the Elgar parents and older siblings.

A few details about the picture painted by Buckler in 1854 have intrigued us since we first saw it; why was this particular cottage chosen to be painted by such an artist? Was there really a fountain in the garden? Is that a vegetable patch on the left of the painting?

South Worcester Archaeology Group (SWAG) archaeology volunteers were asked to come and do some surveying at the Firs to try and establish if features in the Buckler painting existed or were artistic licence. The group visited and laid out their grids in the garden. They carried out geo-physics surveying and earth resistance surveying.

Volunteer Ken surveying for SWAG
Volunteer Ken surveying for SWAG
Volunteer Ken surveying for SWAG

Even if they DO find that there was a fountain, or a veg patch, this won’t mean that we’ll recreate it straight away, but it will give us points for discussion and increase our knowledge of the garden at The Firs at the time when Elgar was born.

Members of SWAG surveying the garden
Members of SWAG surveying at The Firs
Members of SWAG surveying the garden