The Firs - Carice Elgar Blake

edwrad elgar and his daughter carice

Carice Irene Elgar was the Elgar’s only child. She was born on 14 August 1890 in London, during the Elgars unsuccessful attempt at settling in the capital.

Elgar soon took to fatherhood, writing to a friend: “Carice is a most wonderfully lovely infant! everyone turns to gaze at her as she 'sweeps by in her chariot' – (i.e. perambulator).  She is a sturdy little minx, noisy and as strong as a house, she has never been ill a day since she came! Isn't that a blessing?”

The early years

By the time that Carice started school, the family had returned to Worcestershire, settling in Malvern.  She attended The Mount School where the headmistress was Rosa Burley who became a friend of the Elgar’s and was to write a revealing account of their friendship.  

About Carice she wrote that she was “a very beautiful little girl with flaxen hair and a rose-leaf complexion, but the expression on her face troubled me for it was one of profound sadness.

She never smiled or laughed and, when I learned that from the first she had been taught never to make the least noise for fear of disturbing her father, I understood her unnatural look of resignation.”

Edward and Carice at Plas Gwyn
Edward and Carice at Plas Gwyn

It was almost certainly her mother who insisted on quiet in the house.  Alice was convinced of Elgar’s genius and would do anything to, as she saw it, make sure that the conditions were right for Elgar to work.  The relationship between Carice and Elgar himself seems to have been much more loving.  They enjoyed “japes” together and there is a great deal of affectionate correspondence between the two.

Like her mother, Carice was a skilled linguist and worked for the Censorship Department during World War 1.  In 1922 she married Samuel Henry Blake, but there were no children, and Blake died young, in 1939.

The start of the Elgar birthplace museum

After Elgar’s death in 1934, Carice fulfilled his wish, and arranged for the cottage of his birth to be preserved.  With friends, she persuaded the City of Worcester to purchase the cottage, helped establish The Elgar Birthplace Trust and arranged the first exhibition there during the Three Choirs Festival of 1935.  She gathered together a collection of her father’s belongings, furniture, work and achievements and lovingly arranged them for the visitors from all over the world to see.  

This was to be only a temporary exhibition as there was still a tenant living in the cottage who had agreed to move out for the duration of the Festival.  By the time of the next Worcester Three Choirs Festival in 1938, the tenant had found alternative accommodation, and Carice re-opened the cottage to the public.

Throughout her life Carice helped to promote Elgar’s work, and encouraged the early biographers, making family papers available for the first time.  She continued to play an active role in the activities of the Elgar Birthplace Trust right up until her death in 1970, and is buried near to her parents in St Wulstan’s RC Church in Little Malvern.

" Whether the countryside makes the genius or however that may be, it is certain that no one was ever more imbued with the very spirit and essence of his own country than Elgar, it was in his very bones. Worcestershire was everything to him - the very look of spring coming, the cottages, the gardens, the fields and fruit orchards were different to his mind in Worcestershire...From walking, driving and bicycling there was very little of the county he did not know, and his memory for every village however remote and every lane however twisty and bewildering was extraordinary."
- Carice Elgar Blake