Our work at The Firs
For many years the birthplace cottage was the only building on the site. In the forty years from the opening of the museum to the time Carice Elgar Blake died in 1970 the collection of exhibits had far outgrown the space in the cottage.
The Firs Visitor Centre
In 1990 work started on a purpose built visitor centre which was officially opened in October 2000 with environmentally controlled exhibit cases enabling original manuscripts and other archive materials to be displayed. Also created in the centre is the multi-purpose Carice Elgar room which can be used for meetings, concerts and temporary exhibitions together with copious office space.
When the National Trust was asked to take over the running of the Birthplace significant work was undertaken to convert some of the office space into another exhibition room which houses Elgar’s desk, examples of his manuscripts and other memorabilia from his study. Other previous office space has been developed into a kitchen, tea-room and a small shop.
The Visitor Centre will continue to develop during our stewardship of the Birthplace.
The Firs Birthplace Cottage
Since December 2016 the National Trust has carried out extensive conservation work on the birthplace cottage, its garden and collection. During a year-long period of renovation, the interior of the cottage was transformed with lime plaster, reclaimed 19th Century brick work and a fresh paint job in a Victorian colour scheme.
Since then we’ve sought to maintain a high standard of preventative conservation. Our building surveyors have recently carried out structural assessments on the building as part of standard quinquennial checks and we will continue to progress with a sympathetic restoration of the building’s fabric as funding becomes available.
The Firs Cottage Garden
A lot of work went in to preparing the garden prior to opening in September 2017. Armies of garden volunteers were drafted in to help clear natural debris and restore the cottage garden, bridle path and orchard to a state of glory.
Volunteers continue to help keep the Firs’ gardens looking at their best by weeding, moving, planting generally getting mucky in all weathers! They are led now by our very own gardener, Dawne Middleton who continues to develop big plans for the green spaces at The Firs.
Continuing the work
A schedule of works designed to provide preventative conservation has been drawn up and put in to practice by the conservation team. Working to Museum Accredited Standards, the team have set up just the right conditions for the collections preservation. Monitoring and controlling of light and humidity levels are carried out daily and historic fabrics are monitored regularly for signs of deterioration. We work to the mandate that prevention is better than cure.
You can’t provide meaningful and engaging exhibits if you first don’t understand your subject matter. The team have been working hard to study and better understand the life and music of Elgar and his legacy. As our expertise grows, we are able to create moving new exhibits, deliver thought-provoking monologues and present inspiring performances.
Music is at the heart of The Firs. The very trees sing between the looming Malvern Hills and placid, lumbering River Severn. We have been developing relationships with as many musical groups as possible. From Chorale Societies, to wind quintets to the English Symphony Orchestra, an exciting programme of live music is developing to offer a unique experience within the National Trust.
We’re collaborating with the collective knowledge and passion inherent within the local and global communities to tell Elgar’s story. Working closely with the Elgar Society and a host of Elgarian experts, we are beginning to offer a series of dynamic talks with fascinating and varying perspectives, delivered by some of the country’s top Elgar-experts.
We’ve come a long way but the road is long and winding. Good job it’s exciting to boot!
We very much hope that our visitors will enjoy the revitalised experience at the ‘Firs’, Elgar’s birthplace cottage and will feel free to comment and advise us on how we might further develop an understanding of Elgar’s life and work here.
During the course of the next five years, we aim to demonstrate that that Sir Edward Elgar’s story, with its origins in this humble yet beautiful cottage on the outskirts of Worcester, can bring enlightenment and joy to visitors in the 21st century.
Should we succeed in finding new ways to bring Elgar’s music to visitors and educational groups, then we very much hope to take on a longer-term responsibility for the site and continue to share the cottage that inspired Elgar throughout the whole of his lifetime.