The Firs Elgar's birthplace
We often feel closest to Elgar when we listen to his music, but to know the world in which he walked is to colour our image of him further. To stand within the four walls of the humble cottage where he was born is to be immersed in a world that Elgar believed already contained music that was there for the taking.
On 2nd June 1857, this early 19th Century Worcestershire cottage was the Birthplace of Edward Elgar.
His father was then an itinerant piano tuner, church organist and amateur violinist. His mother, a farmer's daughter, who wanted above all things a country life for her children. Three older children had been born to them in Worcester and there would be three more when they returned. Edward was the only child to be born in Broadheath.
" My mother's wish for a country life prompted father to go to Broadheath...only a hamlet, with a handful of houses, a large clump of fir-trees by the entrance gate of 'Newbury House' and a wide stretch of heath known as the 'Common'. We were always taught to adore Him in the smallest flower that grew, as every flower loves its life. And we were told never to dare destroy what we could not give - that was, the life - ever again”"
The family life in this cottage was ideal, his mother could communicate to her children a simple faith which viewed the countryside and the changing seasons as God's promise of immortality.
Elgar's father spent most of the week lodging in Worcester, he would come home at weekends with musical friends and through him the family was introduced to much that was best in the music of that time.
In 1859, when Elgar was two, the family left Broadheath. His father's expanding business forced them back into Worcester City. His mother however, continued to send her children to Broadheath for summer holidays, where they stayed on a farm by the common. Elgar's memories of these holidays were so idyllic that he returned here again and again through later life, almost as if to consult the place.
Although Edward Elgar only spent the first two years of his life here, it is this space that remained close to his heart for the rest of his life. On receiving his baronetcy in 1931, he requested the title ‘Baron Elgar of Broadheath’.
Before his death in 1934, he confided to his daughter Carice his desire to be remembered here. In 1935, Carice with the help of Alderman Hubert Leicester, persuaded the corporation of Worcester to purchase the cottage and simultaneously sent out word that all memorabilia relating to her late father be returned to the cottage. Through modern eyes, the cottage forms the nucleus of a museum dedicated to the life of England’s greatest composer. At its conception the Birthplace took on a much simpler, more human form: A daughter, mourning for and commemorating her father.
" 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."