Things to see and do at The Firs
Explore Elgar's birthplace cottage, set in the sight of his beloved Malvern Hills to find out more about his early years in this small family home. Discover Elgar's fascinating inner sanctum with exhibitions in the visitor centre and listen out for regular talks by Elgar experts who give an insight into the man behind the music.
This striking exhibit within the visitor centre is designed to immerse you in Elgar’s creative inner sanctum. Housing some very precious original manuscripts, including ‘Salut d’Amore’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’, we see the humble prerequisites Elgar required to create his music. The sources of this genius may surprise you.
Central to the exhibition is Elgar’s desk and chair which were previously in Craeg Lea, his home in Malvern, together with all the tools he would require to compose and publish a symphony.
Elgar bought this desk in a second-hand shop in London in 1889, the same year that he married Alice Roberts.
The rotunda within the visitor centre encapsulates the story of Elgar’s life from his birth in June 1857 to his death in February 1934. Creative interpretation helps to place the events of his life in the wider context of popular history. When you realise that Elgar was born just one year after the Crimean war was concluded, or that he was in school when the first shots of the American Civil War rang out, the timing of his life takes on new meaning.
Artefacts, photographs, videos, and interactive displays combine to offer a more familiar vision of the Elgar that most of us won’t have heard about.
The Birthplace Cottage
Since Elgar’s birth in 1857 the cottage has taken on many different forms. Even when Elgar’s daughter, Carice, had the cottage purchased in 1935, it could not be described as a museum (Elgar had passed away only a year before) – more of a shrine to a contemporary celebrity.
In the near century that has passed since, the cottage has been altered time and time again to accommodate the growing collection and has been curated differently to bring to life the many stories it can tell.
Step back in time
The latest incarnation of the cottage seeks to return a sense of the ages. The entrance hall takes us back to June 1857 – set out as when the family would have lived there. Will you be able to identify the themes of Elgar’s family life set out in this imagined Victorian living space?
Other rooms on the ground floor introduce us to the Elgar family and reveal the very roots of the genius Elgar was to exhibit later in life, as well as an introduction to the creation of the space in 1935 by Carice.
The first floor takes us back to the time just after Elgar’s death, when the cottage was first laid out with his personal effects and belongings. It carries a message of great emotive significance: the idea that Carice, in creating this space, was grieving for the loss of her father as much as enshrining him for posterity’s sake. It is this very relatable, very human connection which must be maintained.
‘When you have seen the little house where my father was born and its collection of intimate personal belongings which he constantly used, you may be interested to read an impression of him, and may serve to bring to life the picture you may have formed of him from your visit to his birthplace and your knowledge of his music and life’.
– Carice Elgar Blake, 1938
The small, but intimate collection of family photo albums, scrapbooks and heirlooms reveal the things Elgar and his loved ones held most dear. Smoking pipes and writing utensils take you to the moment where pen was put to paper and inspiring music was written. The cosy birthplace cottage transports you to a childhood filled with joy and wonder.
Carice gathered the collection on her father’s death in 1934. She sought to preserve the legacy of England’s foremost composer, but more simply she wished to create a touching and lasting memorial to her dear father.
In 1931 Elgar was living at his last home in Worcester, Marl Bank. In its attic he had stored a small upright piano. He gave it as a special gift to his valet’s young daughter, Bettey. She cherished the piano all her life, keeping it as a fond reminder of the kindly old man in her childhood. In 2017, the piano was formally donated to the care of the National Trust at The Firs.
Fortunately, the piano was in relatively good condition. Bettey had refrained from playing it often, so the internal mechanisms of the piece weren’t too worn. Specialist conservator, Chris Farthing, has been able to carry out careful restoration of the piano to improve its condition and stability. As well as carefully tuning the fragile strings, he has also removed a century’s worth of dirt and has even been able to install measures to help control the internal humidity.
The piano is on display in the visitor centre and visitors are welcome to play it.
In the summer of 1900 while staying at Birchwood Lodge, his cottage just beyond the north end of the Malvern Hills, Elgar learned to ride a bicycle. He purchased two Royal Sunbeams over the years, both had 28” frames and three brakes. He called them both 'Mr. Phoebus' and he was an enthusiastic cyclist, often going to the works for a 'tuning'.
The bicycle on display in the birthplace is a 1910 26” frame Sunbeam Golden Bicycle No. 118204 which is on loan from the owner Bob Cordon Champ. This actual Sunbeam is owned and ridden by Bob and has now ‘lasted three gentlemen for a lifetime’ with only normal service and replacement tyres and saddle-cover.
It has its own Elgar connection having been utilised by sculptor, Jemma Pearson, as an ‘artist’s model' for her recent statue of Elgar for Hereford Cathedral. It was present, and was ridden, at the statue’s unveiling.
Explore the cottage garden at The Firs, birthplace of Sir Edward Elgar. Discover seasonal borders, the Sound Garden, and sit beside Elgar’s statue as you take in views of the Malverns.
Discover more about the Elgar and genius therapy project, working with 200 people in diverse community and education settings to make Elgar’s music relevant for a wider audience.
The Firs is a one pawprint rated place. Following Elgar’s great love of dogs, The Firs welcomes dogs on leads in the cottage garden, woodland area and visitor centre. Enjoy a dog friendly visit to Elgar’s birthplace.
Discover more about Sir Edward Elgar, his early days at The Firs, the cottage where he was born, and his life, loves and accolades in the years that followed.
Despite being a prolific composer Elgar found much time to indulge his variety of hobbies. Find out more about his favourite football team, his terrible luck at horse racing, and his chosen companions in later life.
Historic buildings are a treasure trove of stories, art and collections. Learn more about what makes these places so special and plan your visit.
Explore the historic houses and buildings in Worcestershire and Herefordshire, encompassing the Georgian elegance of Berrington Hall and a 14th-century moated manor at Brockhampton.