A Short Account of Great Malvern Priory Church, a History of the Monastery, and Description of the Fabric, With a Chapter on the Ancient Glass & Tiles


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have been inconvenient, some 450 feet above the sea-level, and
several miles from the nearest water-way.
As the records already quoted imply, the House of Great
Malvern was attached, either at the time of its foundation or
shortly afterwards, to the Abbey of Westminster, and it is
natural to ask how a connection between places so distant
arose. Mr. J. W. Willis Bund1 explains it as follows: “In
some way a large part of the Abbey of Pershore had come into
the king’s hands about the time of the foundation of West-
minster. The inconvenience was felt that there was no house
on the Abbey estates, so in 1085 a monastery, the Priory of
Great Malvern, was erected by Westminster on its Worcester
lands.” But this view cannot be accepted without modification,
unless we are prepared to throw over the Aldwin story, and,
indeed, all the early chronicles. The more probable course of
events seems that the monastery was erected at Malvern, or was
at least about to be erected, independently of Westminster, and
that then the Abbey, doubtless for the reason suggested by Mr.
Willis Bund, seized the opportunity of establishing relations
with it. Among the benefactions to Malvern confirmed by the
charters of Henry I are some given by “ Gislebertus, abbas
Westmonasterii,” i.e., Gilbert Crispin, the great abbot who held
office circa 1085-1117. It may reasonably be supposed that his
gifts were made in return for Malvern’s consent to become a cell
of Westminster.2
Such as arrangement, as Mr. Willis Bund shows, was highly
convenient for Westminster, but it proved at least as advan-
tageous to Malvern. On the one hand, the great abbey was a
powerful ally when Bishops of Worcester became troublesome.
On the other hand, it was so remote that it could not weaken
the Prior’s authority by frequent interference in domestic
matters. In emergencies the connection with the mother-house
was emphasized, at other times it was practically ignored.
More than once—and notably in a fierce dispute which raged
towards the end of the thirteenth century—a bishop attempting
to exercise visitatorial rights over Malvern found himself
1 Introduction to Episcopal Registers (Wore. Hist. Soc.), p. xlii.
* It was a pleasure to find, after writing the above, that this view has
the support of Dr. Armitage Robinson. His words are: “Abbot Gilbert’s
benefaction probably belongs to the moment of the attachment of the Priory
to Westminster.”—Life of Gilbert Crispin (Camb. Tress, 1911), p. 34.

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