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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8 GREAT MALVERN PRIORY C HURCH 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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