Friday, July 18, 2008

Great Malvern, Worcestershire


Quite a lot of Malvern is built in local reddish stone laid in a ‘rock-faced’ fashion. If this rather rustic finish seems a trifle wild and woolly for this somewhat buttoned 19th-century town, the crazy-paving effect is reined in by contrasting pale stone dressing. That’s the approach adopted by E W Elmslie for Malvern’s 1860s railway station, where the details are French-influenced Gothic with lots of gables, pointed windows, trefoils, tall chimneys, and niches.

None of this, though, prepares one for what’s inside, especially the decoration on the columns that support the platform awnings. Here are just three:
They’re ironwork foliage, created by William Forsyth, and they’re exactly right for Malvern, a town of trees and laurel bushes and shrubberies. The idea, apparently, was to feature species that can be found in Malvern’s streets and gardens. They’re also a splendid re-working of a medieval idea. Gothic cathedrals have capitals carved in stone; this Victorian station has capitals made of iron. All change!

10 comments:

Peter Ashley said...

This ironwork is simply fantastic, and as you quite rightly say so spot-on for this town. I also love the carriage sweep outside the station that runs around a tree and shrub-filled island, so redolent of landaus and dog carts speeding off up into the laurel-hedged streets, and the fact that a Pooley parcel weighing machine is still extant on the up platform.

Neil said...

It would be worth the trip just to admire these details. I wonder how many regular users of this station ever notice them. Not that I'm criticizing - it's always hardest to see the beauty beneath your feet (or, in this case, just above your head).

Philip Wilkinson said...

I think of these capitals as 'The Leaves of Malvern', in homage to Pevsner's 'Leaves of Southwell'. King Penguin collectors (you know who you are) will know what I mean.

Thud said...

I am constantly amazed by what you turn up...I'm in the process of leaving (slowly) England but you are making it harder..ha!

Peter Ashley said...

Ooh yes. We know who we are. Anyone got Poisonous Fungi without the spine falling off, or is that part of the 1940's marketing?

Alice said...

That is lovely. An extension of the Gothic style in the most captivating style.

emma said...

I have a near-perfect edition of Poisonous Fungi, but its not as perfect as my Mexican edition of Magic Books from Mexico!

Philip Wilkinson said...

Golly, Emma, this is getting obscure! I bet you've also got some of those Australian editions (not King Penguins) on which the little Penguin is holding two boomerangs...

Angie Cavell said...

William Forsyth is my Gt Gt Grandfather and my sister and I recently visited Worcestershire to locate some of his work. We went to Gt Malvern Station as there seemed to be a suggestion that he was responsible for the sculpted dogs on the roof, but we didn't realise that he had created the wonderful foliage. Great to see. Thank you.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Angie: Do you have a copy of the Worcestershire volume of Pevsner's The Buildings of England series? The index of architects, artists and patrons at the back has a lot of references to William Forsyth (I have the recent edition, revised by Alan Brooks which may have more information than early editions).