Davenham in Great Malvern then and now
This is a history of a Victorian mansion in Graham Road, Great Malvern named Davenham, now used as a residential home for the elderly, and the family of philanthropist Charles William Dyson Perrins, a member of the wealthy Lee and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce family, who once lived there.
In addition there is a mention of the Bradshaw family who lived in the gardener's cottage before moving to Guarlford Court.
If you wondered why Dyson Perrins Church of England school is so named you will find the answer below.
Davenham is the name of a mansion in Graham Road, Great Malvern in the county of Worcestershire, England - now a care home. It was built about 1860 by local builder George McCann. George had earlier built St Mary's Church at Guarlford in 1845 to a design by Thomas Bellamy and his name is also on the building plans of Guarlford National School. He may also have been involved with the building of Madresfield school and church.
At the gate adjoining the drive to Davenham there is a lodge. Click to see photo of Davenham Lodge
Davenham mansion was enlarged in 1885 by the architect Edmund Wallace Elmslie, who had designed St Munghos in Albert Road, now Elmslie House, the Imperial Hotel and Great Malvern railway station. Further alterations were made about 1901 by architect William Henman, who had designed the Lee and Perrins sauce factory (ref 1).
The photo below shows the front of Davenham and the main door, taken at an Open Day in 2012.
In 1871 the house was known as 'Davenham Bank'; and occupied by James and Sarah Dyson Perrins, their three daughters and son Charles William Dyson Perrins who inherited the house when his father died in 1887.
The Perrins family obtained their wealth from the manufacture of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce, which was sold all over the world.
When Charles died in 1958 his second wife Florence, known as Frieda, bequeathed Davenham to the Friends of the Elderly, in memory of her husband; so the mansion is nowadays an upmarket care home.
The dairy, laundry and stables were converted into a new wing named Perrins House, opened in 1972 by Princess Margaret and a dementia unit called Bradbury Court was due to open in 2012.
After Charles died, Frieda had a modern 'dower house' built on the eastern side of the grounds which she called 'Little Davenham' approached from Moorlands Road (see sign opposite at the top of the drive, and photo below).
A few yards east of the drive to Little Davenham, in Moorlands Road, are iron railings behind which there is a cast iron Clerkenwell boundary marker.
The boundary marker reads,
Thos. B Arnett
The history and purpose of the Clerkenwell boundary markers has been researched by local resident Michael Shiner and is explained in his book (ref 2).
In summary, about 1656, land, known as Cockshute Farm and Farmhouse, once forming part of Malvern Chase, was acquired by Sir George Strode (1583 - 1663) and gifted as a charity for the benefit of the poor of the Parish of St James, Clerkenwell, in London. The 'church' received rent and eventually began selling parcels of land to developers. In 1853 and 1858 land was sold to the Railway and it was probably about this time the land was sold on which Davenham was built. The photo below shows the view from the railway bridge at the bottom of Moorlands Road (below the boundary marker) towards Great Malvern.
With land increasing in value due to the coming of the water cure and the railway, the trustees of St James, Clerkenwell, must have thought it prudent to mark the boundary of their estate. In total it is thought there were about 30 marker posts.
Today there is no longer any connection between Malvern and the London Parish of Clerkenwell, that is, apart from road names such as Clerkenwell Crescent and St James Road.
By 1876 James Perrins had acquired further land below Cockshot Road which he turned into a small home farm. A tunnel in the south east corner of Davenham's 4 acre garden runs under Cockshot Road; the tunnel, which is now blocked off, was once a short cut to the farm.
The photograph below (source: Bradshaw family album) shows the cow house at Davenham circa 1900. These horned Jersey cows would have provided milk, cream and possibly butter for the Dyson Perrins family.
Mary Dixey relates fond memories of the 1930s and visiting Davenham Farm in a booklet published by Malvern Museum (reference 3).
Davenham Farm was eventually sold for housing; we don't know exactly when but probably in the 1960s.
Charles William Dyson Perrins (1864 - 1958), who we shall now refer to as Dyson for short, was the grandson of William Perrins who made his fortune manufacturing Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce. Dyson was educated at Charterhouse public school and studied law at Queens College Oxford but did not obtain a degree. In due course he became a director of Lea and Perrins and acquired Worcester Porcelain when it was going through difficult times. He was a great benefactor of Malvern supporting Malvern College, and helping to establish the library, the local hospital and, at the end of his life, Dyson Perrins Church of England School. Dyson laid the foundation stone of Dyson Perrins School in 1956 but died shortly before the school opened in 1959.
Dyson also gifted Rose Bank House and Rose Bank Gardens on the Wells Road to the town of Great Malvern, as an amenity, on his retirement from the Urban District Council in 1918. Rose Bank House was used by the Womens' Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS) during WWII, but, according to reports, the house fell into decay and was demolished in 1959.
(The 1901 and 1911 census recorded Rose Bank occupied by George Silas Guy born about 1837 and his second wife Hannah. George's occupation was recorded as 'managing director of an iron and steel tube manufacturory'. George Guy died in 1912).
In 1898 Dyson acquired the Ardross Estate and its Castle in Scotland and over time purchased further land, building the estate up to about 4,000 acres. About 1904 he funded the Alness Working Men's Club, known as the Perrins Centre.
In 1911 Dyson's youngest son Stuart was recorded attending Fairfield prep school in Worcester Road, Malvern Link, which may have been run by Edward Capel Smith. Sadly Stuart died of Pneumonia, aged only 14 years, at Charterhouse public school in 1913.
Dyson was a philanthropist and gave much of his fortune to good causes, including making gifts to Holy Trinity church, Great Malvern, where his parents worshipped. He is buried in Great Malvern cemetery.
The full story of Dyson's influential and interesting life can be found in John Handley's excellent biography 'The Quiet Hero' (ref 4). You will also find Dyson listed in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ref 5), and you can either click to go to his biography on Wikipedia or to his story on the Museum of Royal Worcester website.
To read about the history of Dyson Perrins and other schools in Malvern click Malvern schools then and now.
Once we had reason to visit the minor injuries unit of the old Malvern Community Hospital at Lansdowne Crescent, and in the hall was a plaque stating that:
Another plaque showed that between 1914 and 1919 during the Great War the building was also used as a hospital for British sick and wounded.
An account of Red Cross Hospitals and activities in Malvern and surrounds can be found in 'Malvern in by Great War 1915' published by Malvern Museum (ref 6).
The old Lansdowne hospital
The community hospital at Lansdowne Crescent replaced the small rural hospital in Hospital Bank which is off Newtown Road and rumoured to have been built about 1868. The rural hospital is now a private residence known as Redwood Cottage.
In the 1990s towns-people began to lobby for a modern hospital and eventually work on the new hospital, on the site of the closed Seaford Court prep school next to the fire station, began during the tenure of the Blair/Brown Labour government. The modern Malvern Community Hospital in Worcester Road, opened in 2011.
Besides getting Malvern Community Hospital built, the Blair/Brown government (1997 - 2010) improved local schools by way of better maintenance of the buildings, and better provision of text books and computers; the Worcester Royal Hospital was built replacing the Victorian building in Castle Street; seemingly turning around years of underfunding by the previous Thatcher administration.
The redundant hospital at Lansdown Crescent was offered for sale circa 2011 as a development opportunity. An application to get the property designated a listed building was refused, and in 2015 plans were submitted to demolish Dyson's hospital in order to build a private care home for the elderly. Finally in December 2019 the old Malvern hospital was demolished.
Note: at the time of writing, the minor injuries unit at the new hospital was open between 9:00 am and 9:00 pm seven days a week, but the X-Ray unit was only open on weekdays till 4:30 pm. Outside those times and at weekends you might need to go to A&E at the Worcester Royal Hospital for an X ray.
Solicitor, William Dyson Perrins was a cousin of Charles William Dyson Perrins. He was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1866, the son of Thomas Henry Perrins.
In 1911 William's wife Kate (1864-1941), maiden name Collett, was living at Malvernbury in Abbey Road with their two children, Meredith Dyson Perrins and Cynthia Perrins, a cook, a child's nurse and three housemaids. Next door at Chesfield lived retired schoolmaster Francis Alfred Hooper aged 75 born Upton Warren, while on the other side, at Ashfield Lodge, lived coachman George J Kennett and a groom. At Ashfield next door was living Jane Charlotte Godson, widow of an MP with her daughter Ruth Tennyson D'Eyncourt, married to a relative of the poet Tennyson, a grand-daughter, a nurse and seven servants!
William Dyson Perrins was Chairman of the Malvern Hospital Committee and cooperated with the Red Cross to provide beds for soldiers injured in the Great War; he died at Davenham in 1940. His wife Kate assisted Edith Blanche Hollins with the organisation of 'comforts' for the troops (see below).
Charles' sister, Ellen Mary Perrins (1861-1927) married in 1885 medical practitioner Harry Edward Dixey (1863-1927) and the couple lived for many years at Woodgate in Albert Road North. Coincidentally the historian Daphne Drake was living at Woodgate in the 1970s when she wrote her book 'The Story of Malvern Link Worcestershire'.
Dr Harry Edward Dixey graduated from Aberdeen. He was house surgeon at Preston Royal Infirmary and then practised at Droitwich and Malvern. He was active in town affairs, becoming an Alderman of the Worcestershire County Council, Deputy Lieutenant, and a Justice of the Peace. He was appointed High Sheriff of Worcestershire in 1921.
During WWI he was a commissioned Surgeon Captain in the 8th Worcester Volunteer Regiment. The London Gazette reported:
Dr Harry Dixey was also chairman of the King Edward VII Memorial TB Sanatorium at Knightwick in Worcestershire, which had been opened by Earl Beauchamp. We perhaps forget that before vaccination and screening was introduced in the 1950s Tuberculosis was a killer disease exposing significant numbers of the population of the UK to a lingering death.
Dr Harry Dixey, who became chairman of the West Worcestershire Conservative Association, was knighted in 1925, two year before his death; the London Gazette reported:
Sir Harry Dixey and Ellen Mary Perrins had four children,
Dr John Crosbie Dixey (1889-1962)) was appointed captain and adjutant with the 2nd Ammunition Brigade during WWI which was probably a Worcestershire component of the Royal Field Artillery. In 1917 he married Helen Margaret Holmes the daughter of Cambridge educated clergyman Cyril Tidswell Holmes and grand-daughter of judge Sir Rupert Kettle. In later life Revd CT Holmes was a curate of the Priory Church, Great Malvern (1908-9), and chaplain of the Abbey School, Malvern Wells (1913-29); he died May 31, 1931, aged 79. Physician Dr John Crosbie Dixey was elected Mayor of Barnstaple in 1925 when he was the senior partner in the firm of Dixey, Gompertz and Leavy.
The London Gazette recorded that towards the end of WWI Evelyn was appointed Red Cross Quartermaster at 'Malvern Auxiliary Hospital'. This role probably covered not only the hospital at Lansdowne Crescent but a group of large houses where wounded soldiers were sent to convalesce.
On 23rd October 1918 the Times newspaper reported that Evelyn had been awarded the MBE.
Photo right: Evelyn Hilda Dixey MBE, copyright Imperial War Museum © IWM (WWC D8-6-933)
(Another recipient of an award was widow Edith Blanche Hollins of Abbey Road. The London Gazette reported on 26th March 1920 that Edith had been awarded the OBE for her work as Superintendant of the Red Cross Work Depot for Soldiers Comforts, based at the Exchange on the corner of Graham Road).
After the death of her parents, Evelyn Dixey and her daughter Mary lived at 'Dawn', 9 St James Road, Malvern, next door to Davenham until Evelyn's death in 1967.
Evelyn is buried in the peaceful cemetery at Malvern Wells. See photo of headstone opposite.
Carol Rosemary Dixey known as 'Mary' was educated in Malvern at Lawnside School and worked for many years as a teacher at nearby North Malvern Church of England Primary School.
Accounts of life at North Malvern C of E School can be found in Gill Holt's publication about Malvern Schools (ref 7). This includes memories of Mary Dixey who went to teach at North Malvern infants in 1952; can you imagine, the school then had only gas lighting - and the loos were outside!
When nearby Cowleigh School was destroyed in a fire in 1989, a new school was built to take the children of both schools, as by then North Malvern School was in need of modernisation. The new school is named Northleigh Church of England Primary School located in St Peter's Road. The redundant lower North Malvern School building was converted into flats which were appropriately named 'Dixey Court'.
Besides being a well loved teacher, Mary Dixey was also a stalwart of the Priory church and a few days after her death in 2009 a tribute was published in the Priory magazine, which she had edited from 1964 to 2001, and the Malvern Gazette (ref 8). Mary had started the Priory bookshop and was co-author of an excellent history of Lawnside school.
Mary is buried with her mother in Malvern Wells cemetery; when we visited the inscription on the headstone was almost hidden by a Rosemary bush, the herb of remembrance which bears her name.
Malvern Wells Cemetery
We know nothing about Kenneth Dixey except that he married and directories record him living at Wychwood in Pickersleigh Road.
Phyllis married in 1917 Pierce Francis O'Brien (1883-1961). At the outbreak of WWI Pierce had joined King Edward's Horse as a Trooper, but broke his left leg and damaged his knee when he fell from a horse during manouvres on Hounslow Heath and was discharged. His widowed mother was then living with a sister at Ryall Grove near Upton upon Severn, so it is possible he met Phylis at Malvern during his convalescence.
Pierce's mother Charlotte Hautenville Stephens, born in Ireland about 1858, was the daughter of merchant George Alexander Stephens and Selina Bell of Blackhall Place, Dublin.
Before WWI Pierce was a secretary with the Buenos Aires and Pacific Railway and the couple lived in Argentina for a time after the war. Later they lived in Paignton, Devon.
Very sadly their only son Michael Pierce O'Brien of the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve was killed on 15th June 1944 aged only 20 years. He was a Sub-Lieutenant on the frigate HMS Blackwood (K313) which was on patrol in the channel protecting ships following the D Day landings when it was hit by a torpedo fired from U-764. Michael was born in Buenos Aires in 1924 and he had been a pupil at West Downs School Winchester. His name is recorded both on the Plymouth Naval Memorial, and the war memorial at Lyndhurst in Hampshire.
The 1891 census records Absalom Bradshaw (1849 - 1932) and his family living within the grounds of Davenham at the gardener's cottage. The cottage still exists, see photo of the cottage on the right, which is now named 'Ivanhoe'.
(There were once glass houses below the gardener's cottage but these have been replaced by modern bungalows which are hidden from Link Common behind the stone wall.)
Absalom had brought his family to Malvern from Buckinghamshire where he had been employed as a garden designer at Waddesdon Manor owned by the Rothschild family. Perhaps it was no coincidence in this respect that after James Dyson Perrins died in 1887 his widow, Frances, married second in 1897 Revd Thomas John Williams, Rector of Waddesdon in Buckinghamshire.
Waddesdon was regarded as having one of the finest Victorian gardens in Britain. In Malvern, Absalom put his skills to use planning and laying out Davenham's garden.
The Bradshaw family prospered and in 1898 Absalom moved to Guarlford Court Farm, and his son 'Abby' delivered milk locally by horse and cart. See photo below from the Guarlford History Group's archive; the photo can also be seen on page 31 of their second book, The Guarlford Scene (ref 9).
The photo was taken near the railway bridge at the bottom of Moorlands Road and just above the horse's ears can be seen the clock tower at Davenham, which still exists, though now painted white. The gardener's cottage where the family had lived can be clearly seen behind the milk churn on the cart.
(At the bottom of Moorlands Road there was a gas-works or depot which was demolished in the 1990s, or thereabouts, and replaced by a small group of houses).
Later, Absalom's grand-daughter Joan Bradshaw, a keen horsewoman and historian, started Grange Farm Nursery at Guarlford (see photo of the nursery below).
In the days before computers Joan often visited the Worcester Records Office to conduct research - she was an invaluable source of information for the Guarlford History Group's first local history book:
'The Guarlford Story' (ref 10).
Grange Farm Nursery
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Last updated 19th January 2020