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Biography of Edmund Wallace Elmslie, British architect


This page is principally about Edmund Wallace Elmslie, a British architect, who designed Great Malvern railway station, but you will also find a little information about Archibald Weir MD who practised as a Physician and Surgeon during the years of the Victorian 'water cure'

Architect Edmund Wallace Elmslie was born Maidenhead, Berkshire about 1818 and died at Enderley in Avenue Road, Great Malvern in 1889.

He was the son of James Elmslie (1779-1865) and Caroline Anne Foster (1793-1861).

The family's wealth derived from Edmund's grandfather John Elmsie who held investments in sugar cane plantations in Jamaica (see more about below).

Great Malvern railway station

Edmund Wallace Elmslie is best known in Great Malvern for designing Great Malvern Railway Station circa 1862, the bridge over the railway (see photo below), the stationmaster's house, and the impressive Imperial Hotel c1861, now the home of Malvern St James Public School for girls which stands opposite the station.

Great Malvern railway station

Great Malvern Station

The Imperial hotel

The photo below shows the Imperial Hotel as it is today.

Malvern St James, once the Imperial Hotel

The Imperial hotel now Malvern St James

The Worm

Entrance to the WormA doorway at the end of the station down platform leads into a covered walkway, known locally as 'The Worm' which allowed 1st class passengers to walk to and from the hotel without getting wet. This was used by the girls' school in modern times up to about 1970.

The Worm had stone walls to waist height with small windows to light the tunnel, roofed with corrugated iron hoops.

The gates are normally locked now, as the roof is rusting, a breeze block wall blocks the tunnel where it goes under Avenue Road, and shrubbery is growing through the windows. However the tunnel was cleared and open to the public during Great Malvern Civic Week 2014 (see photo below).

Inside the Worm

Inside 'The Worm'

Between the Worm and the down track ran a small siding. This ran 50 yards or so to a turntable enabling a wagon to be turned ninety degrees to enter via a door into the hotel grounds. This was used for the delivery of coal, and salt for the hotel brine baths.

St Mungho's

Elmslie also designed a Victorian gothic mansion, St Mungho's (in 2012 known as The Grove), built about 1867, on the corner of Albert Road and Avenue Road, to be his family home. However, due to business commitments in London, he sold the house (see photo below) to Dr Archibald Weir.

St Mungho's later The Grove

The building was renovated during 2014 and 2015 and has been renamed Elmslie House.

It is now a venue and gallery, and rooms can be hired for events. The new Elmslie House website has an interesting page giving more details about the history of the building.

Dr Archibald Weir

Dr Archibald Weir MD (1828 - 1894) was an army surgeon throughout the Crimean war. He came to Malvern about 1856 and practised in Malvern Link before moving to Great Malvern (ref 5).

Sadly he was badly injured in West Malvern, when his coachman lost control of his horse and carriage while traversing a steep incline (ref 6). Dr Weir suffered a fractured skull and other injuries and was unable to work. He subsequently died at St Mungho's about 12 months later from a heart condition.

His funeral service at Great Malvern cemetery was conducted by Revd G Cosby White (Vicar of Newland) and Revd JB Wathen (Rector of Guarlford). Boy choristers from the choir school at Newland sang at the service; hymns included Jerusalem (ref 7). He must have been highly regarded.

The inscription on his coffin read,

Archibald Weir MD died May 17th 1894 aged 65 years.

Dr Weir was survived by his third wife, Anna Maria Bright, and six sons. His son Archibald Munday Weir MD practised for many years in Malvern Link and is listed in the 1902 telephone directory.

Later St Mungho's was renamed 'The Grove' and later still was owned by Lawnside School for girls, which stood on the opposite corner of Albert Road.

Elmslie's Commissions

Elmslie locally partnered with, and was succeeded by, George and Henry Haddon (Haddon Bros).

He was a Malvern Town Commissioner 1855.

Other works in Worcestershire

St Nicholas School, Worcester c1856, replaced 1894

Manby Road National School Malvern c1858

Davenham, Great Malvern c1859

Station Hotel, Malvern Link, with Franey and Haddon, demolished 1967

Whitbourne Hall (see below) c1860

Worcester City and County Bank (now Lloyds) c1862

Enlargement of Beauchamp Hotel, Great Malvern c1865

Alterations to Radnor House, College Road, Great Malvern c1881

Additions to Lawnside, Great Malvern c1884

Possible other works in Great Malvern

Priors Croft c1851

Hampton House, Abbey Road

The Nook, College Road c1862

Whitbourne Hall

Elmslie designed Whitbourne Hall circa 1861 for vinegar magnate Edward Bickerton Evans whose father cofounded the Hill Evans Vinegar works in Worcester in 1830. By 1905, the works was the biggest vinegar producer in the world; it closed in 1965.

People say that before the Great War Worcester was heavily industrialised and the city encompassed in smoke. No wonder, as was the practice of many discerning Victorian millionaires, Edward Evans decided to build a grand house in the country.

Elmslie also prepared plans for the repair of old churches and build of new churches both in Herefordshire and London. He worked in partnership with London architect Frederick Franey.


Edmund Wallace Elmslie married at St Mary Guarlford, on 17th September 1862, Theodora Harriett Price (1839-1922), daughter of Revd Charles Aubrey Price, who had been vicar of Chesterton in Oxfordshire. Her father died in 1848 and her mother in 1855. In 1861 Theodora was living with her brother Revd George Frederick Price, who seems to have been master of a small private school, possibly a crammer for university entrance, on the edge of Malvern Common, near Poolbrook. Living next door was Agnes Fancourt, the widow of the Revd William Joseph Fancourt, curate of St Mary Guarlford.

Edmund and Theodora had one son and four daughters. Aubrey Wallace Emslie born Malvern, 1865 died an infant. The four daughters were Theodora Caroline, Florence Ernestine, Ida Mary and  Hilda Louise.

In 1856 Elmslie had been living in Whitehall Place, London. In 1861 prior to his marriage he was an architect living in Malvern at Vernon Lodge

Slaters Directory 1862 recorded Emslie as a Surveyor of Church Street.

By 1871 the family had moved to Hythe Villa, Cintra Park, Norwood in what is now SE London. Kelly's 1884 Directory of Worcestershire recorded Elmslie, an architect, back in Malvern at Hilminster in St Anne's Road. He later moved to Enderley in Avenue Road (possibly now number 10) where he died on 1st July 1889.

Other family of Edmund Wallace Elmslie and Jamaica

(Note: the story below has been drafted from resources on the world wide web and therefore needs verification).

The story starts with Edmund Wallace Elmslie's grandfather, John Elmslie (1741-1824) of 21 Berners Street London and Jamaica who married Jane Wallace and is said to have had 21 children!

Elmslie family of Gray's Inn & Serge Island (sugar) Estates, Jamaica

In 1761 John Elmslie was Deputy Provost Marshal in Spanish Town Jamaica, and his older brother James Elmslie was Deputy Marshal in Kingston Jamaica.

They acquired the Serge Island Sugar Estate, which remained in Elmslie family ownership until sold in 1879.

In 1764 James Elmslie became the owner of Gray’s Inn Estate in St Mary Jamaica.

A detailed plan of the Gray's Inn plantation was drawn by architect Edmund Wallace Elmslie in 1839.

The Elmslie brothers probably owned a large number of slaves to work their estates, some bearing their name.

After John Elmslie (senior) died, slavery was abolished in 1833 and compensation was paid by the British government to his heirs.

University College London has recently published a study of 'Legacies of British Slave-ownership', for example click to see compensation to John Emslie's son William (ref 3).

Descendants of John Elmslie

Despite John Elmslie having a large family there are gaps in the English records, suggesting some of the family travelled overseas. Here are snippets of information about the family you might find interesting:-

John's great granddaughter, Sarah Louisa Elmslie, married Doctor Thomas John Barnardo. Thomas John Barnardo (born Dublin 4 July 1845 – died 19 September 1905) was the well known philanthropist and founder & director of homes for poor children.

John's youngest son Henry Simpson Elmslie, late Grenadier Guards, died in 1836 aged only 37 years on passage from Jamaica to England.

In 1851 and 1861 John's son Adam Wallace Elmslie was married and living in the Channel Islands, describing himself as a retired Jamaica proprietor. His son Edward living with him was described in the census as a retired civil servant (China). His daughter Alice Gray Emslie (the cousin of Edmund Wallace Elmslie) married banker and ship owner Christopher Dove Barker of South Shields Durham, and from about 1868 to 1905 the couple lived at Radnor House in College Road, Great Malvern. Radnor House had been built as a hydropathic establishment for (Austrian) water cure Doctor Leopold Stummes. When the building was originally built it had been named Priessnitz House.

Edmund's eldest brother John Foster Elmslie became a solicitor. His brother James Augustus Elmslie was a merchant and manufacturer of tin foil. His younger brother Augustus Frederick Elmslie owned or managed a wharf at London docks where ships from foreign ports loaded and unloaded.

Arthur Frederick Elmslie married in 1854, Louisa Elizabeth Harcourt Baumgardt.

Their son Frederick Baumgardt Elmslie, the nephew of Edmund Wallace Elmslie, joined the British Army. He became Brigadier General Frederick Baumgardt Elmslie CB 1903; CMG 1918; Royal Artillery. He was born 18 July 1855 and died 16 July 1936. He entered the army in 1875; he was Assistant Superintendent of Experiments, School of Gunnery, Shoeburyness, 1891–96; Deputy Assistant Director General Ordnance, War Office, 1899–1903.

He served in the Afghan War, 1878–79; Sudan, 1898, including Khartoum following the death of Major General Charles George Gordon. He received many medals, and awards for theoretical papers on military tactics.

Frederick rejoined the army in 1914 and retired in 1918 (ref 4). In 1881 he had married Fanny Maria Mercer, born Bengal India, the daughter of Colonel W H Mercer. They had no children.

Possible connection to Aberdeen

The University College London project on slavery (ref 3) suggests that John Elmslie was left a valuable estate in Jamaica by his uncle, John Gray, who at one time held a position at Marischal College.

We would be very interested to hear from anyone who can shed light on the career of this John Gray, as we have been unable to find out anything about him.

There seems to have been a mathematics teacher at Marischal College who from 1767 to 1769 was Dean. Possibly he was the John Gray who wrote the book 'Treatise of Gunnery, London, 1731' which is dedicated to the Duke of Argyll. It was a study of gunnery as a branch of practical mathematics; the text includes several diagrams and tables of calculations. A long preface provides an historical sketch of the subject, beginning with the days of ancient Greece and Rome, and includes references to such writers as Vegetius, Vitruvius, and Galileo. Was this also the John Gray who had left a job at the Foreign Office and trained to be a minister?


  1. Brooks Alan and Pevsner Nikolaus, The buildings of England, Worcestershire, Yale University Press, 2007.3. England census 1851 to 1911
  2. England census 1851 to 1911
  3. University College London Project on Slavery
  4. Who is Who
  5. Newspaper report of Dr Weir's death
  6. Newspaper report of Dr Archibald Weir's carriage accident, Berrows Worcester Journal
  7. Newspaper report of Dr Weir's funeral

Thank you to Paul Taylor for information about Dr Archibald Weir.

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