1901-05 – ‘Davenham’, Malvern, Worcestershire

SM 28 – Sep 13

Charles Dyson Perrins was educated at Charterhouse and Queen’s College, Oxford, after which he spent four years in the army before entering the family firm of Lea and Perrins, of Worcestershire Sauce fame.   He was only 23 when his father died in 1887 and he inherited the family fortune, but, like his father, he recognised that, with wealth, came responsibilities.   He married his first wife in 1889, and followed his father as a Director of Royal Worcester Porcelain in 1891, becoming Mayor of Worcester in 1897, and High Sheriff of Worcestershire in 1899.

5-10-28-1 - Malvern - Pergola and Well Head 1968 MC #11_edited

 Fig 1  –  The pergola and well-head at Davenham c1968   (Photo provided by Michael Cooke)

 He also inherited his father’s love of illuminated manuscripts and early printed books, and his private collection was ultimately to form one of the most valuable and extensive in Britain.[i]   He was also a great expert and collector of porcelain, and used his own fortune to support the Royal Worcester firm during the hard times of the early 20th century.   He was an enthusiastic astronomer and a member of the Royal Astronomical Society, and installed a fine equatorial telescope in the grounds of the family home at ‘Davenham’, in Malvern, Worcestershire.   ‘Site of the Month’ #7 (December 2011) discusses Pulhams’ work at Ardross Castle, in Ross-shire, which was Charles Dyson Perrins’ summer retreat in Scotland.

‘Davenham’ was severely damaged by fire in 1904, and one wing was completely gutted, but this was later restored.   He also extensively developed his gardens, which were often used as a popular venue for charitable events, and became famous for their overall beauty, and for their rare and exotic plants.   There is no documentary evidence to show who was responsible for the construction of these gardens, or exactly when it was done, so the suggested dates of 1901-05 are consequently speculative.

There are a number of features that indicate that James Pulham and Son were involved here, however – such as the pergola and terracotta well-head shown in Fig 1, for instance.   Unfortunately, these were lost when part of the grounds were sold off for private development following the death of Perrins’ second wife.   A narrow road separates this development from the main portion of the grounds on which stood the house – which is now the ‘Davenham and Perrins House’ – a nursing home for elderly people.

 5-10-28-2 - Malvern - Summerhouse IMGP0041_edited Fig 2  –  The Summerhouse at ‘Belvedere House’, in what was once part of the old ‘Davenham’ gardens

 There is another feature that does still remain in the garden of one of the private properties, however.   From the outside, it looks like a summerhouse – as shown in Fig 2 – but walk through the door, and one enters what used to be a fernery (Fig 3) with tufa-clad walls and planting pockets.

But that is not all!   At the far side of this is a tunnel that extends beneath the road that separates this property from the grounds of the nursing home.   Not just an ‘ordinary’ tunnel, but one whose walls are completely covered with tufa and artificial stalagmites and stalactites – rather like the tunnel that leads to the fernery at the Swiss Garden in Old Warden, Bedfordshire, pictured in Fig 10.1 in Rock Landscapes: The Pulham Legacy.   The Malvern tunnel is shown here in Fig 4.

5-10-28-3 - Malvern - Tunnel IMGP0037_edited

 Fig 3  –  The Summerhouse Fernery at ‘Belvedere House’

 5-10-28-4 - Malvern - Tunnel IMGP0035_edited

 Fig 4  –  The Summerhouse Tunnel at ‘Belvedere House’

 At the far end of this tunnel, a flight of steps – which can just be discerned in the picture – leads up to the gardens of the nursing home, in which there is a small pool and stone-bordered path that are also almost certainly by Pulham.


[i]    Charles Dyson Perrins (1864-1958 Home in Malvern on http://bbs.keyhole.com/ubb/showthreaded.php/Number/371229

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