At the beginning of the Tudor period, Great Malvern had an important Benedictine monastery. The small town had a market place in front of the monastery gates. There was a separate parish church, dedicated to St Thomas on the site of the present Post Office. Great Malvern Priory was surrendered to the Crown in 1539 and the priory church was purchased for the parish in 1541. The only other monastic buildings to survive beyond the 16th century were the timber ‘Guesten Hall’ (demolished in 1839) and the gatehouse. The latter now houses the museum.
Malvern Museum has few artefacts from the period, but the gatehouse building itself has significant late-16th century features. These include the brick elevation to the south, above reused stone, with mullion windows. The present gate-posts are probably also late-Tudor, as dated by the decoration on the timber which has ‘lamb’s-tongue’ chamfer stops on the oak cross-beam.
The collection and displays
Tudor history is featured in the Medieval Room at Malvern Museum. This room was updated in 2011 to include replica (plastic) panels of stained glass from Great Malvern Priory, and a new display cabinet. There are no 16th century artefacts, apart from the decorated wooden panel shown below, and the occasional loan of coins. An Elizabethan perambulation of Malvern Chase is featured in the upstairs corridor gallery.
The Tudor gatehouse
After the Dissolution of the Monasteries the gatehouse was owned by the Knottesford and Savage families. They built the Jacobean ‘Abbey House’ on the site of the western range of the monastic cloisters. The gatehouse was extended on its southern side at about the same time becoming known as the ‘Abbey Gateway’.